advertisement

Getting There

By Plane -- El Calafate's Aeropuerto Lago Argentino (tel. 02902/491220) is a modern complex that was built in 2000. It's already proving to be too small, though, for the increasing traffic. Service is from Argentine destinations only: Aerolíneas Argentinas (tel. 11/4340-3777 in Buenos Aires; www.aerolineas.com.ar) has daily flights from Buenos Aires and flights from Bariloche, Trelew, and Ushuaia several times a week. A daily 747 flight also arrives directly from Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires during high season (all flights used to leave from Aeroparque, downtown, and you would have to change airports). Be sure to specify which airport you'd like to fly from. LAN (tel. 0810/999-9526; www.lan.com) has three flights per week from Buenos Aires, and it's planning to offer more in the future. LADE (Líneas Areas del Estado; tel. 0810/810-5233; www.lade.com.ar) has a weekly flight from Buenos Aires and weekly connection to Puerto Madryn, Ushuaia, and Bariloche. Their flights have no onboard service, and are generally much cheaper than the other airlines.

The airport is 23km (14 miles) from the center of town, which seems like a long way in the wide-openness of Patagonia. From the airport, Aerobús (tel. 02902/492492) operates a bus to all the hotels in town for $4 (£2.70); they can also pick you up for your return trip if you call 24 hours ahead. A taxi into town should cost no more than $9 (£6.10) for up to four people. There's also a handful of rental car desks at the airport. Please note that on the exit from this airport, all travelers are required to pay an airport exit tax of $18 (£12).

By Bus -- El Calafate has a bus terminal on Julio A. Roca, reached via the stairs up from the main street, Avenida del Libertador. To and from Puerto Natales, Chile: Turismo Zaahj (tel. 02902/491631; www.turismozaahj.co.cl) has six weekly trips leaving El Calafate at 8am, returning from Puerto Natales at 8am. Cootra (tel. 02902/491144) leaves El Calafate at 8:30am, returning at 7:30am. The trip takes 5 to 6 hours, depending on how long it takes to get through border-crossing procedures. To get to El Chaltén, your options are Chaltén Travel (tel. 02902/491833), which departs El Calafate daily at 8am, 1pm (in high season), and 6:30pm; or Caltur (tel. 02902/491842), which has buses leaving El Calafate at 7:30am and 6:30pm. The trip takes approximately 3 hours, but travel time should diminish if the pavement project on the Ruta 40 north of El Calafate is finally finished. To Rio Gallegos, the capital of the Province of Santa Cruz, buses depart El Calafate daily at 12:30pm, returning at 8pm with Sportsman (tel. 02902/492680) and departing El Calafate at noon and 2:30pm with Taqsa (tel. 02902/491843), returning at noon and 2pm. Buy all bus tickets the day before, at least, to ensure you'll get a seat.

By Car -- Ruta 5, followed by Ruta 11, is paved entirely from Río Gallegos to El Calafate. From Puerto Natales, in summertime you can cross through the border at Cerro Castillo, which will lead you to the famous Ruta 40 and up to the paved portion of Ruta 11. Buses take and commercial vehicles go via Rio Turbio. The drive from Puerto Natales is roughly 5 hours, not including time spent at the border checkpoint.

Getting Around

If you'd like to rent a car, you can do so at the locally owned Servi-Car, Av. del Libertador 1341 (tel. 02902/492634; www.servicar4x4.com.ar). Rates begin at $70 (£47) per day, including insurance and taxes. To hook El Calafate with other Patagonian destinations, such as Puerto Madryn, via rental car, try Fiorasi Rentacar, Av. del Libertador 1341 (tel. 02902/495330). Rental cars may be of interest if you're in a group of four people and want to cover longer distances of 4 hours or more, including the drive to El Chaltén or Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. Many roads here are unpaved. Most of the town can be explored on foot, although many new hotels are either up a good-size hill or well out of town, so make sure your hotel offers a shuttle. Taxis in El Calafate are reasonably priced. More and more people are also visiting El Chaltén in a rental car, thanks to the road improvements. Buses are frequent, though, so it's not really necessary.

Visitor Information

The city's visitor information kiosk is inside the bus terminal. They offer an ample amount of printed material and can assist in planning a trip to Perito Moreno Glacier; they're open October through April from 8am to 11pm daily and May through September from 8am to 8pm daily (tel. 02902/491090). All other spots that look like information centers are travel agencies trying to sell tours.

Two good websites for impartial information are www.elcalafate.com.ar and the municipal government's site at www.elcalafate.gov.ar.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.