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25 Epic Issues To Do in El Calafate, Argentina


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Welcome to El Calafate, Argentina — dwelling to one of the well-known glaciers on the planet! There are many enjoyable issues to do in El Calafate, and with an airport on the town, it’s one of the simply accessible locations to go to in Argentine Patagonia.

El Calafate is the southern gateway to Los Glaciares Nationwide Park in Argentina, and boasts some stunningly lovely landscapes.

El Calafate was the second place my husband and I visited in Patagonia, after staying at Ecocamp Patagonia in Torres del Paine, Chile, and we had one main precedence: Perito Moreno Glacier. This magnificent glacier is one among Patagonia’s prime pure wonders, and you may even go trekking on the ice!

Whereas Perito Moreno Glacier is much and away the highest sight, don’t mistake El Calafate as a one-attraction city. There are many spots for kayaking, biking, and mountain climbing surrounding El Calafate.

Past the outside, there are such a lot of issues to do in El Calafate itself. I used to be stunned that it felt extra like a small metropolis. You’ll be able to store for all types of cool souvenirs, go to the native breweries, style some scrumptious Argentine specialties, and discover extra of Los Glaciares Nationwide Park (which is definitely a UNESCO World Heritage Web site). 

I actually cherished my time in El Calafate, and I hope you’re keen on your time there, too. Right here’s a information to the very best issues to do in El Calafate, Argentina!

This publish was printed in February 2024 and was co-written by Adventurous Kate and Riana Ang-Canning.

An enormous blue and white glacier surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and in the foreground, a walkway covered with dozens of people posing for photos.

Finest Issues To Do in El Calafate, Argentina

Go to Perito Moreno Glacier

The primary factor to do in El Calafate is to go to the Perito Moreno Glacier. This is among the largest glaciers in Patagonia, beginning excessive within the Andes Mountains from the Southern Patagonian Icefield and flowing right down to Lago Argentino. It’s well-known for its dramatic icefalls, and when you’re fortunate, you may get to see a calving!

There’s a guests’ middle on the glacier, with a restaurant and tons of viewing platforms and walkways the place you’ll be able to admire its magnificence from each angle. These walkways are free to go to, and elements of them are wheelchair accessible. 

Perito Moreno Glacier is about an hour’s drive from El Calafate; when you hire a automotive, you’ll be able to drive your self, however most individuals go to on a tour.

This Perito Moreno Glacier tour contains pick-up and drop-off from El Calafate, ample free time to benefit from the walkways, and a brief navigation cruise out to the glacier.

A group of tiny people clustered in a small corner of a massive blue and white glacier, showing you how enormous the glacier is.
You’ll be able to actually see how large the glacier is from this angle!

Go Glacier Trekking

I went on a glacier mini-trekking tour and had a blast — if it’s in your price range, it’s simply among the best issues to do in El Calafate. From city, we drove out to Perito Moreno Glacier and loved the views from the walkways.

Up subsequent, we took a bus to Brazo Rico, the place we sailed up near the glacier — the right place for images! We landed on the opposite aspect of the lake, and from there it was a 15-minute hike to the glacier arrival website, the place we had been fitted for crampons.

After which it was time for trekking! Utilizing our crampons to dig into the ice, we hiked up and down the ridges of the huge glacier, gazing into shiny blue holes of ice, ending with some whiskey served with recent glacier ice.

I’ve accomplished glacier trekking earlier than — in Iceland and on the Greenland Ice Sheet — however I believe Perito Moreno takes the cake for being essentially the most visually spectacular slab of ice of all.

We spent about an hour trekking on the glacier earlier than crusing and busing again to El Calafate. I can’t advocate it extremely sufficient!

People in kayaks in a small lake in front of a massive blue and white glacier.
Kayaking Perito Moreno, through ymgerman on Shutterstock.

Discover Perito Moreno Glacier by Kayak

Ever gone kayaking in a chilly space? As somebody who has kayaked in Antarctica and Greenland, I extremely advocate it!

You don’t must be an professional kayaker, although after all expertise helps — the waters round Perito Moreno are glassy and calm, and also you’ll be bundled up in dry fits and cold-weather kayaking gear.

This top-rated Perito Moreno kayaking tour contains 90 minutes of kayaking on the lake, plus ample time to benefit from the walkways by the glacier.

A large boat cruising in front of a massive blue and white glacier, snow-capped mountains behind it.
See Perito Moreno and extra on a glacier cruise!

Go on a Full Day Glacier Cruise on Lake Argentina

Lots of the excursions to Perito Moreno Glacier embody a brief navigational boat tour. However when you’re trying to spend extra time on Lake Argentina, you’ll need to be part of a full day glacier cruise. It is a nice possibility when you’re trying to be much less lively.

Apart from Perito Moreno, this full day cruise contains views of many different Patagonian glaciers resembling Upsala, Seco, Heim and Spegazzini. You’ll sail by means of the Upsala Canal, Canal de los Témpanos, and Escuadra Bay. 

Once you’re not testing the spectacular views from the ship, you’ll have the chance to go on a guided stroll at Puesto Las Vacas and revel in lunch and drinks on board.  

People walking down a busy street in El Calafate at night, the sky deep blue and string lights illuminating everything.
El Calafate has a lot to supply!

Discover El Calafate and Avenida del Libertador

Avenida del Libertador is the primary avenue operating by means of El Calafate, the place you’ll discover numerous enjoyable retailers, eating places and bars. I used to be stunned at what a stunning city El Calafate is! Torres del Paine and El Chaltén really feel like they’re on the finish of the world (in a really pretty manner), however El Calafate has a variety of bustling exercise happening.

So sure. Right here is a good spot to check out attention-grabbing eating places, brewery and coffeeshop-hop, and do some critical buying.

And right here’s a giant tip: Avenida del Liberator is the very best place to select up a memento from Patagonia, as there are a lot of extra shops right here than in smaller El Chaltén.

The counter at a brewery in Argentina, the specials written on a chalkboard.
Don’t miss my favourite brewery — La Zorro Taproom!

Go to the native breweries

I used to be stunned to be taught that El Calafate has so many brewery choices! Is it a mountain factor? Mountain cities love their craft beers!

So, the place must you go? Don’t miss my favourite brewery in El Calafate, La Zorra Taproom, with wonderful beers, meals, and a enjoyable, convivial ambiance. In addition they have an outpost in El Chaltén, however if you wish to purchase any merch, you’ll solely discover it at their El Calafate location. 

Nativa Restaurante & Cervecería Artesanal was one other brewery my husband and I actually loved. Our bartender was the very best! He poured us samples of the whole lot and talked us by means of the entire completely different choices on faucet. It’s not on Avenida del Liberatador so it’s not as busy.

Nonetheless thirsty? Sip your manner round city at another nice breweries like Cerveza Patagonia and La Fábrica Cervecería (each spots have nice outside seating). I loved the entire breweries, however La Zorro was one thing particular.

A small park with a statue of a man leading a horse in front of a small cabin.
This small park is within the coronary heart of El Calafate.

Go to Intendencia Parque Nacional Los Glaciares

Intendencia Parque Nacional Los Glaciares will not be what it feels like — it’s really a small park in the course of downtown El Calafate. (Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, the big nationwide park the place Perito Moreno Glacier and Mount Fitz Roy are situated, is a special place.) 

This pretty park was inbuilt 1946 and showcases the historical past of the Los Glaciares Nationwide Park. It’s a great place to go to throughout your exploration of El Calafate city.

Comply with the interpretive path to see depictions of various moments within the park’s historical past, resembling the primary equipment used or fossils discovered, and be taught extra in regards to the native natural world. 

A bicycle parked by the side of the road in a flat part of Patagonia, a sign showing a tree being blown wildly to one side.
The “Patagonia flat” countryside close to El Calafate, through Guaxinim on Shutterstock.

Discover the realm by bike

One other nice strategy to discover the small city of El Calafate and the encompassing area is by bike. You’ll be able to hire a motorcycle on the town at a number of retailers together with Hire Bikes El Calafate, EB Hire a Bike, and Rental Calafate (or simply stroll down Avenida del Liberator).

In case you’re a extra skilled mountain biker, contemplate becoming a member of this exhilarating half-day bike tour. You’ll be pushed by 4×4 up by means of Estancia 25 de Mayo, a nature reserve in El Calafate.

From there you’ll discover the terrain by mountain bike, crossing the Guanacos Valley and taking in views of close by mountains. Lunch is included, and you then’ll return to city.

Three low buildings with green roofs in the Patagonian countryside, a pointy mountain rising behind them.
Estancia Cristina, a enjoyable El Calafate day journey, through Shutterstock.

Go to a Conventional Estancia

An estancia is a ranch, usually devoted to rearing sheep or cattle, and whereas they’re discovered throughout Argentina and Chile, Patagonian estancias are one thing particular. As of late, many estancias have opened their doorways to vacationers to share their conventional practices and the gorgeous area they name dwelling.

On this full day estancia and crusing tour, you’ll get to expertise Patagonia’s well-known estancia tradition and iconic glaciers.

You’ll board a ship on Lake Argentina passing by the well-known Upsala Glacier. Your boat journey ends at Estancia Cristina, a historic ranch the place you’ll get pleasure from a guided tour and have the choice to discover the environment by 4×4 or stroll to a waterfall. 

The view through a window of several large pieces of lamb roasting on a fire.
Loads of home windows in El Calafate have lamb roasting on the hearth!

Take pleasure in an Argentine Parrilla

A parrilla (pronounced pa-REE-sha within the Argentine accent) is a standard barbecue the place meat, normally lamb or steak, is cooked on the grill. And whereas beef is what’s for dinner in most of Argentina, Patagonian menus are dominated by cordero (lamb).

Strolling round El Calafate, you’ll discover large barbecued slabs of lamb cooking over the hearth, displayed within the home windows of a number of eating places. Argentines actually know the way to put away a variety of meat, and parts are usually beneficiant.

If the scent of grilled meat is making you drool, head to one among these prime rated eating places for an incredible lamb or beef barbecue: Mi Viejo, La Tablita, or Casimiro Biguá. Wash it down with a Patagonian pink — or a traditional Malbec from Mendoza!

A window of a bakery with shelves covered in luscious-looking cakes.

Devour luscious muffins at Panaderia Don Luis

So that you’ve loved a neighborhood craft beer, feasted on barbecued lamb and now you’re trying to finish your day with one thing candy? Say no extra. Head down the highway to Panaderia Don Luis for dessert!

This bakery and candy store is known in El Calafate for its huge muffins, and it stopped me in my tracks once I first walked by. Truffles are the specialty right here, although in addition they supply sandwiches, empanadas, candies, waffles, and each sort of pastry you’ll be able to consider.

You’ll be able to take your desserts to go, or sit within the cafe and bask in a slice of cake. (Word that Panaderia Don Luis is situated on Avenida del Liberator close to the intersection of Avenida 17 de Octubre — there are different Don Luis eating places in numerous spots.)

A perfectly pretty feathered latte on a wooden board reading Miles Coffee House.
In case you miss good espresso, head to Miles Espresso.

Take pleasure in the very best espresso on the town at Miles Espresso Home

In case you’ve been studying this weblog for a while, you already know that I make an effort to search out the very best espresso on the town. In El Calafate, that honor goes to Miles Espresso Home

This little cafe is situated within the coronary heart of city and options a wonderful number of espresso-based drinks, together with muffins, cookies, sandwiches, and even mini pies!

It may be arduous discovering respectable espresso in rural Patagonia — however when you’ve gone awhile with out a respectable espresso, this place shall be your new favourite spot on the town.

A berry bush filled with calafate berries, which look just like blueberries.
Calafate berries recent off the bush, through Shutterstock.

Strive the Calafate Berry

Do you know that El Calafate is definitely named after a berry? Not the opposite manner round!

A calafate is a small spherical berry, much like a blueberry, that grows natively in Patagonia. Legend has it that when you eat a calafate berry, you’ll have the great luck to return to Patagonia! 

It’s possible you’ll discover calafate shrubs in your hikes all through Patagonia, and calafate specialties are served up in lots of native bars and eating places. You’ll additionally discover calafate juice, syrup, jam, jelly and sweet on the market within the retailers on the town. 

A number of breweries on the town even serve calafate beers — which I cherished as I like a artistic, fruity beer every now and then! Or when you want a cocktail, attempt a Calafate Bitter, a play on the favored Pisco Bitter of Peru and Chile.

An outdoor market with lots of wooden log cabin-like buildings for indoor shops.
Outside markets in El Calafate, through lenisecalleja.images on Shutterstock.

Go to the Artisanal Market

Paseo De Artesanos Jorge Echeverria is El Calafate’s artisan market, situated proper within the middle of city off Avenida del Libertador. Right here you’ll discover stalls arrange with native makers promoting work, ceramics, leather-based items, silverware, materials, jewellery and extra. It’s the right place to buy Patagonian souvenirs!

I particularly advocate looking on the textiles. There are some very nice objects right here that might look good in your house. (And if you wish to prank your pals, purchase some pan flutes for his or her youngsters! I needed to persuade my husband not to do that!!)

Remember the fact that this market is open from roughly 5:00-10:00 PM every day, with some stalls organising a bit later than others. Intention to buy within the night for the very best expertise and most vendor choices.  

The inside of a glacier museum, with a metallic globe casting reflections.
The Glaciarium is a well-liked website in El Calafate! Through gseg90 on Shutterstock.

Go to the Glaciarium

The Glaciarium (Glaciarium Museo del Hielo Patagónico) is a museum devoted to the historical past and exploration of Patagonia’s ice and glaciers, and one of many solely glaciological interpretation facilities on the planet. 

Right here you’ll learn the way glaciers are shaped, learn accounts by early Patagonian explorers, see massive fashions of ice fields, and monitor the habits of the Perito Moreno Glacier.

The Glaciarium additionally options an auditorium the place you’ll be able to watch movies about Patagonia’s glacier and an ice bar, the Glaciobar, the place you’ll be able to get pleasure from an ice-cold drink! 

Go to Yeti Ice Bar

In case you’re on the lookout for an excellent place to chill out in El Calafate, Yeti Ice Bar guarantees an unforgettable time! Don one of many supplied ponchos and journey into an ice bar full with photograph ops, shot glasses made out of ice, and an in-house DJ. 

Whereas locations like this is usually a little tacky and overpriced, they’re additionally a variety of enjoyable, particularly when you’re with a bunch of associates. Plus, when was the final time you had a drink with a yeti? 

Bear in mind this place will get busy within the evenings, particularly on the weekend.

A lake surrounded by mountains with a flock of pink birds taking off from the surface.
Reserva Laguna Nimez, through Shutterstock.

Hike round Reserva Laguna Nimez

From the middle of El Calafate you’ll be able to simply embark on the 1.7 mile hike round Laguna Nimez. This easy-grade path is ideal if you wish to stretch your legs, try the native wildlife, or maybe have a pleasant restoration day after a tricky hike. 

Chook watchers particularly ought to go to Reserva Laguna Nimez, recognized for its protected species of birds, resembling flamingos. Remember the fact that there’s a payment to enter the personal land; 8000 ARS for adults and youngsters underneath 18 are free. 

Calafate Mountain Park

Calafate Mountain Park is a leisure park providing actions that benefit from southern Patagonia’s terrain in each season. Take the chairlift as much as the balcony for lovely views over El Calafate, the lakes and mountains within the distance.

In the summertime, get pleasure from quad rides over the mountains, biking trails and kayaking. And within the winter, check out snowboarding, snowshoeing, tubing and even motorbiking within the snow. And don’t neglect that you simply’re within the southern hemisphere! Summer season is from November to March and winter is from June to September. 

A line of hikers walking through a landscape that looks like the surface of the moon, all brown and rounded rocky surface.
Look out for dinosaur bones! Through Shutterstock.

Go to La Leona Petrified Forest

La Leona Petrified Forest is a lunar-like panorama, dwelling to petrified tree trunks and dinosaur fossils going again over 70 million years. It doesn’t get as a lot consideration as different locations in Patagonia, however it ought to!

Head out on this day journey to La Leona Petrified Forest from El Calafate the place you’ll go on a guided trek within the forest, in addition to go to different historic landmarks and viewpoints alongside the way in which. 

La Leona Petrified Forest is midway between El Calafate and El Chaltén, so when you’ve rented a automotive and are planning to drive between these two cities, I like to recommend stopping right here in between. Know that the bus between El Calafate and El Chaltén doesn’t cease right here, so it’s higher to affix a tour when you don’t have your individual wheels.

A lone kayaker in a yellow kayak on a blue-green lake in Patagonia.
La Leona River is good various to kayaking by the glaciers.

Kayak down La Leona River

Up for kayaking, however possibly not at a glacier? La Leona River flows by means of Los Glaciares Nationwide Park and between the main lakes, Lake Viedma and Lake Argentino. A good way to discover this winding waterway is by kayak! 

On this full-day kayak and mountain climbing tour from El Calafate, you’ll spend one hour paddling down La Leona River adopted by a hike by means of La Leona Petrified Forest.

On the hike, a nature information will inform you extra in regards to the area, you’ll maintain a watch out for dinosaur fossils, and also you’ll get to get pleasure from a picnic lunch earlier than heading again to El Calafate. 

Kate posing with two peace signs in front of the Fitz Roy mountain range, jagged gray mountains surrounded by clouds.
The Fitz Roy viewpoint is so value it!

Take a day journey to El Chaltén

The mountain climbing mecca of El Chaltén is a couple of three-hour drive from El Calafate and among the best locations to go to Argentinian Patagonia. El Chaltén is value a number of days of your time, and I extremely advocate making it a precedence in your Patagonia journey.

However when you’re brief on time, you’ll be able to completely go to El Chaltén on a day journey from El Calafate. In case you achieve this, I extremely advocate visiting on a tour like this one so that you don’t should take care of buses.

Your bus will drive alongside Lake Argentino and out in the direction of El Chaltén the place a information will meet you and advise you on the very best mountain climbing trails in your private expertise. You’ll get to get pleasure from a boxed lunch earlier than heading again to El Calafate within the afternoon.

Remember the fact that when you’re concerned with mountain climbing the favored Laguna de los Tres path in El Chaltén, you’ll be able to’t do that on a day journey from El Calafate — the path is just too lengthy. BUT you’ll be able to hike that path to the Fitz Roy viewpoint, which I did, and is a couple of three-hour round-trip hike from the trailhead.

A large waterfall flowing over a huge rock, purple-gray mountains and the three jagged towers behind it.
Cascada Paine in Torres del Paine Nationwide Park

Take a day journey to Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine Nationwide Park in Chilean Patagonia is among the most lovely locations I’ve ever visited. How does it evaluate to El Calafate? The mountains are taller and extra jagged; the lakes are bluer and extra plentiful; and there are such a lot of guanacos!

I like to recommend visiting Torres del Paine for not less than a number of days, ideally staying at Ecocamp Patagonia when you can swing it. However when you don’t have time for that, you’ll be able to go to Torres del Paine on a day journey from El Calafate.

On this present day journey you’ll drive out from El Calafate to Torres del Paine in an overland truck. When you’ve reached the park, you’ll discover by truck and on foot, taking within the lovely surroundings and having fun with a packed lunch. 

The tour visits Lago Sarmiento, Laguna Amarga, and plenty of waterfalls, together with my favourite, Cascada Paine.

A line of about 20 people hiking on a glacier, everyone wearing helmets.
You want not less than one full day in El Calafate for Perito Moreno Glacier.

How A lot Time to Spend in El Calafate

At a minimal, you need to spend one full day in El Calafate, and that day ought to be dedicated to Perito Moreno Glacier. In case you have the time and it’s in your price range, I strongly advocate a glacier trekking tour, which was a spotlight of my time in Patagonia.

After a day on the glacier, there’s sufficient to do in El Calafate to get pleasure from one other day or two on the town. However I might additionally advocate visiting close by El Chaltén, only a three-hour bus trip or drive from El Calafate, particularly when you’re concerned with mountain climbing or trekking. 

As enjoyable as El Calafate is, I might make visiting El Chaltén the upper precedence in your Patagonia bucket checklist. 

Big Perito Moreno Glacier resting on a lake, with a large, pointy gray mountain behind it.
It’s surprisingly simple to get to El Calafate.

Get to El Calafate

Lo and behold, El Calafate has its personal airport! This makes it one of the simply accessible locations in Patagonia (and simpler to get to than Torres del Paine and El Chaltén). From El Calafate you’ll be able to fly direct to Buenos Aires and different home locations in Argentina, like Bariloche and Ushuaia.

El Calafate is related to different Patagonian cities by bus. The bus from El Calafate to El Chaltén takes about three hours. You can even take a bus from El Calafate throughout the Chilean border to Puerto Natales, the closest metropolis to Torres del Paine Nationwide Park, which takes about 5-6 hours. (Moreover, Puerto Natales is a two-hour drive from the center of Torres del Paine.)

Remember the fact that there are just a few buses to Torres del Paine from El Calafate every day. I extremely advocate wanting up the schedule and reserving your journey upfront. Charlie and I did this journey in the wrong way — from Torres del Paine to El Calafate — and ended up reserving a non-public switch as a result of the one bus that day left very early within the morning. 

Must you hire a automotive in El Calafate? I believe it’s sensible to hire a automotive when you’re visiting each El Calafate and El Chaltén. You’ll have flexibility to journey as you please with out counting on buses — and may go to locations like La Leona Petrified Forest.

However when you’re solely spending a day or two in El Calafate and no time in El Chaltén, I don’t suppose you’ll want to hire a automotive. Simply guide excursions they usually’ll choose you up out of your lodging.

A hotel room with a big bed covered with a gold and black patterned bedspread.
My room at Lodge Kosten Aike in El Calafate.

The place to Keep in El Calafate

As one of many essential vacationer cities on this a part of Patagonia, El Calafate has lodging choices to go well with each type and price range. 

I like to recommend staying inside strolling distance of Intendencia Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, which is fairly near the middle of the motion, proper on busy Avenida del Libertador. The next resorts are the top-rated choices on this geographic space.

High-Rated El Calafate Lodges

High Rated Luxurious Lodge in El CalafateMirador del Lago Lodge is about in a captivating constructing overlooking Lake Argentino with a scrumptious buffet breakfast and free parking, proper within the coronary heart of city.

High Rated Mid-range Lodge in El Calafate — I stayed at Lodge Kosten Aike and would advocate it as a strong, comfy lodge in El Calafate. The placement is ideal, simply off the primary highway; the web works nice, and the rooms are surprisingly spacious.  

High Rated Funds Lodge in El Calafate — Lago Argentino Hostel is a colourful, price range keep within the middle of El Calafate. This guesthouse options each shared dorms and personal rooms, a typical kitchen and lounge, and a stunning backyard out again. 

Discover offers on locations to remain in El Calafate right here.

An outdoor patio at a brewery, with lots of people sitting outside, a sunset in the background, a dog napping, and bushes with yellow flowers surrounding the space.
Come within the Patagonian summer season to get pleasure from El Calafate’s outside patios.

Finest Time to Go to El Calafate

Patagonia’s excessive season runs from December to March, which is when you’ll be able to anticipate the longest, warmest, and sunniest days in South America. I like to recommend avoiding the busiest months of peak season — January and February — and as a substitute go to in early December or mid-to-late March.

This manner, the crowds aren’t as massive, costs aren’t as excessive, and the climate ought to be good for essentially the most half. Although, one variable to bear in mind is that Patagonia climate will be actually something — fierce wind, surprisingly robust solar, 4 seasons in a day. Make sure you pack appropriately.

I visited El Calafate in early December and it felt like the right time to go to Patagonia. You’ll be able to see from my images on this publish and particularly in my Torres del Paine publish that the climate was pretty — a mixture of blue skies and clouds, no heavy precipitation, and good temperatures for mountain climbing. I’d advocate this time of 12 months to everybody.

Kate standing on a glacier and holding an ice pick in her hand like she's about to hack her way out!

Is El Calafate Value It?

Sure, El Calafate is value it! I actually cherished my time right here, greater than I anticipated. I discovered Perito Moreno Glacier to be one among my favourite pure wonders in Patagonia, and the city was a lot enjoyable, too.

Moreover, El Calafate was the great little city escape I wanted between the pure environments of Torres del Paine and El Chaltén. It couldn’t have been timed higher.

I hope you will have an incredible time in El Calafate — and Argentina!

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Have you ever been to El Calafate? Any solutions? Share away!