Travelers often dismiss windy Río Gallegos as merely a port and service center for Anglo-Argentine wool estancias and, more recently, the petroleum industry.
Dating from 1885, near continental Argentina’s southern tip, it has a handful of museums, historical landmarks, and other distinctive Magellanic buildings as well as a handsomely redeveloped waterfront; it’s also the gateway to one of the continent’s largest penguin colonies and several historic estancias open to visitors.
It’s no longer the main gateway to El Calafate, since construction of the new international airport there, but travelers bound for Punta Arenas (Chile) and Tierra del Fuego may have to spend the night here.
Río Gallegos (pop. about 90,000) is 696 kilometers south of Comodoro Rivadavia and 351 kilometers south of Puerto San Julián via RN 3, and 67 kilometers north of the Chilean border post of Monte Aymond. From Monte Aymond it’s another 196 kilometers to Punta Arenas or, alternatively, 571 kilometers to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego (including a ferry crossing at Primera Angostura). It’s 305 kilometers southeast of El Calafate via paved RP 5.
Getting to Río Gallegos
Air services are fewer since El Calafate’s airport opened. Overland, there are westbound bus connections to El Calafate and Parque Nacional Los Glaciares as well as the coal town of Río Turbio, and to Chile’s Puerto Natales and Parque Nacional Torres del Paine; southbound links are to Punta Arenas, Chile, and to Argentine Tierra del Fuego.
Aerolíneas Argentinas (Avenida San Martín 545, tel. 02966/42-2020) flies daily to Buenos Aires’s Aeroparque and to Ushuaia. LADE (Fagnano 53, tel. 02966/42-2316) flies northbound to Buenos Aires and intermediate towns; westbound to interior Santa Cruz Province; and southbound to Río Grande and Ushuaia.
LAN Argentina (tel. 02966/45-7189) flies to Aeroparque Sunday and Monday; for details, contact travel agencies. Once a month, Saturday LAN flights between Punta Arenas and the Falkland Islands pick up passengers here and drop them off the following week.
About two kilometers west of downtown, Río Gallegos’s Terminal de Omnibus Manuel Alvarez (Charlotte Fairchild s/n, tel. 02966/44-2159) fronts on RN 3 near Avenida Eva Perón. There are provincial, long-distance, and international services to Chile.
Daily in high season, there’s direct service to Río Grande (8 hours, US$33) and Ushuaia (12 hours, US$48), in Argentine Tierra del Fuego, with Tecni-Austral (tel. 02966/44-2447) and Transportes Marga (tel. 02966/44-2671).
El Pulgarcito (tel. 02966/44-2687, emulcebrogg [at] hotmail [dot] com) goes at 7 a.m. daily to Gobernador Gregores (5.5 hours, US$20), the quasi-gateway to Parque Nacional Perito Moreno (not the famous Moreno Glacier).
Other typical destinations, times, and fares include San Julián (5 hours, US$16), Río Turbio (5 hours, US$12), El Calafate (4 hours, US$12), Comodoro Rivadavia (11 hours, US$29–37), Trelew (16 hours, US$47–57), Puerto Madryn (17 hours, US$50–60), and Buenos Aires (36 hours, US$101–126).
Several carriers go to Punta Arenas, Chile (4 hours, US$10), including El Pingüino (tel. 02966/44-2169), Buses Ghisoni (tel. 02966/45-7047), Magallanes Tour (tel. 02966/44-2765), and Pacheco (also tel. 02966/44-2765). El Pingüino goes Tuesday and Saturday to Puerto Natales (6 hours, US$11), the gateway to Torres del Paine, but it’s also possible to bus to Río Turbio, where there are frequent shuttles to Puerto Natales.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition