Note: all addresses & directions for restaurants, activities and sights are listed at the bottom of this post.
Disclaimer: Chasing a Plate partnered with Say Hueque and received their El Calafate & El Chalten tour on a complimentary basis. All opinions are our own.
You don’t even need to step onto land to realise you’ve arrived somewhere pretty special. A mere glance out the plane window and the stark, vast, beautiful landscape hits you. One gulp of the sweet, fresh air and you’re hooked. Your Patagonian adventure is about to begin… But a quick note before we start, this post is about Patagonia on the Argentinian side and includes El Calafate, El Chalten and the Perito Moreno glacier. Patagonia spans both Argentina and Chile, if you’re more interested in Chilean Patagonia read our travel guide here.
We teamed up with Say Hueque a Buenos Aires based travel agency which caters to the ‘independent traveller’: those who may be short on time on the organising front but who still want to retain control of their experience when they hit the ground. Say Hueque organises the bare bones of your trip: the accommodation, transfers and any tours you may be interested in, whilst you sort the rest. Choose how you spend your time- what trails you want to hike, where you want to eat and who you want to spend time with!
Day 1: El Calafate
Upon arrival into El Calafate you’ll be picked up at the airport and whisked off to your hotel. Settle in and then take the opportunity to explore El Calafate’s main street: Av de Libertador. You’ll find loads of restaurants and souvenir shops plus banks, panaderias (bakeries) and a supermarket. We suggest picking up a picnic lunch for tomorrow’s trip to Perito Moreno glacier whilst you’re here.
To get a handle on your surroundings wander down to Laguna Nimez. This reserve is home to flamingos, ducks and swans and is an ideal spot to watch the sunset. But make sure you rug up- it can get pretty darn cold!
Argentines eat late, so expect restaurants to open for dinner service around 6pm-7pm. If you’re after a more local spot that won’t break the bank El Braserito is a parrilla (traditional Argentinian restaurant) which serves up melt in your mouth Patagonian lamb plus all the extras- chinchuline (intestines), chorizo and morcilla (blood sausage). It’s a no frills kind of a joint but it doesn’t matter when the meat is this good right?!
Day 2: Perito Moreno Glacier
Are you ready to be blown away? Today you get picked up and driven 80km out to Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciers National Park. You’ll board a boat and spend an hour up close to this spectacular natural wonder. Brave the cold and hit the upper deck where you’ll get the chance to hear the rumble and cracks of the glacier as it shifts- it moves 2 metres a day!
Boat trip done, you’ll now get the chance to spend over 2 hours exploring the different viewpoints and boardwalks along the south and front walls of Perito Moreno. Nab a bench, soak up that sun and watch as shelves of ice tumble from the glacier and crash into the lake below as you enjoy your picnic lunch. Everywhere you turn there is an enchanting vista to take in. Trust us, two hours will pass all too quickly. Note: there is a restaurant at the other end of the boardwalk and it’s got a great view of Perito Moreno, but if the sun’s out we reckon it’s far more enjoyable to spend your time outside and up close.
Day 3: El Calafate to El Chalten
At around 7:30am you’ll be picked up by a private minivan and driven the 3 hour journey from El Calafate to El Chalten. The views of the surrounding landscape are vast, impressive and breathtakingly beautiful. The driver will make a few stops along the way to allow you to take photographs and there’s a longer stop at Leona for a hot drink or bathroom stop.
El Chalten, a small village at the base of Monte Fitz Roy is surrounded by glaciers, mountains, lakes and forests. It is quite simply a wonderland. It’s also the trekking/hiking capital of Argentina and the beauty of this town is that the trails more or less start from its centre and it’s well equipped to cater to the travellers who visit to explore- there are restaurants, a microbrewery, bakeries and supermarkets but it still retains its small town feel.
The two main treks: Monte Fitz Roy and Laguna Torres take a full day so it’s best to wait until tomorrow to tackle one of them. Instead, dump your bags at the hotel (door to door service) and walk to Mirador de Los Condores and Mirador de Las Aguiles which should be about a 1-3 hours roundtrip. De Los Condores is a great spot for a view of El Chalten and it’s worth staying up here for a while to see if any condors come swooping past. The birds are majestic and much bigger than you would imagine with a wing span of around 3 metres!
It’ll be late afternoon by the time you descend back into town and you’re most likely starving! Pop over to La Cerveceria the microbrewery which has been around for 18 years for a pint of pilsner and an empanada or nip into B&B for happy hour (5:00pm to 8:00pm) and nab a table outside for glorious mountain views. Stay on for dinner if you fancy a burger- their ‘classic’ plus a basket of fries will hit the spot.
Whip into a bakery or the supermarket on the way back to your hotel to grab a picnic lunch for your big hiking day tomorrow. Bags of about 8 rolls go for around $2USD- a couple of tomatoes, some cheese and you’re done!
Day 4: El Chalten
With only one full day in El Chalten we suggest tackling the monster of a trek to the base of Monte Fitz Roy (about 9 hours round trip). The start of the trek is a steep up hill walk of about an hour and half (enough to put anyone off!). We suggest asking your hotel to book you a seat on the shuttle service which leaves at 8:00am or 9:30am (160ARS/$10USD) and drops you at Hosteria El Pilar. If you start the trek from this point most of the walking you do will be downhill or flat plus you get to see another part of the park.
We say most of it will be downhill because there is the issue of the 1 hour steep climb to get to the actual base of Monte Fitz Roy! You do need to be fit but it’s totally worth the effort. You’ll eat lunch right at the edge of Laguna de los Tres and make sure you scramble up the hill to the left to marvel at the point where it joins Laguna Sucia. These glacial lakes look fake they’re so vivid in colour and the glaciers themselves are amazing.
Your descent back into El Chalten should take about 4 hours or so and you’ll be well ready for some red wine and a steak once you arrive! Parrilla Argentina looks a bit like a takeaway joint but perch on one of their high stools, order a bife de chorizo (sirloin steak) and a bottle of their house red and watch the sun go down as you savour each hard earned mouthful of epically cooked steak. It doesn’t get much better than this!
Day 5: El Chalten to El Calafate
Your private mini van leaves in the afternoon so you still have some time to hit one last trail. The 1.5 hour walk to Mirador Del Torre is one to consider- it’s a pretty easy walk and your reward at the end is a picture postcard view of Glacier Grande and the Cerre Torre mountain range.
One last beer in the sun at La Cerveceria or B&B taking in the views before you jump into the van and head back to El Calafate is HIGHLY recommended.
Argentinian Patagonia, DONE!
We hope this Argentinian Patagonia travel guide has helped you eat and explore like a traveller, not a tourist.
Spending more time in Argentina? Check out our 24 Hours in Buenos Aires travel guide…
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Say Hueque | Argentina Journeys
El Calafate & El Chalten 5 nights, 6 days Tour
From $615USD per person (based on double occupancy). When booking a tour with Say Hueque you can opt for different levels of accommodation- from B&Bs all the way up to luxury hotels.
Flights to and from El Calafate
National Park entrance fee ($30USD per person)
Lunches and dinners
Say Hueque also offer tours to Iguazu Falls, Mendoza, Bolivia, Chile and more. For more information visit: http://www.sayhueque.com
Chasing a Plate’s Pricing Guide
You’ll no doubt have heard that Patagonia is pricey! And it is. There is no getting around it. The restaurants we have mentioned below are our picks for delicious food for a fair price. Expect to pay around 500ARS/$30USD for a meal for 2 including alcohol.
Eat like a traveller
Gdor. Gregores 1035, El Calafate
Av. San Martin, El Chalten
B&B Burger Joint
Av. San Martin, El Chalten
Av. San Martin, El Chalten
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