Reasons to go to El Calafate

  • El Calafate is the gateway to the extraordinary Perito Moreno glacier, which can be explored by boat, kayak or with crampons to walk on the glacier itself
  • The entry point to the world famous trails of Los Glaciares National Park’s Fitz Roy mountain range, and the mighty Patagonian Ice Field itself
  • Start here to discover Patagonia’s culture and history, horseback riding like a gaucho from one of the region’s many estancias
  • Explore the vast empty landscapes around Upsala Glacier, only accessible by a remote boat trip from near El Calafate

What can I do around El Calafate?

Illustrated Guide

What to see and do around El Calafate

Perito Moreno Glacier

A true wonder of the natural world, Perito Moreno glacier is one of Patagonia’s genuinely unmissable sites, and is easily accessible from El Calafate.

Flowing unstoppably down from the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Perito Moreno’s 70 metre high cliffs ceaselessly calve into the fjords of Lago Argentina, sending icebergs the size of tower blocks crashing into the water. 

Perito Moreno is also one of the few glaciers that you can right up close to. It can be experienced in a host of different ways: from walkways that snake around the woods facing the glacier in a series of viewpoints, by boat or paddling in a kayak, and even by strapping on your crampons to crunch across its surface on an ice hike.

Perito Moreno, Pioneers Route, Patagonia, Argentina

Perito Moreno glacier


Los Glaciares is more than just a hiking destination: Estancias are great places to base yourself to really experience wild Patagonia.

Estancias offer a host of ways to discover the region. Foremost of course is to saddle up and ride like a gaucho. Horseback riding is embedded deep in the culture here: there are few better places to be than out under a wide horizon with nothing but your horse and your guide to teach about the ways of the gaucho. Invariably, you’ll return from the day to enjoy a hearty asado, or Patagonian barbecue. If horses aren’t your thing, explore the trails by mountain bike instead.

Alternatively, take to the water. Boat trips up the long finger of Lago Argentina can take you to the sparking Upsala glacier from one one of region's most estancias.

Gaucho guides from Estancia Cristina in Los Glaciares

Gaucho guides at a Los Glaciares estancia

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Chloe says

If you’ve been in Patagonia for any time, El Calafate can feel the first ‘real’ town you’ve seen, after the vastness of its mountains and endless pampa dotted with estancias. I love its lakeside location, where you can watch the sun come up and spot flamingoes and black-necked swans on the water.

Chloe Mazille Patagonia Specialist

Explore El Calafate

Sunset view of El Calafate and Lago Argentina

Sunset view of El Calafate and Lago Argentina

Most visitors to El Calafate breeze through on their way to Perito Moreno or to get deep into Los Glaciares National Park, but the city itself has several attractions worth a closer look.

The aptly named Glaciarium, on the edge of El Calafate on the road to Perito Moreno, is an extraordinary museum and interpretive centre that gives visitors a fascinating deep dive into history and science of the Patagonian Ice Field and its glaciers through state of the art displays. It’s brilliantly presented and you can even get a drink in an ice bar at the end of your visit.

The Centro de Intrepretacion Historico is a small but perfectly formed museum that’s worth an hour of your time, with information about the region’s history and culture, plus a great velociraptor-esque dinosaur skeleton that was excavated locally (exhibits have English translations).

If you’re after fresh air, head to the Reserva Natural Laguna Nimez – a wetlands reserve on the north shore of the lake with self-guided interpretive walks. Up to 100 bird species can be seen here, including Chilean flamingoes.

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When book your trip with Swoop, we'll provide you with our own unique city guide to El Calafate, with all the inside knowledge on places to eat and drink and things to see.

Hiking in Los Glaciares

El Calafate is just three hours from the hiking hub of El Chaltén, a tiny mountain town nestled beneath the Fitz Roy Massif. From here, you can walk straight out onto the trail on any number of truly world class day and overnight hikes. 

However, you don't just have to go to El Chaltén to hit the great outdoors. The sweeping landscape closer to El Calafate also offers some brilliant wild hiking. The Los Glaciares Wilderness Trek spends six nights wild camping on the rough trails between Estancias Helsingfors and Cristina, along rivers and valleys and up windswept mountain passes to glaciers that few people have ever visited.

Wild camping at Norte glacier on the Los Glaciares wilderness trek

Camping at Norte glacier on the Los Glaciares wilderness trek

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What our travellers think of El Calafate

El Calafate trips scored 4.5/5 from 346 reviews

Both El Calafate and El Chalten were fun to spend time in. Great shopping and food, showers too! Read the full review

Travelled: February 2019

Brian McIntyre - United States Of America

We really enjoyed walking and exploring El Calafate. We ate at some great local places, La Zaina and Buenos Cruces where we talked with other locals and learned more about El Calafate.

Travelled: November 2017

Tracy - Buenos Aires


Where to stay in El Calafate

As befits the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park, El Calafate and its surrounds have plenty of great accommodation options Within El Calafate itself, there is a wide variety of simple guesthouses (hosterías), friendly B&Bs and upmarket hotels – all within easy reach of restaurants and bars. There are also some great boutique hotels. Some of the best are on the edge of the city with stunning views across Lago Argentina.

Heading out of the city, you can also find a great selection of luxury lodges where you can connect in comfort to the great wilderness. The lodges are destinations in themselves and have their own private guides and fine cuisine. These include a number of estancias where you can truly embrace your inner gaucho.

Long shot of Eolo lodge set in the landscape of Los glaciares

Eolo lodge near El Calafate

When to go to El Calafate

How to get to to El Calafate

El Calafate Airport (code FTE) is 13 miles (21km) east of the city and has excellent daily connections to Buenos Aires (three hours). There are further flight connections to  Ushuaia in Tierra del FuegoBariloche, the gateway to Argentina's Lake District and Trelew (for Peninsula Valdes).

By road, El Calafate is about 135 miles (215km) south of El Chaltén, Los Glaciares National Park's trekking capital.  For long distance buses, it takes roughly 27 hours to get to Bariloche, or 18 hours to get to Ushuaia.

Travel to Chile Cross-border buses run between El Calafate and Puerto Natales in Chile, taking between 5–7 hours depending on border control. From Puerto Natales it's 2½ hours by road to Torres del Paine

Aerial view from plane flying over Santa Cruz into El Calafate in Argentina

Flying to El Calafate

Explore more of Los Glaciares

Hikers enjoying the view of Fitz Roy in Los Glaciares national park

Trekking in Los Glaciares

Argentina's Los Glaciares is full of jagged granite mountains, electric-blue lakes and sparkling glaciers: perfect for anything from short day hikes to epic wilderness treks.

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Los Glaciares National Park

The massive South Patagonian Ice Cap feeds the many glaciers that give Argentina's most famous national park its name. Hikers and climbers flock to the hub towns of El Calafate and El Chalten to explore the famous Fitz Roy massif, Perito Moreno glacier or the giant ice sheet itself on day hikes, long treks or boat trips.


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