A Travel Price Comparison for Families, Couples, and Backpackers El Calafate vs. La Serena for Vacations, Tours, and Honeymoons

Should you visit El Calafate or La Serena?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit El Calafate or La Serena? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

Where Should I go: El Calafate or La Serena?

El Calafate

Located in Patagonia, El Calafate has become a popular tourist destination in Argentina because of its beautiful setting on the stunningly blue Lago Argentina. The town sits on the southern border of the lake in the southwestern part of the Santa Cruz Province. It's about 320 kilometers from Rio Gallegos.

The rise in popularity of Patagonia as a tourist destination has truly put this small town on the map. You'll find no shortage of trekkers in the town and it makes an excellent base to explore different parts of the Los Glaciares National Park. Popular places to visit include Perito Moreno Glacier, Cerro Chalten, and Cerro Torre.

El Calafate has a cold semi-arid climate. The summers are cool to warm and very dry while the winters are cold and damp. Lago Argentino has a significant influence over the town's climate. The shallow bay where the town is located is usually frozen during the winter months.

Check out our ultimate guide to Hiking in Patagonia.

La Serena

La Serena is a charming town in Northern Chile. It is Chile's second-oldest city and the thriving capital of Region IV. With its beautiful architecture, its long golden shoreline, dignified stone churches, tree-shaded avenues and pretty plazas, La Serena has everything you could ask for!

Chileans on holidays flood in the city in January and February, though it is fairly peaceful outside the summer rush. Some of the city's architecture is from the colonial era, but most is actually neocolonial thanks to president Gabriel Gonzalez Videla, born in La Serena, and her 'Plan Serena' of the late 1940s.

For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best Hiking & Trekking Tours in Argentina, The Best Adventure Tours to Argentina, The Best Sightseeing Tours in Chile, and The Best Vineyard & Wine Tours in Chile.


Which place is cheaper, La Serena or El Calafate?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in El Calafate is $10, while the average daily cost in La Serena is $87. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for El Calafate and La Serena in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    El Calafate $3.42
    La Serena $42
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    El Calafate $6.84
    La Serena $84
Compare Hotels in El Calafate and La Serena

Looking for a hotel in El Calafate or La Serena? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in El Calafate


Hotels in La Serena


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: El Calafate Hotel Prices and La Serena Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    El Calafate $3.53
    La Serena $20
Typical Local Transportation Prices in El Calafate

Here are some examples of typical transportation prices from actual travelers in El Calafate:


  • Taxi
    $1.39

Hired Cars and Shuttles in El Calafate

Also for El Calafate, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Transfer from the airport to your hotel in El Calafate: $14
  • Shared transfer to El Calafate -El Chaltén: $75
  • Shared Transfer from El Calafate Airport to downtown Hotel: $15
  • Shared Transfer Airport-Hotel-Airport (Calafate): $32
  • Roundtrip transfer in Private Car from Calafate Airport (FTE)- Calafate City: $49
  • Round trip transfer to Moreno Glacier: $50
  • Private Transfer Hotel-Bus Station or Bus Station-Hotel (Calafate): $35
  • Excursion to the Perito Moreno Glacier, with guide and transfer to / from the hotel: $60
  • Transfers Between Airport and Hotels: $12
  • Private Airport Transfer: $64
  • Perito Moreno Glacier Mini Trek with Transfer: $456
  • Laguna de Los Tres Transfer & Self-Guided Hike: $101

Is it cheaper to fly into El Calafate or La Serena?

Prices for flights to both La Serena and El Calafate change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    El Calafate $3.71
    La Serena $27
Typical Food Prices in El Calafate

For El Calafate, here are some examples of average food and meal prices for travelers:


  • Dessert
    $0.01
  • Dinner
    $1.81
  • Dinner
    $1.07

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in El Calafate

For El Calafate, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Argentine Dinner with Live Music Folklore -Estancia 25 de Mayo: $48
  • Country Afternoon with Dinner Show - Estancia 25 de Mayo: $100
  • Estancia 25 de Mayo Tour with Dinner & Transfer: $126
  • Lakes and Caves Tour with Dinner: $138
  • Estancia 25 de Mayo Experience with Dinner from Calafate: $155
  • Estancia 25 de Mayo in El Calafate - PM visit with dinner: $186

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    El Calafate $3.71
    La Serena $24
Typical Entertainment Prices in El Calafate

Below are a few sample prices from actual travelers for El Calafate's activities, tours, and tickets:


  • Glacerium Museum
    $1.39

Tours and Activities in El Calafate

For El Calafate, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • Argentine Cuisine Experience in El Calafate: $65
  • CALAFATE: Panoramic tour: The best balconies of Calafate: $190
  • Cañadón Experience: $189
  • Calafate City Tour with Walichu Caves: $78
  • Chalten Full Day Trekking Experience - Laguna de los Tres: $180
  • Darwin Experience - kayaks & adventure: $230
  • Discover La Leona Petrified Forest: Guided Hiking Tour: $190
  • El Calafate Balconies Experience - Tour in FWD vehicle: $192
  • El Calafate Balconies Experience - Tour in FWD vehicle: $164
  • El Calafate Balconies Experience: 3-Hour 4WD Tour: $117
  • El Calafate Balcony in 4WD Experience: $169
  • El Calafate Balcony in 4WD Experience with Optional Quads: $121

Tours and Activities in La Serena

For La Serena, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • Tour to the internationally renowned Pangue Observatory: $139
  • Dama Island or Chañaral Navigation Tour Humboldt Penguin Reserve: $140
  • Elqui Valley Full Day Tour: magical towns, pisco and mountains: $85
  • Elqui Valley Grand-Tour: $189
  • Elqui Valley Tour from La Serena: $120
  • Elqui Valley and Vicuña Private Tour Including Lunch: $183
  • Elqui Valley: Pisco Tour, Wine, Beer: $174
  • Full Day History and Flavors Tour in the Elqui Valley: $50
  • La Serena & Coquimbo City Tour - Short excursion for cruise ships: $128
  • La Serena and Coquimbo City Tour (SIB): $66
  • La Serena and Coquimbo Guided City Tour: $76
  • La Serena and Coquimbo Private City Tour Including Lunch, Shore Excursion: $194

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    El Calafate $1.86
    La Serena $22
Typical Alcohol Prices in El Calafate

Below are a few samples from actual travelers for alcohol and nightlife costs in El Calafate:


  • Beer
    $0.01
  • Alcohol
    $0.37


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between El Calafate and La Serena, we can see that La Serena is more expensive. And not only is El Calafate much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to El Calafate would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in El Calafate and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in La Serena would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in La Serena than you might in El Calafate.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is El Calafate Expensive? and Is La Serena Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, El Calafate or La Serena?

La Serena has a larger population, and is about 20 times larger than the population of El Calafate. When comparing the sizes of El Calafate and La Serena, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.