Where to go

El Calafate and El Chalten

Probably the most famous ice flow on earth...

El Chalten
El Chalten

Possibly the most famous area of Argentina, El Calafate, and the neighbouring El Chalten, sit right on the edge of the Southern Ice Field, the second largest body of ice on the planet. Recently the area has seen a huge surge in interest (due, in part, to the presidential legacy of the Kirchners) with new hotels and facilities springing up all over the place. For most, the reason to come is to see the stunning glaciers that lie just outside El Calafate, but we also highly recommend spending a couple of nights in the sleepier El Chalten to take in mount Fitz Roy and walk in the pristine wilderness that surrounds.

Just a stone’s throw from the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares (and the infamous Perito Moreno Glacier), El Calafate is the larger of the two towns, having recently boomed from a population of around 6,000 in 2000 to around 27,000 today. This meteoric rise in fortune has been prompted by a couple of deciding factors. While its location close to the stunning ice flows that run of the Southern Ice Shelf has certainly helped, it has been more the fact that the president, Cristina Kirchner and her husband, the former president, are from the region that has prompted an international airport and increased infrastructure.

Today the town is a relaxed and interesting place, if, at times showing the makeshift manner in which it has grown (the old runway has now been consumed and is used as one of the main roads in the centre of town!) The central focus is on the main road that runs east to west and has the feeling of an Alpine resort, lined with good restaurants and bars that come alive in the evenings.

As mentioned, with this surge in interest and investment has come a range of hotels to choose from, some out of town, in the wide Patagonian expanses, and some located right in the heart of the bustle. For us, we are fans of the sweeping expanses that are typical of this area and of Patagonia as a whole and so tend to recommend the hotels that are more rustic and wild, but there are plenty of options to suit all tastes.

Click here to view some video footage of the El Calafate area.

Click here to view some video footage of the El Chalten area.

When to go to El Calafate and El Chalten:

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    At a glance…Western Patagonia

  • Size: 250,000 sq kms
  • Location: Southern Argentina
  • Recommended time: 3 to 5 nights
  • Time to visit: September to April
  • Go here for: Walking, the southern ice shelf, The Perito Moreno glacier
  • Further reading...

  • › Nature and wildlife
  • › Walking
  • › El Chalten
  • › What to do in El Calafate
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    Our top five hotel recommendations for El Calafate and El Chalten in 2017/18:

    1. Aguas Arriba Lodge

      Aguas Arriba Lodge

      One of the most special places in Argentinian Patagonia, Aguas Arriba Lodge is a remote mountain lodge offering guaranteed peace and isolation. With views of hanging glaciers and the impressive Mount Fitz Roy from its windows, it’s an idyllic spot for relaxing and doing some superb walking.

      Our rating:
      5
      User rating:
      5
      Price:
      5
    2. Hostería Blanca Patagonia - Living room

      Blanca Patagonia

      A new addition to our list of recommended hosterías in El Calafate, Blanca Patagonia is a cosy and welcoming 12-bed B&B located on the way out of El Calafate. While the location on the edge of town may not suit everyone, for us the sweeping lake views and quiet position more than make up for... More...

      Our rating:
      4
      User rating:
      4
      Price:
      3
    3. Casa Los Sauces

      Casa Los Sauces

      Owned by the infamous Presidente, Cristina Kirchner, Casa Los Sauces is certainly one of the more prestigious hotels in town. Set down by the waterside, it is a series of small residences holding either 3 or 4 rooms in each. The quality of each is very high and each of the rooms has been designed... More...

      Our rating:
      4
      User rating:
      4
      Price:
      4
    4. Destino Sur - Location

      Destino Sur

      Destino Sur is a new arrival in the now fast developing town of El Chalten, Argentina’s trekking capital. It is certainly not cosy and small like some of the lodges present here and so like the nearby Los Cerros, it does stand out a little amongst the properties in this sleepy town. We think that... More...

      Our rating:
      4
      User rating:
      4
      Price:
      4
    5. Don Los Cerros Boutique Hotel

      Don Los Cerros Boutique Hotel

      Positioned atop a small hill, right in the centre of town, the Don Los Cerros Boutique Hotel is, arguably, the best accommodation in El Chalten. At around 45 rooms, all with wide windows and comfortable furniture, it certainly offers a quiet haven to relax and unwind after one of the many walks in... More...

      Our rating:
      5
      User rating:
      4
      Price:
      4

    Our recommended top travel itineraries for El Calafate and El Chalten in 2017/18: