At the foot of Fitz Roy Mountain, in Southern Patagonia lies the lovely quaint town of El Chalten. What makes this small community an attractive destination is its desirable location, which is specially close to the Los Glaciares National Park and the magnificent continental ice mass called Campo de Hielo Patagonico Sur. Glaciers like Perito Moreno Glacier move down the ice fields, eventually feeding the wonderful lakes in the surrounding area.
El Chalten is famous for being the home base for some of the best outdoor experiences in Southern Patagonia. From here, you can organize mountaineering excursions and incredible treks. These treks vary greatly in length and difficulty. Some of them are short but lead you to amazing vantage points; while others require multiple days to accomplish. There are even treks that are combined with climbing walls, and thus, are ideal only for very experienced climbers. Because of the wide range of hiking opportunities, El Chalten is often referred to as the “Trekking Capital of Argentina”.
Fitz Roy Range is one of the primary hiking areas around El Chalten. The trails in this area are well-marked and equipped with campsites useful to those doing multiple-day hiking. Laguna Torre is one specific location within the Fitz Roy Range that is perfect for beginner hikers who can only spare a one day for hiking. The trail is 12 kilometers long and ends at a lake situated at the base of the Cerro Torre — a more than 3000-meter rock spire jutting out of the Glaciers Torre and Grand area.
The Laguna Torre trail hike takes about 3 hours to complete one way. If you are looking for a more challenging terrain, choose the Laguna de Los Tres trail. This 15-kilometer long scenic trail takes about four hours to complete one way. Laguna de Los Tres highlights marvelous panoramas of the Fitz Roy Mountains. The trailís last 1.5 kilometer section is steep, but conquering it means getting to Laguna Sucia or Dirty Lagoon. Don’t let the name of this lagoon fool you, itís actually quite gorgeous and features magnificient cobalt-blue water.
If a cross-border trek from Argentina into Chile sounds enticing, then take on the El Chalten to Villa O’Higgins trail. This 20-kilometer hike includes two lake crossings and can be done in one day, if you are a very experienced hiker. This journey starts with a ferry crossing through Lago del Desierto, which is about 37 kilometers from El Chalten. After you dock at the other side of the lake, you will need to hike through woods, over glacial streams and dirt roads, and get to Lago Argentino/Lago O’Higgins.
If you don’t feel like going far from El Chalten, you can plan a visit to Lago del Desierto, which is only about 37 kilometers away from town. Aside from its proximity, Lago del Desierto is definitely a desirable destination because of its beautiful and unspoiled landscape, characterized by glaciers, waterfalls and woodlands.
El Chalten offers a decent selection of accommodation, ranging from hostels to cabins. It is also equipped with eateries and bars. But despite having accommodation and dining facilities, El Chalten does not have ATMs and expect mobile phone signals to be weak, or almost nonexistent. In light of this, make sure you have enough cash to last you all throughout your stay in this Argentine community.
Traveling to El Chalten is an adventure in itself. The first leg of the journey involves getting to the town of Calafate either by land or air. From here, you will need to travel along the shores of Lago Viedma and Lago Argentino to reach the town.