New Route from El Chalten to Villa O’Higgins Now Open

Patagonia Travel Posted on 10/17/2014

Introducing a new route from El Chalten to Villa O’Higgins for adventurous travelers interested in discovering the beautiful Patagonian region of Argentina and Chile. This international crossing is self-guided and is composed of 5 steps for a total length of 82 miles and duration of 2 days.

Updated to April 2024

1. The Route from El Chalten to Villa O’Higgins

Joining the extreme south of Chile’s Carretera Austral in Villa O’Higgins with Argentina’s El Chalten by way of the classic Route 40.

This new route represents the first time travelers in Patagonia can go directly from Argentina’s trekking capital of El Chalten to Chile’s trekking capital of Torres del Paine without having to return to El Calafate.

In addition, with Villa O’Higgins’ glaciers and El Chalten’s trekking, this route combines the highlights of Patagonia in a much more time-efficient and economic way than was previously available. 

2. Beginning

Beginning in the morning, the first segment takes guests from El Chalten to Laguna del Desierto, where they will travel a distance of 24.8 miles, either by bus (1.5 hours) or by bike (2,5-3 hours).

If choosing to go by bike, travelers will have a gravel road that is in some portions a little hilly, but for the most part flat and not too difficult to bike.

Buses can be arranged with 2 different companies and depart daily at 9:30 am., 12:00 am. and 4:00 pm.

3. Laguna del Desierto

After arriving to Laguna del Desierto guests will begin the second segment of the journey by boarding a ferry that will take them across Laguna del Desierto.

With a trip of 45 minutes, ferries depart daily at 11:30 am., 2:00 pm. and 6:00 pm.

Alternatively, for a more active and economical trip guests can choose to trek this segment by foot on a 10-mile trail that spans the lake.

View of laguna del desierto

4. O’Higgins Lake

The third segment of the journey takes guests across the border of the two countries, traveling from Laguna del Desierto to O’Higgins Lake.

With a distance of 3.7 miles to reach the Chilean border, guests can choose between trekking (2 hours), horseback riding (1 hour) or biking (2-4 hours) this portion.

The condition of the trail on this portion is narrow and steep for the first 1.2 miles, with multiple streams to cross that make for a somewhat challenging journey.

After crossing the border, the remaining portion of this segment contains a distance of 9.8 miles, which guests can choose to trek (4 hours), ride horseback (2.5 hours) or bike (3 hours).

This portion is a regular gravel road that makes for an easy trek and a moderate bike ride.

Alternatively, guests can opt for a transfer from Laguna del Desierto to O’Higgins Lake, which contains a 6.2 miles journey on horseback and the rest of the way (7.4 miles) by van.

5. Navigate by boat across O’Higgins Lake

For the fourth segment of the journey guests will navigate by boat across O’Higgins Lake, where they will pass in front of Glacier O’Higgins en route.

This trip lasts around 2.5 hours, but guests have the option of signing up for an additional navigation (5 hours) to the glacier that will take place prior to the boat trip across the lake.

The optional navigation to Glacier O’Higgins departs at 11:30 am., returning at 4:45 pm. with the regular navigation across O’Higgins Lake departing at 5:30 pm. and arriving to Bahamondez Port at 8:15 pm.

6. Villa O’Higgins

After arriving at Bahamondez Port guests will begin the fifth and final segment of the journey, where they will travel 4,3 miles from the port to Villa O’Higgins.

For this segment guests will have the choice of traveling by bus (15 minutes) or by bike (35 minutes).

By bike, guests will have a good gravel road with lots of beautiful scenery to see on the way.

The condition of this trail is somewhat hilly for the first 2.4 miles but relatively easy for the rest of the journey.

By bus, guests will depart from the dock at 8:30 pm. to make the trip to Villa O’Higgins. 

7. Why taking the Route from El Chalten to Villa O’Higgins?

This new route is a great way for guests to explore the beautiful landscape of Southern Patagonia while experiencing a unique adventure along the way. 

Keep in mind, however, that it has an overall difficulty rating of moderate, which means some portions of the route may be a little more exerting than others.

If you are adventurous, this should not be an obstacle and we encourage you to take advantage of this exciting new opportunity!

To find out more about this international crossing from El Chalten to Villa O’Higgins, contact Say Hueque Argentina Journeys!

Written by Will Collier

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