¡Buen día! My name is Cynthia and I’m working as a seller in Say Hueque. As a travel expert in Argentina and Chile, I would like to share my experience traveling alone in Patagonia this Autumn. In South America, this season goes from March to September and is a beautiful time of the year to visit Patagonia. But how I did do it as a woman solo traveler? Here are my story and travel tips to visit El Chaltén.
1. Departing from Buenos Aires to El Calafate
What I enjoy the most about traveling alone is that you can mingle with other travelers rather easily. My flight reached El Calafate at 9 am, I had booked a direct transfer to El Chaltén but I had to wait until 1 pm. In the meantime, I bumped into a couple from Rafaela in Santa Fe province (like in the middle of the country), a boy traveling from Buenos Aires alone, and a girl from Rosario, another city in Santa Fe.
They were waiting for their own transfers to El Chaltén. Though I took the service of Las Lengas, a minivan that we use regularly for our travelers, and they went in a regular bus, the route was the same, and we were practically alone, so we waved each other all the way until we reach the Road House La Leona, a classic stop on your way from El Calafate to El Chaltén.
What surprised me the most about landscapes was the changing colors of the steps and the sky while approaching El Chaltén. Mount Fitz Roy starts to make its first appearance and that’s the frost on the cake! Guanacos, a type of South American camelid, can be seen all the way and are an absolute pleasure to enjoy if you like animals.
2. Go hiking: Alone or accompanied?
I love hikes but it was clear that I didn’t want to go hiking alone, and boy, there are so many hikes in El Chaltén! The village is known as “The National Capital of Hiking” so, no more to say…
While traveling in Las Lengas minivan I met another girl traveling alone for the first time so we started to chat and I asked her to come with me to the Chorrillo del Salto Waterfall, a 1-hour hike that can be easily done from any hotel. We got along really well and it was a relief not to have to stay at the hotel because I didn’t want to go on solo hiking.
This is the thing when you travel alone, especially as a woman: If there is another woman in your situation there are great chance she is having the same fears as you.
The important when you travel alone is not the fear of course, but the open state of mind that going on solo travel puts you in. This is great because fear decreases and you allow yourself to improvise, deal with the unexpected, and make interesting new friends!
Another useful thing you can do if you know you are not prompt to solo hiking is to follow groups of solo travelers on your social media. Check if someone is going on a trip to your chosen destination and contact them to schedule a Rendez-Vous upon arrival. I found them really easy to navigate on Facebook.
To sum up: O my first day I met a bunch of people, one of them joined me on the hike I wanted to do and agreed to go to dinner with me and the group I met at the airport. There was I, a girl, from the Facebook group I had also arranged dinner with so she came with us.
The result: W stayed together the whole trip. Sometimes we went hiking together, and sometimes we Split. It was great to could have a group of travelers to hang out with during my holidays!
3. My recommended hikes in El Chaltén
This is the first long hike I made, it’s an 8-hour round hike called Laguna Torre. We decided to go together and some others from the Facebook group joined us. We got to be a rather Cosmopolitan group of Argentines, there were people from Buenos Aires, Santa Fé, but also Río Negro (whose capital is Bariloche on the lake district), Salta Chaco (provinces of the north).
We were all absolutely stunned: Each step farther into the road opened fantastic views of the valley and the Fitz Roy. Marvel was like breathing each step of the way. There was a wide-open cloudless blue sky that was absolute bliss.
When we got to the lagoon at the foot of the colossus granite peaks we made our picnic and hung out for a while around the lagoon. Then two girls and I decided to keep going to the Maestri viewpoint, just 1.25 miles more. This is a steep climb through a rocky trail (watch out for your feet!), but the views you get of the Maestri Glacier are spectacular.
We returned to the village more than exhausted but willing to enjoy the happy hour at one of the many local bars on the main street!
Laguna de Los Tres
This is another highlight of a hiking trip to El Chaltén. It is one of the longest hikes and I did it with a specialized guide that I booked in private. They picked me up from my hotel and we headed to Hosteria El Pilar where this hike started.
The first miles you walk in a Wood of Lengas and Ñires, native trees of Patagonia, Mount Fitz Roy, and the Piedras Blancas Glacier start to show. The viewpoint of the glacier is the first stop. Once we get out of the Woods, we continue through the valley to the Poincenot Campsite where the ascent to the lagoon starts.
Crossing the bridge over the river I could appreciate the mixture of colors that characterizes Autumn in Patagonia and the mighty waters. Everyone had told me that I would be so tired when I reached the lagoon but actually, I was quite fine! I bought a hiking pole and it was really useful. When I reached the Laguna Sucia Viewpoint (literally “DIrty wáter”) I was shocked because the wáter was of an intense blue color… no dirt around.
On our way back I bumped into one of the girls I met the days before, I was completely exhausted but so happy! At night, we rewarded our souls and body with a delicious plate of pasta and fabulous wine.
4. My advice to keep traveling alone is:
- Follow travelers on Instagram who share travel tips regularly.
- Read a lot and watch videos about the place you want to visit.
- Search on Trip Advisor or any other travel platform for recommendations about where to have your meals.
- For hiking trips and especially for Patagonia, use the app Maps.me. You can download maps while offline. I used it a lot on this trip and it was really helpful because it tells you where you are exactly and points out interesting points along the hike.
The most important advice I can give to you is: If you’re a woman and are planning to go on a trip on your own, do it! You will be never alone. Travelers are usually very open, and very curious about new things, places, and persons. It is not rare that this kind of bond lasts and you finish by planning a new trip with your travel pads or organizing to bump into each other in any part of the world. There is nothing more beautiful in this world than finding a soul mate. And if she/he/it likes to travel, even better!