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Welcome to Patagonia. While El Calafate exists solely to cater to tourists, it’s still a must-visit if you can swing the expense. Other than touring the glaciers, there is not much to do here. Expect to pay prices 100% greater than what you’d find in cities.
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A must see is the six-hour tour to see the amazing Perito Moreno Glacier, with an optional boat ride to get up close. You also get to watch huge pieces of ice fall from the lookout patio. Lots of tours can take you there but Always Glaciers is competent. Also recommended is the full day Upsala tour to view several other glaciers. It’s a bit touristy though, with the screaming four-year-olds and old people shoving you for a picture. Don’t bother with the Torres del Paine (Chile) day trip because 95% of the time you sit on the bus looking out the window. For hiking, hop on a four hour bus to El Chantel.
For food try the Il Postino pasta place on 9 de Julio between Av Libertador and Gregores. Next to that is a bakery for cheap breakfast and next to that is a grocery store, but bring your own plastic bags (weird, I know). Internet around town is slow and expensive.
Pretty dead but there are a couple watering holes off the main strip.
Calafate Hostel (Moyano 1226)
$10/night for dorm. The only thing that makes this hostel bearable the funny German guy who works the front desk. He will go out of his way to help make an itinerary for you and do the necessary bookings. Overall it’s a loser because of a serious bed bug infestation. Hostel itself is huge and modern with comfortable 4 and 6-bed dorms. Breakfast and internet are extra.
Other Cities In Argentina
If you're only going to visit only Argentina then I recommend you get this guide, which is far more detailed than the continental guide below, with options that cater to a range of budgets instead of only the shoestring backpacking crowd. Also it gives more respectable treatment to small cities and towns that the larger guide breezes over with a paragraph or two.
South America On A Shoestring Guidebook
This is the guidebook that I used in my six month trip in South America. The maps are excellent, the information is complete and thorough, and the reviews are accurate, which is why it's often called "the bible" by many travelers. The only problem is that everyone else has this book so if you are the type of person that wants to hit the isolated small towns you will be disappointed. My advice is to use this book for its maps and information on getting from city to city, but talk to the locals and other travelers for those isolated gems that Lonely Planet for some reason didn't find worthy to include.
Spanish For Beginners
My copy of this book is so beat up and weathered it's disintegrating before my eyes. I took it with me to South America because I loved how it was organized in a logical way that kept me motivated to keep studying. Lessons start short and easy and increase in complexity as you tackle frustrating readings that help take you to the next level. The only downside of this book is that it was originally published in 1957 so some of the vocabulary is very dated. Still, you'll be hard-pressed to find a modern equivalent of this book whose teachings approach the same quality. Last time I checked you can grab a used copy from Amazon for less than a dollar.
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