El Calafate

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. Let’s start reading our El Calafate travel guide!

Attractions
Attractions

Attractions

Eating & Drinking
Eating & Drinking

Eating & Drinking

Tours You Might Like

Tips & Advice

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. 

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. General rate: 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

Sustainability

El Calafate

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.