Like Puerto Natales is a gateway to Torres del Paine National Park, El Calafate seems to be a gateway to Patagonia. I think because it has an airport it is the hub to Chalten and Puerto Natales.
Over the course of our trip, we stayed in El Calafate 5 nights but no more than 2 in a row. We learned the Calafate bus station pretty well and learned to navigate the town.
The Perito Moreno glacier is the thing to see in Calafate. We decided to do the Mini-trekking excursion where you get to walk on the glacier using crampons. Crampons are basically spikes you attach to the bottom of your shoes that help grip the ice. It took many attempts to secure a time when they had availability and we were in town but we made it work and enjoyed it! It was a little different than I expected. For some reason I thought we were going to be on top of the glacier and it was going to be smooth and flat. Ha. The glacier is all hills and crevices. We navigated up and down and around the edge of the glacier for about a hour and half before finishing our trip with whiskey on glacier ice. Just seeing the glacier at that distance was remarkable. I highly recommend seeing the Perito Moreno glacier.
Now I’m going to highlight and review some of the hotels and restaurants we experienced. If that doesn’t interest you, I’m sorry! I just want to document our trip and am using this kind of like a journal and something that can be used for the future.
El Quijote – I discussed this one previously a little. It was the first hotel we stayed at, nothing special. It was very central and easy to walk around and walk to the bus station. It felt desolate, the staff were fine but seemed bored.
El Mana – After a day and night full of bus rides, we arrived in El Calafate after midnight and a cab driver helped us find a place to stay. We ended up here. Very uncomfortable bed, wifi didn’t work, breakfast not included and basically very minimal amenities. But, the lady at the front desk was very nice! This hotel is not central to downtown so it wasn’t convenient either. That might be why it had room for us.
Alto Calafate – This was after Torres del Paine and after El Mana when we wanted a comfy bed. Much more expensive but we slept well and had massages. It was not close to town but they offered a free shuttle that runs back and forth to downtown.
Design Suites – This was the last hotel we stayed at, and we stayed for 2 nights because we were tired of changing every day. We had a great view of the lake from our room and the hotel was beautiful. Once again more expensive and not close to town but they did offer the shuttle. On our last night we stayed in, ordered room service and I tried to watch ‘The Notebook’ in Espanol.
La Zaina – Small, dark little restaurant. We started with Pisco Sours (A traditional drink) and then shared a bottle of Malbec, a delicious salad with salmon, goat cheese and bacon with a citrus vinaigrette and then braised lamb. Everything was delicious, we loved this restaurant.
Isabel’s – We actually ate at Isabel’s twice. Our first and last meal in El Calafate. The first time we both ordered entrees and ended up with way too much food. The second time we shared and it was perfect. Their dishes come out kind of like a stew with a meat, potatoes, veggies and a wine broth. We had lamb first and then steak. The bread they give you is perfect to soak up all the extra broth.
Mi Viejo – Many of the Parillas you see around town have a window showcasing lamb being cooked. You see skewered (for lack of a better word) lamb surrounding a fire in the middle. Every now and then a guy will come and rotate the lamb so it evenly cooks on all sides. We went to Mi Viejo to try lamb cooked this way! They bring you a plate with many cuts. Todd’s favorite was the thin one with lots of skin. Overall the restaurant was good. The ambiance was a little more hectic than La Zaina and Isabel’s. It was great to try another style of cooked lamb.
On our way to Buenos Aires for the remainder of our trip!
Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to a happy and healthy 2015!