El Calafate: Puentes Destination Guide
In the extreme south of Patagonia, Argentina, in the province of Santa Cruz, is the tourist destination of El Calafate. It is situated on the southern border of Lago Argentino about 320 km northwest of the provincial capital of Rio Gallegos. The city is known as a jumping off point for visiting different parts of the Los Glaciares National Park, including the Perito Moreno Glacier, Cerro Chaltén, and Cerro Torre.
Due to the extreme remoteness of the region, it was little more than a trading post for sheep herders until well into the 20th century. It wasn’t until 1937, when the Perito Moreno National Park was created, that there were decent roads connecting the town to the rest of the country. Within the context of Patagonia, it’s seen as the most rugged region, for serious trekkers only! A three-hour flight from Buenos Aires will take you to El Calafate, where you can hike on glaciers.
HOW TO GET THERE
Flights are available from all three local airports, Ezeiza, Aeroparque, and El Palomar. By airplane you’ll be there in 3 hours and the cheapest way to do this is with the low cost airline Flybondi, but expect long delays and logistical problems as they are a relatively new company with little to no customer service. For a more reliable service, pay a little bit more and book in advance with another airline through Despegar.
WHERE TO STAY
On the shores of Lake Argentino, Xelena Deluxe Suites Hotel captures unforgettable views of the surrounding nature. For a more economical stay, try Hostel Nakel Yenu, which offers clean accommodation with friendly staff. There are also AirBnBs too.
WHAT TO DO
Glacier Trek with Hielo y Aventura (Mini Trekking or Big Ice) (usually unavailable in June and July, so check first)
Glaciarum: interactive Glaciar Museum, with roundtrip transport included from city center
Rent eco-bikes and ride around the city of El Calafate
Day trip to Torres del Paine, Chile
El Chalten: Just 3 hours north by bus but a whole world away. El Chalten has a host of outdoor activities to choose from. The hikes here, including the Laguna de los Tres hike, are among the best that Argentina has to offer. If you are lucky and have clear weather, you should be able to see Mount Fitz Roy from some of the hiking trails.