This was possibly the most beautiful place in Argentina that I visited! El Calafate is in the southern edge of Patagonian Ice Fields and I used it as a base like most do for visiting Perito Moreno Glacier and Los Glaciares National Park.It looks like a ski village with timber buildings and has a lovely relaxed vibe. If you take a walk to the edge of town you can see flamingos and other types of birds.
Where I stayed…
I stayed at the Penguin Hostel on Av. Julio A.Roca in El Calafate which is just off the main street. The staff were really great and helpful, they helped organise excursions and were always on hand to give advice. The only downside is there isn’t much insulation in the hostel so it could be pretty loud if you were trying to get an early night!!A good pair of earplugs should sort it though as everything else about the place was great.
Places to eat…
There was the greatest little cafe around the corner from us called Viva La Pepe Crepes. It had the most amazing crepes both sweet and savoury and they also did sandwiches,soups and pizza. If you like crepes then you should definitely pay it a visit.
I also ate at Don Luis which is about a 15 min walk from the main street. The food was good but service was kinda slow. There is also a fairly decent market on the main street that you can pick up food supplies to make a packed lunch if hiking.
What to do….
Los Glaciares National park is a must if you are outdoorsy or just enjoy scenery and nature. It’s huge and you could spend a few days here camping but I was there to see the Glacier and was tight on time.
Perito Moreno glacier is stunning to look at and you can hear it moving constantly. When parts break off it is so loud!Have your cameras at the ready as you never know when you will get a big chunk breaking off. I brought a lunch with me and there are lots of seats along the walk where you can enjoy the view while grabbing some lunch. There is also a cafe with toilets but I didn’t use the cafe so I’m not sure how good it was.I organised my tour through Penguin Hostel so the bus collected me at the door and dropped me back again. The park entrance fee is AR$330 which I think may be increasing from 1st March ’17, this can only be paid in pesos and no other currency will be accepted. On my bus I took pity on an Aussie guy who had missed out on this fact and ended up swapping pesos for Australian dollars! Not everyone might be willing to do this so don’t get caught!
I also got to go to Rio Mitre Estancia which is a horse ranch about 35km from Perito Moreno Glaciar. This was my favourite part of El Calafate if I’m honest….I adore horses and that combined with the scenery and sense of freedom was unreal. We were collected at our accommodation and when we arrived at the ranch we were given coffee and cake as the horses were being prepared.We then spent about 2 hours horse-riding taking in the view of the Andes mountains and when we got back to the ranch there was lunch of beef, salad and bread. Some of the horses are free and wander around, they are pretty friendly and allow you to pet them.There are also the option to do longer trips and stay the night.The owner and guides do not speak english so unless you have some Spanish then you will miss out on the description of the area.
Hints and Tips….
- I got a shuttle from the airport called Ves to the accommodation which cos AR$160 pp
- Because I was taking an early morning flight I couldn’t get the shuttle bus back to the airport but the taxi cost AR$350
- Perito Moreno Glaciar 2 way transfer cost AR$450 and they collect you at your accommodation and drop you back again. For AR$650, you can go with a guide.
- Horse Riding at the ranch including collection and drop off at accommodation in 4×4 ,lunch and refreshments. This all cost AR$975 .
- For the horse riding ,make sure you wear something warm as there is little or no shelter from the wind!
- As I said above, what most people do is bring a packed lunch to Perito Moreno to save money but also to enjoy the view. You can also do boat trips around the Glaciar but to be honest due to the safety aspect, the boat can’t go close to the Glaciar as pieces of it are constantly breaking off. You get as close if not closer walking the trail!
There is so much to see and do here that I didn’t get to see and do, the Upsala Ice Fields and museums.