El Calafate, Argentina
El Calafate, Argentina: Vacations and Travel Info
Hidden away in the lands of southern Patagonia, lies a beautiful site on the edge of Lago Argentino (Argentine Lake), called El Calafate. This destination is named after a small plant called "calafate" that grows abundantly in this far-off region of the world. Every year, thousands of tourists from all over the globe are drawn in to explore the stunning surroundings.
Situated far away from the big cities, the town offers many opportunities for making your next vacation the best ever. You'll be blown away by the majestic mountains, the amazing glaciers and Lago Argentino. Experience an incredible adventure trekking through the Patagonia steppe on foot, on horseback or in an all-terrain vehicle. El Calafate also offers unequalled contact with nature and night skies filled with stars.
The charming town of El Calafate is situated in the far south of Argentina, by Lago Argentino. It has a population of approximately 20,000 people that is constantly on the rise. Most of the local houses are beautiful wood buildings with gabled roofs that maintain the cozy style of long ago, in perfect keeping with the area's natural surroundings.
Due to the town's growing tourism, El Calafate offers services such as electricity, water and transportation, along with a complete infrastructure of hotels and restaurants. You'll come across everything from five-star hotels to small, family-run hostels and camping areas for lovers of the great outdoors.
The climate is mainly dry, with an average high temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and a low of 10 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. El Calafate can be visited throughout the whole year, taking into account that the high season for tourism is from October through April (during Argentina's warmer spring and summer months). Make sure to bring warm clothing for exploring the town and the glaciers!
The history of El Calafate goes back 9,000 years, when the first settlers of the American continent migrated to these remote regions. The Tehuelche people settled all along the mountains and the lakes, developing an extraordinary resistance to the cold and to the adverse weather conditions. Their beliefs were based on the existence of various spirits (some good and some evil) and a supreme god that had created animals and man.
With the arrival of the Europeans to the continent, Patagonia was adapted for agriculture and livestock, especially cattle and sheep. The wool industry was of great importance, and traders covered great distances to export wool to the far-away big cities. The southern roads had stops every ten miles or so along the way so that weary travelers could rest. This particular stop was named El Calafate, after a common local plant. The place was practically desolate, and only a few ranches and warehouses offered accommodations for passersby. Finally, in 1927, the Argentine government began funding various settlements in the southern region of their territory, allowing this rest stop to officially become a small town.
With the decline of the wool industry, the economic future of El Calafate was in danger. It was then that the National Park Administration began the construction of Parque Nacional los Glaciares (Glaciers National Park). This once again transformed El Calafate into a place to stay for travelers visiting these natural wonders. Due to the resultant success, the streets were paved, bridges were built and electricity was brought to the area.
El Calafate Today
When Parque Nacional los Glaciares was inaugurated, El Calafate had a population of barely 500 people, but today it has flourished into a town with more than 20,000 inhabitants. The growing process was relatively slow until the beginning of the twenty-first century, when tourism began to grow exponentially and the natural beauty of the area brought in thousands of tourists. The city offers services such as public transportation, electricity and sewage systems, along with casinos, hotels, hostels, restaurants and an airport.
Most of the houses maintain an antique style, with gabled roofs and heating systems. The town's streets are very clean, allowing visitors and locals to breathe in the crisp, fresh air of Patagonia. The local Secretary of Tourism office is conveniently situated right next to the bus station. Remember to make travel plans and reserve in advance for the high season (from October through April), since the town often reaches 100 per cent occupancy. Everyone wants to go to El Calafate!
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