An Unparalleled Patagonia Vacation Awaits

Explore Things to Do in El Calafate

Xelena Hotel & Spa is advantageously located by Lago Argentino in El Calafate, Santa Cruz province, Patagonia Argentina. Come plan an unrivaled Patagonia vacation with us.

El Calafate is an attractive tourist village considered the main entrance to the wonderful tour of the glaciers. El Calafate was named after a typical bush of the region which, according to legend, those who eat from its fruit will return for more. It is the closest city to visit Los Glaciares national park and the world famous Perito Moreno glacier, declared Natural Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO.

There is a shuttle service available for Xelena Deluxe Suites Hotel guests to the city center. Come enjoy your vacation in Patagonia with us.

Top Things to Do in El Calafate and Beyond

Perito Moreno Glacier

This visit to the most famous of all glaciers starts in El Calafate, going through route 11, with Lake Argentino on our right; beholding the botanical transition between steppe vegetation to Andean-Patagonian vegetation, made of lenga trees, Antarctic Beech and bright-colored flowers, among which the redness of Embothrium stands out. Already inside the National Park, we will enter long and wide catwalks, arranged in three levels, from where we will be dazzled by the spectacular views of the Perito Moreno Glacier, further enhanced every now and then by the rupture, sometimes significant, of its front wall. At the National Park, you can buy two optional nautical excursions that take you on a tour along the southern wall (SAFARI NAUTICO) and the northern wall (MORENO FIESTA) from where you will be able to contemplate the glacier in all its beauty and magnitude.

UPSALA GLACIER (NAVIGATION)

Amazing navigation to the heart of the ice cap, suitable for all ages. The tour starts at the Punta Bandera quay (47 km from El Calafate). Sailing the northern arm of Lake Argentino toward the Upsala glacier, the biggest of the Patagonian ice cap (with walls over 20 meters high), you will sail along its six-kilometer front wall. Then head for Onelli bay, where you will disembark and start an 800 meter walk through a typical Andean-Patagonian forest, with abundant lenga and black cherry trees, leading to Lake Onelli, where you will see the convergence of the glaciers Onelli, Bonelli and Agassi, sliding through the valley outline by neighboring hills. Amidst this impressing natural frame, you will enjoy your lunch. Afterwards you will start the navigation, this time, toward the biggest of all glaciers: the Upsala, with an area of 595 square kilometers, which produces the biggest and most amazing icebergs because of their shapes and shades. After that, you will again board toward Punta Bandera and El Calafate.

Cave of the Hands

We travel mostly through open steppe vegetation with magnificent views of the coast along the valley of Santa Cruz river. Due to its location this area does not receive many visitors, for this reason it is the ideal place to observe eagles, guanacos, choiques, red and grey foxes and different bird species. After three hours we reach el Chalten where we will see the spectacular Mount Fitz Roy and Torre. Here we take a lunch and we continue north until we reach Bajo Caracole. In the morning we drive the last 50 km and we reach Cuevas de Las Manos located in a sector of the river Pinturas Canyon. Here we will see an amazing archaeological site that protects more than 800 stenciled outlines of human hands, of hunting scenes, animals and geometric figures. After this we return to El Calafate.

Caves of Walichu

Only 8 km from El Calafate you will find this important archaeological site where the first cave paintings in the province were discovered. These paintings have been partly recreated to be better appreciated. Walichu Caves and Punta Bonita will take you back in time. Apart from their archaeological value, these caves on the pebble shore of Lake Argentino will surprise you with the beauty of their environment. These remarkable works can be seen along the interpretation trail, where you will also learn about this culture.

La Leona Petrified Trees

Continue west for other 10 km along the southern shore of Lake Viedma until we get to Los Hornos hill. Near the top starts a large depression formed by water erosion where most of the fossils can be found. Here our walk starts through a loose, dry and claylike soil saturated with petrified wood that "sprouts" from the soil. Wind and water erosion takes place at a very fast rate, so every season we encounter new surprises. We get to see tree trunks in diameters that range from 0.50 to 1.2 meters, heaps of fossilized broken bones and whole leg bones of large dinosaurs still in the process of identification. The site enjoys a benign microclimate, so dress in layers and expect to get warmer as you walk down the ravines. After 3 hours of walking about (including time for lunch) we return to El Calafate the same way with a stopover for 15 minutes at Hotel La Leona.