Estancia Christina & Upsala Glacier

El Calafate Travel Blog

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Mmm. Ice cubes.

The day started early with a 6:45 pick-up from Casa de Grillos. We told Alejandro that we did not need breakfast and that we would be out early, but he insisted that he would have something small for us at 6:30. Another homemade tart, this time, lemon, greeted us when we got to the table. Excellent stuff again.


The plan for the day was a boat cruise up to the Upsala Glacier, then on to a government owned and run farm called Estancia Christina. This is part of the national park. From the boat you see the western face of the glacier. Once at the farm you get picked up in 4x4’s and taken up the mountain to the eastern face. From there you get to choose between:

·        A 4 hour hike in the mountains including packed lunch

·        A 2 hour horse ride and big lunch

·        More 4x4ing and big lunch.

Lunchtime restaurant in the canyon


The ride to the harbour followed a typical route past a number of hotels etc to pick up about 15 guests. As per normal too, there was one place where we had to wait for about 10 minutes as the people were not ready.


When we arrived at the boat, we found that this was the total number of people on the trip for the day. The boat was quite impressive and very smooth. We continued in the dark for about an hour before the sun started to rise and a few of us went up on deck. It was bitterly cold, as expected when you are getting the wind blown off the water which is between 2 and 6 degrees.


About an hour later we got to the Upsala Glacier, which is another glacier in the same ice field as the Perito Moreno glacier.

Swimming not really an option
It is wider and longer, but in some ways the Perito Moreno glacier is more impressive • possibly as you get closer to it.


We were the youngest in the tour by about 10 years (and that couple was about 10 years younger than the next youngest), so it was really unsurprising the options that people chose. The 2 youngest couples chose the hike and the rest chose the 4x4 option. In some ways it feels like we lost a contest of some sorts:

·        Team A (the winners) gets to go on 4x4’s in the mountains, see the scenery and then gets fed copious amounts of all types of food you can think of and drink lots of red wine.

·        Team B (the losers) gets to get dropped by 4x4 in a remote location, then gets to carry their own lunch, and walk the majority of the way back to the farm while the others are eating.

Change of scenery at the end of the hike


Anyway, we are confident we made the right choice. The walk was absolutely beautiful. It involved walking down from the mountain where we had viewed the east face of the glacier. The Upsala glacier, unlike the Perito Moreno glacier, is receding by about 200m per year. As a result we got to see the effect of glaciers on the rocks, awesome rock pools, walking through a canyon with fossilised remains of shells and squid, multiple coloured rock (slate, compacted volcanic ash etc) and see the changing scenery up close. The lunch which we carried in backpacks included butternut soup in a thermos, rolls, and a selection of cold meats, cheeses and olives - perfect. It is definitely a walk I would recommend to anyone.


We were very lucky. 1 May was the last day they were open for the season (Sept • 1 May). Another good thing is that as a result of the tour to the estancia being quite expensive, I would expect that the majority of people going would be quite old, again leading to not many people going on the hike • probably only a few thousand people in a year.  This means that the scenery is largely unspoilt.


When we got back to the estancia, they had some cold beers lined up for us as well as some desert. None of us could actually face eating anything, but it was beautifully presented and gave us an idea of what the others had been subjected to for lunch.


Once back in town we had to buy our bus ticket for the next morning. The prospect of a 3 am bus trip was not the most thrilling. We popped into a local pub for a drink on the way home to pack, after Kat bought herself a little souvenir. The pub had an excellent selection of whisky’s and actually had Amarula too. Small world.

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Mmm. Ice cubes.
Mmm. Ice cubes.
Lunchtime restaurant in the canyon
Lunchtime restaurant in the canyon
Swimming not really an option
Swimming not really an option
Change of scenery at the end of th…
Change of scenery at the end of t…
El Calafate Sights & Attractions review
There are a number of trips from El Calafate to the Upsala Glacier (which is the other main glacier after Perito Moreno). The majority of the trips ar… read entire review
El Calafate
photo by: Vlindeke