El Calafate, Argentina is a pleasant city on a big lake in Patagonia, but the reason most travelers stop there is because of what’s nearby when they leave the airport. This is the gateway to Perito Moreno glacier–that huge one that calves into Lago Argentino–plus the El Chalten hiking paradise a few hours to the south. You might want to stick around though after seeing how nice the Esplendor El Calafate Hotel is.
I was looking for a place to cash in some hotel loyalty program points since I knew we would only have one night in the city after landing. There aren’t many chain hotels in this remote region, so I was happy to see that Wyndham had a property here. I booked this hotel without paying too much attention to the photos, figuring it would be decent enough for a good night’s sleep before taking off for El Chalten a few hours away in the morning.
We got quite a surprise to the upside, however. I knew from the booking experience that Esplendor Calafate was high on a hill and that it would have a nice view, but I didn’t realize how great that view would be. The hotel looks out over the town, across one of the largest lakes in South America, and to the Andes Mountains beyond.
Esplendor El Calafate Public Areas
The lobby of this Calafate hotel is really inviting and not just furnished in a vague international standard modern decor, which is what I usually expect from a Wyndham chain hotel. This one has a real sense of place, with sheepskin rugs, antler light fixtures, and upscale decorative items made in the region. It’s a space that’s filled with natural light and drama, the kind of lobby where you actually want to sit and talk in or pose for a selfie, not the kind of lobby that could be almost anywhere.
The furniture is straight out of a design magazine instead of a hotel supply catalog, but it’s a comfortable place to relax, with an area in the back where you can set up at a desk or a table if needed.
Off to the side is a lobby lounge bar, which serves some Argentine wine and even a craft beer or two along with a variety of cocktail selections. It is similarly styled as the lobby, with more antler chandeliers, but with stools covered with sheepskins reminding you of the area’s farming history. Some of the tables are made from reclaimed wood from wind-battered farmhouses.
Down some steps from that is an attractive restaurant. We went out for dinner to explore the town of El Calafate the night we arrived, but we had breakfast at the Esplendor before taking off on our journey and it was a good way to start the day. Included in the rates, it’s a buffet breakfast with a few hot items, a variety of breads and fruits, and good tea or coffee.
During our stay the breakfast staffers were a bit “in the weeds,” having trouble keeping up with replenishing buffet items, but we chalked that up to just getting crowds back after being closed down for so long during the Covid pandemic. At night the restaurant gets more formal and features Patagonian specialties from an a la carte menu.
It’s quite cold and windy much of the year in Patagonia so the swimming pool here is indoors and heated. It’s a long rectangle meant more for swimming laps than splashing around, but it does have some lounge furniture around it.
If you come here after a hiking adventure instead of before, it would make sense to book a treatment at the spa. There’s a menu of different massages to get you loosened up. The hotel also has a sauna, though you may have to plan ahead to get them to turn it on to warm it up.
There are plenty of diversions around El Calafate if you have time to get out and about: brewpubs, shopping, lake adventures, and birdwatching for a start. You might want to walk down to town and then take a taxi back if you’re not feeling in great shape: it’s uphill all the way on the return.
You could use this hotel as a base to visit Perito Merino Glacier (70 kilometers away), the glacier museum a few miles away, or even take a day trip out to the Nibeko Aike working ranch that you can stay at or just experience for the day.
Guest Quarters and Suites
Because I have elite status with Wyndham, I got lucky and was upgraded to a suite, which was sweet indeed. Take a look at that bathtub!
Our suite at Esplendor El Calafate had a spacious bedroom, then a separate living room with two separate sitting areas and a desk in between. It’s a great setup for just relaxing on vacation or catching up on some last-minute work before heading off the grid for a while.
All the rooms here have a great view, however, either toward a mountain range or the lake, with no obstructions in between. You’ll note in that photo below that there are blackout curtains with a portal opening in them. The sun is so intense here at times and the hotel is so exposed that it’s best to keep the curtains closed when the sun is shining right on the room. These small openings let some natural light in, however.
As with the public areas, there are reminders all over of where you’ve landed and the design is so different than most chain hotels that you feel like you’re in an independent boutique property instead. With lots of natural materials, earth tones, and Patagonian decorative touches, the feeling is soothing and aesthetically pleasing.
Amenities are numerous, from cable TVs, safes, and included Wi-Fi to minibars and comfortable baths with quality toiletry items.
Booking a Stay at Wyndham Esplendor in Patagonia
Rates at the Esplendor by Wyndham Calafate start a shade below $150 if it’s not peak season and can hit close to $400 for a suite in January through March, the height of summer in Patagonia. I expect that many of the guests are getting group rates since they’re on an organized tour. If you cash in Wyndham Rewards points as I did, it will only set you back 15,000 points, which is a great deal.
You can book direct through Wyndham or check rates at Hotels.com if you’re not a loyalty member. You get the included Wi-Fi regardless here, plus parking and breakfast are included. If you’re a foreigner holding a passport from outside Argentina, you’re not subject to the VAT tax and there’s no dreaded resort fee.
Review and photos by editor Tim Leffel, who stayed at the Esplendor Calafate hotel for one night after cashing in loyalty points. As always, all opinions are his own.