Estancia Cristina: visiting this remote area of Patagonia

Estancia Cristina is a fabulous place. That’s the first thing I must tell you. And it’s fabulous because it’s a remote location, accessed only by boat, after navigating the waters of Lake Argentino, but also because of the activities that can be carried out there, its typical food, and the landscape in which this Patagonian ranch is immersed.

You can choose between visiting the ranch on a full day of navigation or staying there and enjoying this wonderful and unique site. But first, let’s talk a little about the history of this fascinating ranch in Argentine Patagonia.

Estancia Cristina: a bit of history

Estancia Cristina is a remarkable place, and its history is equally fascinating. Joseph and Jessie Masters braved the challenges of the rugged terrain and harsh weather to venture into the heart of Patagonia on a voyage of exploration. Their pioneering spirit, coupled with immense effort and perseverance, transformed this wild and remote location into their cherished home.

Our story traces back to the 1870s when the burgeoning industrialization in Europe and the United States created a demand for high-quality raw materials from other regions. This led to a division between industrialized nations and those blessed with valuable natural resources like meat, leather, and wool.

In 1884, as part of efforts to promote immigration to distant Patagonia, the Argentine government introduced land leasing schemes for sheep wool production, requiring minimal conditions. This facilitated the lease of vast expanses of land for sheep farming, including in the province of Santa Cruz where Estancia Cristina is situated.

In the early 1900s, Percival and Jessie Masters arrived in Patagonia and settled in Rio Gallegos, where they learned the skills of livestock farming. Eventually, they ventured to the area around Lago Argentino with their children Herbert and Cristina, dreaming of establishing their own ranch.

In 1914, the family settled on the eastern shore of Lago Argentino and founded the Masters’ Estancia, initially relying on a steamboat named “César” for connectivity. Over the years, they expanded their sheep farming business and acquired more resources.

Tragedy struck in 1924 when their daughter Cristina passed away at a young age, leading the family to rename the ranch Estancia Cristina in her honor. Despite this loss, they continued to thrive, but in 1937, the establishment of Los Glaciares National Park meant they had to relinquish their dream of legal land ownership.

Despite challenges, the Masters family persevered, adapting to changes and embracing tourism in later years. Janet Hermingston, a Scottish woman, played a significant role in managing the estancia alongside Herbert Masters until his passing in 1984. Eventually, Janet transformed Estancia Cristina into a lodge, catering to tourists and honoring the legacy of the pioneering family.

Today, Estancia Cristina remains a testament to resilience and determination, welcoming visitors to experience the spirit of the Masters family and their remarkable journey through the rugged landscapes of Patagonia. Amazing isn´t it? Well, let´s talk now about the activities you can do here. Remember you can choose to visit the estancia for a day, or stay there to spend some amazing and let me say unforgettable nights in the remote Patagonia.


Visiting the Estancia Cristina for a day

First, let´s talk about visiting Estancia Cristina for a day. It´s a full day excursion from El Calafate, and back to El Calafate, including a boat navigation and different activities in Estancia Cristina. Let me explain the options you have first for the full day visit

Join the intrepid expedition team of Estancia Cristina’s Wild Scapes. Embark on a voyage across Lago Argentino amidst the clusters of icebergs and marvel at Glaciar Upsala from the sole land-based vantage point in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. Embrace the challenge of venturing into the wilderness for the day.

Departure is in the morning from PuertoBandera pier, located 47 km from El Calafate. So, if you added the transfers (you also can arrive on your own to the pier), pick up will be early in the morning and once in the pier, you will embark in a full day trip, starting with a boat navigation on the Argentino Lake.

The boat navigation to Estancia Cristina offers a captivating journey across the pristine waters of Lago Argentino. Departing from Puerto Bandera, travelers are treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes, including towering glaciers and rugged mountain ranges. As the boat glides through the icy waters, passengers can witness the awe-inspiring beauty of the region, with opportunities to spot wildlife along the way. Upon arrival at Estancia Cristina, visitors have the chance to explore this historic Patagonian ranch and immerse themselves in its rich cultural heritage and natural wonders. And here, again we have options.




Visiting Estancia Cristina: Trekking option

If you choose this option, you will enjoy a wonderful trekking experience. After arriving at the Estancia’s port, you will be ready for the activity. In a small group, we will embark on a 4×4 vehicle for 9.5 kilometers, ascending through the Feruglio mountain range to a panoramic viewpoint overlooking Lago Guillermo, where our 4 ½ hour hike begins. We will visit Glaciar Upsala’s privileged lookout point and walk down over the eroded trails with exposed fascinating marine fossils.

Due to the physical demand and the challenging terrain, the minimum age to participate is 12 years old. This expedition is not recommended for people with back, hip, ankle, or knee problems.

Visiting Estancia Cristina: Classic option

If you choose the classic option, you will enjoy this wonderful place without great demands. Choose the wilderness hike! We will hike uphill towards Cascada de Los Perros along the semi-arid ecotone, reaching hidden spots that reveal the landscape from Lago Argentino to Lago Pearson.

The historical hike is also great.  The expedition continues along Río Caterina, past the Noria, and to the chapel near Estancia Cristina. We will also visit the Museum that recounts the pioneers’ history in this remote land. This activity is suitable for all ages. Our staff will arrange the expedition outings according to language, groups, age, and weather.


Visiting Estancia Cristina: Horseback riding option

If you´re a horse lover, that´s your option! This journey through the Río Caterina Valley welcomes all participants. The mountains and lagoons will guide us to Lago Pearson, where we will pause at the cabin and embrace the liberty offered by this vast wilderness. Upon our return to the estancia, if time allows, we will explore the Pioneer History Museum before boarding the catamaran back to Puerto Punta Bandera.

Individuals aged 6 to 75 are welcome to join us for the horseback riding expedition. No prior experience is necessary.


Visiting Estancia Cristina: 4×4 ride to Upsala Lookout

During this comprehensive expedition, we’ll traverse the Patagonian landscapes in 4×4 vehicles to reach a unique vantage point overlooking the Campo de Hielo Patagónico Sur and Glaciar Upsala. Upon returning to the Estancia, there will be opportunities to explore the museum, the main lodge, and its environs.

The Glaciar Upsala lookout expedition can occur either in the morning or afternoon.


Staying at Estancia Cristina

If you have chosen to stay at Estancia Cristina, then prepare yourself for a magnificent experience, where the weather changes constantly and Patagonia will welcome you with all its splendor.

For those embarking on the journey to Estancia Cristina, the adventure commences in El Calafate with a convenient land transfer to Puerto Punta Bandera. From there, our fleet offers daily departures and returns between Puerto Bandera and Estancia Cristina, ensuring seamless transportation across the mesmerizing waters of Lago Argentino into the mist-shrouded landscapes of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. With so much to explore and experience, we recommend a suggested stay of 2 nights to fully immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility of this remarkable destination.

Rooms in Estancia Cristina

20 accommodations are distributed among 5 Casas, each boasting the same design and luxurious comfort, all nestled around the main lodge. The names of the houses—Mountain, Steppe, Forest, River, and Family—reflect our core essence. Each Casa comprises four private suites with expansive bow windows, offering captivating views that allow guests to deeply connect with the surrounding natural beauty.

Within each Casa, guests will find a welcoming interior featuring a cozy living room and wooden floors, providing a tranquil retreat before or after a day filled with adventures. We recommend a three-night stay to fully immerse yourself in The Wild Beyond experience.

For those seeking ultimate privacy and exclusivity, the option to book an entire Casa (4 rooms) is available upon request.

Estancia Cristina

Activities in Estancia Cristina

Embark on a series of organized expeditions, dictated by the wild climate’s whims, allowing you to delve deeper into the untamed beauty of Patagonia. Our staff, fluent in both English and Spanish, will guide you through each adventure, ensuring a seamless experience. For those with a passion for horses, our Monturero awaits, promising an unparalleled equestrian experience. Explore self-guided trails at your own pace, indulging in moments of awe as you wander amidst the breathtaking landscapes. As night falls, surrender to the singular experience of sleeping in close proximity to the glaciers, their enchanting sounds lulling you into a tranquil slumber. Embrace the privilege of residing within the pristine confines of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, granting you exclusive access to Glaciar Upsala’s only land-based lookout point.


Gastronomy in Estancia Cristina

The kitchen combines our passion for cooking with our spirit of sharing moments full of flavor and discovery. All meals and non-alcoholic beverages are included during your stay in Estancia Cristina



Picture of Ramiro Rodriguez

Ramiro Rodriguez

25 years working in travel market, as Sales & Marketing Manager in RipioTurismo, Marketing Manager in Nuevas Ideas Travel Consulting Group. Writer and travel lover.

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