Founded in 1914 by the Masters family, English immigrants to Argentina, Estancia Cristina is both remote and historic. Situated right in the middle of Argentine Patagonia’s 3,000 square mile Los Glaciares National Park, the country’s largest wilderness area, Estancia Cristina is perfect for those wishing to explore their own private Patagonia, while contemplating the human effort to settle these wild lands.
The property sits right alongside the largest glacier spilling off the Southern Patagonia icecap, the Upsala Glacier, which is a must see for every visitor. Historically, day trippers from El Calafate would come for to the Estancia for a day hike, but over the last few years the estancia has opened its doors to guests wishing to spend time exploring all that this area has to offer and relish in the solitude overnight. While visitors on a day trip still come to the estancia, if you choose to stay here overnight, you'll have a much more intimate experience, with an opportunity to explore the remote beauty of Patagonia in peace and quiet.
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There are five buildings each containing a shard entryway and four spacious private rooms. All rooms are en-suite and feature central heating which ensures a comfortable stay no matter how severe the Patagonian weather. One of the best features of the rooms are the large bay windows which frame the striking view of Cerro Norte draped in glaciers, which looms over the Cristina valley. Rooms do not have telephones, TVs, or Internet which greatly enhances your ability to connect with the environment. Electricity, other than emergency lighting, is shut off between 11pm and 6am.
Part of the experience of a stay at Estancia Cristina is the journey to reach it. The trip starts in El Calafate where you will be collected and transferred to the pier outside of town in Punta Banderas. Here you will board a catamaran for a 2.5 hour journey across Argentinean Lake passing by the jagged peaks of the Andes, bobbing icebergs, and hanging glaciers.
Food and drink
All meals at Estancia Cristina are included during your stay and served on an a la carte basis during set windows in the main lodge. Even in such a remote location the food here is exceptionally delicious and well-prepared. The focus is on regional flavours and traditional preparations. In addition to breakfast, lunch, and dinner there is afternoon tea which features hand blended teas served alongside wonderful cakes and pastries. There wine cellar is chock full of delicious Argentinian Malbecs we might add.
Families are welcome at Estancia Cristina. There is no shortage of wide-open space for children to play in and explore and the structure of the cabins make it easy for families to all be housed together but have separate rooms.
Facilities and activities
Staying here, you are offered a whole range of excursions including horse riding, trekking, and fishing (between December and March). Upon arrival at the estancia you will speak with a member of the concierge team to discuss the options available to you during your stay and plot out your excursions.
Located in the original sheep shearing barn, is a fantastic museum which houses a collection of artefacts and displays chronicling the history of Estancia Cristina; from early explorers to the Master’s family arrival from England in 1914 and their epic story of perseverance, success and history running the estancia until the final family member’s death in 1997 when the Estancia was inherited by the National Park. The history of
Estancia Cristina sets the experience apart from other lodging options in Patagonia and makes visitors appreciate the wilderness even more, contemplating what life would have been like here over 100 years ago.
The main lodge, commonly referred to as the “Octagon” because of its shape, houses the reception and dining area. This is the only place where Wi-Fi is available.
This is a must see if your looking to explore the remote parts of Patagonia and it is especially beautiful in autumn (April and May). Although no longer a working estancia, and the rooms are in modern cabañas, the ambiance offers a glimpse into the pioneer history of the area. A one night stay is certainly more rewarding than a day trip, two nights is ideal for most everyone, but for very active hikers a three night stay or more is suggested to take advantage of the amazing hikes right from the property.