Traveling from Puerto Natales to El Calafate, the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park, is a 170-mile (270 km) journey. You'll be crossing from Chilean Patagonia to the Argentinian side on Route NR40, passing Torres del Paine National Park on the route. Options include private transfer, rental car, or bus, and the trip takes 4-6 hours without stops.
Since you'll be crossing borders, make sure to have your passport and documents ready. If you plan on renting a car for the trip, make sure you get the right documents needed from your car rental company—you'll need permission to cross the border with the car as well as an insurance that is valid in Argentina. Expect about an hour at the border control. You'll find great information about traveling in the Patagonia region in this article.
From El Calafate to the Los Glaciares park entrance, it will take you about 30 minutes with either a bus or a car. If you arrive by bus, there are car rental options in El Calafate which is great for exploring the area.
This 10-day Patagonia tour covers both Los Glaciares National Park and Torres del Paine, including a transfer from El Calafate to Puerto Natales.
By Rental Car or Private Transfer
Duration: 4-5 hours
You can either rent a car in Puerto Natales or wait until you reach El Calafate. This is the fastest way to travel and you can expect about 4 hours of driving and then about an hour at the border. When renting a car make sure to have valid insurance that covers driving in both Chile and Argentina.
Before leaving Puerto Natales you should fill up the gas tank and get some snacks and food for the road. The road conditions are mainly good but there are some areas where you'll come across road bumps and some heavy wind. Just drive carefully and be aware of animal life in the area. You'll probably see a lot of Guanacos—the native South American relative to the Lama, on the way.
Duration: 5-6 hours
Taking a bus takes about five to six hours and Bus-Sur is the main company to travel with. Note that the bus usually doesn't make any stops along the way so get some own food and drinks in Puerto Natales before you leave—and if you haven't finished your food by the time you reach the Argentinian border, you'll need to declare it (and often, discard it).
When you arrive at the bus station you can get a taxi, bus, or a private transfer to downtown El Calafate which takes 10-20 minutes. The buses usually leave early in the morning, and sometimes early in the afternoon as well. Book a ticket in advance and make sure to have it printed out.
By Bus and Car
Duration: 5-6 hours
Taking the bus from Puerto Natales to El Calafate and then renting a car from here lets you be comfortable, without having to go through the paperwork for crossing the border with a rental. At the same time, you will have the freedom to explore El Calafate in your own time and take trips to nearby points of interest.