Epic Adventures Los Glaciares

Why you don’t have to be a hiker to enjoy Los Glaciares National Park

Los Glaciares National Park is one of Argentina’s greatest jewels. It’s both the oldest and largest national park in the country and is famous for its world class trekking. But its 3000 square miles offer far more than just the opportunity to get your hiking boots on. It’s also home to some amazing sights including the many beautiful glaciers and lakes, plus some of the best luxury lodges you’ll find anywhere in Patagonia. 

Perito Moreno Glacier

The icefields of southern Patagonia produce one of their most spectacular offspring in Los Glaciares National Park: the Perito Moreno Glacier. A little over an hour’s drive from the region’s main gateway city and airport at El Calafate, it’s deservedly one of Argentina’s most iconic sights. 

The 60m-high cliffs of Perito Moreno glacier

The long icy tongue of this glacier rolls out of the mountains for a staggering 30 miles (nearly 50 km) before collapsing into the waters of Lago Argentina. While most glaciers seem pretty static to observers, Perito Moreno is a positive sprinter, advancing around two metres every single day. This speed is a result of the high snowfall that constantly feeds its frozen source high in the Andes, but the outcome is a truly spectacular one for visitors. Deep blue icebergs the size of tower blocks break from its giant cliff face, falling with a mighty splash into the lake. 

You have different choices for exploring Perito Moreno. There are many boardwalks and viewing areas running along the shore facing the glacier, or you can take a boat cruise on the lake to see the glacier from the water (for safety reasons you can only get so close to the face of the glacier). If You really want to get up close to the ice however, it’s possible to don crampons and take guided walks for a couple of hours on the surface of the glacier itself. 

Viewing platform at Perito Moreno glacier


On my most recent visit to Perito Moreno I stayed at Eolo, a Relais & Châteaux hotel just off the road between the glacier and El Calafate. When I say it’s ‘just off the road’ what I mean is that it perches on top of a hill overlooking thousands of empty hectares of the Patagonian steppe known as pampas. 

Eolo luxury lodge

Eolo is a long and low building designed to evoke the estancias, or ranches, that are such an iconic part of the Patagonian landscape. But aside from the sweeping landscapes here there’s no hint of the rough frontier on offer. Walking into the main doors you are surrounded by the hotel as you walk through a delightful garden courtyard with the fresh scent of lavender and elderberry. The hotel is cleverly designed to have a living and seating area in each orientation of the hotel offering views from all around. 

Incredibly, the general manager told me that guests sometimes complain about the noise in their rooms! That noise turns out to be the deepest silence imaginable. You really can hear a pin drop. Guests coming from the hectic atmosphere of Buenos Aires are quickly taken away by how silent it is and think there is something wrong. Welcome to the peace and quiet of Patagonia. 

As well as its proximity to Perito Moreno, there are plenty of excursions included with your stay at Eolo, including horse-riding. But by far the thing that made Eolo most magical to me was just its serenity, the chance to unwind in its spa and enjoy a glass of wine from a comfy chair by one of its many picture windows and drink in those incredible views.

Dwarfed by the pampas at Eolo lodge

Estancia Cristina

A few days later I got to experience remoteness in an entirely different way by spending a few days at Estancia Cristina. This luxury lodge has fascinating historic roots, as it was settled as a farmstead in the early years of the 20th century by the English Masters family, who raised sheep here and slept in a tent for nearly a year while building the ranch they named after their daughter Cristina. Thirty years ago, the ranch was converted to tourism. 

A taste of the frontier at Estancia Cristina

What makes Estancia Cristina so special is how you arrive. The lodge is on one of the fingers of Lago Argentina but is only accessible by boat. I caught the lodge’s own beautiful catamaran, which brought me by way of the Upsala Glacier and the many icebergs floating on the lake. It was hard to imagine where I was going to be staying, until finally I spotted a tiny dot on the shore. Its details were slowly revealed as we sailed closer, but were always dwarfed by the epic landscape it sat in. It was extraordinary. Finally arriving in the middle of nowhere it was hard not to wonder what those first arrivals must have felt more than a century earlier. 

That history is deservedly celebrated in the old sheep shearing shed that has been converted into a fascinating little museum. But there was really no better way of evoking that pioneering spirit than by getting into the saddle to experience a bit of gaucho culture. The horses are well suited to beginner and intermediate riders, following trails along the river against a stunning mountain backdrop and learning about the days of the frontier. 

I also did a short walk to Upsala Glacier, which was an easy trail from the estancia. On land it was possible to get a lot closer than on the catamaran, as I didn’t have to worry about icebergs. This was where the effort of getting to the estancia really paid off: the glacier that was near the match of Perito Moreno, and yet I had the view entirely (and gloriously selfishly) entirely to myself.

The empty landscapes around Upsala glacier

Aguas Arribas

The last place I stayed in Los Glaciares was another lodge that you could only access by boat, but the contrast with Estancia Cristina couldn’t have been more surprising. 

Bedroom views at Aguas Arriba

I headed towards El Chaltén, the popular hiking resort town that sits in the shadow of Mount Fitzroy. At other times I might have been tempted by its many day hikes, but on this trip I was still looking for something a little different. I found it at Aguas Arribas

At a landing point on Lago del Desierto, I was met by a small boat that transported me across the lake to a steep shore clad in southern beech forest. The lodge itself was extraordinary – an oversized log cabin tucked into the trees with a wide veranda with views out to Mount Fitz Roy hanging glacier.

From the moment I stepped inside and left my boots in the mudroom to sink into a pair of complimentary slippers, I felt like I was at home. Aguas Arribas only takes up to a dozen visitors at a time, and with as many staff as guests the reception couldn’t have been friendlier or more attentive. 

Inside Aguas Arriba lodge at Los Glaciares National Park
Cosy common areas at Aguas Arriba

Patagonia being Patagonia, the heavens opened soon after I arrived, but even as the rain set in for the day, I couldn’t think of anywhere I would rather have been than watching the rainy sky, the lake and the mountains from the comfort of my chair.

When the weather cleared the next day, I discovered that the lodge had developed many hikes around the property, with cleverly placed wooden benches where there were particularly striking viewpoints, or in hidden corners of the forest where you could simply sit, read a book and take in the sounds of the trees. 

Bench with a view at Aguas Arriba

The lodge is great for people who want to hike but perhaps even more so for those who just want to take it easy and disconnect for a while. On the first afternoon when we got back from an easy hike, our guide invited us to a yoga session. Listening to the gentle sound of the flute that accompanied our stretches, while watching birds flutter between the trees outside it was hard not to let my eyes and senses drift off. 

At the end of the session I felt rejuvenated in a way I rarely experience in my day to day life. In my time as a trekking guide in Patagonia I had conquered plenty of trails, but these luxury lodges had shown me that there was a different and equally enjoyable experience to be had in the region’s national parks. 

Danny Middleton from Swoop Patagonia crouching down with a camera.

Danny Middleton

Swoop Patagonia Specialist

Swoop Patagonia sales consultant Danny has worked as a guide in Chile's Torres del Paine and Patagonia National Parks. Having explored South America from top to bottom, he now spends his evenings guiding astronomy and astrophotography tours from his home in the Atacama Desert: the best place in the world for astrotourism.