Argentina has some jaw-dropping scenery, amongst which the steep mountains of Los Glaciares National Park must feature high on the list of favourites.
This 5-day horseback journey for between 2 and 6 riders, explores the remotest parts of the National Park, through Andean woodland, past crystal-clear lakes and towering mountains; to beautiful hidden glaciers that are otherwise difficult to reach.
The first night will be spent in the comfort of a working estancia, where you will have a chance to enjoy the surroundings on bike or foot. The next three nights will be spent in true Patagonic style in typical outposts with basic facilities, where rangers stay in order to look after the livestock as well as mountain climbers stopping off en route to peaks and glaciers. Food will be served in true ranger style; picnic lunches on the shores of milky lagoons, dinner beside a wood fired stove and a brick clay oven, whilst passing around the mate (traditional South American caffeine-rich infused drink) and sharing tales of adventures past.
For anyone keen to experience traditional Patagonic rural life through a combination of riding and hiking, this 5 day experience is ideal. You can become part of the landscape as you discover the Hidden Glaciers Frías, Gorra, Grande and Dickson.
Day 1: Arrive El Calafate
Today you will arrive into El Calafate where we will meet you and transfer you privately to your hotel. You will have the rest of day free to explore this colourful town.
Day 2: Transfer to your Estancia
At 4:30 PM you will join a shared transfer to your Estancia from El Calafate.
After settling in, your guide will brief you on the itinerary for the following days. The horses will be prepared and other equipment made ready to set off early the following morning.
For the rest of the afternoon and evening you are free to enjoy the estancia, exploring its surroundings by bike or on foot, finding your own way along the footpaths or taking part in the sheep-shearing demonstration using traditional hand shears. You will enjoy an evening meal and spend the night at the Hostelry.
Day 3: Puesto La Rosada (only from December to March)
This morning you will take to the saddle and climb up the mountain range Cordon de los Cristales, which lies behind the main house. The higher yougo, the more clearly Argentino lake´s arms stand out. Once you reach the clearing, the track plunges into the Patagonian Andean woods. You will pass between lenga trees and guindos [Magellan beeches], riding along old tracks where the great sheep drives used to pass.
You will eventually reach a clearing where cows graze. There, La Rosada outpost is the home of the “puestero”, who oversees cattle and carries on the legacy of traditional rural production. He knows every single corner of this part of the land and he can count the cows with just a glance. If one had escaped, he would bring her back within a couple of minutes! Here you will enjoy your first ranch lunch. By the afternoon you will have reached an historical point: the International Milestone (´32) that indicates the end the estancia and the end of Argentina. The sensation to be at the very frontiers of Patagonia is unique. It is the south of the south: wind blows and the flag waves. The landscape and its calmness never end.
You will have plenty of time to explore the surroundings here. You will have dinner and spend the night at La Rosada outpost.
Day 4: Puesto Cachorro y Laguna 3 de Abril
Upon leaving the dense woodland, your way opens out into the Valley of the Río Cachorro. Notros [Chilean firebush] and calafate bushes here are unusually tall. You will start descending towards the lower land until you come to the riverbed. Surprise views of the Frías glacier starts to appear. Riding between rocks and pasturelands and avoiding the marshlands, you reach the corrals of the Río Cachorro outpost where the rangers might be working with the livestock.
After a picnic lunch you continue horseback riding to the 3 de Abril lagoon, a habitat of flamingos and black-necked swans, kaiken [upland goose] and steamer ducks. Passing the lake, you come to the outpost, and after unsaddling, there will be time to enjoy the surroundings and the cosiness of the refuge. A wood-fired stove and a brick clay oven, with the gentle light of the lantern, passing the mate round, the evening meal will be prepared while tales of adventures are shared.
Evening meal and overnight at the Puesto Laguna 3 de Abril.
Day 5: Puesto Laguna 3 de Abril
After breakfast at the refuge, you will hike to the lake shore to meet Glaciar Sur. This excursion departs from Nibepo Aike’s pier and navigates the Lago Argentino down south to the Hidden Glaciers. The expedition is a combination of navigations and trekking to reach a unique spot between mountains and glaciers, where only few people ever venture.
Once the group embarks, the boat sails through the Brazo Sur to its southernmost point. After a short walk through the native forest, the first lookout point to the glaciers is reached. At the bottom you can see the Lago Frías which will be sailed in zodiacs a few minutes later. It is a 3 km navigation to the other shore where your next trek begins. You will go along an old river course to reach an amphitheatre facing the glaciers Gorra, Frías and Grande. You will enjoy lunch near Laguna de los Témpanos overlooking not only the 3 glaciers but also the icebergs that decorate the milky waters of the lagoon. This area of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares is almost unexplored, only a few gauchos and cows from Nibepo Aike know the place’s hidden spots and secrets. After spending some time relaxing and taking photos at the feet of the glaciers, you will return back to the outpost. The rest of the group will navigate to the Estancia and then by car to El Calafate.
You will have your evening meals and spend the night at the Puesto Laguna 3 de Abril.
Additional information: This activity will be provided by an outside company with bilingual guide (at no additional cost). You will be joined by other people are are on a separately organised trip from El Calafate. The day as previously described will be confirmed in situ as it is subject to cancellations due to weather-related situations, navigability or terrain conditions.
The hike involves a 6 hours hike (14 km), with little gradient and medium technical requirement.
Day 5: Alternative (if the above activity is not possible)
As an alternative, you will continue on foot and on horseback!
You will depart after breakfast, riding south to the Balcony of the Glaciers. The track runs parallel to the Southern Arm of Lago Argentino. A little before arriving at the head of the lake, you will leave the horses grazing and continue on foot to a viewing point even higher up. From there you will have a panoramic view of the Southern Arm, Laguna Corazón and of the Lago Frías, with glimpses of the Hidden Glaciers Gorra, Frías, Grande and Dickson in the distance.
You will walk to the beach at the head of the Southern Arm. From there you will cross a large pasture, a pristine area. An erratic stone of more than 20 meters in height will be the next goal. It is impressive to stand in front of such a huge rock, marked by the force of the glaciers advancing and receding. The footpath starts to run alongside the lower Frías River. Here you will find traces of the area’s livestock rearing past, a hanging bridge over 100 years old, destroyed by the great flooding of Lago Argentino in 1937. The way passes through dense woodland getting as far as discovering Corazón Lagoon, with crystal clear waters where the deep blue contrasts with the green reflection of the woods. The water is so crystal clear that it is possible to watch the trout swimming between the rocks. You will pause here for lunch - a place sheltered from the world.
Anyone that is up for a bit more of a challenge will be able to carry on a bit further, clambering over some stones that prove fairly awkward for crossing, in order to get to the southern end of Frías Lake, the natural border protecting the glaciers hidden in the mountains further south. In the afternoon you will return back to the horses and ride back to the Puesto Laguna 3 de Abril, where the night will be spent.
Day 6: Brazo Sur del lago Argentino
The return journey begins riding along the shore of the lake until you reach the main buildings of the estancia, about 18km from the refuge. You will arrive in time for lunch with a typical Patagonian lamb roasted at the stake over charcoal embers, which will be ready just as the riders arrive. After lunch, a shuttle services will take you to El Calafate, arriving town about 3:30 PM. You can catch an onward flight or contact us to arrange extended travel in Patagonia.
The full program includes (From December to March):
- 5 nights with breakfast (1 night in El Calafate Hotel, 1 night at the Hostelry, 1 night at La Rosada outpost (not in Nov), 2 nights at Puesto Laguna 3 de Abril). Basic facilities.
- 3 days horse-riding + 1 day combined horse-riding/hiking + “Aventura” excursion
- 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 4 evening meals. Includes non-alcoholic drinks with meals nights 2-5
- 1 bilingual guide (English Spanish).
- Daily shuttle service between the Estancia and El Calafate: Check in day at 4:30 pm // Check out day 2:15 pm
- Shuttle service (El Calafate to Estancia) off scheduled hours
- Alcoholic drinks with meals at the Estancia (evening meal Day 2 and lunch Day 6)
- Sleeping bag