Everything you need to plan a short trip to El Calafate, the gateway to Los Glacieres National Park, including all the very best things to do in El Calafate, where to stay and how to get there!
If you're passing though El Calafate, Argentina chances are your main goal is a glacier adventure! For those planning on spending a few days however, you'll be pleased to know that there's still plenty to do in this small town.
Keep reading to discover the best things to do in El Calafate, as well as where to stay, and useful transport tips.
Things to do in El Calafate
A day trip to Perito Moreno Glaciar
You cannot possibly visit El Calafate and not spend a day in complete awe of Perito Moreno. In fact, it's probably one of the most impressive sights in all of Argentina. Not sure you believe us? Take a look at this stunning photo journal.
Whilst you can certainly visit the glacier with a tour, there really is no need, and it can easily be done indepenedently. For our thorough guide on doing this, see this post with all you need to know for a day trip.
For those that have a little more cash to burn, a hugely popular tour involves strapping on a pair of crampons and summiting the glacier itself. For more information on these tours, click here.
VISIT THE GLACIARIUM
Whilst being a very informative museum on all things 'glaciar', the real attraction is 'The Glaciobar'.
Entry is not cheap (is anything in Argentina?) but this bar made entirely out ice - even the glasses that contain your drink - is definitely a interesting way to spend the afternoon!
For more information, see the website.
CYCLE AROUND THE LAKE
If you're on a little bit of a budget, you'll be pleased to know that there are still activities you can do in town that won't cost an arm and a leg - like rent a bike and cycle around the lake.
Simply follow the paved road at the end of town running alongside the water, and don't forget to look up - the views are spectacular! There's a wonderful spot for lunch located at the end of the paved road so don't forget to pack some goodies.
To rent, head to La Barraca at the end of the main street on the opposite side of the plaza from the gas station or visit Rent My Bike ($100 AR per hour or $300 AR per day).
Fancy a splurge? Hit the slopes and take on an action-packed day of mountain biking. Click here to find out more.
VISIT LAGUNA NIMEZ RESERVE
If you're a bit of a twitcher, or simply want to see flamingoes in the wild, then Laguna Nimez Reserve should definitely be on your to-do list. This 2.5km self-guided trail has various recommended look-out spots to view the different birds without disturbing them.
Entrance fee is AR$100 and the park can be accessed on foot, or you can choose to combine it with a cycle to Lago Argentino (see above) and get there a little quicker.
where to stay in el calafate
Depending on your budget and whether you need a kitchen to cook in, there are literally dozens of guest houses and hostels to choose from in El Calafate - and take it from us, we spent a long time trawling around the town with our backpacks on searching for the best deal!
After an hour or so, we eventually settled on Bla Guesthouse. It's new, well designed, reasonably prices and has a great kitchen.
If cooking facilities are less important, be sure to check out Alberque & Hostal del Glaciar Libertador - it comes really highly rated, but is a little more expensive.
Finally, for those who enjoy waking up to spectacular views (take our word for it - this place is full of them!) consider America del Sur Hostel. It's a little walk out of town, but the place is beautiful!
There are also a number of Airbnbs in the area, if you're not already a member, sign up via this link to get £25/$40 free credit towards your first booking.
If hotels are more your thing, follow this link for a full listing of the city's best.
How to get to El Calafate
If travelling from Buenos Aires, you will need to first travel to Rio Gallegos (approx 36 hours) and then catch a connetion onwartd to El Calafate (4 hours). In order to break up this trip, we recommend spending a few days in Puerto Madryn.
From Puerto Natales, there are regular buses to El Calafate, taking around five hours.
Just in case you hadn't realised yet, Argentina is huge - and despite what some people will have you believe, long-distance bus travel is expensive. If you're planning your trip to El Calafate in advance, booking a flight from elsewhere in the area might work out to be significantly cheaper.
There are daily flights from Buenos Aires, Ushuaia, Bariloche and Trelew (and soon from Córdoba and Mendoza) as well as international flights from Chile with DAP. Check prices here.
The airport is located 22km outside of town and can be accessed by a bus (AR$120 one way or AR$200 return) or taxi (AR$360)