So El Calafate. They have a pretty efficient system working at the tiny little airport. A couple of minibuses meet every plane and for 200 pesos (£9/$13) they drop you at your hotel and then pick you up again a few hours before your return flight. It works well.
My hostel was really nice with a view of the lake , but it was twice the price of other places I’ve stayed. Accommodation is expensive in this town. If you are determined to save money there are a few campsites dotted around, but I’m afraid this body doesn’t camp anymore. Also bear in mind that I was lucky with the weather and it was warm and sunny most of the time; there is a wind that normally blows the whole summer, which was thankfully absent during my visit. Certainly not much fun if you’re camping.
It’s not entirely illogical that it should be expensive. They have no real income other than tourism. They can’t grow fruit and vegetables, because the place is covered in snow for much of the year. The sheer remoteness makes everything expensive. However they are lucky to be sat next to a few amazing tourist attractions, and this brings the punters in.
There is a mixture of domestic tourism (Argentinians flying down from Buenos Aires) and international travellers, often travelling down by tourist bus on the famous ruta 40 (the argentine equivalent of route 66).
The town itself pretty much consists of one street with restaurants and bars, a selection of places to book excursions, a few souvenir shops and some sellers of ‘outdoor wear’. A selection of hotels branch off in various directions, a lot of them new-looking. There is also the lake, which is within walking distance.
The main thing visitors to El Calafate come to see is the huge glacier Perito Moreno, around 80 kilometres away. I booked a bus trip there as soon as I arrived. Yes it is quite touristy but really there is no other way of doing it.
My bus tour cost 700 pesos (around £32/$45). Prices vary but they tend to include different things so it’s virtually impossible to compare prices and easier just to pick one and go with it. On top of that I had to pay 260 pesos entrance to the glacier park (that’s £12/$17). The boat trip, where they take you out to the glacier (obviously optional) costs another £12/$17). It meant that the whole day cost me around £70/$100, when you add on a couple of drinks.
It’s best to bring your own food. There is a restaurant there but it is super-expensive. Some of the tours include a little lunchbox, which with hindsight was a good deal.
First we took the boat trip. It lasts around an hour and sails right out to the glacier, where you can fight your way through the sea of selfie sticks to get a picture or two. The sheer size of the thing only really becomes apparent once you sail out to it.
Then back on the bus to drive to the other side of the glacier, where there is a visitor’s centre and a few walks to go along and view the other side of the glacier.
Like I said, it was a bit touristy but really there was no other way of doing it.
From time to time you hear a noise, a bit like a gunshot, which is really just bits of the glacier breaking off.
You can also walk along the glacier. I saw some people doing this; only a few companies are able to offer this and it is only available on one small section of the glacier, meaning that it gets pretty crowded.