El Calafate is most famous however as the stopping off point for visitors to the Perito Moreno Glacier. On today’s guided tour the road follows the lake before turning up a wooded valley, dense with beech and birch, and then continues alongside shimmering lagoons, bordered with bright crimson heather lichens. The park authorities have been sensitive about keeping the site as natural as possible, and there are no shops or cafés within close proximity of the wooden viewing platforms, which are tastefully landscaped into the cliff.
Just looking at the front-edge of the glacier, which towers 60 frozen metres above the water level, and is an extraordinary 5 km wide, is awe-inspiring in itself. But after a time you hear the unforgettable sound of the glacier calving a vast wedge of ice the size of a tower block and sending it smashing it down into the lake, where it divides and floats away as an iceberg.
After lunch (not included) in the nearby cafeteria, board the Safari Nautico or Moreno Fiesta for an hour-long cruise on the lake beneath the glacier, with a commentary. Alternatively, you can just walk and contemplate, away from the other visitors.