El Chalten is a small Patagonian village in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. This southern city, just 220km north of El Calafate, is also known as the Trekking Capital of Argentina—and for good reason too!
I will be sharing how I spent two full days of trekking in El Chalten. The views are absolutely breathtaking. The two very popular treks are:
Cerro Fitz Roy
The crowned jewel of El Chatlen is Cerro Fitz Roy.
Time and length: The entire trek can take around 8 hours round trip and 12 kilometers of hiking.
Difficulty: Medium-Difficult. The trail is paved and is considered average difficulty for the first 11 kilometers. There is definitely some climbing involved but a lot of the trail is level, winding through forests, ponds, and open mountain range. The final kilometer of the Cerro Fitz Roy trek is difficult, recommended only for experienced trekkers.
I also highly recommend trekking gear and proper shoes. Because it is truthfully steep as all get out and I was wearing Nikes in this goddamn snowy stairway to heaven. It was not smart but we made it.
We left our hotel around 8:30 am and there were already a handful of trail blazers making their way up the trailhead. It was about 50 degrees (F) and we were cloaked in sweatpants, sports tees, scarves, beanies and a jacket. After about an hour on the trail we no longer needed all that as our bodies started to warm up.
It took us about 3 hours to get to the final kilometer. As I mentioned, the trail was beautiful and not too difficult; we paced ourselves as needed and stopped at the many vantage points. The final path appeared to go straight up and seemed very intimidating but we wanted to complete the challenge. We spent an hour climbing (ahem...slipping and crawling) our way up. But boy was it worth it to look at that Fitz Roy peak DEAD IN THE EYE.
There were dozens of others sitting at the top, eating lunch and taking a break. That’s exactly what we did. There was snow all around us and just honestly one of the most delicious sights you’ll ever see (knowing that you earned it makes it all the sweeter).
Cue another 4 hours to return to town and we were ready to chop off our legs and eat an entire cow. But instead, we rested so we could do it all again the next day.
Laguna de Los Tres
Laguna Torre is a glacier melt lake and with spectacular views of Cerro Torre’s (and Fitz Roy's) peak. A must see.
Time and length: about 7-9 hours round trip and 12 km.
Difficulty: Easy-Medium. The paved trail is relatively flat throughout, although it has a few kilometers of stairs and stony pathways. Again, I would have loved proper trekking shoes so that the pebbles and stones didn’t make my feet ACHE.
The trail leads to Laguna Torre which is one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen in my life. While Fitz Roy is the more popular hike, I enjoyed this one much better.
FUNNY STORY: The trail is lined with bumble bees in a few parts. While bumble bees normally keep to themselves, one of those sons a bitches made its way up by sweatpants and stung my leg three times when we hadn’t even yet reached the view point. So I finished the hike with a swollen, limp leg. Ouch!
The trail follows alongside an Andean glacier water river which is drinkable. I highly recommend filling up your water bottles here. It’s delicious!
More El Chalten Trekking Information
What If I Want to Go to El Chalten But I’m Not a Good at Hiking?
- Hire a Tour Guide in town
- Hike to the first few vantage points during Fitz Roy trekking
- Take a train from town that bypasses much of the Fitz Roy trek and takes you to the ideal vantage point to cut some of the trekking time
- Hike the first few vantage points during Laguna Torre
What is the village of El Chalten like?
It is a quaint town with only one doctor and two banks. The people are some of the nicest I have EVER met! It is surrounded by the mountain range.
What is the food like in El Chalten?
Great! The main cuisines in Santa Cruz Province are stews and trout.
How do I get to El Chalten?
The common route is flying into El Calafate then taking a shuttle to El Chalten. The airport or a hotel/hostel will be able to book a shuttle for you. They leave 2-3 times a day I believe. The trip is 3 hours long.
Where I stayed:
Hotel, 3 nights: Cabañas Rivendel
El Chalten Trekking Tips:
- Bring cash with you as there are only two banks. When we were there, one ATM only accepted cards without chips and the other ATM was out of cash. BRING CASH (pesos argentinos)!
- I recommend 3-4 days. You need one “buffer” day in case the weather is bad. The area is notoriously windy and rainy.
- Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the views. :)