For explorers who feel an affinity for the natural world as well as an appreciation for the purity of the geography, the historic sheep ranch Estancia Cristina is a destination worthy of a visit. Located at the entry to the Patagonian Ice Fields and about 45 km from El Calafate, this point of interest exists among water, mountains, and forest, only accessible by crossing the waters of Canal Cristina, part of Lago Argentina (Lake Argentina). Situated in the heart of Los Glaciares National Park (also home to Perito Moreno Glacier) and at the base of the Cerro Norte Mountains, a remarkable vista of the Upsala Glacier is possible for anyone who treks to this spot.
In the year 1925, the Argentine government established a law that offered large pieces of land in Patagonia to pioneers. These daring immigrants, seeking independence and opportunity, arrived to farm the uncultivated region, developing over 1000 estancias including the Estancia Cristina. The Estancia Cristina, operated by an English family in the early 20th century, functioned as a working sheep farm, enduring hardships of weather and drought, aiding Patagonia in becoming the world's second largest wool producer in 1937. As the years went by, the wool production decreased, influenced by the land becoming more desert-like and the increase of the fabrication of man-made fibers. These factors contributed to the Estancia Cristina changing its business from sheep wool to tourism.
During the middle of September to May, Estancia Cristina is open for those who want to experience the historic roots and commune with the unspoiled natural world. Sunlight streams from daybreak (approximately 5:00 am) till late night (10:00 pm) throughout the summer months while daylight begins around 8:00 in the morning and ends close to 6:00 at sunset.
Estancia Cristina is reachable by boat from the Punta Bandera port. This port is located 30 minutes from El Calafate, 45 minutes from Los Notros, and 30 minutes from Eola. The travel between port and destination provides stunning visions of the Upsala Glacier including passages between large azure-colored ice blocks that have broken off the glacier and float seamlessly in the water.
There are several ways to discover the wonder of Estancia Cristina and its surrounding beauty. With a visit to the Cascada de los Perros, a short walk from the dock, you can see the bay and the vicinity adjoining Estancia Cristina. 4x4 tours are available that combine hiking mountain paths, walking on rocks eroded by glaciers, and views of the Upsala Glacier, Patagonian Ice Fields, and Don Bosco Mountains. A visit to Canadon de los Fosiles offers a unique perspective of fossils, depicting the movement of the glaciers, accessible by a descent hike. For those who prefer to ride, horseback riding is available, presenting another viewpoint of the glaciers, mountains, and natural province.
Both day and overnight trips can be planned for this part of the Patagonia. Estancia Cristina has a main lodge complete with a fireplace and bar, perfect for sitting, socializing, and relaxing. In addition, there are three bungalows, each with a living room and four rooms with private bathrooms. All are decorated to reflect the rustic environment where Estancia Cristina is located. A restaurant is on site, serving both lunch and dinner of Patagonia cuisine.
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