After flying in to FTE, we spent a few days longer than expected in El Calafate due to delayed baggage. The town is small but offers a nature preserve, the Glaciarium, and day trips to the Perito Moreno glacier along with plenty of outdoor clothes shopping.
The Laguna Nimez Natural Reserve sits a short walk from the city center. It homes a plethora of bird types and a beautiful lagoon next to Lago Argentino. The small entry fee of 150 ARS was well worth the walk around the reserve to admire the natural beauty and birds. We spent a little over an hour inside, though a true bird watcher could probably spend half a day.
It's easy to catch a bus into Los Glaciares National Park from the El Calafate bus station, about a mile from the city center. You can buy tickets there, from the Cal Tur store in the city center, or from any of the hostels in town. Bus tickets are 500 ARS round trip and entrance into the park is another 450 ARS. You can pay the park fee by credit card. We took the 9:00am bus, arriving at the glacier around 11:00am.
It's easy to see why Perito Moreno attracts so many tourists. This glacier is easily the most beautiful we've seen. The wall of ice drops off dramatically offering spectacular views of sharp crystals like glass in different hues of blue. Every 20 or so minutes, sheets of ice would fall from the glacier collapsing into the water below with a booming crash. We followed the path that took us around the front of the glacier for about 2 hours with all of our stops for pictures.
By the time we returned to the restaurant where our bus dropped us off, a steady drizzle drove us to find somewhere covered to hang out. Rain is to be expected around the glacier and we appreciated having a few hours of dry weather to capture some pictures. Unfortunately, we still had over two hours until our bus was scheduled to leave. We thought the time allotted was a little much, although it might be necessary for those people who scheduled a glacier trek or boat ride. Instead of purchasing something we didn't really want from the overpriced restaurant just to stay inside, we found our bus and were able to wait there. I was happy I had brought my Kindle.
A free shuttle picks up tourists at the Secretary of Tourism office in the city center for the 10 minute drive to the glacier museum. We caught the first shuttle at 11am and arrived at the Glaciarium shortly after it opened for the day. Entry was $14.50 USD for just the museum. Tacky photos advertised an ice bar, 20 minutes for 300 ARS, which we opted out of. Although the museum is small, we were impressed with the atmosphere and information available in Spanish and English. Additionally, the museum offers videos which portrayed some of the most incredible footage of the Perito Moreno glacier along with some others. We spent about an hour inside the museum before catching a shuttle back to town.