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El Calafate, best known as “the capital of glaciers” is one of the most popular destinations in Argentina and Patagonia. It’s located in the province of Santa Cruz and near the Glaciers National Park. It was named after a typical blueberry that grows in the area (whoever eats a Calafate blueberry will always return to the city says the legend…). This is a small city, really easy to get around on foot, and it has beautiful views of Argentino Lake. The nearest airport counts with a good flight frequency, this is the easiest way to reach El Calafate.
The city and its glaciers (around 47 in the park) were discovered at the end of the XIX century. Today, the things to do in El Calafate include the visit to the famous Perito Moreno Glacier, boat trips in Argentino Lake, day tours to Patagonia ranches to learn about the rural culture, visits to El Chaltén and Mount Fitz Roy to enjoy amazing views and adventure hikes and other activities.
The Perito Moreno Glacier, first discovered in 1879, is today the most popular attraction in El Calafate. It’s visited by thousands of travelers every year (mostly during Spring since winter in Patagonia can be rough), and it’s located inside the Glaciers National Park. Why is Perito Moreno famous in the world? Because it’s the only glacier that is still advancing. It can be visited from the sidewalks in front of its amazing icy walls, but you can also hike on top of the glacier!
Adresse: PR 11 (from El Calafate) Days and times: Summer (from 1st Sept. to 30th April), 8am to 6pm, winter (from 1st May to 31th August), 9am to 4pm. Price: 10 USD
The Nimez Lagoon is a quiet and green place, located on the shore of Lake Argentino. It is quite an off-the-beaten-path place and therefore maintains an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. It houses a great variety of birds. Among them, the flamingos stand out, which can be observed in different seasons during the year.
Adresse: Av Costanera Presidente Nestor C Kirschner 2075 Days and times: Monday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (in autumn from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.). Open all year round.
Inside this museum, you can discover archaeological and paleontological remains such as fossils of different species found in the region. You will be able to observe a great variety of birds in their original habitat that has been reproduced in the museum.
Adresse: Av. Libertador 575. Days and times: Monday to Friday from 8 am to 7 pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 4pm.
If you want to learn about the natural and human history of the last 100 million years in southern Patagonia, then you must visit the Historical Interpretation Center. This center is recognized with the Scientific Sponsorship of La Plata Museum of Natural Sciences of the National University of La Plata, one of the most recognized universities in Argentina.
Adresse: Av. Brown 1175 Days and times: From September to April: Every day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. From May to August: Wednesday to Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Glaciarium is a center and museum dedicated to studying and interpreting the Patagonian ice and its glaciers, one of the few glaciological centers in the world. Through visual and sound resources an interactive and educational space was created. It’s 6km away from El Calafate, but the entrance fee includes a free round-trip transfer that leaves from the Provincial Tourism Secretariat from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., every hour.
Adresse: RP11 KM 6, El Calafate Days and times: Open every day from 11:00 to 20:00. Winter season (from April to October) open every day from 11:00 to 19:00. Price: USD 10.50
In the basement of the Glaciarium interpretation center is located the Glaciobar Branca ice bar. It is, as its name implies, a bar made entirely of ice. The glasses, bars, tables and chairs are all made of ice. The room temperature is -10º and the entrance includes free consumption of white drinks, snacks, liqueurs, and non-alcoholic beverages. Children under 3 years old can not enter the bar.
Adresse: Provincial Route 11 KM 6, Z9405 El Calafate Days and times: Open every day from 11:00 to 20:00. Winter season (from April to October) open every day from 11:00 to 19:00.
Lake Roca is located 50 km away from El Calafate. It can be accessed by car (private or rented), by bus or with a travel agency. During the high season there are daily buses to this lake. This area offers quiet places sheltered from the wind, ideal for camping, hiking to the nearby hills (such as Cristal). On a clear day, from the Rock Side you can see the Moreno Glacier and Torres del Paine.
Adresse: RP 15, El Calafate Days and times: Open every day, 24 hours a day.
An archaeological site that can be accessed without a tour. It is located 8 km away from El Calafate, on the shores of Lake Argentino. On this site you will be able to observe rock art that dates back approximately 4,000 years. This place was used by the ancient inhabitants as a shelter against the Patagonian frosts.
Adresse: RP11 KM 4, El Calafate. Days and times: Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
The Museum “100 years playing” and “Evita Perón Museum” has pieces from the 19th and 20th centuries, until the 1970s. A permanent exhibition with a 1600m2 structure of emotions, including a Souvenir Shop. The toys exhibited, both Argentine and foreign, are recognized and coveted by collectors around the world and, for the most part, appear in international catalogs.
Adresse: Av. del Libertador 975-998
Colonel Rosales 28, El Calafate, Santa Cruz. Tel. (02902) 49-1065. Meat / Regionals / Grill
Many consider La Tablita the best grill in El Calafate. Roast meats are their specialty and, when compared to other restaurants, it is not expensive. It is very popular, so we always recommend making a reservation before going. It can be crowded with groups, so it is quite noisy at times and can be slow to deliver. However, everything is forgotten when the food is served.
Av. Del Libertador 1876. Tel. (02902) 493356. Natural / Vegetarian / Vegan
It is a colorful restaurant, with good music and homemade food. The portions are generous and there are many dishes and a great variety for vegetarians. Recommendation: try the stuffed pumpkin… you won’t regret it!
Av. Del Libertador and 1ro de Mayo. Tel. (02902) 491-610. Fast food / Pizzeria
La Lechuza is perhaps the most popular restaurant in El Calafate. It is strategically located on a corner in front of the Administration of National Parks, on the main street. If you are going to eat at La Lechuza, you will surely come out smelling of olives, but the pizzas, empanadas and pastas are delicious.
Av. Libertador 963. Tel. (02902) 492590. Grill / Regionals
They define themselves as a gourmet restaurant and grill, and their prices reflect this since it is one of the most expensive options in El Calafate. This restaurant offers a selection of wines with a great variety and Patagonian foods such as trout, salmon, and of course, lamb. We recommend it for a special night.
Av Libertador 1245. Tel. (02902) 491758. Pasta / Vegetarian
La Cocina is one of the most traditional restaurants in town, where the dishes are very large and the specialty is pasta. However, there are several quite original salad options. The price is moderate.
Av. Del Libertador 1015. Tel. (02902) 491464. Fast food
Borges y Álvarez Libro-Bar is more than a restaurant. It’s a bar, it’s a coffee shop, it’s a unique space in El Calafate. It’s decoration is very particular: the walls are full of libraries with hundreds of books. It also has a very nice terrace to enjoy in spring and summer. They offer a wide variety of simple and classic dishes. They also have vegan options.
Av. Del Libertador 832. Tel. (02902) 4988042. Fast food / Vegetarian
La Zorra is a relaxed craft brewery. However, the gastronomy will surprise you: its classic dishes, such as hamburgers, pizzas and French fries, stand out for their taste and quality. In addition, being a craft brewery, it offers a wide variety of tasty beers. It has several options for vegetarians. Recommendation: be sure to try the Provençal potatoes, they are out of this world!
We recommend visiting Calafate for at least 3 nights. This way you can visit the Perito Moreno Glacier and another attraction in the area. There are many full-day excursions worthwhile.
The official high season of El Calafate and Perito Moreno runs from October to May. During the summer months, the temperatures are very pleasant and the days are usually sunny. For lovers of autumnal colors, the recommendation is to go in April. During the winter, you can also visit El Calafate; and something positive about this time is that there are fewer tourists. However, there are many activities that are suspended at this time of year because of the snowfalls.
ATMs are located in banks, most of them, but are open 24hs. Each bank has a different fee that will charge you to use their system, plus your bank fee. We recommend bringing a couple of US dollars and exchanging them, so you have some cash to move around and then pay with Credit cards or use an ATM whenever you run out of money.
In restaurants it’s customary to tip about 10% of the bill. Note that tips can’t be added to credit-card bills, so carry cash for this purpose.
We estimate around USD 50/100 per day, per person for daily expenses like eating, shopping and transportation.
The weather in El Calafate characterizes as being quite unpredictable. Although the day is nice in town, you should always bring a coat, a rain jacket, a wool hat, a scarf and gloves to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier as the weather can be very different within the National Park.
In addition, we recommend using a high-coverage sunscreen because the sun’s reflection on the ice can burn your skin. Finally, it is highly recommended to dress with several layers of clothing since you can go from being cold to hot in a short time.
Other useful items: Warm fleece, wind/waterproof jacket, comfortable walking shoes, lip balm and moisturizer cream, a daypack for daily excursions, warm socks and pants, long sleeve t-shirt.
Remember that tickets to all national parks in the country are paid for in Argentine pesos and are not included in the tours. As credit cards are not accepted, we recommend that you always carry change in local currency.
Glaciers National Park entrance fee: USD 10.-
It is celebrated every year in February. During this week of celebration there are sports and cultural events, along with performances of national and international artists. The exact date and artists are defined a few months before
If you like to run, you can do it on the shore of Lake Argentino. They are approximately 8 kms bordering the lake.
There are different places where you can take paid classes, among them we recommend La Usina. If you want to meditate or practice yoga on your own, anywhere in nature where there is no wind!
Near the lake or from the base of Cerro Calafate (about 3km from downtown). Take into account that in Calafate in summer the sun sets after 9:00 p.m.
A farm that produces fine fruits and gourmet vegetables. You can visit to buy jams, liqueurs and other organic foods. You can learn more about Las Moras here.
Address: Almte G. Brown 836 Telephone: (02966) 386585.
La Destilería is an enterprise dedicated to distilling plants with medicinal properties and producing oils and creams. You can learn more about Las Destilería here.
Address: Los Pioneros 292 Telephone: (02966) 15467990.
It is a large group of people who deal with environmental issues. They seek to create awareness about the waste of each neighbor, teach new healthy habits both for oneself and for the world. You can learn more about Conscious here.
It is a group of volunteers who work in the location of animals in transit to give them a second chance. You can learn about TAMA here.
It is an association that is not specifically from El Calafate, but it does protect other areas of Santa Cruz and Argentina. It is a foundation created to confront and reverse the extinction of species and the resulting environmental degradation, recovering the functionality of ecosystems and promoting the well-being of local communities. You can learn more about Rewild here.
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