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El Calafate Mini Guide
What is Special About El Calafate?
El Calafate is a small town that is the key entry point to a large and popular region; Patagonia. The name of the town means ‘caulk’ and derives from the fibrous calafate plant that grows in the region and which was used for caulking ships. El Calafate is found nearly at the southern tip of Argentina, not far from the border with Chile
and was originally just a series of shelters for wool traders visiting the area. The town is the main tourist destination for those visiting the local and unique national parks. With the formation of the parks, the population and size of the town expanded rapidly to service the visiting tourists.
How Can I Get to El Calafate?
Armando Tola International Airport is only thirteen miles from El Calafate and takes flights from all over Argentina and from some cities in Chile. Many tourists come from all over the world to see the glaciers of the national park but all must fly into a major Argentinian airport to be able to make the onward journey. There are local buses from the airport to El Calafate as well as taxis and the availability of hire cars.
What can I See and Do in El Calafate?
El Calafate is the main destination for travellers wishing to visit the Los Glaciares National Park which has the world’s most visited glacier, Perito Moreno. The town is in a stunning setting on the bluest lake you’ll ever see; the glacial waters of Lake Argentina. Unless you are very brave, don’t be tempted by the crystal clear waters, they are barely above freezing at even the warmest times of year. Perito Moreno is also the home of the Cueva De Las Manos Pintadas which is one of the world’s most beautiful sites for cave art with its simple but stunning negative images of hands.
What Should I buy When I’m in El Calafate?
There are plenty of souvenir and handicraft shops in El Calafate’s main street that mainly sell wind chimes, pan pipes and other items made from local materials. The national park centres sell rock fragments which have been collected from the park which make great gifts for amateur geologists.
What is There to eat in El Calafate?
As El Calafate is so remote, food is expensive because most of it must be transported across hundreds of miles of terrain. The cheapest food is that which is locally produced and includes sheep and goat served with Patagonian rice and beans.
What is There to do in an Evening in El Calafate?
There are very few bars in the town and those that there are will be very rustic. Beer is served as well as local spirits and the local soft drink, pomelo soda. Loca Marimba is the place to be seen in the town and is popular with the many backpackers that stay in the town. A lot of people take their drink outside, even when it’s cold and simply stargaze in one of the clearest skies in the world.
- If you're hiring a car in El Calafate and intend to travel across the border into Chile, you'll need additional documentation available from the car rental office when you collect your car.