El Calafate has diverse high-standard accommodations ranging from camping to five-star extravagance. Its custom-built hostels, with stylish architecture, engaging common areas with stunning views, and even restaurants and bars, far surpass the dingy no-frills reputation that the word sometimes implies. In addition to dorms, several have excellent private rooms that shame some hotels.
Occupancy rates are at all-time highs, and places that once stayed open only in summer now stay open all year. Unless otherwise indicated, prices listed below are for high season, usually October–April, but dates vary, and if business is slow, rates can be negotiable. Every place in categories over US$50 includes breakfast; less expensive places may or may not provide it. Argentine hotels, unlike those in Chile, do not discount IVA to foreign visitors.
Flanking the Arroyo Calafate, the municipal Camping El Ovejero (José Pantín s/n, tel. 02902/49-3422, campingelovejero [at] hotmail [dot] com, US$4 pp) has reopened under a private concessionaire. Fenced and forested, it has good common toilets and hot showers, and each site has its own fire pit; areas east of the creek are for walk-in campers only.
On the grounds of its namesake hospedaje, Camping Jorgito (Moyano 943, tel. 02902/49-1323, US$4 pp) is decent enough. Camping Los Dos Pinos (9 de Julio 218, tel. 02902/49-1271, www.losdospinos.com, US$4 pp plus US$2 per car) has improved and expanded.
Friendly Hospedaje Jorgito (Moyano 943, tel. 02902/49-1323, hospedajejorgito [at] cotecal [dot] com [dot] ar, US$12–16 pp) has decent multibed rooms with shared or private baths, best for small groups of friends.
Expanded Hospedaje los dos Pinos (9 de Julio 358, tel./fax 02902/49-1271, www.losdospinos.com, US$10–12 pp dorm, US$52 d) provides a variety of plain but spacious and immaculate rooms—ranging from hostel dorms to private doubles and cabañas (its tours, though, have drawn some criticism). Breakfast costs extra.
East of the arroyo, open October–mid-April, the HI affiliate Hostel del Glaciar Pioneros (Los Pioneros 251, tel./fax 02902/49-1243, www.glaciar.com, US$12–14 pp dorm, US$36–53 s, US$45–58 d) has extensive common spaces, including a large lounge with Wi-Fi, kitchen space, and laundry facilities. The higher rates are for larger and comfortable but no-frills hotel-style rooms with breakfast; it also offers its own Moreno Glacier excursions.
Under the same management, the nearly new Hostel del Glaciar Libertador (Avenida Libertador 587, tel./fax 02902/49-1792, www.glaciar.com, US$12–14 pp dorm, US$40–66 s, US$49–72 d) has 22 rooms with private baths; some are four-bed dorms, while others are twins or doubles. Both hostels offer roughly 15 percent discounts for HI members, and 30 percent low-season discounts in October and April (except for Semana Santa).
Near the old airfield, a short walk from América del Sur, the Marco Polo Inn (Calle 405 No. 82, tel. 02902/49-3899, www.marcopoloinncalafate.com, US$12–14 pp dorm, US$57–63 d, with breakfast) has opened a new hostel here to complement its others in Puerto Iguazú and Bariloche. Amenities include a kitchen, a bar, and a restaurant, and there are half a dozen private rooms in addition to the dorms.
Several hostels in the previous category also have private accommodations that are excellent values in this price range, which otherwise has few options.
On the hilltop immediately east of the municipal campground, custom-built
América del Sur Hostel (Puerto Deseado s/n, tel. 02902/49-3525, www.americahostel.com.ar, US$13 pp dorm, US$57 d) has friendly management, spectacular common spaces with panoramic views, and well-designed rooms in which the toilet and shower are separate and the vanity is outside of both. Rates include breakfast and free transfers from the bus terminal; off-season rates are about 20 percent less.
Hostería Sir Thomas (Espora 257, tel. 02902/49-2220, www.sirthomas.com.ar, US$41 s, US$48 d) is reliable; breakfast costs US$2.50 more. Reservations are advisable at the chalet-style Hospedaje Familiar Las Cabañitas (Valentín Feilberg 218, tel. 02902/49-1118, lascabanitas [at] cotecal [dot] com [dot] ar, US$40 s, US$48 d), which offers some of Calafate’s most simpático management, taking a personal interest in and responsibility for their guests.
Tidy, well-regarded Hotel Los Lagos (25 de Mayo 220, tel. 02902/49-1170, www.loslagoshotel.com.ar, US$60 d with breakfast) has come up in the world—as have its rates, which also include free Internet and Wi-Fi. The rooms, though, are on the small side.
Directly across from the América del Sur hostel, Hostería Hainén (Puerto Deseado 118, tel. 02902/49-3874, www.hosteriahainen.com, US$61 s or d) is a handsome wooden structure with wainscoted midsize rooms in soothing colors. It lacks elaborate amenities but compensates with peace and quiet (except for the nearly incessant winds at this exposed location).
Hotel Kapenke (9 de Julio 112, tel. 02902/49-1093, www.kapenke.com.ar, US$95 s, US$98 d) has added a handsome new wing to an already attractive hotel, with rates stabilizing or even dropping a bit.
Hotel Michelangelo (Gobernador Moyano 1020, tel. 02902/49-1045, www.michelangelohotel.com.ar, US$87 s, US$100 d) includes breakfast, but its restaurant draws raves for lunch or dinner as well. Some rooms are small, but the management and service are professional, and it’s now tobacco-free.
Near the old airfield, the rooms at Hostería Posta Sur (Puerto San Julián 490, tel./fax 02902/49-2406, www.hosteriapostasur.com.ar, US$100 s, US$105 d) are small for the price and some lack even closets, but it’s not a desperation choice. Off-season rates fall by half.
The hillside Hostería Kelta (Portoriero 109, tel. 02902/49-1966, www.kelta.com.ar, US$94 s, US$116 d) is a handsome hotel with views across the lake; the larger lake-view rooms are no more expensive than the smaller interior rooms, and on request, the staff will shift guests to better rooms as they open up.
At first glance, the interior of Posada Patagonia Rebelde (José R. Haro 442, tel. 02902/49-4495, www.patagoniarebelde.com, US$94–132 s, US$118–132 d) seems more a well-stocked antiques shop than a boutique hotel in a distinctive Patagonian style. Ironically, much of the recycled material that built the building came from the Buenos Aires barrio of La Boca, and its own rustic sophistication contrasts dramatically with the sophisticated design hotels elsewhere in town. Though it’s not for everyone, everyone who’s read In Patagonia is likely to love it.
New in late 2007, Patagonia Queen (Avenida Padre Agostini 49, tel. 02902/49-6701, www.patagoniaqueen.com.ar, US$165–186 s or d) is a 20-room boutique hotel done in stunning natural wood with earnest Korean-Argentine management. The rooms are only midsize, but all the baths have whirlpool tubs, and it’s tobacco-free throughout.
When El Calafate was smaller, Hotel Kau Yatún (tel. 02902/49-1259, www.kauyatun.com, US$145–260 s, US$170–260 d, with breakfast) was part of Estancia 25 de Mayo; the older part was the casco, whose suites have whirlpool tubs, fireplaces, and other amenities, including a full buffet breakfast. Note that its business address, Avenida Libertador 1190, is not the same as the property itself; the hotel is east of the arroyo and up the hill from the Albergue del Glaciar.
Upping the stakes in Calafate’s competitive hotel scene, the architecturally audacious Design Suites Calafate (Calle 94 No. 190, tel. 02902/49-4525, www.designsuites.com, US$210–275 s or d plus taxes) enjoys spectacular panoramas from a blustery bluff north of the old airfield. The higher-priced suites have lake views, while slightly smaller standard rooms face the steppe, but all rates are discriminatory against foreign visitors.
It has drawn some attention, but it’s questionable whether the midsize rooms at the Calafate Parque Hotel (7 de Diciembre and Gobernador Gregores, tel. 02902/49-2970, www.calafateparquehotel.com.ar, US$236–472 s or d) justify the rack rates. The facilities, including a third-floor gym and spa as well as a fairly elaborate restaurant, are good enough, but does it justify more than double the price of, say, the Hainén (admittedly with fewer amenities)? Discounted rates may be possible through its website.
New in 2005, atop a hill near the eastern approach to town, the upper-midsize rooms at Hotel Alto Calafate (RP 11 s/n, tel. 02902/49-4110, www.hotelaltocalafate.com.ar, US$247 s or d) command views of the entire Lago Argentino basin and the Andes to the southwest, or of the “Balcón de Calafate” that rises immediately behind it. The service is exemplary, and its bar-restaurant precludes the need to dine or drink in town (though a free hourly shuttle is available). There are no neighbors to make any noise, but the wind can wail at this exposed location.
In a sense, every room is a presidential suite at Casa Los Sauces (Los Gauchos 1352, tel. 2902/49-5854, www.casalossauces.com, from US$1,200 d), as it’s the property of President Cristina Fernández and her husband, ex-President Néstor Kirchner. It 36 rooms, in several buildings over three willow-studded hectares, adjoin the presidential weekend house, and the rates seem more suitable for kings.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition