El Calafate, the picturesque little town that is the final touristic destination in mainland Argentina, is small, remote, and acts as a cul-de-sac for travellers who enter, enjoy, and exit, all within a span of 24–36 hours. So if you only have a limited amount of time to visit El Calafate, what exactly should you be doing? Relax, your ideal 24-hour itinerary for El Calafate is already laid out for you. You’re welcome.
To pack in as much as possible into a short time slot, waking up early is essential, and that is a requirement when you book the boat tour of the main attraction in this area, the Perito Moreno Glacier. This enormity of this glacier is staggering, and it is what has put El Calafate on the map and tourist trail, and the best way to enjoy it is opening your wallet and paying that extra amount to do the boat tour.
To preface this, the cheap way of visiting the glacier is not really what a traveller would classify as ‘within budget’ as the bus and entrance are quite costly, so make your visit to the glacier unique, and memorable and link up with one of the tour companies that offer boats trip to view the glacier from underneath. Sit on the doorstep of your hotel or hostel, avoiding the wind, and warming up with a coffee, while you wait for your comfortable private shuttle to pick you up. From there, you will head out to Puerto Bandera, the main port where you will board your boat to float around Lago Argentino seeking out multiple glaciers, including the main event, Perito Moreno.
There’s no better way in El Calafate to spend your morning and early afternoon, so after you are buzzing from, fingers crossed, getting to see some of the massive ice chunks cave off the face of the glacier, you will be looking to fill up on some food, and maybe a beer to celebrate. We have that sorted for you as well, as your table at La Zorra Cerveceria is ready. Get dropped off in the center of El Calafate, and walk the main avenue, San Martin, under the canopy of trees and visit the brewery at the end of the road. Take your table outside under the speckled sunlight and shade provided by the branches and leaves overhead, and let your eyes wander over the delicious pub grub, and the comprehensive beer list from peanut stouts, to fruity summer ales and everything in between. Take your time and sink a pint of two before your food arrives, and maybe one after as well.
Now that the adrenaline from the morning has worn off, with the assistance of a few cervezas, you will need to power through the early evening, so retreat back along the main avenue, towards the end, and stop into Don Luis to grab a strong, delicious coffee to go, and maybe a pastry to satisfy the sweet tooth. Now that your energy is coming back, head to the Glaciarium, which is maybe the most entertaining learning experiences you are ever going to have. This informative museum is dedicated to teaching you about glaciers, but also has an ice bar on site where you can wrap up warm and enter an ice cavern where almost everything you touch is ice, including the glasses you drink from.
Before your blood freezes, head back into the last remaining hours of sunlight, and down the Laguna Nimez, connected to the main lake on which El Calafate sits. Here, you can enter the Natural Reserve and wander the loop around the protected park enjoying the various bird species, including some pink flamingos.
It’s been a busy day, and the best way to cap that off is with a terrific meal and a glass of Argentinian red, and La Cocina has you covered. Get that energy back from all the day’s walking with a creamy delicious pasta or pizza, paired with a full bodied Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon, and as the bill comes to round off your packed day, you will be thinking you’ve been here for days.