Gay City Guide
To my surprise, this small town of 20,000 residents has a vivid, strong, and established queer community. They even have their own Casino. Although locals are never there, they personally dislike the casino and wish it gone, the place is popular for rich tourists that come every year to this land of ice. Lots of gay and lesbian couples have come here and settled into their love nests for good. Like my mom always said to me, “You gays always organize.” Well, I’m proud to say that our brothers and sisters have picked one of the most beautiful places on earth for retirement, and you should go as soon as you can. The ice is melting 🙁
This book bar is the ultimate intellectual, sexy experience in charming Calafate. Live music on the weekends. Chill, relaxed atmosphere during the days. Not because of the books, the crowd comes to enjoy one of the best craft beers of the region; our queer and smart peeps. Had amazing conversations here with a local gay couple that had been living in the town for the last six years.
The only brewpub in el Calafate, it is run by young, local Argentinians that are incredible passionate about their beer. This cool and trendy restaurant/bar has an expansive floor plan with an incredible beer list, including their own house-brewed beers, all of which are really good. The menu includes sandwiches, entrees, and tapas. The atmosphere stays in flux, going from quiet, to packed, to steady, to lively all day.
This is the favorite spot for the local queers when they want to relax, drink, and eat on the cold nights of El Calafate. I had a lovely time at this bar. Really friendly staff, and during the afternoon the panoramic view that it offers is stunning. If you drink, you have to try the daiquiri, the locals’ favorite cocktail.
The backpackers go-to pub is popular with the younger crowds of el Calafate as well. The bar gets pretty packed any day of the week. Over the weekends they bring local bands and DJs. This is the closest that El Calafate gets to having a dance party pub. It is an ideal place to meet other backpackers and socialize after a day of hiking the ice.
Top 3 Hotels
This country lodge with only 17 rooms is the top of luxury in the area, being the only 5 star hotel. Stunning interiors, comfortable and spacious like the ancient Patagonian “estancias”, but benefiting from the modern comforts, with floor-to-ceiling windows you will not miss out on the day even from the inside. Eolo boasts a staff who have already lived in Patagonia, thus knowing the area, its customs, and its history.
Boasting an indoor swimming pool, spa facilities, and impressive views of the scenery from every room, EOLO has chic accommodation in Calafate. Wi-Fi is free and Perito Moreno Glaciar is a 1-hour drive. The 10,000 acre property is a paradise for horseback riding, mountain bike rides, trekking, bird watching and, of course, to fully enjoy the subtle elegance of the installations. Best rate $1,650 USD
I loved my stay at Design suites. Offering an indoor swimming pool, a sauna room, and spa facilities, Design Suites Calafate has chic décor only 3 km from downtown Calafate. They have an hourly shuttle between the hotel and town. I walked every day and loved that hike, especially at night when you can see the Milky Way in all its splendor. The gym and the spa are the two most popular facilities.
Design Calafate’s rooms are equipped with large windows from ceiling to floor, allowing plenty of light, and feature flat-screen cable TVs. Some suites feature spa baths and scenic views of the lake. The on-site á la carte restaurant and a bar provide meals and drinks from the morning until late at night and it was really tasty. Best rate $275 USD
The best option if visiting el Calafate with family or friends, these boutique, full-service apartments are nothing short of magnificent. Each apartment comes with 3 king size beds, comfortably hosting 6 people. The apartments are located just one kilometer from central El Calafate. Its warm rooms feature Hispanic-American art and panoramic views of Lake Argentino.
The apartments and bungalows at Los Ponchos have chic and modern decor. Every room is equipped with a modern kitchen, a living area, and satellite TV. Ponchos is also ideally located for exploring the mountains, forests, and glaciers of this Patagonian region. Best Rate $350 USD
Top 3 Restaurants
The oldest restaurant in town, since 1968 they have mastered the kitchen craft, and was without a doubt one of my best culinary experiences, not only in Argentina but in all of South America. The signature dish in the region is The Patagonian lamb, and there’s no better place in Calafate to try it. It literally melted in my mouth, the tenderness and perfect flavor was a stimulating experience for all my senses. Every single course was crafted to perfection, from the empanadas to the delicious dessert. The waiter was very knowledgeable and recommended the perfect wine to accompany the selection of platters we had chosen. Don’t leave town without trying La Tablita.
This is a typical Patagonian gastronomic proposal, accompanied by great wines of the country and a carefully designed cocktail bar. The atmosphere of the place was as novel and amusing as the food. Excellent attention by the staff, and the food was of a first class quality. In Zaina, they have perfectly blended the Patagonian traditional kitchen with a touch of the contemporary. Tender meats cooked to perfection and tasty dessert menu. I highly recommend the tasting ice cream menu. Delicious!
Not a fine dining restaurant but as tasty as any, this rare gem is a total experience. Like visiting a relative, this small restaurant has a homey atmosphere will give you the impression you’re eating in someone’s dining room in an old, countryside house. With a small garden and a cosy fireplace, everything inside the place says “welcome home.” The food was exceptional, just like the wine, and I totally fell for the quiet and charming vibe.
When most of the restaurants in the area are big and can get a bit noisy, this Casa de te is a refreshing alternative. Also, it is one of the few restaurants with good options for vegans and vegetarians. It’s a cash only place, so be sure to bring it or to stop at an ATM beforehand. Another good option for vegetarians is Pura Vida Resto Bar, located on Av. del Libertador Gral. San Martín 1876; their vegan lasagna is a signature favorite dish among locals.
Everything down in Patagonia is more expensive than the northern or wine regions of the country. Good hostels start at about $350 ARS ($22 USD) range for a 4 bed mixed dorm room, instead of $14 USD that you pay in Buenos Aires. Double rooms with private bathrooms are close to $600 ARS ($45 USD). There are not many options considering it is such a small town with few roads. I keu ken is really popular with backpackers and your safest bet. America del Sur Hostel‘s fancy architecture and amazing panoramic views will make you feel you are in a luxury hotel.
They are both just a couple of blocks from downtown, the bus station, and the supermarket. The rooms are spacious and warm, and hot water runs 24 hours. Rate includes: Breakfast, bedding, cleaning, internet, lockers in the rooms, Heating radiators, super mattresses, and a very cool atmosphere. Also, they both have a full kitchen for guests all day, as well as luggage storage.
Budget hotel prices
Centrally-located hotels start around $840 ARS ($60 USD) for a double room. Most include breakfast, free WiFi, and air-conditioning and heating. There’s not a good number of Airbnb hosts here and they are usually not on budget-friendly prices, so I recommend going with a good hostel or a budget hotel like Hotel la Loma in which a single night’s rate is around $70 USD
At a regular sit down cafe a dish will be around $150-200 ARS ($10-15 USD) per dish, though you can find lunch specials at the cafes for $100 ARS ($7 USD). If you are on a real budget, my recommendation is to stick to street empanadas or choripan. They are incredibly delicious and you can find them as cheap as $1 or $2 USD. If you are looking for a really nice sit down meal with good steak and wine, expect to pay around $320 ARS ($21 USD). You can buy a week’s worth of groceries, including good wine, for around $600 ARS ($40 USD).
The bus and subway are less than $1 USD for a one-way ticket. Taxis and Ubers are incredibly cheap here, you can get a good ride for $6-9 USD
Top Things To Do
Do it from the air, from above, from inside, from any angle you can; this place is like nothing I’ve witnessed before. Tours can go from as low as $75 USD, which will include entrance to the park, transportation, and guided walk, or they can go as high as $500 USD for a all-around experience. This is one of those places that, if you have the money, you should go all out and invest in every possible tour.
There are many tour companies that can bring you to Perito, but I highly recommend the Big Ice Tour, they will tell you that the hiking is mid-level to advanced, but really the only difference between this long route and the small trek is the amount of time you walk, not the difficulty. It is the most expensive one, but it is the one that gives you the most time at the glacier. At the end of the tour you get a cold glass of whiskey with Perito’s own ice. If you want to see it from the skies, Argentina Flight Adventures will take you for $300 USD. Not even a single picture can capture its grandiosity. I will, unsuccessfully, try to show you…
UP IN THE AIR
INSIDE HIS CRYSTAL VEINS
OR WITH A GROUP
PERITO MORENO IS A WONDER AND A GIFT TO THE WORLD
Smaller than Perito but as stunning, Upsala Glacial is a large valley glacier in Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park. It flows from the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, feeding the nearby Perito Moreno Glacier. The glacier terminus is at Lago Argentino. I recommend seeing this one before seeing Perito, because after Perito nothing else will look as impressive. There is a nice tour that takes you along Lago Argentino. Best Rates for this tour are around $200 USD
Relax in Lago Argentino
This beautiful and peaceful Patagonian lake is a great spot to relax, bring a blanket and spend an entire day reading a book or having a picnic with your family and friends. There are also companies that do kayaking and water sport adventures.
Do an extreme adventure
From horse riding in the open fields to biking to hiking one of the highest mountain peaks, there are numerous day adventures that you can do to enjoy the epic scenery of El Calafate region.
Day trip to Torres del Paine
Torres del Paine National Park, in Chile’s Patagonia region, is known for its soaring mountains, bright blue icebergs that cleave from glaciers, and golden pampas (grasslands) that shelter rare wildlife such as llama-like guanacos. Some of its most iconic sites are the 3 granite towers from which the park takes its name and the horn-shaped peaks called Cuernos del Paine. There are daily tours leaving from El Calafate town, and the best rate is $250 USD for a full day excursion. If you have the money and time, Swoop Patagonia offers the most complete tour of the region with a 9-11 day Itinerary.