On a tight schedule, we only had one night in El Calafate, which ended up being more than enough. The main reason backpackers find their way to this dusty little town, with one colorful strip of touristy shops, is to visit the Perito Moreno glacier (not be be confused with Perito Moreno the town!). The most popular treks in the area are run by Hielo y Aventura and take you on a boat tour then slap some crampons on your feet for a shuffle on the glacier. Given the price and our timing, we instead hired a taxi (about $100 total for about 6 hours) to take us to and from the glacier, and wait for two hours while we gazed in awe, eyes glued to the bright blue surface.
This is one of the only glaciers in the world that is still growing, and it seems super active (though my glacier knowledge is limited). One little chunk breaking free would cause a deep hollow crack, then a silent free fall and a thunderous splash in the water. We tried to breathe in the cool, sterile air, wondering what good things it was doing to our bodies, before hopping back into the sun-heated, soft-seated taxi, aka ideal nap zone for Reece.
If you find yourself with two extra hours in town it’s worth a walk through the bird sanctuary, whether you’re a bird enthusiast (like Reece) or not (like me). We arrived around 8pm, so we caught the park in the calm of the day, no other tourists, still waterways, lots of birds pairing off in the warm spring air. It took us about an hour to wander our way through. Not sure what road, but on a corner about 5 minutes from the nature reserve on the way to town, there was a panaderia, worth stopping in for a quick empanada.
At a glance…
- Do visit the glacier, but keep your stay in El Calafate to a minimum. If you have the time and money then go for the glacier walk!
- Eat/drink In town, we ordered things verrry sloowly at two restaurants to take advantage of their wifi. Libro Bar on the main strip, had good wifi, cozy vibe if you are into feeling like a hobbit, mediocre food – grab a beer instead. A sunnier little cafe – El Bar – just off the main street has warm waffle sandwiches, empanadas, soup and maté, and the staff was super welcoming. (slightly embarrassed to say) We’ve eaten over 50 empanadas in South America and their’s, served up on a worn wooden plate, is our favorite so far.
- Don’t stay more than two nights
- Tips The bus station is right up a staircase from the center market in town and there are buses daily to get to El Chalten, two hours north.