El Calafate, the gateway to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and especially to Glaciar Perito Moreno, has all the features of a typical frontier town. The main drag, Avenida Libertador San Martin, is lined with souvenir shops, restaurants and tour operators. There is nothing much to discover once you leave this street. The road to our hotel, only 10 minutes from the center, is a dirt road, further out that there is nothing but Patagonian steppe, which means vast flat emptiness.
Since the construction of the airport in 2000 the city grew quickly from 5.000 to more than 20.000 inhabitants, with lots of new hostals springing up any which way, especially on the small hill outside the center overlooking Lago Argentino.
Picking the Hostal America del Sur was a great choice: this definitely is one of the best traveler hostals we discovered in South America in five months. It ranks among exceptional places like Posada Don Carlos in Ciudad Bolivar / Venezuela, Nega Malucca in Salvador / Brazil, La Cupula in Copacabana / Bolivia.
What makes this place so special? First, the people who run this place are very relaxed and friendly, making you immediately feel at home. They are extremely dedicated and professional and perfectly understand what travelers want and need. The rooms are very comfortable, with wide beds with good mattresses, bathroom and toilets separated. And the rooms have a fair size. But the most pleasant feature is the big lounge, with very high ceilings and a beautiful 180 degree view of Lago Argentino. This comfortable place allowed each of us to do what we wanted to do: talking to each other or to other travelers, reading our mails due to WiFi, cooking, writing postcards…
Every evening, there was Parilla for 45 Pesos or 10 Euros, an all you can eat event. There we ate the best meat we have had so far in Argentina, perfectly prepared on the barbecue outside the hotel. On top of that, the choice of salads and of vegetables was simply excellent. Wine, beer and water were included, for this reason, we always had dinner here instead of going in the village.
The hostal also booked all our tours: to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, to Glaciar Perito Moreno, half a day at an Estancia where we could watch sheep being sheered, horseback riding for the kids… Especially the transport to El Chalten turned out to be difficult, since we wanted to rent a car instead of taking the bus for a faster transfer. At this time of the year, there was simply no car available. But they managed to find us two taxis for not much more than the price of a car rental – a great help.