For a small town that lay dormant for most of the 20th century as a refuge that only a few select individuals knew about, El Calafate is nevertheless one of the hottest spots on the planet right now for eco tourism and hiking. Between 2001 and 2007 the population jumped from 6,000 residents to 20,000 residents (they estimate 8,000 to 9,000 permanent residents that reside there year round), which is proof enough that the natural beauty of the surrounding countryside is luring people in with the promise of pristine and untouched landscapes to explore. While traditionally it was established in the first part of the 20th century as just a stop-off shelter for wool traders, the town has transformed over the years since the formation of the Los Glaciares National Park, which gives visitors access to the wonders of the Perito Moreno Glacier, the Cerro Chalten, and the Cerro Torre.
The primary sight for people coming to El Calafate is the Perito Moreno Glacier, whether on foot on one of the various trails, or by boat. However, beyond El Calafate lies the entire Patagonia region of South America, which encompasses the southern edge of the Andes Mountains and is argued to be one of the most beautiful regions on the entire planet, with plenty of glacier lakes, mountains, forests, alpine plateaus, and more. Keep in mind, however, that this is a major eco tourism spot, which means you will want to be in fairly good physical shape to experience all that El Calafate has to offer. Hiking is absolutely the best way to see everything in the surrounding countryside, and while there are plenty of boat rides across the lake, nothing can compare with the pristine beauty you can immerse yourself in while out on a hike. Between the glaciers, the mountains, the wildlife, and the forests, El Calafate is one of those places on Earth where you simply lose yourself, and leaving is one of the hardest parts of your trip.
El Calafate recieved its name from a small bush called "calafate" which is indigenous to Patagonia. The Calafate bush has a fruit which can be used to make jam. The locals believe that if you eat from the calafate you will return for more. But in reality it looks like if you visit Calafate you want to stay forever.