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El Chalten Travel Guide

El Chalten: A Hidden Wonder of Patagonia

Learn more about all the breathtaking hikes and the incredible sights you can find in El Chalten. Be sure to have a look at our special section of Patagonia Tours and our travel tips for El Chalten below. 

 

Patagonia Tours by Say Hueque Argentina Journeys El Chalten & El Calafate Tours El Chalten Travel Tips: Hiking for Beginners
Patagonia Trekking in Torres del Paine Patagonia Adventure Perito Moreno Glacier Trekking in El Chalten

 

Treks we like!

Cerro Torre

This walk can be done completely or half way (and still see the amazing landscape). The trail starts at the back of Hotel Los Cerros, pointed by a big wooden sign. The first fifteen minutes are the hardest, as it is a steep uphill. Afterwards it becomes flatter, with slight inclines and declines, but nothing too steep. After an hour and a half (or less) you will arrive at the Mirador del Cerro Torre (5 km). On clear days, you can see a big part of the massive Cerro Torre from this viewpoint, one of the hardest peaks in Patagonia to climb. 

Go trekking in El Chalten and see this amazing viewIf you still have the energy you can continue for two hours more and arrive at Laguna Torre (from the lookout point 6 Km.), where the views, the color of the water and the blue ice of the glacier will make you forget about being tired!

Laguna de los Tres

Just like Cerro Torre you can do this walk completely or just a part of it. 

There are two ways to start it:

From town, heading north, climbing uphill on the way to Laguna Capri. With this trail we go and come back on the same trail. 

The other way is to take a transfer to Estancia del Pilar, and from there start the trail. In this way our trail will have a “C” shape. From here the hike is much less steep; you will do the uphill on the way back, so that will save your time and energy! It also gives you the chance of having a different trail each direction.

It doesn’t matter where you decide to start from, as both options take you approx. 2 hours to arrive at Pioncenot Campsite. From there you can see the three most important mountains; Fitz Roy, Torre and Antoine de Saint Exupery. In the camp you can have a rest (there are latrines). If you have the energy you can do the last part of the trail and arrive to Laguna de los Tres, which is at the base of Fitz Roy. This last bit it is very demanding and tiring, but the view up there is an unforgettable experience.

 

Hiking in El Chalten to the top of Mount Fitz Roy

Short trails

El Mirador de Los Cóndores

You will climb 100mts in 1 km, it starts at the back of the Park Rangers office. It is a short uphill trail, little less than an hour, where at midday you can often see the condors circling for their food.

El Chorrillo del Salto

A small waterfall just 3 km from town. The trail is mainly flat. From here you cannot see the mountains, but there is a cascade of 20mts, and a nothofagus forest and a nice picnic area.

Mirador Las Águilas

2 km trail and a climb of 100mts. This trail starts at the same place as the Mirador de los Condores (at the back of National Park office). From there you can see Viedma Lake and Tunel Bay.

 

Not up for hiking in El Chalten? Go on a boat instead!

What if I don’t want to walk?

Lago Del Desierto

Taking the same road that goes to Estancia del Pilar, 1 hour and 40 minutes bordering the valley and the Río de las Vueltas has wonderful views to the surrounding mountains. You will arrive at this lake, protected by one of the greenest forests of the area. Here you will have the option to do a boat trip, arriving on the other side of the border with Chile. You will be allowed to do a gentle walk before heading back.

It is also a good option for bad weather days, as the views are more about the forest and lakes than in the mountains. 

Our favorite restaurants!

Dine out on your Argentina trip to El ChaltenThe addresses are indicated, but in town nobody knows the names of the streets…by asking the name of the restaurant it is going to be easier to find them, and nothing is further away than 1 km!

Fuegia

San Martín 342,Tel: (02962) 493 243. One of most popular restaurants, here the waiters are a little moody but the food is delicious. Dishes very original and well-priced.

Highly recommended: sweet potatoes blinis and nuts and Roquefort cheese salad! 

La casita

San Martín 430, Tel: (02962) 493 042. Although the owners have changed recently, this place is still the workers restaurant, also for the gauchos from the nearby estancias. That is why it is also the cheapest, homemade food and simple dishes. 

Ruca Mahuida

Lionel Terray 104, 9301. Tel: (02962) 493 018. One of most intimate spots, at the far end of town, hidden at the back of a nice garden. At this restaurant they always make a mess with the bill (check before you pay!) but the food is amazing and a very romantic style.

La Cervecería

San Martín 564, Tel: (02962) 193 109. It is the most popular restaurant in town. It is always full, not just because of its artisan beer (if you ask for Manuela she will show you how they do it!) but also because of their wonderful pizza and their homemade and generous stews, just perfect alter a long trekking day!

Patagonicus

M. de Güemes 140, Tel: (02962) 493 025. Pizza, sandwiches and hamburgers. Their palm hearts pizza is as good as any pizza place from Buenos Aires.

Estepa

Cerro Solo 86, Tel: (02962) 493 069. Good vegetarian options, pastas and calzones cooked in an earth oven…yummmy! This restaurant opens only on high season (between September and April), the rest of the year it takes orders for delivery only.

La Tapera

Antonio Rojo and Cabo García st. Tel: 493 195 Very good food, generous portions and quality. The service is excellent. The atmosphere is very warm and make you feel like home. The dishes are well presented and the desserts are delicious. Advance booking is recommended unless you want to wait for a table, it fills up fast.

La Wafleria

Av San Martín 640 Tel: 493 093. A varied menu of waffles, both sweet and savory. All of them delicious. Large portions at affordable prices. Special for a snack after walking. There are communal tables and tables for two. Also variety of juices and smoothies.

 

 

Enjoy a warm meal at a lodge in El Chalten

Important

Please, note although we update information every year, during high season some new restaurants open and some others close, so please, always check before going for dinner with the reception of your hotel.

 

Travel to Argentina for a Patagonia AdventureDirections

In the town most of the blocks are 100mts each.

There are remises that you can call from your hotel.

 

Calendar

The best time to travel to El Chaltén is from October until April. All trails are accessible without any entrance and are opened on national holidays as well. This is also the time when most people from the cities come to spend their vacation in El Chaltén.

During off season (May until September) most of the hotels and hiking trails are closed.

 

What to do if you get sick?

Being a small town health care service is not the best of the world, but you can still find assistance.

There are doctors available in town, but keep in mind that they usually don’t speak English. However, hotels normally have a list of doctors as well that can visit you at your accommodation and there is a great chance that they do speak English.

     Consultorio Médico     
    Address: Calle 12, Casa 26     
    Tel: 02962 493 219     

    Private Medical Service     
    Address: Av. del Libertador 1824     
    Tel: 02962 493 420

 

Useful telephone numbers

Calling from El Chaltén: Pay phone operate with chip cards or change (5, 10, 25, 50 cents and AR$1). You can make either short or long distance calls.

Direct International Dial-up: 00 + country code + area code + number. The international prefix for Argentina is 54 and for El Chaltén 2962. For example, to reach the 455-5555 in El Chaltén when calling from abroad, dial: 54-2962-455-5555.

Trekking in El Chalten with Say Hueque ToursEmergency numbers:

– Police: 101
– Fire Department: 100
– Medical Aid: 107

 

Helpful

A little basic Spanish goes a long way here and we recommend studying up (at least a tad) on menu translation so that you don’t end up eating the only thing you know how to order all the time. Since El Chaltén lives mainly from tourism, it’s a little easier than in other towns. Even at the supermarket you will be able to ask to the cashier a few words in English.

When trekking, do not leave the main path on the routes to take short cuts. Avoid making alternative paths, they can cause other people and yourself unnecessary problems.

 

People

The people of El Chaltén will invite you with open arms when visiting the town. Since tourism is one of their major incomes many people only live temporarily in El Chaltén, to work for about 6/8 moths, and then go back home.

 

Clothing

The weather changes all the time, as in all parts of Patagonia. The difference in this small town is that extra clothing or gear is not always available. That is why it is very recommendable to make sure you have all you need before you arrive.

Dress like an onion! Use layers. Under shirt, short sleeve T-shirt, long-sleeve T-shirt, sweater, jacket. It is the best way to make sure you won’t be cold, but also that you won’t be too hot as you keep moving!

When going out on day treks always take some food and a flashlight. You never know what could happen and it’s best to be prepared.

 

Go hiking in El Chalten and see this beautiful water

Weather

The weather in El Chaltén is very changeable. Even during the Argentine summer it can be chilly. Therefore, we recommend you to always check the weather forecast before you start hiking.

 

Animals

Within the National Park you have a great chance of spotting the South Andean deer, locally known as the huemul.Unfortunately, the huemul is an endangered species of deer native to the mountains of Argentina and Chile.

The huemul can life easily in the mountains because they are well-adapted to broken, difficult terrain due to their stocky build and short legs.

 

Visit El Chalten with Say Hueque Argentina Journeys

What not to forget

Check your camera before going. In El Chaltén nobody fixes photo cameras, and batteries and memory cards are expensive!

Tell your friends/family you won’t be connected for a couple of days. Phone calls and internet are expensive and the service is not always available.

Make sure you have extra socks. You will be basically walking every day! Laundry service can be expensive and sometimes very busy!

Take a bottle to your treks. You can refill it in the rivers and lakes!

 

Shopping

El Chaltén is a very small town and visitor mainly come for hiking the trails. Therefore, the amount of stores are limited. As well as El Calafate, El Chaltén is more expensive as other parts of Argentina.

 

Excursions

Hiking in El Chalten: The Must-Do’s El Chalten & Argentina Estancias Tour Rafting Course in El Chalten
Patagonia Tours, takes you to trekk amazing locations Caminata Laguna Los tres Hiking in El Chalten Rafting in El Chalten is a Patagonia Adventure

There is only one excursions in El Chaltén since the majority of the paths are self-guided and very well marked and maintained. Therefore, you can choose where and when to go, and at your own pace.

When arriving to the park, public buses usually make a stop at the Park Rangers Office, where the park rangers give an informative speech of about ten minutes. They will provide you with free maps from the area, explain the most popular trekking options, give advice about the environment and information about the surrounding mountains.

 

Eating

For being a small town, El Chaltén has a good variety of high quality restaurant. We recommend you to try a typical meal from Patagonia, Cordero. This is lamb meat and very popular in the region.

 

Argentina Travel Tips - Photography Tips in El Chalten

Photo tips

Due to the strong wind in El Chaltén, which is the strongest during the summer months, it can sometimes be hard to take pictures. Therefore, we recommend you to use a tripod with sturdy legs that can be spread quit wide. The best filter you can use is the polarizer, next to that, the graduated neutral density filter is highly recommended.

If you want to photograph the Fitz Roy, try to do it at sunrise near campground. Than the most beautiful photographs are guaranteed.

 

Environmental tips

Let’s take care of one of the most wonderful places of this World!

All the trash you have in the park, take it back to town. It is usually useful to take an extra plastic bag.

Don’t allow dogs from town to follow you when you start trekking. They are not friendly with native animals. They should stay in town.

Let’s just take memories and pictures! If all the visitors would take a stone or a leaf, in some years there won’t be any forest anymore!

If you need to go to the bathroom while trekking and you are near to a camp site, wait until you can use a latrine. If this is not the case walk as far as the paths allows away from water sources. Make a hole and cover what you’ve left with earth. We want to keep the water drinkable!

Walk on the marked trails. If you walk off trail, the plants on the side will be damaged and eventually die.

Be very careful with picnics! Do not leave any garbage even organic waste. Food leftovers (vegetables of fruits) that are not from the place can affect the eco system.

Excursions & Tours in El Chalten

In El Chalten, the majority of the trekking paths are self-guided and very well marked and maintained. Therefore, you can choose where and when to go, and at your own pace. If you have already planned your trekking in El Chalten, check out our Viedma Ice Trek excursion below! And take a look at these other Patagonia tours that you can combine with your trip to El Chalten!

 

Hiking in Patagonia Say Hueque’s Top 3 Things to do in El Chalten Best of Patagonia in 13 Days
Travel to Chile, Discover Torres del Paine Climb Mount Fitz Roy on Trekking in El Chalten Tours Enjoying El Calafate & Perito Moreno Glacier Tour

 

Viedma Ice Trek

Sail on the blue turquoise glacial waters of Lago Viedma admiring it´s stunning glacier of 40mts over the level of the lake and enjoying the views of beautiful and famous MT Fitz Roy and Mt. Huemul. . Disembark on the rocky promontory alongside the icy giant, grab the crampons and enter the ice for an amazing trek to experience the magical world of the glacier from up close. Marvel at the sculptural formations, deep crevasses, fascinating caves and the numerous shades of blue of Argentina’s largest glacier.

Duration: 6 hours (Departures 8.45hs or 11.45hs depending on availability). Difficulty: People in good and normal shape are able to walk on irregular terrain. Valid from October to April 2017.

Trekking in El Chalten is challenging but rewardingBasic Information

Distance from Bs As

2898 km

Are there banks, ATMs?

There is just one ATM (which often runs out of money) and there is only one bank. Even though in the city there are no exchange houses, most of the places in the city accept dollars.

Internet

Yes, but it is slow and expensive

Phones

There is mobile phone signal and also some phone centers in the town. 

Is the water drinkable?

Yes. You can also drink the water from the rivers and lakes.

 

Money

Argentina’s unit of currency is the peso, which has held steady at about nine to one against the US dollar (but this rate could change quickly). Notes come in denominations of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 pesos. One peso equals 100 centavos; coins come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavos. The $ sign in front of a price is usually used to signify pesos, so this should be the case unless otherwise marked.

Don’t be dismayed if you receive dirty and hopelessly tattered banknotes; they will still be accepted everywhere. Some banks refuse worn or defaced US dollars, however, so make sure you arrive in Buenos Aires with pristine bills. Casa Piano (a well known Cambio) will probably change your older or written-on bills, but they will discount a 3% of the value.

Sadly fake currency has become more common. So look for a clear watermark or running thread on the largest bills, and be especially careful when receiving change in dark nightclubs or taxis. If you hesitate ask to change it for another note.

Due to local restrictions for buying US dollars for locals, if you change money on arrival to Argentina, you have to keep the receipt. In case you want to change your left over pesos on the way back to your country, you will have to show the first receipt.

Banks

There is only one bank available in El Chaltén. Banco de la Nación Argentina also offers exchange services. It’s located in Av. Martín Miguel de Güemes 151.

Say Hueque Argentina Journeys in El ChaltenCredit card

To pay by credit card is unusual in El Chaltén, therefore it can be hard to find a place where they are accepted.

Traveler’s checks

Traveler´s checks are very impractical in Argentina, and in El Chaltén it can be hard to change them and definitely impossible to change them at a good rate.

Tipping

Tipping is not compulsory but it is greatly appreciated throughout South America, especially in the service industry.  If you are satisfied with the services provided by your Destination Host, tour guides and drivers, then we recommend rewarding their hard work by tipping. In general, we suggest a tip of around US$20 – 25 a day for guides and US$ 5 -10 for drivers.

When tipping Hotel & Restaurant Staff, tips are generally 10% of the total bill. If you stay a couple of days in the same hotel, a tip of $3 – 5/day for the maid service is recommended. For porters, US$2-3/time/room is appropriate.   

 

Hiking in El Chalten according to the Argentina experts

Dangers & annoyances

El Chaltén is a very safe and calm town. Even though it is far from dangerous it is still advisable to be conscious and careful; don’t flash any wealth, and always be aware of your surroundings.

During the winter months El Chaltén can be bother by snow and wind. When there is heavy snowfall hiking trails can be closed down for protection of nature. The strong wind can make it sometimes very chilly so always carry a jacket with you while hiking. 

Panoramic view of El Chalten and Mount Fitz Roy

 

Lonely Planet

“Trekking in Patagonia is a highlight for many travelers to South America, and it’s never been easier than from Argentina’s ‘trekking capital’, the village-cum-fledgling-city of El Chaltén. Whether you prefer to rise late and dawdle the afternoon away next to picturesque tarns, or enjoy getting fully tooled for a week-long epic out on Hielos Sur (the Southern Patagonian Icecap), Chaltén has it all.

Rambling, chaotic, and in near constant danger of being blown off the map by the area’s notorious alpine winds, Chaltén borders the magnificent World Heritage-listed Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and has a network of trails to suit trekkers of every level…” Read more

 

Rough Guide

“(…) Rearing up on the opposite bank of the Río de las Vueltas is the curiously stepped, dark-grey cliff face of Cerro Pirámide, while you can glimpse the tips of the park’s most daunting peaks, Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre, from the southern and eastern fringes of the village. In terms of specific sights, there is only the classically uncluttered alpine chapel on the western edge of the village. Built by Austrian craftsmen with Austrian materials, it’s a fitting memorial to the climbing purist Toni Egger, as well as to others who have lost their lives in the park…” Read more

 

Fodors

“Founded in 1985, El Chalten is Argentina’s newest town, and it’s growing at an astounding rate. Originally just a few shacks and lodges built near the entrance to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, the town is starting to fill a steep-walled valley in front of Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitzroy, two of the most impressive peak in Argentina.

Famous for the exploits of rock climbers who started their pilgrimage to climb some of the most difficult rock walls in the world in the 1950s, the range is now drawing hikers whose more earthbound ambitions run to dazzling mountain scenery and unscripted encounters with wildlife including condors, Patagonian parrots, red-crested woodpeckers, and the huemul, an endangered deer species…” Read more

 

Footprint

“The main attraction here is the trekking around Fitz Roy, but there is also stunning virgin landscape to explore outside the park, around Lago del Desierto, 37 km north. The long skinny lake is fjord-like and surrounded by forests. It’s reached by unpaved Route 23, which leads along the Río de las Vueltas viaLaguna Cóndor, where flamingos can be seen. A mirador at the end of the road gives fine views over the lake and a path runs along the east side of the lake to its northern tip, from where a trail leads west along the valley of the Río Diablo toLaguna Diablo, and north to Lago O’Higgins in Chile .

(…) Lago Viedmato the south of El Chaltén can also be explored by boat. The trips usually pass Glaciar Viedma, with the possibility of ice trekking on some excursions…” Read more

 

Frommer’s

“El Chaltén is a rugged village of about 700 residents whose lifeblood, like El Calafate’s, is the throng of visitors who come each summer. Visitors here, however, are generally more active and adventurous than those who stay only in El Calafate; they include some of the world’s greatest mountaineers as well as avid trekkers. This is the second-most-visited region of Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park. It’s quite possibly the most exquisite, as well, due to the singular nature of the granite spires that shoot up, torpedo-like, above massive tongues of ice that descend from the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. In the world of mountaineering, the sheer and ice-encrusted peaks of Mt. FitzRoy, Cerro Torre, and their neighbors are considered some of the most formidable challenges on the planet, and they draw hundreds of elite climbers here every year. The valleys beneath them provide absolutely world-class trekking trails that any hiker can enjoy. Besides trekking, there are also interesting new options for kayaking, bird-watching, and mountain biking here.

El Chaltén is known as the “trekking capital of Argentina,” and it ranks up there with the best trekking destinations in the world. What it offers — excellent trails in spectacularly wild scenery, mixed with cozy inns and bistros that you can return to at night — is quite rare. Another bonus is that the hiking here doesn’t require any serious uphill (or downhill for that matter) climbs, as most trails follow valley floors. Finally, altitude is not a concern, meaning that your lungs should have no problem taking in some of the cleanest air on the planet…” Read more

Experience incredible trekking in El ChaltenGeneral Information

Why is it called El Chaltén?

Because in the indigenous language El Chaltén means the smoking mountain, which is referred to the Mt. Fitz Roy.

Economy

The economy of El Chaltén is mainly focused on tourism. Due to that the national park attracts a lot of people to the town.

Elevation

The town is situated at 160 m, but the top of the Mt. Fitz Roy reaches 3405 m.

Population

Permanently 1627 inhabitants, but many more during the high season.

 

History

Created in 1985, El Chaltén is the youngest town of Argentina. The city began as a settlement used by Santa Cruz Province to strengthen its sovereignty over this territory during the inconveniences with Chile about the area known as Lago del Desierto, which eventually were solved in 1994 in favor of Argentina.

However, already in 1987 effective settlement was carried out. Ever since the town has been growing with regard to population and infrastructure.

The first residents who came to settle in El Chaltén were European immigrants. Their goal was to carry out different tasks, including sheep husbandry. However, the settlement was not easy for these residents. They had to deal with an unknown language, diverse interests and many times harsh weather too. Because the history and the first residents are still really important to El Chaltén, the names of the streets are called after these first and brave dwellers. 

 

 

Experience dusk at El Chalten on a Patagonia Adventure

 

Top 10 things to do in Patagonia

 By Lonely Planet, BBC Travel

“El Chaltén’s surrounding mountains are prime hiking, rock climbing and horseback riding territory so if you are into outdoor adventure, this is the spot for you. Think mountain traverses, mountain ascents and rock-climbing classes. You can go horse-riding to the pretty valley of Río de las Vueltas or take a more challenging ride up the Vizcacha hill followed by a barbecue on a traditional ranch. There are also ice-climbing courses and ice treks available.” read more

 

World’s Best Hikes: Fitz Roy Trek, Patagonia, Argentina

By Mary Anne Potts, National Geographic

“(…) Hike among Argentina’s fabled Fitz Roy Massif, the iconic ridge where the peaks of Poincenot, St. Exupery, and 11,073-foot Fitz Roy itself rise out of the steppes of Patagonia like a vision. This grand tour gives you three views of Fitz at sunrise, with Cerro Torre and Marconi Pass thrown in for good measure. This ramble through Delaware-size Los Glaciares National Park takes you from gnarled, spooky beech forests and open plains to glaciers, roaring waterfalls, and granite monoliths afire with orange dawn light…” read more

 

El Chaltén on Lonely Planet’s 2015 Best in Travel List

By Say Hueque Argentina Travel Blog

“(…) Argentina’s El Chaltén has been named 2nd on the popular travel guide Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Travel 2015’ list. Highlighted for its upcoming 30th birthday celebration, El Chaltén’s transformation into the trekking capital of Argentina has attracted international recognition and it earned this prestigious accolade.” read more

 

El Chalten and Cerro Torre

By Viva Travel Guides Argentina

“In the wilds of Argentine Patagonia, over the border from the Torres del Paine National Park, lies the less visited area of El Chalten, a truly rugged mountain escape.

Continually changing weather systems that feed off the surrounding ice fields make it difficult to catch a golden glimpse of this park’s two main attractions: the icicle-sharp finger of rock that is Cerro Torre, one of the toughest ascents in the world, and its more bulky, but equally intimidating neighbor, Mount Fitzroy. Just being in the park is a fantastically bleak and unique experience…” read more

 

City tour around El Chalten and all its trails

By InterPatagonia

“The hiking capital of Argentina, the small town of el Chaltén is a magnificent site to keep walking. A site for lovers of hiking and mountaineering.

“El Chaltén” is a synonym for mountain, hiking, trekking, sports climbing, outdoors. The town was created in 1985 and ever since its origin, it has been changing according to the features of its first visitors: love for the mountains.

Thus the youngest town in Argentina started to develop and today it already has a thousand permanent residents who proudly give account of their role in this community that has been declared the hiking capital of Argentina.

There are plenty of circuits to follow. They all vary in difficulty but offer perfect sceneries that at times seem to be completely different, suitable both for beginners and for the highly experienced mountain and climbers…”  read more

 

El Chalten, Argentina

By AFAR Magazine

“The small town of El Chaltén in southern Patagonia has been called the trekking capital of the world due to its proximity to Mt. Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre, two of South America’s most rugged peaks. It’s also the jumping-off point to reach Aguas Arriba Lodge, a new six-room mountain cabin in a nature reserve next to Glaciers National Park. From El Chaltén, you follow a gravel road along Las Vueltas river to the emerald green Lago del Desierto, then take a short boat ride across the lake. If you’re more hard-core, put your luggage on the boat and hike three hours through the forest to reach the lodge.” read more

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