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Puerto Natales To El Calafate







Looking through the bus window towards the Patagonian mountains in the distance as we traveled between Puerto Natales and El Calafate.

Intro: Our 5-hour bus ride between Puerto Natales and El Calafate was over before we knew it, with an efficient departure, a straight-forward border crossing and comfortable seats to catch up on a bit of sleep.

Before I write about our experience taking the bus from Puerto Natales in Chile, over the border to Argentina and El Calafate, I have to thank the owners of Pire Mapu Cottage for their help in securing us the tickets. We had decided to stay at Bren and Fabiana’s gorgeous B&B in Puerto Natales, but I had been having difficulty contacting the Cootra Bus Company by telephone. We wanted to make our return trip from El Calafate to Puerto Natales on a Sunday, and they were one of the few companies who would be operating.

The seats on the bus were very comfortable and reclinable, enabling us to get a bit of rest between Puerto Natales and El Calafate.

Because it was going to be peak season, and there was a real chance that tickets would sell out, Bren and Fabiana actually purchased the return tickets for us, even before we had paid any money for them or our accommodation. We not only appreciated that they went out of their way to buy the tickets, but that they did it with so much trust.

Passing through a residential area as we arrived into Provincia de Santa Cruz in Argentina.

So back to the journey itself! It was about a 5-hour bus trip between Puerto Natales and El Calafate, but it really didn’t seem that long. Perhaps it was because it was a new route for us (or that we were still quite tired from our 9-day “O” circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park), but before we knew it we were over the border in Argentina and arriving into the tourist hub of El Calafate.

Our Cootra bus pulled over at the Argentinian border while we presented our passports and filled out some paperwork.

The border crossing was all quite straightforward, we just had show our passports and fill out some paperwork, then were back on the road. The seats on the Cootra bus were really quite comfortable and reclined a fair way, and I think both of us dozed off for a little while.

After falling asleep for a little while, I woke up to this view, which stretched across a desert-like landscape to the snow-capped mountains in the distance.

I remember waking up and looking out the window to the most incredible view, with a red-tinged desert stretching into the far distance where snow-capped mountains lay. There were a few scattered clouds in the sky above and it was just such a vast vista. Seeing this made us even more excited about our upcoming visit to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.

The bus station in El Calafate is a hub for many different bus companies operating along a huge variety of routes.

When we arrived into the bus station in El Calafate, it was much like the bus station in Puerto Natales. There were multiple bus companies, each with their own ticket window, and we sought out the Cootra counter to make sure our return voyage on Sunday was all ok.

We walked around the bus station in El Calafate after arrival to check our return tickets to Puerto Natales were all ok.

Before leaving the States, I printed out some maps from Google images of Downtown El Calafate. So with our backpacks on and luggage in tow, we started the 10-minute walk to Patagonia Queen Hotel Boutique, ready to check-in, unwind and explore the town.


  • When you cross the border from one country to the next, even on a bus, you will need to go through customs and immigration.
  • If you visit Argentina, be sure to purchase your visa online and bring a copy of all the necessary paperwork to present at the customs officers.
  • Bring some snacks to munch on since the trip will take about 5 hours.
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