Along the turquoise shores of Lake Argentino, the town of El Calafate gets its name from the thorny plant whose berries infuse cocktails and regional beers. However, its proximity to Los Glaciares National Park has placed the town on the tourist map as the gateway to the kingdom of ice in southern Argentine Patagonia.
There, near the border with Chile, the the 4,460-square-kilometre park encompasses subantarctic forests that preserve habitats for species such as the guemal, puma, rhea, condor, guanaco, and the calafate plant. But the park’s main draws are the nearly 300 glaciers that cover almost half of the park surface. The most popular and accessible, five-kilometre-wide Perito Moreno glacier, stands almost 200 feet above the surface of Lake Argentino. Huge masses of ice spectacularly calve from its face with thunderous roars. It’s possible to hike with crampons on the glacier to find swaths of electric-blue colour among waterfalls, crevices, ice caves, underground rivers, and extravagant ice formations.
This frozen desert is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the third largest expanse of continental ice in the world, after Antarctica and Greenland. After exploring the frigid ends of the Earth, visitors return to a boat waiting on the lake to celebrate their adventures with a shot of whiskey and chips of glacial ice.
—Erick Pinedo, coordinating editor, Traveler Latin America.
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