In this post we provide information on how to get from Puerto Natales to El Calafate, how to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier, and how to get from El Calafate to El Chalten by bus. All costs also included (the exchange rate used here is the ‘blue’ rate: USD $1= 14 ARS (December 2015)).
How to Get from Puerto Natales, Chile
to El Calafate, Argentina
Book your bus ticket out of Puerto Natales as early as you can, especially during high season: from December to February. We could have bought our ticket to El Calafate ahead of time but the lady from Bus Sur assured us that there would be no issue buying our ticket the day before. This, of course, turned out to be false as everyone continues on the Patagonian route and wants to go to El Calafate. We didn’t get on the daily 7am bus the next day but on the 6pm bus for 15,000 CHP (USD $20) per person. We arrived in El Calafate a bit after 11pm.
How to Get Around El Calafate
The town of El Calafate is easy to walk around. The only reason to go to El Calafate is to visit the impressive Perito Moreno Glacier. You have to go the main bus station to buy tickets to go to the Los Glaciares National Park. More details below.
Where to Stay in El Calafate- Hotels in El Calafate
We had no hotels reserved in El Calafate but upon arrival there were a few people waiting for tourists to offer their accommodations. A few of us followed a lady who just recently opened her ‘hospedaje‘. The accommodation was basic but it was all we needed since we were going to be back at the bus station at 7am. We paid 340 ARS (USD $24) for the room below with a private bath and breakfast included. The hostel does not have a name yet but if you are interested in this hostel, it is walking distance from the bus terminal at the corner of Los Tehuelches and Jose Pantin.
The main street is visible from the bus station in El Calafate and hostels are easily spotted if you want to look around town for better options. If you have the travel book www.GetSouth.com, there are few promotions for hostels in El Calafate.
What To Do in El Calafate- Activities in El Calafate
El Calafate is a small touristy mountain town. The main reason why people go there is to get to Los Glaciares National Park and visit the Perito Moreno Glacier: the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen.
To get to Los Glaciares, you have to take a bus from the main bus station at 8:15am, 1pm or 2pm and return is at 4pm or 7pm. You can decide to take a roundtrip ticket or one way. It takes about an hour and a half to get to Los Glaciares. There are multiple companies offering the ride and prices are the same. It costs 450ARS (USD $32) per person for a roundtrip ticket. It is recommended to sit on the left side of the bus on the way to the park for the best views. Some say going to the park in the afternoon is better as there are less people and more ice breaks off the glacier towards the end of the day. We went in the morning and saw/heard ice breaking off the glacier every 20 minutes.
The entrance fee to the park is 260ARS (USD $19) per person – collected on the bus upon arrival at the park. You can pay by card or cash. There are several options to view the glacier. You can either hop off at the first bus stop and get on a reserved boat tour, get off at the second bus stop and get on a one hour boat ride without a reservation (cost is 250ARS or USD $18) or at the last stop to the viewing platform (free), where you can walk around to view the glacier from different sides. This is the best and closest view of the glacier. Boats can’t get too close in case a big chunk of ice falls off.
It is extremely cold at the glacier so dress accordingly. When we were there, it was windy, chilly and rainy.
Consider packing a picnic in front of the glacier if you don’t want to pay a higher price at the cafeteria by the viewing platform. We were not allowed to eat our own food in the cafeteria, which is strictly enforced.
From El Calafate to El Chalten by bus
There are buses leaving the main bus station at 4pm to El Chalten. If you only want to stay one day in El Calafate, you have to get back from the Glacier on the 4pm bus, arrive at the bus station between 5-5:30pm to catch the 6pm bus from El Chalten Travel. This bus will arrive in El Chalten at 9pm.
What else did you do in El Calafate? Share your experiences with us! We love to hear from you!
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Thanks for this useful post. We are trying to plan a similar trip (next week!!) and it’s useful to know that you can go straight from one bus to the other. Did you take your bags with you the whole day, or did you leave them somewhere? Were there places open to eat in El Chalten when you arrived?
Hi Ruth! Thanks for reading and glad you found the information useful! We did take our bags with us, we travel with school size backpacks which made it easier. You may be able to leave them with a shop owner or cafeteria at the viewing platform inside the park, we didn’t try but it’s worth to ask. We arrived in El Chalten on Christmas Eve so most places were closed but there are restaurants walking distance from the bus station which I think would still be open. Hope this helps! Have an amazing time in both cities, they are beautiful 🙂
Impressive! would love to visit Perito Moreno Glacier soon! Just got back from ayahuasca retreat in colombia by http://eaglecondoralliance.com/
Thanks, Kevin! Yes, if you can, the Perito Moreno Glacier is a beautiful place to visit. Happy Travels! xx
Hi! Your pics of the glacier look awesome. Were they all taken from the viewing platform? Trying to decide if I should take a boat ride or even to a trekking tour on the glacier.
Which 6pm bus did you take? I couldn’t find any night buses. We’re looking to leave after 6:30pm after coming back from our last W hike and want to make it to el calafate by night.
sorry i meant we are looking to leave after 4:30 from Puerto Natales and looking for a bus that leaves that late going to El Calafate
Wow, this looks like an outstanding place. I’ve been to South America for the first time last year and I already plan to go back. Seeing the Perito Moreno Glacier is high on my wish-list! 🙂
Oh it is well worth it to go, it is breathtaking! Enjoy and safe travels!