Argentina

El Calafate Travel Guide

Learn about the most popular attractions in El Calafate, home to the Perito Moreno Glacier and 47 other glaciers!

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 to the Glaciers National Park, and 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 by 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 their glaciers (around 47 in the park) were discovered at the end of the XIX century. Today, the things to do in El Calafate includes the visit to the famous Perito Moreno Glacier, boat trips in Argentino Lake, day tours to Patagonia ranches to learn about the rural culture, visit El Chalten and enjoy the Fitz Roy mountain view and adventure activities in the nearby hills.

Attractions

Perito Moreno Glacier

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, by 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

Nimez Lagoon

The Nimez Lagoon is a quiet and green place, located in the shore of Lake Argentino. It is not yet well known to tourists 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 at various times 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 long.

 

 

 

El Calafate Museum

Inside this museum you can discover archaeological material and paleontological samples 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 different cabinets.

Adresse: Av. Libertador 575.
Days and times: Monday to Friday from 8am to 7pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 4pm.

 

Historical Interpretation Center

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 important argentine universities.

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

Glaciarium is a center and museum dedicated to the study and interpretation of 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 transfer that leaves from the Provincial Tourism Secretariat every hour from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., both outward and return.

Adresse: RP11 KM 6, El Calafate
Days and times: Open every day from 11:00 to 20:00. Winter hours (from April to October) open every day from 11:00 to 19:00.
Price: USD 10.50

Glaciobar Branca

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 can enter only from 3 years.

Adresse: Provincial Route 11 KM 6, Z9405 El Calafate
Days and times: Open every day from 11:00 to 20:00. Winter hours (from April to October) open every day from 11:00 to 19:00.

Lake Roca

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.

Punta Walichu

An archaeological site that can be accessed without the need of a tour. It is located 8 km away from El Calafate, on the shores of Lake Argentino. In this site you will be able to observe cave art that dates back approximately 4,000 years. This place was used by the ancient habitants 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.

Museum of the Toy

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

Eating & Drinking

La Tablita

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.

Pura Vida

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!

La Lechuza Pizzas

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.

Cassimiro Biguá

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.

 

La Cocina

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.

Borges and Álvarez Libro-Bar

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.

La Zorra Cervecería Artesanal

Av. Del Libertador 832. Tel. (02902) 4988042.
Fast food / Vegetarian

La Zorra is a relaxed craft brewery. However, the gastronomy surprises: 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 crazy!

Tips & Advice

How many days should I stay in El Calafate?

 

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.

 

Best time to visit the town

 

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 months, 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.

 

How to get to El Calafate?

 

  • Flight: To visit the Perito Moreno Glacier you have to fly to the city of El Calafate via Buenos Aires, Bariloche or Ushuaia.  From Buenos Aires there are daily flights all year round and frequencies increase during the Patagonia season (October/May). From Ushuaia there are 2 daily flights during the season and some weekly flights in the winter. With Bariloche there are direct flights some days of the week during the season.
  • Bus:  You can go by bus to El Calafate from Bariloche (24 hours), Rio Gallegos (4 hours), El Chalten (3 hours) and Puerto Natales (Chile, 6 hours). The other cities are further away and we recommend taking a plane.
  • Train:  There is no train service to El Calafate.
  • Self-drive:  We recommend renting a car at this destination if you like to travel at your own pace on the road. It can be connected to El Chalten. To visit El Calafate and El Chalten by car we recommend at least 5 days. You can also connect this destination by car to Torres del Paine National Park in Chile and to Ushuaia. 

 

Can I find ATMs in El Calafate?

 

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.  

 

What is the proper tipping?

 

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.

  • Estimate around USD 10/15 per person for the guide, for a full day tour and half of it for the driver.
  • Tip hotel porters for handling bags. Calculate an amount of currency equal to about $1.00 for every two bags.
  • Same amount is calculated for drivers if they help you with your suitcases. 
  • If you are happy with the housekeeping you may want to consider tipping the maid between US$0.50 – $1.00 per night. You might also tip the concierge staff if you have used them to arrange dinner reservations, transportation or leisure activities.
  • In Argentina we don’t regularly tip taxi drivers.

 

 

How much money can I spend per day in El Calafate?

 

We estimate around USD 50/100 per day, per person for daily expenses like eating, shopping and transportation, depending on how much money you want to spend on these.

 

What to include in your luggage

 

The weather in El Calafate is characterized by being quite unpredictable. Although the day is nice in the 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 to that, 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, daypack for daily excursions, warm socks and pants, long sleeve t-shirt.

 

Tickets to National Parks

 

Remember that tickets to all national parks in the country are paid 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.-

 

Festival of the Lake

 

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

 

Where to go for a run in El Calafate?

 

If you like to run, do not stop exercising on the shore of Lake Argentino. They are approximately 8 kms bordering the lake.

 

Where to take gym classes?

 

There are different places where you can take paid classes, among them we recommend classes at La Usina. In case you want to meditate or practice yoga on your own, anywhere in nature where there is no wind!

 

Where to watch the sunset in El Calafate?

 

Near the lake or from the base of Cerro Calafate (about 3km from the center). Take into account that in Calafate in summer the sun sets after 9:00 p.m.

 

Sustainability

Local businesses

 

  • Las Moras Farm

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

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.

 

How to help

 

  • Conscious Calafate (garbage collection).

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. 

 

  • TAMA (Voluntary group that manages a home for dogs).

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.

 

  • Rewilding Argentina

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

 

Sustainability tips

 

  • Use the Eco-Baskets to deposit plastic bottles and caps.
  • Take your reusable bag with you when you go shopping.
  • Choose the consumption of local products from artisans and small producers.
  • Travel the city by bike or on foot, it is healthy and does not leave a carbon footprint.
  • When you go on an excursion, ask for food without plastic wrap.
  • Don’t leave trash in nature.
  • Take a reusable bottle with you to carry water in restaurants.
  • Don’t feed native fauna.
  • Use rechargeable batteries and batteries.

 

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