Should you visit El Calafate or Machu Picchu?
Should I visit El Calafate or Machu Picchu? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the data, which all comes from actual travelers.
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.
Machu Picchu is a site of ancient Inca ruins located about 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Cuzco, Peru, in the Cordillera de Vilcabamba of the Andes Mountains. It is perched above the Urubamba River valley in a narrow saddle between two sharp peaks, Machu Picchu ("Old Peak") and Huayna Picchu ("New Peak"), at an elevation of 7,710 feet (2,350 metres). One of the few major pre-Columbian ruins found nearly intact, Machu Picchu was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. Thus, Machu Picchu is not only an impressive remnant of the Inca civilization, it is also one of the world's most important archaeological sites. A stop at Machu Picchu is an essential part of any traveler's itinerary in Peru, as it is one of the seven wonders of the world.
Which city is cheaper, Machu Picchu or El Calafate?
These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.
The average daily cost (per person) in El Calafate is $67, while the average daily cost in Machu Picchu is $82. 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 city. Below is a breakdown of travel costs for El Calafate and Machu Picchu in more detail.
An average hotel room with basic furnishings costs about $46 in El Calafate For the most convenient locations and nicer amenities you can expect to pay a bit more.
Double occupancy rooms typically run around $64 in Machu Picchu For nicer amenities and a premiere location, you can expect to pay a bit more.
Food in El Calafate costs travelers about $25 per day on average. Restaurants can vary significantly in price, so choose wisely if you're trying to save money. Fast food and street stalls are typically your cheapest options, which sit down restaurants can be significantly more expensive.
While meal prices in Machu Picchu can vary, the average travelers spends about $20 per day on food. Based on the spending habits of previous travelers, when dining out, an average meal in Machu Picchu should cost around $8.00 per person. Breakfast prices are usually a little cheaper than lunch or dinner. The price of food in sit-down restaurants in Machu Picchu is often higher than fast food prices or street food prices.
Meals for one day
El Calafate $25
Machu Picchu $20
Typical Food prices in El Calafate
For El Calafate, here are some examples of average food and meal prices for travelers:
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:
Visit to Estancia Alice El Galpon, Dinner and Folkloric Show:
El Calafate's transportation costs can vary by the type of transport chosen by visitors. Naturally, taxis and private drivers cost much more than public transportation options. On average, visitors spend $23 per person, per day on transportation in El Calafate.
To get around in Machu Picchu, the average visitor spends $23 per day, per person. This includes the costs of taxi rides and private drivers as well as public transportation, which tends to be much more affordable.
Typical Local Transportation prices in El Calafate
Here are some examples of typical transportation prices from actual travelers in El Calafate:
Hired Cars and Shuttles in El Calafate
Also for El Calafate, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:
Kayak in Perito Moreno Glacier with transfers:
Kayak in Perito Moreno Glacier without transfers:
Private Transfer Airport-Hotel-Airport (Calafate):
Shared transfer to El Calafate -El Chaltén:
El Calafate Airport Private Transfer:
Bus Transfer from El Calafate to El Chalten:
Private Airport Transfer:
Private Transfer Hotel-Bus Station or Bus Station-Hotel (Calafate):
Shared Transfer Airport-Hotel-Airport (Calafate):
Transfers Between Airport and Hotels:
Hired Cars and Shuttles in Machu Picchu
Also for Machu Picchu, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:
Aguas Calientes: Bus Transfer to Machu Picchu Citadel:
Is it cheaper to fly into El Calafate or Machu Picchu?
Prices for flights to both Machu Picchu 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.
Sightseeing, admission tickets, things to do, and other entertainment expenses in El Calafate can vary widely by price. On average, visitors spend around $25 per person, per day on entertainment and sightseeing here.
In Machu Picchu, the costs for things to do, activities, admission tickets, and other sightseeing expenses are on average $58 per person, per day.
Typical Entertainment prices in El Calafate
Below are a few sample prices from actual travelers for El Calafate's activities, tours, and tickets:
Tours and Activities in El Calafate
For El Calafate, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:
"Glaciares Gourmet" - Maria Turquesa Cruiser Navigation:
13-Day Best of Patagonia Tour from El Calafate to Ushuaia: Los Glaciares, Torres del Paine and Tierra del Fuego National Parks:
2-day El Chalten Hiking Adventure Tour from El Calafate:
2-day tour: Perito Moreno Glacier + Torres del Paine National Park:
3-Day Tour of El Calafate and the Glaciers:
4 Days Tour in El Calafate & Chalten:
4-Days El Calafate Easy Going Experience:
4WD Ride tour to Cerro Frias from El Calafate:
4x4 Adventure Day Trip to Torres del Paine National Park with lunchbox:
5-Day Adventure Trip in El Calafate:
5-Days El Calafate Experience without limits!:
5-Days Pearls from Argentina and Chilean Patagonia Experience!:
Typical Entertainment prices in Machu Picchu
For Machu Picchu, here are some examples of average entertainment and activity prices from previous travelers:
Tours and Activities in Machu Picchu
Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Machu Picchu.
Admission Ticket to Machu Picchu Ruin and Mountain:
Cusco: 2-Day Humantay Lake and Machu Picchu Tour:
Cusco: 2-Day Inca Trail Tour to Machu Picchu in Small Groups:
Cusco: 2-Day Maras, Moray Salt Mines and Machu Picchu Tour:
Cusco: 6-Day Andean Jewels Experience:
From Aguas Calientes: Machu Picchu Guided Tour:
From Cusco: Full-Day Group Tour of Machu Picchu:
From Cusco: Machu Picchu Full-day Private Tour:
From Ollantaytambo: Aguas Calientes Round-Trip Train Ticket:
Huaynapicchu mountain hike + Machu Picchu entrance ticket:
Inca Jungle Trek and Mountain Bike Tour - 4 days:
LGBT-Full-Day: Luxury Tour to Machu Picchu with Panoramic train:
Typically, people visiting El Calafate spend on average $12 on alcoholic beverages per person, per day.
Alcoholic beverages can often be a significant portion of a traveler's budget, and the costs can vary greatly from person to person. In Machu Picchu, the average amount that a visitor spends on alcoholic beverages per day is $5.25.
Typical Alcohol prices in El Calafate
Below are a few samples from actual travelers for alcohol and nightlife costs in El Calafate:
Sample the Local Flavors in El Calafate
Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in El Calafate:
Calafate Wine Tour | City Tour Peatonal Maridado con Vinos:
Calafate Wine Tour:
When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between El Calafate and Machu Picchu, we can see that Machu Picchu 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 Machu Picchu would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Machu Picchu than you might in El Calafate.
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