Written by Robert Raymond Ingledew on 04 Jul, 2007
El Calafate maybe is not the most beautiful city in Argentina (I prefer Ushuaia and Bariloche), but it is certainly unique due to its impressive glaciers. It is surrounded by the Los Glaciares (The Glaciers) National Park, and I would call it the South American…Read More
El Calafate maybe is not the most beautiful city in Argentina (I prefer Ushuaia and Bariloche), but it is certainly unique due to its impressive glaciers. It is surrounded by the Los Glaciares (The Glaciers) National Park, and I would call it the South American Alaska. There are fourteen very important glaciers in the area, of which the Perito Moreno is the third in size, after the Viedma and Upsala glaciers, that are 4 and 5 times larger. The Perito Moreno glacier itself is 20 miles long and has an altitude between 150 and 200 feet. To watch huge pieces of ice falling off the glacier, to navigate along its north side, and to do trekking over the ice are experiences that you will never forget. On the way to the glacier you will see condors flying, probably thousands of sheep been driven by the gauchos, ñandus (South American ostriches) and many other attractions.
The city of El Calafate itself is very nice, and from there you can continue on bus to Chile to visit the Torres del Paine national park, or the nearby city of Puerto Natales. There are direct bus services from El Calafate to Ushuaia (MARGA/TAQSAm, 12 hours travel) and also direct flights. On the other hand, Rio Gallegos is only 4 hours away by bus, and flights to Rio Gallegos are cheaper than those to El Calafate. Lodging at El Calafate is rather expensive. A single room at the Hostal del Glaciar Los Pioneros costs some 35 dollars, and a meal costs anythinbg between 7 and 20 dollars. So decide carefully where you intend to go and plan your travel and stay in advance. Here are some suggestions: Where to eat: Estilo Campo is a Chinese restaurant that includes barbecue and deserts for a flat rate of 7 dollars. Some other restaurants will charge you 14 dollars only for a serving of lamb. Breakfast costs at the very least 3 dollars for a cup of coffee and two croissants. You might want to consider staying at an hostel, where you can cook your own food. Prices at supermarkets are not expensive at all. If you are looking for a luxury hotel, Posada Los Alamos (5 stars) is beautiful and even has its own golf course. Have a look at their web page. Prices are in pesos (divide by 3 to have the equivalent in US Dollars and by 4 to have the price in Euros). www.posadalosalamos.com. An in-between hotel would be El Quijote (3 stars) but for paying their rates I would prefer the luxury of Posada Los Alamos for a little more. www.hotelguia.com/hoteles/quijote.
A cheaper option would be the Hostal del Glaciar El Libertador (quite nice) and the cheapest option I would recommend would be the hostal Los Pioneros. Both can be seen in this page: www.glaciar.com You can go to the Perito Moreno glacier on the bus (17 dollars for the round trip (Chalten Travel) or buy the alternative tour that includes navigation in front of the glacier for some 30 dollars. The bus trip to El Chaltén (also offered by Chaltén travel) costs some 35 dollars and is worthwhile, although I would recommend staying overnight at El Chaltén to enjoy the incredible beauty of Mount Fitz Roy and of the Viedma Glacier (there are local tours that take you there). It is up to you to decide if you want to go to the Upsala Glacier. The scenery is beautiful, you will navigate to a point where 3 glaciers meet, but the tour is rather expensive, some 70 to 100 dollars per person. Some 3 to 4 tours should be enough to explore the area, and probably then you will want to continue travel by bus to Puerto Madryn, to see whales and penguins, and then continue by bus to Bariloche, the South American Switzerland. Start planning your trip to Ushuaia and El Calafate. Your experience will be so fascinating that you will find it difficult to describe it in words... Welcome to Southern Patagonia
Written by Robert Raymond Ingledew on 09 Apr, 2007
I was not able to make it to El Chaltén last December. El Calafate was expensive and everything was beyond my spending expectations. A round trip to El Chaltén by bus was costing 30 dollars and I had to save money for my visit to…Read More
I was not able to make it to El Chaltén last December. El Calafate was expensive and everything was beyond my spending expectations. A round trip to El Chaltén by bus was costing 30 dollars and I had to save money for my visit to the Cabo Virgenes penguin colony, south of Río Gallegos. But I did go there five years ago, and really enjoyed it very much. The bus ride from El Calafate to El Chalten is rather boring during the first two hours: only the Patagonian desert on both sides of the road. But once you have traveled about half way, the scenery has an incredible beauty. Mount Fitz Roy, a challenge for mountain climbers in front of you and the Viedma glacier on the left-hand side. The Viedma glacier is five times larger than the Perito Moreno glacier, but you see it from a distance, maybe 10 miles away.
There are two different tours to the Viedma Glacier from El Chaltén, so you might want to come back and visit it. One is called Viedma Light, is a short 3-hour tour more or less, and the longer (and more expensive) tour includes trekking on the glacier. The bus stops first at a cafeteria in the midst of nowhere for breakfast, then at his beautiful panoramic viewpoint, and the final stop before arrival is at the National Parks administration to listen to a 20 minute talk on the area, that is very interesting (of course, the talk is in Spanish). The village of El Chaltén is very small. If was founded over 25 years ago due to the possible military confrontation with Chile for the Continental Glaciers area. Five years ago it had only 140 inhabitants, but I have heard that today there are 14 hotels and hostels in the Village. That time I was also running out of money, so I took a bed in a shared room at the Rancho Grande hostel that was OK. I remind you that the cost of a bed in this area of Argentina in a shared room costs some 10 dollars per day. A room with private bathroom in a cheap hotel could be costing 40 dollars per night.
Weather in El Chaltén changes suddenly. When I arrived at noon, it was sunny. That afternoon we had strong wind (over 75 miles per hour) and then very heavy rain. I had taken no case for my camcorder, and the wind literally filled it with sand. It continued working for some days, and then refused to continue operating… So remember to take a good bag for protecting your camcorder or photo camera. And remember to take a raincoat. Even if it is sunny when you set out walking, the rain may catch you somewhere… El Chaltén is called the trekking capital of Argentina. The reason is easy to understand. The scenery is beautiful and there is only one road: the one that comes from El Calafate and continues up to the border with Chile at Laguna del Desierto. There are many paths in the mountainside for reaching beautiful lagoons, like Laguna Capri, from where you have a breathtaking view of mount Fitz Roy, which by the way is one of the most difficult mountains to climb in the whole word, not due to its altitude (12,500 feet) but due to its nearly vertical rock walls. If you look at the photos, you will notice that there is no snow on the top of the mountains, but yes lower down.
Walking to Laguna de los Tres or Laguna Capri will take some 3 hours. Of course, if you want to reach the glaciers, for example the Torre Glacier, you will need more time. Be careful if weather becomes windy. To the best of my knowledge there are some refuges in the mountainside. When wind in the valley blows at 75 miles per hour, it could be substantially stronger where it runs through the mountains. Play safe. The tour to Laguna del Desierto is very nice, although it does not match some of the tours you can take in Bariloche. We travel along the Río de las Vueltas (a sort of winding river) and will only see a real forest near Laguna del Desierto. There are a couple of waterfalls in the way. It was drizzling when we arrived at our destination, so I preferred to walk along the riverside protected by the forest. Those who went up walking to a nearby glacier (one hour walk each way) enjoyed the beautiful scenery, but came back soaked…
As you have seen, there are many beautiful places to visit near (near?) El Calafate, and El Chaltén is one of them. The bus from El Calafate to El Chaltén runs twice a day, but if you intend to return the same day you should take the morning bus service. It is a four hour drive each way, on an earth road. I suggest that you stay overnight at El Chaltén (you will arrive at noon, have all the afternoon to do some trekking, and the next morning you can go to the Viedma Glacier or to Laguna del Desierto). You will find contact information of hotels and local travel agencies, and hundreds of photos of this beautiful area, in this page: www.elchalten.com. There are direct bus services from El Calafate to Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas (6 and 9 hours on the bus respectively), so if you are considering a visit to Torres del Paine, you do not need to return to Rio Gallegos, you can continue by bus from El Calafate. Enjoy your stay in Austral Patagonia.
El Calafate is a nice small city in the midst of nowhere, surrounded by the Patagonian desert, some tablelands, and a lagoon (Nimes lagoon) where there is a small wildlife reserve and ecosystem, where you will see ducks and some other types of birds. The…Read More
El Calafate is a nice small city in the midst of nowhere, surrounded by the Patagonian desert, some tablelands, and a lagoon (Nimes lagoon) where there is a small wildlife reserve and ecosystem, where you will see ducks and some other types of birds. The Nimes lagoon is a place you can do without, if you are running out of time, but you will enjoy it if you go. It is very near the downtown of El Calafate, at a walking distance. El Calafate had 3,000 inhabitants the first time I visited it in 1970, now it has nearly 30,000. Some small shopping malls have been constructed, there is an artisans fair, and in the local shop you will see very nice pink, green, rose, and yellow marble handcrafts.
Being a smaller city than Ushuaia, and not being a free port, things are more expensive here. You will need to walk around and compare prices. You can buy a Kodak 36 photo film for 10 of 18 pesos (3.30 to 6 dollars) depending on where you buy it. You can pay 12 dollars for a "Patagonian" tea (tea with scones and tarts; cake is not included in this price) of pay 3 dollars for a cup of coffee with two croissants, nearly 3 times more expensive than in Córdoba or Mar del Plata. But if you go to the cafeteria of a gasoline station, you will pay half a dollar for a "self-serve" cup of coffee… And while you will pay 44 pesos (nearly 15 dollars) for a plate of "Patagonian lamb", you can enjoy an all you can eat cold and hot buffet plus barbecue for 7 or 8 dollars at Estilo Campo. They will only charge you 2 dollars for a Santa Ana white wine bottle. You will pay far more at any other place. Of course, you can buy a dozen of croissants for two dollars and a half and will find that while at the hotel you will pay one dollar for a 15-ounce mineral water bottle, you can buy a two-liter bottle at the supermarket for less than that. So if you really want to enjoy your stay en El Calafate, you need to become a "money-watcher".
Taxis are not expensive at all. Car rental costs some 50 dollars per day with some 130 free miles, and gasoline costs half the price it has in Buenos Aires (here it costs about 1.20 dollars per gallon). That will be fine if you want to drive to the Perito Moreno glacier, that is 50 miles away, or go fishing to the Mitre river (rainbow trout), and will also fit in if you drive to El Chaltén, stay overnight and come back the next day, since there are some 140 miles each way. Remember that you will be driving along gravel roads, so reduce your speed when you cross other vehicles, or make sure that they give you the car with a windshield protector. Also, leave with enough gasoline, because you will find no gasoline stations on the road.
The most expensive (and most beautiful) hotel is Posada Los Alamos, rated as a 5-star hotel, it even has its mini-golf course. Since rates vary according to the season of the year, check their facilities and rates in this page: Prices are stated in US Dollars. www.posadalosalamos.com and then click on the English version. The cheapest decent option in El Calafate is the Albergue del Glaciar Los Pioneros. There a single room costs 33 dollars per night, and double occupancy is costing 40 dollars. A bed in this hostel costs some 10 dollars per night in a shared room (restrooms are at the end of the aisle, but at clean). This price does not include breakfast that can cost you between 3 and 6 dollars per person, depending on what you want. A plate of spaghetti at the hotel will cost you 6 dollars. Better go to Estilo Campo, that is at a walking distance, or take a taxi that will drive you there for one dollar. The Albergue del Glaciar Libertador also belongs to them, and is more expensive.
There at least 28 hotels in El Calafate. To see the Pioneros and Libertador hostels, check out this page. They are members of Hostelling International, and discounts apply to members: www.glaciar.com. To see beautiful photos of the area, a list of hotels and more information on the area, click here: www.elcalafate.gov.ar.
Transportation: There are direct bus services from El Calafate to Río Gallegos and Ushuaia (www.taqsa.com), to the Perito Moreno Glacier, to El Chaltén and to Bariloche along National Highway 40 (Chaltén Travel) and to Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas (Chile) by other companies. From Río Gallegos you have bus services of Andesmar (www.andesmar.com.ar) to most of Argentina, of Tramat (my second choice, and cheaper) and of other bus companies like El Pinguino, that charge less, but…it all depends on the bus you travel on…you might be lucky, or not… There are also buses from Río Gallegos to Punta Arenas and to Ushuaia. Taxis in El Calafate are cheap, about one dollar per mile. Enjoy your stay in El Calafate.
El Calafate is beautiful. There is no doubt about this. But everything is far away and travel is more expensive than in other parts of Argentina. To give you an idea, a round trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier (50 miles away) on the bus…Read More
El Calafate is beautiful. There is no doubt about this. But everything is far away and travel is more expensive than in other parts of Argentina. To give you an idea, a round trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier (50 miles away) on the bus costs 17 dollars, three times more than what you would spend in Córdoba, Mar del Plata, or even in Bariloche for traveling the same distance. There are basically four tours you can take here, plus a couple of short walks. Let’s consider them by order of priority.
Perito Moreno Glacier. If you go to El Calafate and do not visit this beautiful glacier, you have seen nothing. 1) The cheapest option is the bus, but… you will only stop at one panoramic viewpoint before you arrive at your destination. You will have some three hours for walking around to admire the glacier, see huge pieces of ice falling into the lake, and the immensity of this glacier that is nearly 20 miles long, but that is not the largest glacier in the National Park, since the Viedma and Upsala glaciers are four to five times larger. The cost of this tour is 17 dollars for the round trip. You will find a cafeteria at the glacier, rather expensive, but the only option. Both the cafeteria and the restrooms close at 6pm, and the bus in summer returns at 8pm. If it rains (not very probable) there is no shelter, so if the forecast announces rain, you’d better take a light raincoat. 2) The day I took the alternative tour, the traffic van stopped at three places: at a cafeteria in the countryside, where we saw condors flying in the ski, the second stop was to give way to a group of gauchos or cowboys that were driving two or three thousand sheep, and the third stop was at the first panoramic viewpoint from where you see the glacier. The fourth stop was for those who wanted to go trekking an hour and a half by the lakeside before going to the main viewpoint in front of the glacier. I had already done that walk five years ago, and preferred to spend more time at the central viewpoint to watch the pieces of ice falling off the glacier, but it is a very interesting walk.
After this you spend two or three hours (depending on whether you did the trekking section of not enjoying a fantastic view of the glacier. 3) And finally you board a catamaran and navigate during one hour in front of the northern wall of the glacier. The whole package, including the trip from and back to El Calafate costs some 40 dollars per person. Have your photo camera ready at all times. If the driver sees a condor, he will stop for photos. But condors don’t lounge around waiting for photographers to prepare their cameras or camcorders. This time we saw condors at two different places, but I hardly was able to capture them with my camera at a long distance away. There is at least one picnic area next to the glacier, so you can bring your food from El Calafate, if you wish. The bus runs twice a day during the summer season, at 8am in the morning and 3pm in the afternoon. Travel takes two hours; you spend three hours at the glacier, and then return. Personally I prefer the alternative tour, because I see the glacier from different angles. But if money is a prime consideration, you will enjoy thoroughly the trip on the bus and the 3-hour stop watching this incredible glacier, that is some 200 feet tall, and that is one of the few glaciers in the world that is still advancing. The other glaciers in the park have lost about twenty percent of their size over the past decades.
The Upsala Glacier is four times larger than the Perito Moreno Glacier, and is beautiful. I have never taken that tour because it costs about double the price of the previous one, since transportation to the embarking site is not included in the price of the tour, so you end up spending some 70 or 80 dollars. But if you are willing to spend this amount of money, it is a beautiful tour. You navigate for a number of hours, probably four, until you reach a point where the Upsala Glacier meets other glaciers inside the park. And the Viedma Glacier is the largest of all. You will see it on the bus if you travel to El Chaltén (30 dollars for the round trip, you may come back the same day or return another day). Enjoy your stay in El Calafate, capital of the glaciers...
Written by Robert Raymond Ingledew on 03 Jan, 2007
Thirty years ago, there was no village here. A potential war with Chile over the Glaciers area, that fortunately did not occur, motivated the Government to establish a village here. I believe that they never imagined what an attractive tourist destination it would become. Today…Read More
Thirty years ago, there was no village here. A potential war with Chile over the Glaciers area, that fortunately did not occur, motivated the Government to establish a village here. I believe that they never imagined what an attractive tourist destination it would become. Today it is called the National Trekking Capital of Argentina. When I was there five years ago, the village had only 140 inhabitants. However, it has 14 hotels and is one of the most expensive destinations in Southern Argentina. It is very near the Viedma glacier, that is four to five times larger than the Perito Moreno Glacier. El Chaltén is 140 miles away from El Calafate. There are many beautiful places where to go, but only one road, that goes from El Calafate through El Chaltén up to the border with Chile (Laguna del Desierto). There are many paths in the mountainside, and it is a real paradise for trekking. Mount Fitz Roy towers the whole area with an incredible beauty. The same as nearby Cerro Torre, it is a real challenge for mountain climbers, in spite of being about half the height of the Aconcagua. Nearly vertical rock walls make it nearly impossible to reach the top. Only experienced mountain climbers can achieve it. Surrounding both mountains there are glaciers, green and blue lagoons, places that cannot be described with words, that are a real reward for mountain climbers. Laguna Capri and Laguna de los Tres, plus some waterfalls, glaciers in the mountain, make this place a perfect paradise on earth. One word of caution, however. This area is not for inexperienced trekkers. Weather changes suddenly. You can arrive at El Chalten with sunny weather and a few hours later you can be under a heavy rainfall.
There is no way of calling a taxi with your cell phone, because there are no roads, nor even trails, fit for vehicles. And winds can be very strong. Five years ago I ruined my camcorder over there with a strong wind that filled the camcorder with sand, so remember to protect your camcorder and photo cameras adequately. But the experience is just fantastic. And a few miles before arriving at El Chaltén, you will have a distant view of the Viedma Glacier, five times larger than the Perito Moreno, and actually the largest glacier in all Argentina. You can also visit the glacier from El Chaltén. The transfer to the motorboat costs 40 pesos and the shorter navigation tour another 75 pesos, that is less than 40 dollars per person for the whole package. Have a look at this link: http://www.patagonia-aventura.com/esp/tarifas/tarifas.html You can click on "mapa" to see a map of the area., There are a number of tours you can carry out at El Chaltén, most of them trekking. Here are some: Full day tour to Lago del Desierto (border with Chile). Viedma Glacier Ice Trek. Viedma light (two hours and a half) Cerro Torre viewpoint (half-day trekking), Laguna Capri and Fitz Roy Mount viewpoint (half-day trekking). Trekking to the Torre Glacier Full day trekking to Torre Laggon and some others. If you go to El Calafate and do not go on to El Chaltén (4 hours on the bus) you are missing probably the nicest part of the whole picture.
There are a number of hostels over there (some 14), you will find the list if you click here: www.elchalten.com. You will also find a beautiful photo gallery of the whole area. I stayed at the Rancho Grande Hostel, one of the few budget alternatives you have at this paradise. By way of example the hour of Internet costs 4 dollars, twelve times more expensive than in Cordoba or Mar del Plata. There is one traffic van tour to Laguna del Desierto, from where you can climb up to a glacier in the mountainside. It is not an expensive tour. Travel agencies at El Chalten, offer the navigation in front of the Viedma glacier, the largest glacier in all Argentina. The tour includes some trekking, and is sold in two different versions, of which the cheapest one is "Viedma Light". Fitz Roy Expediciones offers alternatives for experienced trekkers you might want to consider: www.fitzroyexpediciones.com.ar. But your real trekking experience will start when you go towards Laguna Capri. It takes about 3 hours in each direction, but you will live experiences that you never will forget. And if you are an experienced trekker, take the expedition to the Torre Glacier. Have a look also at this page. They have some fantastic alternatives: www.loscerrosdelchalten.com. Buses from El Calafate to El Chaltén run twice a day, the trip takes 4 hours, they will make a stop to look at the Viedma Glacier and Fitz Roy mount (a good zoom will allow you to take fantastic photos), and the round trip costs 90 pesos (30 dollars). This service is offered by El Chalten Travel, that also offers every other day a direct bus service from El Chaltén (or from El Calafate) to Bariloche. Enjoy your visit to El Chaltén. I am sure you will. This will be the most fascinating experience in your lifetime.
If we compare Ushuaia with Calafate, Ushuaia has a far larger variety of products for two reasons: 1) It is a larger city (40,000 inhabitants compared with 20,000) and it is a free port (El Calafate is not). However, price differences are not so substantial…Read More
If we compare Ushuaia with Calafate, Ushuaia has a far larger variety of products for two reasons: 1) It is a larger city (40,000 inhabitants compared with 20,000) and it is a free port (El Calafate is not). However, price differences are not so substantial if you learn to look around and compare prices. While one shop at El Calafate asked for 17 pesos (nearly 6 dollars) for a 36-photo Kodak film, another shop asked for 12 pesos and I finally made a deal of 10 pesos (3.33 dollars) each for five 36 photo films. In Ushuaia I had paid 9 pesos for the same film, so the difference is not so important. As I said in the overview, supermarket prices in El Calafate are quite reasonable. You can buy half a dozen of small croissants at a bakery for a dollar and twenty cents, while you will pay 3 dollars for a cup of coffee with 2 croissants at a cafeteria, or twelve dollars for the "Patagonian Tea". If you don't want to waste too much time, the "La Anónima" supermarket on the main avenue has a fast lane for people who buy less than 5 products, so keep this in mind. I saw more handcraft in El Calafate than at Ushuaia. I observed some beautiful onix (green marble), pink marble and yellow marble products, that I imagine must be costly, but that were real art pieces. I am posting more of these photos below.
There is a small artisans fair just below the bus station. It is not very large, it has some 20 shops, but prices should be lower there than in the expensive downtown shops. And in any case, the entrance to the fair faces the main avenue, so you are very near to the other shops. There are some leather shops in El Calafate, but keep an eye on the prices. Quality should be good. In small towns prestige and image must be taken care of… or you go out of business very soon. There are some beautiful DVD and VHS films of the glacier, featuring when it collapsed two years ago. I am sure you will want to keep one of those as a souvenir. And there are some beautiful photo books of the whole area. These products could cost some twenty dollars, but that is only another drop of water in the bucket. There is also a large variety of postcards. If you can buy your films before you arrive at El Calafate you may get them at lower prices. The cheapest good quality film you can buy is Kodak ProImage of 100 or 200 ASA. I see no need in buying 200 ASA, since luminosity is excellent in the whole area. If you buy the 5-film pack, some photo shops will give you a 15 or 20 percent discount, but you have to ask for it before you close the purchase. Keep this in mind. I took 17 films for my trip to Ushuaia and El Calafate and ended up buying another 10 films down there. Scenery is so beautiful and varied (especially in Ushuaia), so take as many films as you can, remembering that each film will cost you between 3 and 5 dollars, depending on where you buy them. Enjoy your stay in the land of the glaciers.
Written by Robert Raymond Ingledew on 19 Dec, 2006
There are direct bus services from El Calafate and from Chalten to Bariloche. They run every even day (2, 4, 6, 8, etc. of each month), leaving at 8am from El Calafate and at 9am from El Chalten. The bus company that offers this service…Read More
There are direct bus services from El Calafate and from Chalten to Bariloche. They run every even day (2, 4, 6, 8, etc. of each month), leaving at 8am from El Calafate and at 9am from El Chalten. The bus company that offers this service is Chalten Travel. They are not semi-bed services, so comfort is not as good as other companies that operate in the area, but it is the only bus company that covers this route.
The first section of the trip is to Perito Moreno, where you arrive at about 10pm, and where you stay overnight at an hotel (cost is 10 dollars per bed in a shared room, or 33 dollars for a single or double room). The bus leaves at about 8am next morning, and arrives at Bariloche at 10.30pm. The cost is 395 pesos, plus 100 pesos for the hotel, that is some 165 dollars for the full trip per person (12 dollars less from El Chalten), and gives you the opportunity of visiting some hardly discovered destinations in Argentina, like the Cueva de Manos Pintadas (Painted Hands Cave) with prehistorical handmarks stamped on the rocks. I know this is more expensive than going through Río Gallegos to Puerto Madryn and from there to Bariloche along paved roads (this alternative is mostly on roads that are not paved), but it allows you to go one way and come back along a different route, where trout fishing is excellent (Perito Moreno, Los Antiguos).
There is also a direct bus service from El Calafate to Ushuaia at 3am in the morning that arrives at Río Gallegos at 7am and continues two hours later to Ushuaia (another 10 to 12 hours travel). You change buses at Río Gallegos, but it is the same bus company. This service is offered by TAQSA, that has very comfortable buses. I have travelled on this company. Their web page is www.taqsa.com.ar The other company (TecniTrans) is said to have a poor service; I cannot confirm this, but have been told that there buses break down occasionally.
COOTRANS offers direct services from El Calafate to Puerto Natales, Chile (near Torres del Paine) at a cost of 50 pesos (17 dollars) and they also continue to Punta Arenas. I have seen their buses, and they seem to be comfortable. The travel takes 5 hours to Puerto Natales, and some 9 hours to Punta Arenas. There are direct flights from El Calafate to Ushuaia and to Buenos Aires. I understand that there are also direct flights from El Calafate to Bariloche, LAN Chile has a better record of keeping time in its flights, although my flight tonight has a delay of 3 hours. Aerolíneas Argentinas has flights to Río Gallegos and Buenos Aires.
80 miles south of Río Gallegos you have the Cabo Virgenes penguin colony, that I visited today (440,000 Magellan penguins). MACA TOBIANO (Roca 998, Río Gallegos) is the only operator of this tour. They are very reliable. I was the only passenger for this tour today, but they did not suspend the tour. They sent me on a private tour in a last model car, and charged me only their normal rate (40 dollars for a tour that covers about 170 miles in the round trip). A taxi had requested two and a half times that price for the same trip. The tour leaves at 11am and arrives back between 5 and 7pm, depending on the time that the passengers want to spend at the penguin reserve. There is an admission fee to this penguin reserve of 5 dollars per tourist.
From Río Gallegos you have direct buses to El Calafate, Punta Arenas (some 3 hours travel), to Puerto Madryn (18 hours) and to Buenos Aires (36 hours). Travel to Buenos Aires costs 66 dollars on El Pinguino (very poor service), 80 dollars on Tramat (quite good) and 100 dollars on Andesmar (by far the best service). This last company also features bed service at a slightly higher price, and premium bed service beyond Caleta Olivia (30 miles south of Comodoro Rivadavia). Andesmar is in my opinion one of the 3 best bus companies in all Argentina. Their first class service (coche cama premium) is exceptionally comfortable, similar to first class of international flights, with menu "à la carte" (your choice of chicken, meat or vegetables for dinner), plus DVD and MP3. These seats lie down completely flat, just like a bed. See my notes on Rada Tilly, a very nice beach very near Comodoro Rivadavia and on Puerto Madryn, the best place where to stay if you want to split your travel in two, and watch penguins and whales.
Some flights stop at Puerto Madryn or Trelew, that is only 30 miles away from Puerto Madryn. If you want a budget hotel in Puerto Madryn, try the Hotel Tandil (2 stars) that does not charge higher rates to foreigners. Their present published rate for a single room is 25 dollars per night in low season and 27.50 in high season, double occupancy costs about 20% more, and they have about a 50% discount for groups (although I believe this rate is for travel agencies). This rate includes continental breakfast. This is their web page: www.hoteltandil.com.ar/tarifas.htm Their E-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org If you are looking for a more comfortable hotel at Puerto Madryn, try Apart Hotel Patagonia. Rooms are smaller, but beds are very comfortable. Cantina El Náutico will give you the best price value in Puerto Madryn. It has been a classic restaurant for over thirty years. You will spend less than 10 dollars for a very good meal. I trust you will find this information very useful.
Written by Robert Raymond Ingledew on 26 Sep, 2006
When I went to El Calafate the first time, I had no idea of the thrilling experiences I would enjoy. Nor did I have the slightest idea of the size of the glacier, or the emotions I would experience seeing huge pieces of ice, about…Read More
When I went to El Calafate the first time, I had no idea of the thrilling experiences I would enjoy. Nor did I have the slightest idea of the size of the glacier, or the emotions I would experience seeing huge pieces of ice, about the size of a five-story building, falling into the lake.. preceded by what seemed like underground explosions.
Thirty five years ago I was working in an oil company that had oilfields in Tierra del Fuego, and the local Tierra del Fuego manager there told me in Buenos Aires that I could catch eighteen pound brown trout in the Rio Grande. I knew that Rio Grande is a prime trout fishing area, but there are not many places where to go (unlike Bariloche, where you could visit a different place every day during a whole month), so I decided to complement my fishing trip to Rio Grande with sightseeing in Ushuaia (you can visit that area in 3 or 4 days), and then continue to El Calafate. I only did it to fill in my vacation program, without having the slightest idea of the thrilling experiences I would enjoy. Although I did catch five pound trout in Rio Grande (and none at El Calafate) I was unable to get the big ones, but did see some fifteen pound trout caught in Lake Fagnano, Tierra del Fuego.
There was no airport at El Calafate then, so I had to take a plane to Rio Gallegos and then a bus to El Calafate. At that time the bus trip lasted six hours on an earth road. Now this trip takes only four hours by bus, and there are five bus services every day. I really had no idea about the magnitude of system of glaciers in the Province of Santa Cruz, until I went there. There are fourteen glaciers, and some (as the Upsala and Viedma glaciers) are far larger than the Perito Moreno glacier. It is only the nearest glacier to El Calafate, but there is far more to explore, if you have time and money.
My first experience was thrilling. As I said, I had no idea of the magnitude of the glacier. But I enjoyed my second trip much more, because I had sunny weather, a full view of the landscape, and also because I had the opportunity of visiting El Chaltén, with its Fitz Roy mount, a real challenge for mountain climbers. I will talk about that on my report on El Chaltén.