Arriving in El Calafate
The first thing you notice when landing at the airport is the beautiful azure-blue lake alongside the runway. Then, look around you in the horizon and against the clear blue sky are the snow-capped mountains. As soon as I set foot in Patagonia, I couldn’t help but be already excited as to what was to come.
We flew down and back from Buenos Aires to El Calafate, the flight taking just 2 hours. We considered doing the two-day coach journey, but the flights weren’t that much more and it saved us a lot of time. Plus, the views from the plane are quite fascinating and allow you to begin to understand the vastness and enormity of Argentina. You will fly over miles and miles of stark nothingness.
The airport is about a 15 minute drive to town, so you can either get a taxi, or I believe there is a shuttle bus. We didn’t know about the shuttle bus when we went, so we paid for a taxi. There is only one taxi company at the airport, Taxi Condor, charging AR$360 and we were concerned we were being ripped off. We found out later that other taxis charged the same, and for some reason, the return taxi is only AR$240.
Where to stay
I had trouble finding budget hostels to stay in El Calafate. We found Air BnB the cheapest place for us as a group of 3. We stayed at Casa El Calafate, a fantastic little house on a hill about 15 mins walk to the town centre. Great views, really comfortable and clean, and the owners were so friendly and helpful! We also had our own kitchen so we could save a little money cooking for ourselves. WiFi was very intermittent, but you’ll find that’s the case in a lot of places in Patagonia. It cost us £49 per person for 3 nights. Highly recommended!
Where to eat
There are lots of restaurants to choose from in town. When I asked a local what to recommend, he said there were plenty and all good! He did, however, suggest we try the local trout, trucha. We did, and it was delicious! Prices were as expected in Patagonia and not as cheap as you’ll find in the north of the country. For 3 trout, a plate of chips, salad and a bottle of wine to share, it costs us about AR$800 (approx. £20 per person).
What to do in the town
The town itself is nice enough and convenient to visit places in the region. The main road has a decent selection of restaurants and the usual souvenir shops, as well as tourist agencies to plan your trips and shops where you can hire or buy your hiking gear.
If you follow the main road west out of town, about 10 minutes’ walk from the centre, you’ll find the promenade along the lake, Lago Argentino. It’s a great little spot for bird watching and if you get your binoculars out, you’ll hopefully catch sight of the pink flamingos. There’s also some great climbing frames and slides to have a play on if you fancy!
Apart from that, there’s not too much going on. But then again, you are in Patagonia so just take in the scenery and enjoy the peace and quiet.