Tourism tips in El Calafate: discover the main tourist attractions to know and visit in the most charming destinations in Argentine Patagonia

The result is practically unanimous, most tourists who put El Calafate on the next destination list, they certainly knew the name of the city through images or comments about the majestic Perito Moreno Glacier. The city is among the most visited destinations in the Argentina thanks to easy access to the millenary attraction, which has long been sliding its gigantic blocks of ice towards the charming Lago Argentino.

With Alpine-style buildings and charming spaces that cater to the massive tourism that arrives in El Calafate, the destination managed to harmoniously unify the beauties of the region formed by extensive fields and mountains, almost always around impressive lakes and lagoons, with the rustic and charming lifestyle of the people who inhabit this cold and inhospitable region of Patagonia.

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The city is on the edge of the Argentine Lake, the largest in the country, and at the base of incredible rocky mountains. You can start a tour of Av. del Liberator San Martin, the largest and main access route to El Calafate, which crosses the entire city and concentrates the vast majority of accommodations, restaurants, shops, bars, cafes, chocolate shops and tourist agencies in the destination. On a quick stroll along the elegant avenue, you can feel the contagious atmosphere of a classic winter destination: parks and areas covered by trees color the entire road (in winter everything is white), alpine-style wooden houses and tents that rent skating accessories. in Lagoa Argentina (only in winter), attract the attention of tourists.

Truth be told, there would be no way El Calafate not become a huge tourist potential in the country, the city's location allows tourists to visit strategic points in Patagonia that are home to some of the most beautiful scenarios in the world, starting with the Glaciers National Park. The incredible reserve was declared a World Heritage Site in 1981 by UNESCO and today preserves an extensive portion of the Cordillera australis, considered the largest ice area on the planet after Antarctica, where more than 300 glaciers, lakes and Patagonian forests are found.

Observation and walks on the glaciers, trekking to numerous viewpoints with panoramic views of completely wild scenery and navigations that offer close contact with the glaciers, are the main tourist highlights among travelers visiting El Calafate.

Other must-see attraction of Argentine Patagonia is the famous Mount Fitz Roy. The wonderful mountain range that follows the Fitz Roy massif, easily enters the list of the most beautiful landscapes in South America. Although the city closest to the attraction is El Chatén, El Calafate it is only 3 hours away and many agencies in the city offer full day excursions to the mountain.

The city is also very close to Torres del Paine National Park, in Puerto Natales, in Chile, and can be an alternative for those who are taking a trip with days Argentina and wants to make a day trip to the neighboring country.

Gastronomy is another attraction apart from El Calafate. The most renowned restaurants offer different dishes with lamb. The most classic is lamb roasted over a fire, which can be served with empanadas as an appetizer and a delicious Argentine wine.

Things to do in El Calafate

Tourist tips in El Calafate

Tourism tips in El Calafate. Photo: Deensel / Flickr

Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno is the most famous glacier in the Glaciares National Park because of its easy access. The immense block of ice has an area of 250 km², which is larger than the city of Bueno Aires! The viewpoints with the best views of the attraction are all connected by wooden walkways in 4 extremely easy trails that allow visitors of all ages to visit.

Perito Moreno navigation

This is another possibility to observe the beauties of the Perito Moreno Glacier. Navigation takes place on Lake Argentino up to a considerable distance from the ice walls that reach 70 meters high!

Uppsala Glacier

Much larger than the Perito Moreno, but with a greater difficulty of access, the Upsala Glacier was once the largest in South America. The title was eventually lost as the glacier was shrinking by about 200 meters per year to the Viedma Glacier.

Viedma Glacier

Less famous than the Perito Moreno, the Viedma Glacier is the largest in Argentina and its walls of ice, approximately 40 m high, flow into a wonderful lagoon of clear water. The forms of visitation offered by the agency to the attraction vary between sailing excursions and trekking on the glacier.

Navigation Rios de Hielo Express

Catamarans depart daily from the port of Punta Bandera, approximately 50 km from El Calafate, heading for the Upsala and Spegazzini glaciers. Tourists spend 5 hours sailing in majestic landscapes formed by glaciers, icebergs released by the lake and the mountains that surround the region.

Minitrekking or Big Ice

These are the two most unforgettable offers in El Calafate. During the tour you will have the unique experience of walking on the Perito Moreno Glacier and having a completely exclusive view of the gigantic glacier.

The excursion begins with a short navigation to reach the trails that give access to the glacier. The minitrekking lasts an average of 1h30m, while the Big Ice has a slightly longer circuit with a higher difficulty, with an average duration of 3h:30m. The great attraction of the walk are the ice caves seen along the way.


The Glaciarium is a fun interactive space that provides explanations to visitors about how glaciers are formed and their importance in the ecosystem. The museum also has the Glaciobar, a bar entirely made of ice with temperatures that reach -15ºC!

El Calafate balcony

The tour is done in a 4×4 truck to see the city from above. When accessing the highest point near El Calafate, the tourist has the unique opportunity to see a wide view of the city, Lake Argentino and the mountains further away.

Laguna Nimez

The small reserve is very close to the center of El Calafate and has a self-guided trail close to the lagoon. During the route it is possible to come across some species of birds that live in the region, among them, flamingos, swans and geese.

El Chalten round trip

The short distance between El Calafate and El Chalten makes it possible to make a quick visit to some unmissable attractions in the so-called capital of trekking. The city welcomes thousands of adventurers and climbers who seek to discover the surreal landscapes formed by the Fitz Roy and Torre hills. There are countless possibilities for trails and activities to do in the small town, including visiting viewpoints, waterfalls, lagoons and glaciers.

Walichu Caves

The El Calafate region has been inhabited for thousands of years. Some of the oldest records of the people who lived in this part of Patagonia are in Cuevas del Walichu. In the place it is possible to observe cave paintings made approximately 4 thousand years ago, which represent animals and human beings.

Other places to visit in El Calafate:

  • 25 de Mayo resort
  • Estancia Cristina
  • La Leona Petrified Forest
  • Onelli Glacier
  • Lake Roca

How to get to El Calafate

Tourist tips in El Calafate

Tourism tips in El Calafate. Photo: Disclosure

By airplane

Comandante Armando Tolade International Airport is 20 km from the downtown El Calafate and receives direct flights from Buenos Aires (3h10), Río Gallegos (0h45), Bariloche (1h45) and Ushuaia (1h10).

Despite being very close to the city, there are no public transport services to make the journey. The fastest and most comfortable way to get to El Calafate is to use transfers or taxi services.

By bus

El Calafate is one of the last cities located in the south of Argentina, access by bus from Buenos Aires and other destinations further north is almost 3000 km. If you are already in the south of the country, you can access the city from the municipalities of Río Gallegos (4h), El Chaltén (4h), Ushuaia (12h), in Argentina, and from Puerto Natales, in Chile (5h).

By car

El Calafate is very close to Ruta Nacional 40 – a road that runs for 5,200 km from the border between Argentina and Bolivia to the municipality of Rio Gallegos in the extreme south of the country. The distance from the city to the Buenos Aires capital is 2,700 km.

Best time to visit El Calafate

Tourism tips in El Calafate. Photo: Christer T Johansson / Wikimedia Commons

Despite receiving tourists all year round, the best time to visit El Calafate it is between summer and autumn. During these seasons the city tends to have slightly milder temperatures, the weather is firmer and the days are longer, making it possible to enjoy the Patagonian scenery even more.

This is also the time when all tours are available. In winter, for example, the large amount of blizzards and strong winds that pass through the region, close some of the most coveted attractions of the destination, such as walks on the Perito Moreno Glacier and some trails, such as the Circuito Huemul in neighboring El Chaltén.

The busiest time in the city is around February 15, when the population celebrates the baptism of Lake Argentino at the Fiesta del Lago, the most popular festival in the destination, which celebrates by promoting a series of cultural and sporting events in the city.

Where to stay in El Calafate

Tourism tips in El Calafate. Photo: Max Pixel / Creative Commons Zero – CC0

It is in the center of the city that the best accommodation options with different levels of comfort in El Calafate are concentrated. The good thing about staying close to the center is that in addition to saving money on transfers to the busiest area of the city, you will have a wide range of services offered close to you and the autonomy to do some walking tours.

THE Aca El Calafate It is among the best in the city and has a great value for money, location and cozy atmosphere. THE Quijote Hotel is another popular and well-known option in the city.

Some hotels further away from the center offer transfers and stunning views of Lake Argentino. These are options recommended for those who have their own car or who want to enjoy more of the internal spaces of the chosen accommodation during their stay in the city.

THE Boutique Hotel La Cantera it's the Viewpoint of the Lake, as the name implies, offer rooms with privileged views of Lake Argentino and the region.

Find other accommodations in El Calafate here.

Useful links for your trip to El Calafate

Plan your trip to El Calafate

Check out a selection of articles with tourist tips in El Calafate to help you plan your trip:

book your hotel

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Car rental

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Tickets to El Calafate

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Outras dicas úteis

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