If you’re heading to Calafate the likelihood is you’re going to end up visiting Los Glacieros National Park. But with so many tours and options available, what’s the best way of going about it?
Where to stay
We stayed at the wonderful I Keu Ken hostel which overlooks Lagos Argentino and the Andes. The hostel is accessible from the airport (30 minute drive), either by cab (which should be 300 pesos in a metered cab but the likelihood is they’ll charge you more, so share with people) or minivan which you can book with the hostel before your arrival (I travelled with the wikibus company which cost 150 pesos).
A four-bed mixed dorm at I Keu Ken will set you back 350 pesos a night but it’s well worth the price; the beds are comfy, the staff are super friendly, the facilities are clean, the common room and dining area are cosy, they have a kitchen, free breakfast is available from 6:30am (though if you’re vegan this is tricky), they have free tea throughout the day, there’s even a roast night (again tricky, but they’ll do veg) and they have not one, not two but THREE dogs!
What to bring and what to wear
As we were visiting in the summer season, we wore two to three thin layers at most. The sun was out the majority of the time, and coupled with walking around the National Park you can get a bit sweaty. That being said, we stopped to take pictures of the glacier which can get pretty windy so be sure to bring a jacket. Footwear is pretty obvious; just wear what’s comfy and practical. The walkways are easy so regular kicks are fine.
We also recommend bringing packed lunch and water as the restaurant is pretty extortionate and limited at the national park. It’s also worth packing sunblock as Matt and I caught some rays in the bad kind of way when we were out there.
Getting to Los Glacieros National Park
At I Keu Ken you can book a bus to Los Glacieros National Park which will be added to your tab and payable at the end of your stay. The price is 450 pesos for a return bus journey which picks you up from the hostel at 8am and drives you back to the bus station (which is 4 minutes walk from the hostel) at 5pm. Funnily enough, after leaving the hostel we stopped at the bus station to exchange our vouchers from the hostel for official tickets with the bus company. So alternatively, you could just go down to the bus station and head to RP bus counter on your far right as you head into the station. There are lots of companies to choose from but we went with what the hostel suggested.
The drive takes around an hour and a half and along the way you’ll get nice views of the landscape and mountains. When you arrive at a stopping point, park wardens will come onto the bus and ask you to pay a park entrance fee for 330 pesos, this is compulsory. After you pay your driver will take you into the carpark and tell you to return at 3:15pm.
To walk on the ice or to not walk on the ice?
Every single person who’s walked on the glacier told us it was good but wasn’t worth the price. A ‘mini-trek’ costs 2400 pesos, and a larger one 4000 pesos and according to some you barely have anytime to walk on the ice. Plus we weren’t really keen on traipsing over an already fragile surface.
We opted for the 50 minute boat ride instead. Tickets can be purchased at a kiosk right next to the carpark and restaurant for 400 pesos. We narrowly missed the 10:45 boat and so hopped onto the next one at 11:45 at the dock past the restaurant. The tour drives parallel to the glacier face one way and back the other. Most people stepped out on the deck so it was a tad crowded. Nevertheless, the views were stunning and watching a chunk break off the ice was terrifying tragic and exciting.
However, if you’re really trying to budget I’d say that missing a boat tour is not the end of the world. The trails run parallel to the glacier and give you stunning views from all angles. This is the more eco-friendly option that we didn’t realise was possible.
If you’re like us and choose to do the boat tour, you have more than enough time to do the trails as well. Just round the corner from the restaurant is a leisurely stroll which takes you up to platforms which overlook the main face. If you continue further up takes you round the north face – all of it is well-labelled and it’s worth taking your time as the walks are fairly short. If you exit the trail you can catch a free shuttle bus back down to the carpark but it’s a short stroll down the hill if you’ve got the time.