Get to El Calafate from El Chaltén by Bus


on: 2023-02-13

by: Ren Chiba

Quick Facts

  • Duration

    03 hours 00 minutes

  • Rating

  • Experience

    hiking, glaciers, caves

  • Best Price

    USD $ 34

  • Maximum comfort or class


  • Departures

    4 departures daily

  • Recommended by


Price may fluctuate due to seasonal demand and other market-driven and regulatory events.

The Bus Route from El Chaltén to El Calafate

Kayaking near the Upsala glacier, El Calafate, Argentina.

The scenic town of El Calafate which sits on the shores of Lago Argentino is a popular destination for travelers wanting to explore the glaciers and lakes of Patagonia, especially the famous Perito Moreno glacier. Although it's only a short bus ride away from the equally charming mountain town of El Chaltén, you may still be wondering how to get there, what to expect from the transportation options, and how to get it all arranged so you can easily get there and back. Luckily, this article will provide all the information you need to make your journey as seamless as possible!

Transportation Options to El Calafate from El Chaltén

First of all, you’re not limited to a bus. It is the cheapest, and even though they operate like buses, most of what you’ll be getting are smaller shared shuttle-type vehicles that seat small groups of passengers. The regular public buses run between El Chaltén and El Calafate every day, but of course, they are going to be a bit more crowded and will be dropping off passengers along the way.

Private shuttles are another option that will take you directly from one town to another in comfort and style on your own schedule, but they will obviously cost more than regular buses.  These private shuttles are usually cars or minivans driven by locals who know all their secret shortcuts to avoid construction or traffic buildups, plus it's always nice chatting with your driver about what life is like living in glacier country.

Be careful, there is a separate town called Perito Moreno, also on a lake, but it has nothing to do with the glacier.  Don’t go around, therefore, asking how to get to Perito Moreno as you might get advice from someone who takes you too literally and will direct you far off track!

How long does it take to reach El Calafate?

The bus ride is 3-4 hours, depending on the number of passengers on board and where they’re all getting off.  Departures are only a few per day that you can reserve online, but fortunately, they are spread out with one in the morning, another in the afternoon, and one in the evening for passengers that plan to spend the night in El Calafate before going out on adventures the next morning. El Chaltén is on the northern side of El Calafate’s twin lake, Lago Viedma, but higher up into the mountains, and then separating the two towns and lakes is a large peninsula that the bus goes around to get to El Calafate.  The scenery is incredible, so we recommend the morning bus.

If you’re electing to go on a private shuttle, you have the luxury of making the trip as short as possible, or the opposite, meaning you can ask the driver to stop where you want to take photos, visit a roadside store, or just get out and stretch your legs and breathe in the aromatic beech and cypress trees.

These are all assuming you’re traveling in the austral summer, generally between the months of October and March.  In the colder winter months, roads may not be passable and services often get canceled due to the severity of the weather.

Cost of Tickets

You can get on board one of the handful of bus companies for as little as $34 USD except on holidays and weekends when it’s a bit higher. The rate may go up and down depending on the high season versus the low season, as well as the changing and volatile exchange rate of the Argentine peso. As this is a relatively short trip, there aren’t any separate VIP cabins or choices for more deeply reclining seats.  However, all the vehicles are less than five years old and if they are using a larger bus for accommodating a larger group of passengers that day, there would be an on-board bathroom, but this is not something guaranteed because they often use smaller vehicles for this route.

For private shuttles, you can expect to pay about $268 which includes up to two passengers, but extra luggage or pickups outside business hours may add more fees.  For the benefits that private transportation brings, this is still a pretty good deal for a three-hour trip that you share with no one else and takes you from the doorstep of your hotel in El Chaltén to the doorstep of your hotel in El Calafate. 

Where to book bus tickets for El Chaltén to El Calafate

There are two options to book tickets:


Booking online is not only safe and secure, but it’s also the best option for this particular route as there is a very limited number of departures for any given day, and a further limited number of seats on each departure.  Reduce the risk of being left behind and ruining your hard-earned plans to visit El Calafate by ensuring you reserve a seat online and do it early. Just enter your search above and click Reserve Now, and we’ll send the tickets to you without you ever needing to wait to go to the bus station after you arrive in El Chaltén.

Offline (at the station)

Even though we don't recommend this option given it may be too late to get a seat by the time you visit, it’s still a viable option if you need it.  Bus stations are crowded places, and the smaller ones may or may not be open when you need them to be, and bus companies often assign vendors out on the floor to excite you about some bad deal they are offering and prevent you from going to the offices or windows.  So you have to often fight your way through the gauntlet that a terminal is, and only then sometimes have to be confronted with disappointing news at the window.  Nonetheless, if you’re doing your trip on the spur of the moment and ready to accept whatever seat or departure time is next available, then the offline option is certainly the next best thing to do online.

The four best activities in El Calafate

Kayaking near the Upsala glacier, El Calafate, Argentina.

El Calafate is not something you take lightly. We get that it will involve a lot of time and expense getting there, and maybe be the pinnacle of your life dreams to visit Patagonia. It stands to reason, therefore, you want to do as much as possible while you’re there, from glacier trekking and bird watching to kayaking and horseback riding.  The good news is that there’s something for everyone. Here are the four best activities to do in El Calafate:

#1. Glacier trekking

El Calafate is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Los Glaciares National Park, which contains some of the most stunning glaciers in South America, including the renowned Perito Moreno Glacier, but also some incredible but perhaps unfamiliar glaciers like Upsala or Spegazzini. Perito Moreno itself is easily accessible, and you can view it from a platform that hovers over the glacier, or get a boat tour that navigates even closer. Trekking on the glacier is a thrilling activity for those wanting a more extreme adventure. There are a variety of options for glacier trekking, from day trips to multi-day treks. You’ll get the chance to explore the icy landscape, take in stunning views, and enjoy some of the most beautiful nature in the world. 

#2. Kayaking

Another great activity to do in El Calafate is kayaking. The town sits right on the shores of Lake Argentino, which is an ideal spot for kayaking, with plenty of coves and bays to explore and glide around icebergs that have separated from the glacier in the Tempano channel. You can explore the lake on your own or take a guided tour, but be aware that entering the Los Glaciares park area requires an additional fee of about $30 USD per person. Beyond the lake itself, there are great kayaking routes up the La Leone river. You don’t need to bring your own kayak or gear.  Everything can be rented from local provisioners in town.

#3. Bird watching

You would think that El Calafate is too cold for birds, but you’d be very wrong. It attracts an enormous variety of bird species, from Andean condors to Chilean flamingos. This is not lost on avid bird watchers, and El Calafate is fully equipped to guide you to see a kaleidoscope of our avian friends, especially to Laguna Nimez.  Especially in the summer months, you can find a good number of bird-watching tours, from half-day tours to multi-day tours. You’ll get the chance to spot some of the local species, as well as some migratory birds.

#4. Walichu Caves

Right outside the town, you’ll find Punta Walichu, which is the location of a series of caves you can walk through, even with provided audio guides to interpret what you’re seeing.  The Walichu caves contain paintings drawn on the walls that date back 4000 years, depicting non-human deities in human form, animal trails, hands in positive and negative, and labyrinth designs resembling those seen in Australia.  Outside the caves, curators have created a replica of a Chenke or Tehuelche Tomb to give you an idea of the ancient culture and spirituality that inhabited these lands many centuries ago and some of which are still observed in today’s indigenous communities of the area.


The bus ride from El Chaltén to El Calafate is a great way to see the Patagonia region for travelers who have just visited the mighty peaks of El Chalten and looking for the next opportunity not so far away. It only takes three hours, and you can utilize the most economic option of a bus or arrange for a private transfer for yourself or your group.

Route Map

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are there other well-known places I can get to El Calafate from?
Yes, Rio Gallegos is only four hours away directly to the east, and is also accessible by bus, which is a great way to get to El Calafate from the Atlantic seashore.
Is there anything to do inside the city of El Calafate?
Try out visiting an ice bar. There are a few of them in town, offering visitors an experience to enjoy libations while sitting on furniture fashioned from ice. Yes, dress warmly!
How frequent are the return trips from El Calafate to El Chaltén?
Buses return to El Chaltén four times daily, ranging from 8 in the morning to 6 at night.
What are the ticket policies?
It depends on the carrier you choose, but their specific policies can be previewed during checkout or in the summaries printed on your ticket email. For a general overview, see the Ticket Policy page.

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