El Calafate, Argentina is a hub for outdoor activities in Patagonia, home to local breweries and some incredibly tasty grub.
We spent 3 days in El Calafate, but easily could have spent much more time there.
Day 1 – Arrival and Dinner
We arrived by bus and took a taxi to Posada Larsen, an adorable Bed and Breakfast up on a hill but close to the center of town. Posada Larsen was a more affordable choice over the hotels in the downtown area, while still being a luxurious treat after days of camping and hiking in Torres Del Paine.
We could have spent our afternoon exploring the downtown area in El Calafate, but decided to take it slow by doing some yoga outside and taking long hot showers.
On our first night we ate at Parilla Don Pichon to try the smoked lamb that the region is famous for. It didn’t hurt that it was within eye sight of Posada Larsen. Don Pichon is a nice restaurant, so we left behind our adventure pants and beanies and opted for our “nice” clothes, jeans and tops that hadn’t been worn in the wilderness. We had an exquisite and very large meal including lamb that arrived on a sizzling grill pan and delicious Patagonian wine. This was our fanciest meal in Patagonia and by NYC standards it still did not break the bank (about $100USD for a giant portion of lamb, many sides, wine, and of course dessert).
PRO TIP: They do not mess around with portion sizes in Argentina. The food is rich, incredible, and often served in large portions. When your server advices that a “half portion” would be acceptable, it’s best to listen. At one point I did not, and the moment will go down as “Ms. Steak’s Steak Mistake.” Read more about food in Argentina.
Day 2 – Perito Moreno Glacier Minitrekking
The couple that runs Posada Larsen helped us book most of our excursions which included convenient pickup right outside our door. I did quite a bit of research on excursions out of El Calafate before deciding to go the route. Eventually I realized most of the sites, resorts, and tour groups were offering the exact same options, and that the prices at Posada Larsen were comparable. Despite being a little confused by the pricing list and descriptions in advance, they made booking easy.
Our first full day in El Calafate, we ate delicious homemade breakfast at Posada Larsen and were picked up for our Minitrekking adventure at Perito Moreno.
The excursion included the roundtrip bus ride, a boat ride to the minitrekking area, safety equipment rental (helmets, gloves, and crampons), 90 minutes of mini trekking, a cocktail with glacier ice, and time in the afternoon on the catwalks to enjoy breathtaking glacier views.
We packed our own lunch for the minitrekking trip. Who doesn’t love a good glacier picnic?
From the viewpoints you can see the full views of Perito Moreno, watching falling ice, and learn about the glaciers history. We also saw a gigantic condor!
After our minitrekking we worked up quite an appetite. We got back into El Calafate around 6. We ditched our adventure pants once again and meandered into town. There are a ton of awesome breweries. We walked around town until we found one with outdoor seating. We stopped at LA ZORRA, The burgers were phenomenal!
Day 3 in El Calafate
On our final day in Patagonia we packed in activities without feeling rushed at all! We went horseback riding, the excursion was called “Cerro Frias C/Almuerzo” and ran from 9:00-14:00.
The excursion included a lovely horseback ride through the country and a BBQ lunch on the ranch. We had an incredible time and were able to trot ahead of the group a bit. During the lunch we sat with a group that spoke French, Italian, Spanish, and English and conversations were occurring across tongues, it was wonderful!
After horseback riding and lunch we went back into town. We scheduled a massage in advance at Posada Los Alamos hotel. Comly isn’t picky about much, but he is about massages and genuinely believes “90 minutes or bust” to get out all of the knots and kinks. Shop around if you’re looking for a more intense massage like he is.
Given the number of hikers in the region the massages seem to book up in advance. It was a lovely experience and gave us enough time to still grab drinks, snacks, and ice cream while listening to music on a patio before our 11pm flight to Buenos Aires.
El Calafate was an incredible getaway with a blend of the outdoors, excellent cuisine, and casual mountain vibes.