El Chaltén is the hiking and trekking paradise of Argentina. The town is located at the foot of the Fitz Roy, an impressive mountain range in the Los Glaciares National Park. On clear days you can already see the impressive granite rocks halfway the road from El Calafate, an impressive view. In El Chaltén you can go for amazing day hikes, walking straight from your hotel into the mountains. But multi-day trips with overnight stays in the middle of nature and campsites are also possible. In this article I’ll tell you everything you want to know about a stay in El Chaltén, including the most beautiful hikes, activities, best time to visit and how to get there.
- Introduction to El Chaltén in Argentina
- Things to do in El Chaltén in Argentina | The best day hikes
- Short hikes in El Chaltén
- Other things to do in El Chaltén Argentina
- Restaurants in El Chaltén Argentina
- Best places to stay in El Chaltén in Argentina
- Packing list for your trekking in El Chaltén
- Best time to visit El Chaltén Argentina
- How to reach El Chaltén in Argentina
- More about Argentina
Introduction to El Chaltén in Argentina
El Chaltén in Argentina started to develop as a trekking destination from the 1980s. Today it is the place for hikers from all over the world. The village is small but has everything you need as a visitor: Small hotels, nice restaurants, coffee shops, beer and wine houses, ice cream shops, small supermarkets and travel agencies. And all located within a few streets, without feeling too touristy. During the day it is empty because everyone is hiking. But at the end of the day the terraces are filled with hikers, enjoying a drink after a day of exercizing.
Things to do in El Chaltén in Argentina | The best day hikes
All hikes start in El Chaltén, from where you walk straight into the mountains. Because the trails are clearly marked, you can easily do this on your own. Moreover, you can determine your own trail and pace, since in most cases you walk the same way there and back. And returning half way is therefore always an option. Just make sure you prepare properly, as there is nothing available along the way. I created a useful packing list at the bottom of this article.
Do you prefer going on an organised tour with a guide? Check the latest prices and availability for a trek in el Chaltén here.
Laguna de los Tres – one of the most beatiful day hikes in El Chaltén
This day hike in El Chaltén Argentina is my personal favorite but also the hardest one, since you walk 10 km to get there and then the exact same 10 km back. The last part of this trail is a tough and steep climb up. Just keep in mind that you don’t have to reach the final point to have a great day. The surroundings are beautiful and every part of this hike is worth it. Wait until you see the views of the Fitz Roy peak rising in the distance.
The 3405 meter high Fitz Roy was named after the captain of the Beagle, the ship Darwin sailed up the Santa Cruz River in the early 19th century.
Mirador and Laguna Capri
As soon as you walk out of the village, you will find several signs that lead to the starting point of the trail. The first part of the trail is steep as you gradually leave the village behind and start to ascend. Then you walk around the mountain and after about 1.5 hours you reach a mirador, the first view of the Mount Fitz Roy. From here you hike in a loop to Laguna Capri, a pretty lake. These two points are already worth it and should already give you a feeling of satisfaction. Returning to El Chaltén is now possible.
Do you want to hike further? From Laguna Capri you can continue relatively flat through woods, interspersed with open plains, to camping Poincenot within 2 hours. A new moment to decide whether to continue or go back.
The hardest part
After crossing the river, you continue for 10 minutes until you reach the start of the climb to Laguna de Los Tres. This climb is not for everyone. For an hour you go up very steeply on an irregular path with countless loose stones. And there seems to be no end to it. Every time you reach a peak, a new one is appearing in front of you.
But once you are at the top you know what you did it for: The view is stunning. You can walk down to the lake and feel the icy water or continue up another mountain for yet another view. You definitely want to walk around here for an hour and sit on a stone to enjoy.
Keep in mind: In strong winds and bad weather, the last trail towards Laguna de los Tres is too dangerous and closed.
Another beautiful day hike in El Chaltén is this one to Piedras Blancas, a large glacier located in the northern part of the Fitz Roy massif. From El Chaltén you can take a bus or taxi to get off at the Río Eléctrico. From here you walk relatively flat through beautiful forests to a viewpoint on the Piedras Blancas glacier. A beautiful photo spot. Once you arrive, you can walk back the same way or continue the trail to Poincenot (1.5 to 2 hours) and Laguna de los Tres (as described above) to El Chaltén Argentina.
Laguna Torre & Mirador Maestri
I would describe this hike as medium hard, but here too you don’t have to reach the final point to have a great day. You walk 9 kilometers to get there and then exactly the same way back. Or you return halfway at one of the viewpoints. The hike to Laguna Torre starts halfway through the village. The first part of this trail is equally tough because it takes you longer to get into the mountains and so most of the trail is ascending. But once you are up in the mountain, most parts are flat and doable.
The first impressive view you will be able to enjoy is after about 1.15 hours of hiking: Mirador Laguna Torre. Then it is about 1.5 hours to the De Agostini campsite and the glacial lake Laguna Torre, a flat walk that is very doable. Do you still have energy left and are you physically strong? Then continue your hike at least another 2 kilometers to Mirador Maestri. This trail is very steep and not always open, when there is a lot of wind. But once at the top, you have a view of the Laguna and the surrounding area. Allow plenty of time for this as well because the area is breathtakingly beautiful and you will stop several times for photos.
Keep in mind: With the above hikes in El Chaltén Argentina, it is important to leave early and keep an eye on the time during the day. Especially if you plan to go to the viewpoints of Laguna de los Tres and Mirador Maestri. You want to be back in El Chaltén before it is dark.
Short hikes in El Chaltén
Are you looking for a short hike, easy to do on your day of departure or arrival? A hike behind the visitor center in El Chaltén takes you to two viewpoints in about 45 minutes. El Mirador de los Cóndores offers views over the village and Mirador de las Aguilas over Lake Argentino. In addition, at the viewpoint you have a great chance of seeing the magical condor. Both are nice hikes in El Chaltén Argentina to get your muscles warmed up and take in the scenery around you.
Another easy walk is the one to Salto Grande, a small but lovely waterfall. The hike starts at the end of the village, which is also the starting point to Laguna de los Tres. Most of it is along the paved road but the views alone are worth it. Moreover, you can make small detours through the Patagonian vegetation on the left and right. Keep in mind that Salto Grande can also be reached by car, so it is always busy here. But it is a nice walk of less than an hour, that you can do easily on the day of arrival or departure.
Other things to do in El Chaltén Argentina
Even though El Chaltén is mainly about hiking and trekking, there are still some other activities that you can do. These are my tips for activities, other than hikes in El Chaltén.
Discover El Chaltén by horse
Don’t feel like trekking, but still want to explore El Chaltén? The area offers beautiful horseback riding trips in a morning, afternoon or whole day. There are several ranches that offer tours, such as Estancia Bonanza. From El Chaltén you will be taken to a ranch just outside the village. Depending on your experience, you will be assigned a horse and you will start the tour. You pass rivers and enjoy amazing views. Afterwards you will get acquainted with Argentine ranch life, drink your Argentine mate and have a glass of wine.
Other activities in El Chaltén include rock climbing, mountain biking and a trekking to the El Cagliero glacier, wich is pretty challenging. There are several travel agencies in El Chaltén that offer these tours.
Restaurants in El Chaltén Argentina
In El Chaltén there are many restaurants and coffee shops on the main street. Here are some of my favorite places.
- La Cerveceía – best and cosiest restaurant of El Chaltén, with small brewery.
- Maffia Trattoria – for the best homemade pastas.
- La Wafleria – if you are looking for waffles and pancakes.
- Parilla La Oveja Negra – for the best steaks.
- La Nanna, La Nieve, Matilda – for cake, coffee and other goodies.
- La Vinería – for a glass of wine in the sun.
- Cúrcuma – voor lovely vegan meals.
Best places to stay in El Chaltén in Argentina
In El Chaltén you will find hotels in different price ranges. If you have some money to spend, you want to book a night at Los Cerros del Chalten Boutique Hotel. The rooms are spacious, the beds wonderful and the views of the surroundings fantastic. In addition, you can use the spa free of charge. There is nothing better than relaxing in a spa after a day of hiking and trekking in El Chaltén.
Hotels around El Chaltén
Looking for a more isolated place, outside of El Chaltén? Hostería El Pilar is located in the mountains, near el Río Eléctrico. From here you walk to Camping Poincenot within 2 hours and further to Laguna de los Tres. A unique accommodation is Patagonia Eco Domes. Here you sleep in domes, in the middle of nature. You do have to make a bit more effort to get to the starting point of the hikes.
Spending the nights in the mountains? There are campsites like Poincenot and the Agostini, that are very basic but well located. I love to spend the night in tents during multi day hikes. But I prefer to make day hikes in Chaltén and finish the day with a good meal in a restaurant and sleep in a bed. Do you want more information about camping? You will find everything you want tto know in the El Chaltén visitor center.
Packing list for your trekking in El Chaltén
It is important to be prepared for different weather conditions during the hikes in El Chaltén in Argentina. The weather can change quickly, especially around the glacial lakes. In addition, the sun can be shining in El Chaltén, while it is raining in the mountains. Layers work best. It is also good to know that there is nothing to buy along the way. Here’s a handy packing list for your trekking adventures in El Chaltén.
- Good hiking boots
- Walking sticks
- Waterbag and bottle
- Windbreaker, hat, gloves
- Airy clothing – layers
- Sufficient food and drinks
Best time to visit El Chaltén Argentina
The best time to visit El Chaltén is in the Argentinian spring and summer, between November and February. Many trails are not accessible in winter. In addition, it is longer light in the summer, so you can hike for more hours.
How to reach El Chaltén in Argentina
El Chaltén is approximately a-3 hour drive from the town and airport in El Calafate. From Buenos Aires you can fly to El Calafate within 2 hours. Check here the prices and availability of flights with Aerolineas Argentinas, which offers the most flights within Patagonia. In El Calafate you will find many tour and transportation options to El Chaltén. But it is also easy to rent a car in El Calafate and make the journey yourself. Make sure you go out with enough petrol. There is really nothing to be found along the way. The only stop is La Leona, a restaurant in the middle of nowhere to stretch your legs or have something to eat or drink.
Check prices and availability for shared or private transportation to El Chaltén here.
El Calafate is a small town that forms the base to one of the most beautiful places that Argentina has to offer: the Perito Moreno glacier, located in the Los Glaciares National Park. Thousands of people travel to this desolate area every year to admire the beauty of the mighty glacier. In this article you will find information about visiting the Perito Moreno glacier and tips about what other things to do in and around El Calafate in Argentina.
More about Argentina
Did you enjoy reading this guide about trekking and hiking in El Chaltén in Argentina? Do you want to learn more about this beautiful country? With Passport the World I am taking you on a journey to discover Argentina. Discover more in my next articles.
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