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El Calafate

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Argentina : Patagonia : Santa Cruz : El Calafate
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El Calafate

El Calafate Banner.jpg

El Calafate is a small town that has grown due to the tourist influx into the Patagonia region of Argentina. It is set on the glacial blue Lago Argentina and is full of eager trekkers.

Get in[edit]

Aerolineas Argentinas has daily flights to/from Bariloche,Buenos Aires and Ushuaia. LAN also flies on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from Buenos Aires. On-line booking and e-tickets are available. During peak season, flights are usually fully booked with tourist groups. Make sure you book your flight well in advance. LADE also flies more cheaply to/from Bariloche,Buenos Aires, Comodoro Rivadavia and other destinations. LADE has an office in town (open 10 to 16 on weekdays) for inquiries. Their website shows availability even when there isn't any. Their rates are fixed.

There are also charter flights between Puerto Natales and El Calafate operated by DAP. These flights from the tiny airport of Puerto Natales can be very scenic and let you cross the Andes in about 90 minutes and no road travel hassle (which however in right doses is something not to be missed in Patagonia).

From the airport, it is about a 15-20 minute ride into town. A taxi from the airport is quoted at 360 pesos to downtown. There is also a bus that will take you to your hotel for 120 pesos. If you are flying out of El Calafate, you can arrange a return ticket on the bus for an extra 80 pesos (so 200 total), and the bus will pick you up at your hotel at a set time a few hours before your flight.

The only other possibility is to arrive by bus. But this means that you will spend quite some time in the bus on rough roads. Due to the dirty streets, especially when it rains, views from buses vanish fast...

A quite remarkable trip is the bus connection between El Calafate and Bariloche along Ruta 40. It is mainly operated for the benefit of tourists by the Agency Chaltentravel (directly only the Calafate-Perito Moreno stage), since people of Calafate and Bariloche have very small ties between each other, which does not sound strange after you have made the journey and seen the state of the road. In 2014, Chalten is starting there services on November 15th. There is also a second bus company, Taqsa, which has started doing the route 40 bus journey to Bariloche. Unlike Chalten, this is a 25 hour direct connection (with Chalten you can get out at various towns en route) and will drive through the night (Chalten will stop overnight so you can see Route 40 only in the daytime). The cost for Taqsa as of November 6th is 1240 pesos. Comfortable Celtur buses leave from Los Antiguos (9:00 AM and 9:00 PM) and from Perito Moreno (10:00 AM and 10:00 PM) nearly every day. The trip costs 550 A$ from Los Antiguos or 500 A$ from Perito Moreno. The Celtur office in Los Antiguos has an option to include a tour to the Caves of Hands, which are on the way and not to be missed.

Views, if the weather is good, are in places stunning, especially between Calafate and Perito Moreno city, less between Perito Moreno and Bariloche. You must however be prepared for a long (10+ hours for 2 1/2 days) and rough trip in a small van. If you are not the kind of person who enjoys slow changes in the landscape and the beauty of lonely places, do not attempt this trip or take a night bus. Of course, if you really like this sort of thing, you will never forget the trip.

The bus trip will let you pass (and most likely stay and enjoy) through El Chalten and give an opportunity to stay in Perito Moreno from where you can organise a (long) ride to visit the "Cueva de las manos pintadas".

Get around[edit]

El Calafate is a small town, so no car rental needed. However, make sure you book your bus ticket out of this town, when you get there, or you can get stuck there for a couple of days. The bus station is located on the main street then walking up a small hill.

A boat with more than 100 tourists next to the Perito Moreno


A must, the Perito Moreno Glacier, 80km (50miles) away from El Calafate. Park entrance fee is the whopping 260 pesos (since May, 2015 for foreigners) and allows you to stay only for one day, no camping inside - you need to have left by 10 pm. You can see the enormous glacier just meters away from you, and listen all the sounds that the cracking ice makes 24 hours a day. And when a front wall of the glacier falls down, well, it is just amazing! It is the main point of tourism. Viewing platforms and easy trails (with quite a number of steps, though) make the visit and the observation easy and pleasant. You can visit many ranchos (estancias), where you can enjoy the wild nature, perfect meals, and stay there in the middle of nowhere, relaxing from the big cities rush. Or take a boat excursion and see many of the glaciers and places in the National Park Los Glaciares. The colors and shapes of the ice-bergs floating in the lake are really awesome and inspiring, making a boat ride in a sunny day a fantastic day out. Another perfect point, is Onelli Bay, one of the most romantics sites here. Just bring your lunch box, a bottle of champagne, and chill it in the lake, or just add a piece of pure crystal ice. Wild nature can be seen just walking a few blocks away from main street, like in El Cañadón, or at Laguna Nimez, where you can see all kind of patagonic birds feet away from you. Wildlife and views, especially at dusk, make Laguna Nimez a must see, perfect if you have just arrived in town, settled your next days excursion and eager to go see some real Patagonia. At night, grab a chair and go outside. The non polluted sky shows stars like you will never see again, and don´t be surprised by satellites passing by!


Excursions to Perito Moreno glacier (sliding scale entry fee to the park: 260ARS for foreigners [May 2015], 100ARS for people from Mercosur countries and 50ARS for Argentines), by bus, or use a recommended Argentine travel agency to arrange private trips for ice walking, drinking whiskey with glacier ice, among many other possible activities. Hitch-hiking to the glacier and back is not impossible, but difficult in low season.

There are three bus companies (180ARS round trip; 90 minutes each way,) leaving from El Calafate at around 0800 and returning around 1600 and one company, Cal Tur departing at 1400 and returning 1930. The bus will drop you off at the port for boat trips and take the rest onward to the glacier before coming back upon return. Try to sit on the left side of the bus for the best views of the glacier and surrounding landscape. The glacier has very well constructed walkways to walk along and view the glacier without the need to use a tour group.

A taxi is 500-600 pesos round trip.

There is a hideously expensive (by any standard) restaurant onsite (meagre coffee in styrofoam cup is 30 pesos), be a cheapskate and take a picnic and flask and keep smiling. Numerous places to sit and eat overlooking the glacier.

The Hielo y Aventura [1]Minitrekking excursion - morning trip to the observation boardwalks, boat ride across the lake, and then an hour and a half with (provided) crampons walking around on the Glacier. Proper foul weather gear (rain jacket and pants) and trekking shoes/boots are strongly recommended, and can be rented from several places in town, or are provided on some other tours[2]. Bring sunscreen, and don't bother with water (you can drink the water off the glacier).

The Fernandez Campbell All Glaciers boat tour. All day long, but some incredible glacier views that you won't be able to see otherwise. When booking, see if you can get on the smaller boats (they have one large and three small ones).

Pura Aventura , a UK-based tour operator, also offers trips to Patagonia including private guide to Fitzroy and Laguna de Los Tres. A great choice if you want to enjoy the most spectacular viewpoints of the National Park.

A newly built museum dedicated to glaciers, known as the Glaciarum, stands several kilometers outside of El Calafate. This museum provides exhibitions and detailed information on the makeup, history, and importance of the glaciers found in this region.

There are also 4x4 excursions up into the mountainous area surrounding El Calafate. These provide stunning views of Lake Argentino, and, on a clear day, the top of Fitz Roy as well as the Torres del Paine. They also stop for refreshments and visit geological formations caused by glaciers known as the ´mexican hats'.

If exploring El Calafate on a budget one may rent a bike in the city for a tour around the lake. There is a paved road at the end of the of town running along side the lake. If you go left on it(facing the lake) you can follow it to the outskirts of town. Coming out of town the view is blocked by a hill but if you keep going down the paved road(staying close to the water) you will get around the hill and get an amazing view. Keep going until the end of the paved road for an amazing lunch spot from where you can see the entire lake and the snowy mountains at the back. A good place to rent a bike is La Barraca which is located at the end of the main street on the opposite side of the plaza from the gas station.

In winter, The Club Andino Lago Argentino [3] rents skates to anyone who wants to spend an afternoon skating on ice in a small shallow bay in front of the club (very near the town centre). It is a beloved club by the Calafate people community, pioneer in the teaching of mountain sports in the village and always been devoted to the healthy sports and also social activities, teaching to the youngest and open to the general public. It also has a bar with a deck and one of the best lake views in town.

Visit a ranch. Ask your travel agency where to go. Recommendations ; El Galpon del Glaciar Ranch, Nibepo Aike Ranch, Rincón Ranch, Alta Vista Ranch. On most estancias you can ride a horse.

A must is "La Toldería", a fast food that turns into a disco after 1AM. The pub of El Calafate.


Food is expensive mainly due to the remote location of the city. There are four supermarkets. No quality fresh food is available. Buy your food for your tours in advance, because on ruta 40 and in the glacier national park there are almost no places to buy food.

Buy your food early in the day as things get picked over by 8pm. All the freshly baked bread was gone.

Handicraft and souvenirs can be bought in large scale at the main street.


  • Patagonic Lamb "cordero patagónico" is the main dish. Typical barbecue (asado) is very good. But if you are tired of meat, just try pizza and "empanadas" at La Toldería bar, Libertador 1177.
  • Don Pichón is a very good grill and restaurant.
  • Pura Vida is a colourful joint with tasty dishes and nice lake views managed by 4 youngsters with a 'vision'.
  • Esquina Varela is a wonderful little place that has an amazing "ojo de bife" (ribeye) for very cheap. Definitely head there for some good food

Don´t miss:

  • At Sancho, 25 de Mayo 90, ask for the stuffed beaf, or "Bife de Lomo relleno".
  • At La Chancha y los 20, Libertador 1250, ask for brochettes.One brochette is enough for 2 normal persons.
  • At La Vaca Atada (The tied cow:-), ask the "milanesa completa". If you like meat, don´t even ask what is it, just surprise yourself. It is a deli.
  • At Pizzeria La Lechuza (A Patagonian Owl) on Ave. Libertador try the great empanadas, pizza and different kinds of milanesas. If possible, avoid the English-language menu as it makes no sense.
  • La Tablita is the first restaurant that locals mention when you ask where to eat. It receives mixed reviews but provides steaks and grilled Patagonian lamb.
  • Loca Marimba Backpacker´s Bar, Av. Libertador 1315, (Galeria El Establo), a small beautiful place run by its owners, in the center of the Calafate, to eat homemade food and listening excellent music.


Argentinian wine is some of the finest in the world, particularly reds such as Malbecs from Mendoza, and whites like Torrontes from the north-west around Salta and Cafayate. Take advantage of the exchange rate and enjoy. Other international drinks such as beer from all over the world, whiskeys, liquors, champagne are available. Try grapefruit sodas for something different.

  • Loca Marimba Backpacker´s Bar, Av. Libertador 1315, (Galeria El Establo), a small beautiful place in the center of El Calafate to have good drinks, sandwichs and pizzas listening excellent music. The best parties in the city take place here.


  • Rochester Hotel Calafate, Av. Libertador 3614, El Calafate, Santa Cruz, Argentina, (+54) (11) 5032-5570 (), [4]. Rochester Calafate is in proximity to the city´s downtown area and has a view of the Lake Argentino on Bahia Redonda. Rooms are equipped with king size beds, business desks, mini bar, Led cable TV, climate control, and safe deposit box  edit
  • Hostería Meulen Calafate,Telfax: +542902492982 - Calle 202 N°608 frente a Laguna Nimez - - webpage: [5] - for GPS: 50°19'21,37¨ / 75°15'22,85. In one of the most beautiful landscapes of Patagonian Argentina, against the Ecological Reserve Nímez Lagoon and the borders of the Argentinian Lake is the Hosteria Meulen, a small Hostería in El Calafate, in Patagonia Argentina. We are located 80 km from the Perito Moreno Glacier. The hotel has a free shuttle to downtown, a bar, Restaurant, WiFi, Internet, DDI, DDN and Laundry.
  • America del Sur, Puerto Desador (near La Bamba) 02902-493525 [6]. With internet facilities, shared kitchen, floor heating and a panoramic view of the sunset over El Calafate. Dormbed Ar$80. Double room available, Ar$180.
  • Cerro Cristal Hotel, Gregores 989, phone 02902-491088, Email:, [7]. Note - the website is totally in Spanish. Hotel is very clean, WARM, well located (one block off the main drag), walking distance to the tourism office, and costs $210 pesos (usd$70) for 2 single beds, per night as of Feb 2008. With Internet facilities, a kitchen (breakfast provided at no charge), hot water, and comfortable beds. Day tours arranged to Perito Moreno (or the entire glacier national park, Monte Fitz Roy, etc).
  • Design Suites Hotel, Calle 80 N. 1050 Zona Balcon del Aeropuerto. When the environment and the general situation show a tendency towards monotony, a new concept in hotels will transform you in a guest and spectator, within a place where the contemporary becomes images that catch the eye and trigger your imagination.
  • El Galpon del Glaciar Lodge, Ruta 11 km 22 Tel 54 11 4803-7335, [8].
  • Fuerte Calafate Hotel, 605 street n°1164 , phone 02902-492813/492-823, Email:, [9]. The best view of calafate, and the warmest attention. It cost U$S75 the double room and includes breakfast. The hotel has a restaurant for dining. Internet facilities, comfortable beds an hot water.
  • Kosten Aike Hotel, Gob Moyano1243, El Calafate, Prov. de Santa Cruz. The Hotel is located in one of the most southern places on earth, in the Santa Cruz Province, in Patagonia. 80 rooms decorated with the outmost comfort details, offer the guests a complete relaxing stay. A fully equipped free of charge business center is also available.
  • Los Notros, Facing the Perito Moreno Glacier, Phone: +541148137285 [10].
  • Mirador del Lago, Av Libertador, 2047 [11]. Great staff (took care of sending my postcards for me), gorgeous rooms, delicious breakfast (don't miss the hot chocolate!) and overlooking the Lago Argentino, where you can go ice-skating in the winter. They have computers with free Internet access, a good restaurant and it's located only meters from the downtown area.
  • AMSA Camping, (Near the police and fire station). Hot water, electricity. No WiFi and no shelter. AR$25.  edit
  • Hostel De Las Manos, Egidio Feruglio, [12]. One of the cheapest hostels in Calafate, ARS 50 for a dorm bed in 6 person dorm (March 2012). About 15 min walk from the center/busstation. Relaxed and clean, in terms of atmosphere more like a guesthouse than a hostel.  edit
  • Hostel Las Carretas, Libertador 537 (next to the tiny museum, close to the tourist information office). from 35 pesos for a dorm with shared bathrooms. Very friendly staff. Best price in town, location is perfect. 35.  edit
  • Hostel Huemul, Gdor. Moyano 1270, El Calafate, Argentina. Very cheap hostel. Tourist information at the bus terminal may recommends this place. But it's TERRIBLE. Dirty kitchen and unkind manager. Bedbugs have been found.  edit

Get out[edit]

  • Perito Moreno nearby is one of the few advancing glaciers in the world (so they say, it is not really advancing, it simply "flows" pretty fast for a glacier), which is 30km x 5km wide. Nature at its most awesome and intimidating.
  • Nearby El Chalten provides excellent hiking possibilities. From here you can cross into Chile to travel the Carretera Austral. Biking to El Chalten is doable in two days. At around 120 km before El Chalten there is an abandoned pink house next to the road where many bikers spend the night. The police is known to show up around 8 pm some days to throw people out. Try to arrive late at the pink house.
  • Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine National Park are located 5 driving's hours from el calafate and can reached by a car or a bus. There is a more direct route between El Calafate and Torres del Paine National Park (from around Lago Roca in Argentina to Laguna Azul in Chile) - a very bad gravel road. However, there is no possibility to do the immigration formalities in order to use that road, so it is virtually useless. Reportedly, a cyclist tried using it and some Chilean policemen asked him to return and take the long (but mostly paved) detour through Cerro Castillo. Please keep in mind that when you cross into Chile all fruit, vegetables, lentils, beans, honey, meat, cheese will be confiscated. They take this very seriously. Buses to Torres del Paine National Park from El Calafate are hard to arrange. It is easiest (but expensive and time consuming) to change in Puerto Natales. Hitchhiking (also through the seasonal Cerro Castillo border crossing) is pretty straightforward.

Be aware that in order to cross the border to chile, you have to ask the car rental company to arrange you some documents.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!



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