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Gateway to the glacier: choosing your El Calafate lodge

El Calafate is a gateway to the incredible Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentine Patagonia. In keeping with its status as a major tourist destination, the area boasts a wide selection of hotels, lodges and estancias that range from perfectly comfortable to ineffably luxurious; from seamlessly modern to ruggedly authentic. Read on to find out which one is right for you.

Eolo – Understated luxury

Combining the rustic charm of traditional Patagonian settler architecture with all the modern creature comforts you could ask for, Eolo offers a luxury wilderness experience that’s hard to forget. Situated midway between the town of El Calafate and Glaciar Perito Moreno, the only thing this spot doesn’t have is easy access to the bars, shops and restaurants in town. Not that you’ll miss them: Eolo’s simple elegance, fantastic food and exceptional service have earned it the prestigious the Relais & Chateaux stamp of approval.

View from a room at Eolo (Photo: Supplied)

Eolo’s 17 spacious rooms offer guests a tranquil space to rest in while enjoying views of the captivating landscapes (every window in every room has incredible views) that surround the hotel, while the manicured gardens are also well worth exploring. Each room features wi-fi, a telephone and central heating – but there are no TVs so you can truly immerse yourself in the rugged wilderness of Patagonia. Eolo’s restaurant – helmed by a Michelin-starred chef – fuses modern European cuisine with native Patagonian flavors and also boasts an extremely well-stocked wine cellar (all proudly Argentinean) and an extensive cocktail menu.

Xelena – Reliable comfort

If you want seamless comfort close to town, this solid 4-star spot is far and away your best bet. Situated on the banks of the Lago Argentino, but only a 5-minute (free) shuttle ride from town, Xelena’s rooms are spread across six different categories (from city/lake view all the way up to presidential suite) but you can expect king size beds, TVs wi-fi and minibars. All rooms feature private Jacuzzis and there’s also a really great indoor/outdoor pool with incredible views.  The spa comes highly recommended and the hotel restaurant is well known for pushing the envelope with inventive, modern takes on local ingredients.

The Spa at Xelena (Photo: Supplied)

Kosten Aike – Quality and convenience

While not quite as flashy as Eolo, Kosten Aike Hotel offers excellent value-for-money and convenience. It’s situated a short walk from El Calafate’s shops, restaurants and main plaza. While the rooms are slightly outdated, they are spacious, well-furnished and entirely comfortable. With triple and quadruple rooms (in addition to regular suites) and a very well-equipped games room, this hotel is ideal for families. All the rooms have cable TV, spa baths and minibars and there’s also a gym, spa and sauna in the attic. The hotel has two restaurants (one of which specialises in traditional Patagonian fare like cordero patagónico aka slow roast lamb) and a very cosy bar.

Relaxing spaces at Kosten Aike (Photo: Supplied)

Estancia Cristina – a remote and unique experience

It doesn’t get more authentic than this 100-year-old estancia, that’s accessible only via a spectacular 3 to 4-hour boat ride past icebergs and glaciers. Everyone who visits El Calafate with SA Expeditions goes on a day tour to Estancia Cristina, but those who really want to soak up the spirit of The Whispering Land should consider the 5 Day Patagonia Estancia Tour which includes a two night stay at the estancia (we can also add this on to other itineraries by request).

Estancia Cristina Lodge (Photo: Supplied)

Estancia Cristina’s 20 luxurious rooms are located in 5 cabins set against a mountain backdrop that belies description. Accommodation is on a full board basis (the food is wonderfully hearty) and there’s a whole host of activities to choose from: depending on your fitness and inclination you can go on guided 4 x 4 adventures, mountain biking trips, fly-fishing excursions (the salmon and rainbow trout are huge) and horseback rides in the untouched Patagonian steppe.

Experiencing Patagonia

Estancia Cristina isn’t a hotel, it’s a way of life that’s hardly changed since 1914. The rough weather down south means that the lodge is only open from October 15th until April 15th and the estancia’s remote location means you’ll need to spend a night in El Calafate both before and after your visit

Aguas Arriba Lodge – natural and rustic

Located a four-hour drive to the North of El Calafate in the extremely beautiful mountain region of El Chalten, this 6-room, eco-luxury lodge enjoys a fantastic lakeside location (the water is so nearby you can spy trout from your room!) with mesmerising views of several glaciers and Mount Fitz Roy, Argentina’s answer to Torres del Paine. Not everyone has the time to include this sort of place on their itinerary, but those who make the effort are never disappointed. Whether you want to unwind with a good book in front a crackling fire, or if you’re more inclined to go trekking in the boundless mountains or fly-fishing in the nearby lakes and rivers, Aguas Arriba offers a delightful interlude to modern life. The food alone – much of it sourced from the on-site veggie garden and made using ‘grandma’s recipes – is worth the journey.

Aguas Arriba Lodge (Photo: Supplied)

Can’t wait to see Perito Moreno Glacier for yourself? Check out our Patagonia tours and contact one of our Destination Experts to sign up for the experience of a lifetime.

The cover image of this blog shows Eolo and its magnificently wild setting (Image: Supplied).

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