El Calafate - A Warm Welcome to Argentina
Argentina.. Wow - what an incredible introduction to South America! We flew into El Calafate, in early November, ready to give our hiking boots a workout and put our alpine tent to the test in the unpredictable Patagonian weather - both missions.. complete!
Argentina has most certainly been the most expensive country that we have visited in South America, with food, ATM fee’s, buses, and hostel’s all being rather pricey, however it is certainly possible to cut costs if on a backpacker’s budget.
If you are travelling with your tent, we would recommend camping as much as possible, as for the majority of the time we were able to camp for free. When staying in a hostel, look for places that have kitchen facilities, do your shopping at a local market and stock up on local foods, & cook as often as you can. Most hostel’s always have a “free food” section in the kitchen and you can nearly always find leftover herbs, spices, pasta’s, and rice that others no longer have use for - this saved us plenty of pennies! And when booking buses, we would always opt for the night-bus option. We may not have always had the best nights sleep, but it saved us money on a hostel for the night, and meant that we didn’t spend our beautiful day’s stuck on a bus!
We spent only two nights in El Calafate, which was the perfect amount of time to make a day trip to Los Glaciares National Park where we were blessed with a sunny day on the ice of Perito Moreno glacier. We travelled by bus for around 2 x hours, where we reached the boardwalk view point of Perito Moreno. Here we admired this world wonder from afar, watching and listening as the sides of this turquoise blue glacier cracked and crumbled into the lake below, occurring at least every few minutes. We then jumped on a boat, half an hour later arriving as close to the glacier as we could possibly be! Our feet strapped up with crampons, we began to climb atop and explore all of the incredible cracks and crevices of the Perito Moreno glacier. Thankfully we were not contributing to any destruction, as it is a rare but wonderful occurrence that this is one in three glaciers in the world that is not retreating, in fact, it is actually growing in its size and beauty each day.
At around 660 Argentinian Peso’s / $60 AUD, you can find a tour company that will offer you this above experience including:
◦ Hotel pick-up and drop-off
◦ Bilingual guide (English/Spanish)
◦ Boat ride on the Rico Arm in front of Perito Moreno Glacier
◦ 2 hours trekking on Perito Moreno Glacier
◦ Whiskey once you’re on the ice! (& chocolate)
◦ 2 hours of free time on the walkways in front of the Perito Moreno Glacier
We did find however that bartering in Argentina was not usually successful, and El Calafate ATM machines are quite costly, charging you around 98 Peso’s / $9 AUD per transaction (with only an allowance of 800 Peso’s / $70 AUD per transaction). We were quite content with bidding farewell to El Calafate after our glacier expedition - there are a number of other tours that are on offer from this town, but many of them quite costly. If you have money, and time, it may be a spot where you spend an extra few days, but most travellers we met were also only in this town for a night or two at the most to make the day-trip out to see the impressive and popular Perito Moreno Glacier that this town is a wonderful gateway to.