Discover El Calafate: Gateway to Patagonia’s Natural Marvels

Located in Argentine Patagonia (South America), El Calafate invites explorers and nature lovers with its stunning landscapes and proximity to Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the world’s most magnificent glaciers. Named after the vibrant calafate berry native to the area, this small town serves as an ideal starting point for discovering Los Glaciares National Park.

Whether you’re admiring the glacier’s immense ice formations or hiking through the Andean foothills, El Calafate offers an unforgettable experience amidst Argentina’s wilderness.

Where is El Calafate?

El Calafate is in southern Argentine Patagonia, in Santa Cruz province, Argentina. It’s on the southern shore of Lago Argentino, the biggest lake in Argentina, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Chile.

Historical Gem

El Calafate is important because it played a big role in exploring and settling Argentine Patagonia. First, it was home to the Tehuelche people. Later, European explorers and settlers came in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The town grew because of sheep farming and trade routes from the Andes to the coast.

In the early 1900s, El Calafate became a trading hub because it was a stop on these routes. Finding the Perito Moreno Glacier nearby made it even more famous. Scientists and tourists came to see the glacier.

Today, El Calafate is a popular place for tourists. It’s a starting point for trips to Los Glaciares National Park and a place to see Argentina’s beautiful nature and history.

Getting to El Calafate and Transportation Options

Arriving at Comandante Armando Tola International Airport

To reach El Calafate, the most common way is by flying into Comandante Armando Tola International Airport (FTE). This airport serves as the main gateway to the region and is located about 20 minutes from downtown El Calafate by car or taxi. Many domestic flights from major Argentine cities like Buenos Aires and international flights from neighboring countries land here, making it convenient for travelers.

Local Transportation in El Calafate

Once in El Calafate, there are various transportation options to explore the town and its surroundings:


Taxis are readily available and commonly used for short trips within the town. They provide a convenient and quick way to navigate El Calafate.

Car Rentals

Car rental agencies operate at the airport and in the town center, providing flexibility for visitors who wish to explore independently and at their own pace.

Guided Tours

For excursions to attractions like Perito Moreno Glacier or Los Glaciares National Park, guided tours with transportation included are available. These tours depart from central locations in El Calafate, offering a hassle-free way to experience the region’s natural beauty.

Public Buses

Public buses connect El Calafate with other towns and attractions in the region. They are a more economical option for traveling longer distances while enjoying the Patagonian landscape.

Best Places to Stay and Eat in El Calafate

Places to Stay

El Calafate offers a variety of accommodations ranging from cozy lodges to luxurious hotels, catering to different preferences and budgets. Here are some highly recommended options:


·        Hotel Los Sauces

A luxurious hotel offering elegant rooms and suites with views of Lake Argentino. Known for its exceptional service and amenities.

·        EOLO – Patagonia’s Spirit

Located outside El Calafate, this upscale lodge offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape and luxurious accommodations.


·        Hotel Kosten Aike

Centrally located with comfortable rooms and excellent amenities, including a spa and restaurant.

·        Design Suites Calafate

Contemporary hotel with stylish rooms and a beautiful location overlooking Lake Argentino.


·        Hosteria Los Notros

A cozy lodge offering budget-friendly accommodations with views of Perito Moreno Glacier. Simple and comfortable lodging option.

·        Hotel Michelangelo

Affordable hotel with clean rooms and a convenient location near the town center.

Places to Eat

When it comes to dining in El Calafate, you’ll find a range of options from traditional Argentine cuisine to international flavors. Here are some recommended restaurants:

Traditional Argentine Cuisine:

·        La Tablita

Known for its grilled meats and traditional Argentine dishes. A popular choice among locals and tourists alike.

·        La Zaina

Offers a cozy atmosphere and delicious Patagonian cuisine, including lamb dishes and regional specialties.

International Cuisine:

·        Casimiro Biguá

A restaurant with a diverse menu featuring seafood, pasta, and international dishes. Offers a scenic view of Lake Argentino.

·        Mi Rancho

Known for its gourmet pizzas and pasta dishes. A great option for a casual dining experience.

Cafés and Bakeries:

·        M.A.M.

A charming café offering homemade pastries, sandwiches, and excellent coffee. Perfect for breakfast or a quick bite.

·        La Anónima Bakery

A local bakery known for its fresh bread, pastries, and cakes. A great place to pick up snacks for exploring the town.

Additional Tips:

  • Reservations: It’s advisable to make reservations, especially during peak tourist seasons, to ensure availability at your preferred restaurants.
  • Local Specialties: Don’t miss trying traditional dishes like Patagonian lamb and empanadas during your stay in El Calafate.
  • Views: Some restaurants offer stunning views of Lake Argentino or the surrounding mountains, providing a memorable dining experience.

Best Places to Visit in El Calafate

El Calafate offers a wealth of natural wonders and outdoor adventures, making it a dream destination for nature enthusiasts and adventurers alike. From towering glaciers to pristine lakes and rugged mountains, each attraction in this Argentine Patagonian town promises breathtaking views and unforgettable experiences. Here are some of the must-visit places that capture the essence of El Calafate’s natural beauty and cultural heritage.

Perito Moreno Glacier

The Perito Moreno Glacier, found in Los Glaciares National Park near El Calafate, is a huge ice mass covering about 250 square kilometers. It rises about 60 meters above Lake Argentino, making it one of Patagonia’s largest glaciers. What’s special about this glacier is that it’s still growing, unlike many others around the world.

Tourists visit Perito Moreno Glacier to see its amazing ice breaking off events. These happen when large pieces of ice fall from the glacier’s edge into the lake below, creating big splashes and waves. The glacier’s beautiful blue color and the stunning sight of ice crashing into the water make it a truly unforgettable experience. Guided tours and viewing spots let visitors get close and safe views of this natural wonder, showing its beauty and size in the wilds of Patagonia.

Los Glaciares National Park

Los Glaciares National Park is near El Calafate and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s famous for its glaciers and beautiful mountains. The park covers a huge area of over 7,000 square kilometers in Patagonia, Argentina. Its name means “the glaciers” in Spanish because it’s home to many glaciers flowing from the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.

People who visit Los Glaciares National Park can see amazing glaciers like Perito Moreno and Upsala Glacier. The park also has tall mountains, blue lakes, and lots of wildlife like guanacos and Andean condors. People like to hike on the park’s trails, take boat rides to see glaciers from the water, and enjoy the natural beauty of Patagonia.

Lago Argentino

Lago Argentino is the biggest freshwater lake in Argentina, located near El Calafate in Patagonia. It covers about 1,415 square kilometers and can be as deep as 500 meters in some places. The lake is famous for its beautiful turquoise water, which comes from melted ice from the Andes mountains nearby.

People who visit Lago Argentino can take boat rides to see the clear water and big icebergs that break off from glaciers like Perito Moreno. These rides give great views of the lake and the mountains around it. The lake is also home to many birds, including flamingos and swans, so it’s a good place for people who like watching birds and being in nature.

El Chaltén

El Chaltén is a small village near El Calafate, often called the hiking capital of Argentina. It’s nestled within the scenic Los Glaciares National Park, surrounded by towering mountains and breathtaking landscapes. This village is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure amidst Patagonia’s pristine wilderness.

Visitors flock to El Chaltén for its world-class hiking trails, ranging from leisurely day hikes to challenging multi-day treks. One of the most popular routes leads to Laguna de los Tres, offering stunning views of Mount Fitz Roy’s iconic peak. Another trail takes hikers to Laguna Torre, where they can admire the impressive Cerro Torre and its glacier. Beyond hiking, El Chaltén offers cozy accommodations, local eateries serving hearty Patagonian cuisine, and a welcoming atmosphere that attracts travelers from around the globe.

Estancia Cristina

Estancia Cristina is a historic estancia located near El Calafate, offering a glimpse into Patagonia’s rich history and natural beauty. Founded in the early 20th century, this remote ranch sits amidst the stunning landscape of Los Glaciares National Park, overlooking Lake Argentino and surrounded by majestic mountains.

Visitors to Estancia Cristina can embark on guided tours that include a scenic boat ride across Lake Argentino and a journey through rugged terrain to reach the estancia. Along the way, travelers can learn about the region’s history, including the indigenous Tehuelche people who once inhabited these lands. At the estancia, guests can explore historic buildings, enjoy traditional Patagonian cuisine, and take in panoramic views of the surrounding glaciers and mountains. Estancia Cristina offers a unique opportunity to experience the natural beauty and cultural heritage of Patagonia in a remote and tranquil setting.

Birdwatching at Laguna Nimez

Laguna Nimez is a bird reserve located near El Calafate, offering a serene environment for birdwatching enthusiasts. This wetland area is home to a variety of bird species, including flamingos, swans, and many migratory birds.

 Visitors can stroll along well-maintained trails and enjoy sightings of these beautiful creatures against the backdrop of Lake Argentino. The reserve also provides educational opportunities about the local ecosystem and the importance of conservation efforts in preserving Patagonia’s biodiversity. It’s a peaceful retreat for nature lovers seeking to observe birds in their natural habitat.

Walichu Caves

The Walichu Caves are an archaeological site near El Calafate, offering insights into the ancient Tehuelche culture. These caves feature prehistoric rock paintings, estimated to be over 4,000 years old, depicting scenes of daily life and spiritual beliefs of the indigenous people who once inhabited the region.

Visitors can explore the caves and view these remarkable artworks, which provide a glimpse into Patagonia’s rich cultural heritage. The site is set against the backdrop of Lake Argentino and surrounded by scenic landscapes, making it both a historically significant and visually captivating attraction in the area.

Read More:


El Calafate is the perfect place to see some of the most amazing natural wonders in Patagonia. You can visit the huge Perito Moreno Glacier, learn about history at Estancia Cristina, or watch beautiful birds at Laguna Nimez. The stunning landscapes, interesting wildlife, and rich culture make every visit special.

El Calafate also has a warm and friendly atmosphere with cozy places to stay and tasty local food. From the charming village of El Chaltén to the ancient rock paintings at Walichu Caves, there are many ways to enjoy the beauty and history of this incredible place. So pack your bags and get ready to make unforgettable memories in the heart of Argentine Patagonia!


1. What is the best time to visit El Calafate?

The best time to visit El Calafate is during the spring and summer months, from October to March. During this time, the weather is milder, and most of the attractions, like the Perito Moreno Glacier and hiking trails in El Chaltén, are more accessible.

2. Are there any local festivals or events in El Calafate?

Yes, El Calafate hosts the Fiesta del Lago (Lake Festival) in February. This event features music, cultural performances, and various activities celebrating the region’s natural beauty and heritage. It’s a great time to experience local traditions and enjoy festive activities.

3. How can I get around El Calafate and its surroundings?

El Calafate has several transportation options, including buses, taxis, and rental cars. Guided tours often provide transportation to major attractions like the Perito Moreno Glacier and Estancia Cristina. For those staying in El Chaltén, most hiking trails are accessible on foot from the village.

4. What wildlife can I see in Los Glaciares National Park?

Los Glaciares National Park is home to a diverse range of wildlife. You can spot guanacos, foxes, Andean condors, and various bird species. In the Lago Argentino area, you might see flamingos and swans. Always remember to respect wildlife and maintain a safe distance.

5. Are there any other glaciers to visit besides Perito Moreno?

Yes, besides Perito Moreno, Los Glaciares National Park also features the Upsala and Spegazzini glaciers. Boat tours from El Calafate often include visits to these impressive glaciers, offering stunning views and unique experiences as you explore different parts of the park.

Leave a comment