El Calafate is a city near the edge of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field in the Argentine province of Santa Cruz. It’s mainly known as the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park, home to the massive Perito Moreno Glacier, whose ever-shifting icy landscape is popular for hiking and sightseeing. A modern interpretive centre called the Glaciarium serves as a primer on the region’s numerous glaciers.
How to get to El Calafate
Fly in from Buenos Aires to El Calafate, or travel by bus with various companies such as Green Toad, (although the journey could be quite lengthy). If you're not on a time restraint why not flight watch, there are always bargains to be had with great deals offered by LATAM or Aeroplanes Argentinas.
Taxi - Getting from the airport to El Calafate is relatively easy, it’s a simple taxi ride with a meter. It will take around 30-40 minutes to get to your accommodation.
Where to stay in El Calafate
Accommodation is fairly easy to find in El Calafete as it’s a very small city. One main road cuts straight through the middle, lined with shops,restaurants, accommodation and bars.
We stayed at the Hostel El Calafete. The location of this hostel is perfect, set two blocks back from the main road. The rooms are large but a little chilly.
The kitchen and comment areas are excellent here. The kitchen is fully equipped to cook anything from a quick basic meal to an all out gourmet dinner. The common area is set on the first floor with ample tables and chairs and sofas to relax on. All set in typical wooden frames, this hostel has a real ski lodge feel.
Breakfast is rationed to 1 croissant, 2 slices of bread and jam and tea/coffee. Not a lavish breakfast by any means but sufficient to get the day started.
Things to do in El Calafate with children
For those visiting the southerly city of El Calafate, a visit to the Perito Monero glacier, El Chaltern and Fitz Roy Mountain is a must.
Perito Monero Glacier tours vary in price. We paid 750 ARS (total) including boat ride. We booked our tour directly through the hostel, which included transport to and from the national park, however did not include the park’s entrance fee!
We took the morning tour, and headed to the national park approx. 30-40 minute drive. We then took the boat up to the glacier (1 hour). The weather was wet and cold but thankfully the boat had an inside seating area. The boat takes you up close to the glacier where you have approx. 25 minutes to take pictures. The boat then returns to the bus where you are dropped at the front view point of the glacier.
There are 3 /4 different walks running along side the glacier. The view points are spectacular, all offering a different perspective of the incredible glacier. Listen out for the roaring of the ice breaking beneath your feet, it is a truly awesome experience.
There are other tours to see the glacier, i.e. via helicopter or walking on the ice tours, but as you can imagine this was impractical for us with a 1 year old in tow.
We took a walk from the hostel to the lake, Largo Agentino (well we tried). The walk itself was not the problem, wild horses run across the fields, the roads are empty giving a real perspective on the number of habitats and the beauty of living in such an isolated land.The wind however prevented us from ever reaching the lake. We were literally swept off our feet!
We returned to the main road, walking up and down into the various restaurants and bars. The road itself is relatively small and would only really take an hour to explore (unless you particularly like the souvenir shops).
Other things to see near El Calafete are
Mount Fitz Roy.
Calafete Mountain Park.
Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.