So you’re wondering how to get from El Calafate to El Chalten so you can spend a few days enjoying the trekking capital of Argentina? Well, we’ve got you covered with all the information you’ll need.
El Calafate and El Chalten are two towns that are often visited in tandem. El Calafate is the gateway to the southern end of Los Glaciares National Park and the famous Perito Moreno Glacier, while El Chaltén is a trekker’s paradise with jagged mountain peaks, turquoise lakes, and winding glacial rivers in the northern end of Los Glaciares National Park. These are two of the most beautiful destinations in Patagonia!
In this transportation guide, we’ll share the different ways of getting to El Chalten, first flying into El Calafate as it’s the closest destination with an airport, and then using ground transportation to reach this remote mountain town situated in Los Glaciares National Park.
Getting from El Calafate to El Chalten
The distance from El Calafate to El Chaltén in Argentina is 210 kilometres or 130 miles. This route offers a beautiful journey with scenic views of Patagonian landscapes, including lakes, mountains, and steppes.
Flying into El Calafate
First things first, in order to reach El Chalten, you first need to fly into El Calafate.
El Chalten does not have an airport, so the only way to get there is by flying into Aeropuerto Internacional Comandante Armando Tola de El Calafate and then taking a bus, private transfer, taxi or driving your own rental car.
El Calafate receives flights from:
- Buenos Aires to El Calafate – 3 hours 15 minutes
- Bariloche to El Calafate – 1 hour 45 minutes
- Ushuaia to El Calafate – 1 hour 20 minutes
Bus from El Calafate to El Chalten
The following 3 bus companies cover the route from El Calafate to El Chalten:
- Cal Tur
- Chalten Travel Turismo
- Marga Taqsa
These 3 bus companies each offer 3-5 departures per day.
During high season, the first departure is at 8:00 am and the last departure is at 6:00 pm. I would not recommend showing up for the last bus of the day without a prior reservation as it could be sold out out or cancelled if there’s not enough demand.
El Calafate Bus Terminal is located on the outskirts of town on the corner of Calle 510 and Calle 814.
The bus journey from El Calafate to El Chalten takes approximately 2.5 to 3 hours one way depending on the bus company you choose to travel with.
It takes slightly longer than driving by car since most buses make a stop at La Leona located on National Route 40. This is a roadside rest area and country lodge where passengers can disembark, stretch their legs, use the restrooms, and buy snacks before continuing toward El Chalten.
The stop at La Leona comes 106 kilometres after leaving El Calafate or 1 hour and 18 minutes into the journey. From there, it’s another 109 kilometres to El Chalten or 1 hour and 16 minutes.
No food or beverages are served on the bus from El Calafate to El Chalten so this stop is a good opportunity to get some food, though you won’t have enough time to enjoy a sit-down meal at the restaurant.
Tip: The buses from El Calafate to El Chaltén can sell out during high season (from December to February), so booking your bus tickets in advance is a good idea.
Private transfer to El Chalten
Another way to get from El Calafate to El Chalten is via private transfer. You can arrange a pickup from El Calafate Airport or from your accommodation in El Calafate.
Depending on the size of your group, the transfer can be done in an SUV or a small shuttle bus.
The following companies offer private transfers to El Chalten:
- Las Lengas
- Ves Patagonia
If you know your return date, you can book your transfer round trip from El Calafate to El Chalten and then El Chalten to El Calafate.
Taxi to El Chalten
You can also get a taxi to drive you from El Calafate to El Chalten, however, this is the most expensive option.
I would only recommend this as a last resort if all the buses are fully sold out and taxis are the only thing available.
In that case, try to get a little group together at the bus station, fill every seat in the taxi, and split the cost evenly between travellers.
Here are some local companies in El Calafate to contact:
- Taxi Remis Calafate Viajes Turísticos
- Taxi Remis Los Andes
- Taxis Remis El Puma
- Taxi Remis Condor
Renting a car in El Calafate
If you prefer to self-drive and have a vehicle for the duration of your trip, you can pick up a rental car upon landing at El Calafate Airport.
One thing to keep in mind is that the majority of cars in Argentina are standard or manual transmission, so if you can only drive automatic, you’ll want to reserve a vehicle well in advance as these are few and far between. Automatic vehicles do cost more.
Even if you’re okay driving a standard vehicle, you’ll still want to reserve a car in advance if you’re travelling during the high season as the demand is quite high from December to February.
You can browse Discover Cars for up-to-date rates – they are a car rental comparison website with an aggregate search tool that helps you find the best car deals available.
These are the car rental companies you can find at El Calafate Airport if you’d prefer to check each website one by one.
Tips for driving from El Calafate to El Chalten
- You can opt to pick up your rental car at El Calafate Airport or from an agency in the town of El Calafate.
- Car rental rates vary depending on the length of the rental agreement – the longer you rent the cheaper the day rate.
- Most cars in Argentina are manual transmission, so if you can only drive automatic, you’ll need to reserve a car well in advance.
- Beware of the winds in Patagonia. You will see signs along the highway warning you of areas that are prone to strong winds. You will on occasion also encounter vehicles overturned by said winds. Drive according to the weather conditions, especially if you’re in a light vehicle.
- The road between El Calafate and El Chalten is paved and in good condition, so there is no need for a 4×4 vehicle.
- Renting a car is the best option if you want the most flexibility to move between El Calafate and El Chalten.
GROUP TOURS – If you’d rather join a group tour to travel in Argentina, check out Gadventures.
CAR RENTAL – To explore Argentina beyond the cities, the best way to do so is by renting a car. Discover Cars offers rentals across the country.
BUS TICKETS – Bus travel is a great way to see Argentina. BusBud offers numerous routes.
TRAVEL INSURANCE – Don’t leave on your trip without booking travel insurance. You can get a quote on SafetyWing.
HOTELS – Booking.com offers accommodations to suit all budgets and travel styles.
TOURS – For a variety of tours and activities, have a look at Viator.