Argentina

El Chaltén Travel Guide

Welcome to the Argentine mecca for climbers and trekkers. Learn about the attractions and things to do in El Chaltén, the best time to visit and our insider tips to prepare your next travel adventure.

El Chaltén is a little mountaineering village, founded in 1985 and located inside the Glaciers National Park in Argentine Patagonia. For many years this secluded place remains the unexplored spot for intrepid travelers whose main delight is to hike and explore nature. Today, though it manages to preserve its little-town ambiance, El Chaltén is visited by many people every year who enjoy hikes of different lengths and difficulty levels. Is in this isolated corner of Patagonia where the famous Mount Fitz Roy can be admired. 

Mount Chaltén is another highlight near the village which was named after this colossal and sacred mountain for the Tehuelches, the natives of the region. Its summit, frequently covered by clouds, was called by the Tehuelches “Chaltén” which means “smoking mountain” in the Tehuelches’ language. In 2015, Chaltén was declared “National Capital of Trekking”, but, apart from the descent of hiking trails and climbing routes, travelers can also enjoy other adventure activities like kayaking, horseback riding and sailing. 

Attractions

Laguna de los Tres

The most famous excursion with the most spectacular views of the Fitz Roy massif. This natural viewpoint is the closest place to the imposing walls of the Fitz Roy and its granite needles.
The head of the trail starts at the end of San Martin Avenue, where the urban area of El Chalten ends.

Difficulty: High
Duration: 8 to 9 hours (round trip)
Distance: 25 km (round trip)
Total height from El Chaltén: 770 m
Season: All year round

Capri Lagoon

This beautiful hike takes you to a lookout point over a blue water lagoon surrounded by native forest that can be reached in less than two hours. From here you can appreciate a fantastic view of the Fitz Roy massif. The trail starts at the end of San Martín Avenue, where the urban area of El Chaltén ends and the parking area and the National Parks dome are located.

Difficulty: Medium
Duration: 4 to 5 hours (round trip)
Distance: 8 km (round trip)
Season: All year round 

Torre Lagoon

Next to Laguna De los Tres, the other great classic. A valley walk that will take you to an overwhelming site of mountains and glaciers. Cerro Torre is one of the most difficult and extraordinary climbs in the world.From El Chaltén there are two headwaters that lead to Laguna Torre; both trails merge 5 minutes from the start.

Difficulty: Low-medium
Duration: 7 to 8 hours (round trip)
Distance: 19 km  (round trip)
Season: All year round

Mirador del Torre

A short, low-difficulty hike along the Fitz Roy River valley to the famous panoramic viewpoint of Cerro Solo, Cordón Adela and the Cerro Torre massif.

Difficulty: Low
Duration: 3 to 4 hours (round trip)
Distance: 7 km (round trip)
Season: All year round 

Pliegue Tumabado

The only hike that is not in a valley, but rises above the valleys of El Chalten. It is one of the most impressive panoramic views of the whole area. The trail starts at the Visitor Center.

Difficulty: Medium
Duration: 7 to 8 hours (round trip)
Distance: 21 km (round trip)
The total height of the path: 850 m
Season: October to May

 

El Mirador de Los Cóndores

This trekking starts at the back of the Ranger office. A viewpoint frequently flew by condors with a panoramic view over the town and the hills and another one that allows appreciating the Viedma Lake and the steppe. Starting from El Chaltén, we cross the access bridge over the Fitz Roy River and continue to the head of the trail that starts at the National Park Visitors’ Center. Passing a small gate a sign will indicate the way to the left, and a few steps away another information sign will show you a sketch of the trail. From here it will take another half hour to reach the Los Cóndores viewpoint.

Difficulty: Low
Distance: 5 km (round trip)
Duration: 2 hours (round trip)
Season: All year round

El Chorrillo del Salto

This is an easy, short hike into the low hillside forest to a beautiful waterfall over 20 meters high. The trail is mostly flat. You can’t see the mountains from here, a Nothofagus forest and there is also a nice picnic area. The trail starts in El Chaltén, at the end of San Martín Avenue, at the same head of the trail to Laguna De los Tres; you must take the trail that goes to the right.

Difficulty: Low
Duration: 3 hours (round trip)
Distance: 7 km (round trip)
Season: All year round

Casa Madsen Museo

It is the house/museum of the first inhabitant of foreign origin in the region, Andreas Madsen. He and his wife, Stephanie Tomsen, originally from Denmark, made their home there and lived self-sufficiently throughout their lives. To visit the inside of the facilities you must go with a guide or tourist agency. If not, you can walk to the property and observe from outside.

Address: In front of the Río de las Vueltas viewpoint
Season: October to April
Price: USD 15.

La Leona Petrified Forest

Explore a site of petrified logs and fossil bones in an impressive eroded landscape. Season: October to April

Difficulty: Moderate
Total time: 8 hours

Eating & Drinking

Fuegia

San Martín 342, Tel: (02962) 493243.
Regional food

One of the most popular restaurants, the waiters here are a bit grumpy, but the food is delicious. Very original dishes and at a good price. Highly recommended: sweet potatoes with walnuts and roquefort and cheese salad!

La Casita

San Martín 430, Tel: (02962) 493042.
Minutes / Homemade food

Although the owners have recently changed, this place continues to be the workers’ restaurant, also for the gauchos from the nearby estancias. That is why the food is also simple, cheaper dishes, made at home.

Ruca Mahuida

Lionel Terray 104, 9301. Tel: (02962) 493018.
Pizzas

One of the most intimate places, at the far end of the city, hidden at the bottom of a pretty garden. In this restaurant they always make a mess with the bill – check before paying – but the food is amazing and has a very romantic style.

La Cervecería

San Martín 564, Tel: (02962) 193109.
Brewery

It is the most popular restaurant in the city. It is always packed, not only because of its craft beer, but also because of its wonderful pizza and generous homemade casseroles, just perfect after a long day of walking!

Patagonicus

M. de Güemes 140, Tel: (02962) 493025.
Minutes

Pizza, sandwiches and burgers. If you like palm hearts pizza, you have to know that Patagonicus makes pizza as good as in any pizzeria in Buenos Aires.

Estepa

Cerro Solo 86, Tel: (02962) 493069.
Vegetarian / Regional

Good vegetarian options, pastas and calzones cooked in an earth oven. This restaurant opens only in high season (between September and April), the rest of the year it takes orders only for delivery.

La Tapera

Antonio Rojo and Cabo García st. Tel: (02962) 493195
Meats/ Pasta

Very good dishes, generous portions and good quality. The service is excellent. The atmosphere of the place is very warm and makes you feel at home. The dishes are usually well presented and the desserts are delicious. Advance booking is recommended, if you don’t want to wait for a table the place fills up fast.

La Wafleria

Av San Martín 640 Tel: (02962) 493093.
Waffles

A very varied menu of waffles, both sweet and savory. Any option is delicious! Large portions at a reasonable price. Ideal as a snack after long walks. There are tables for groups like two people. You can also find a variety of juices and smoothies.

Tips & Advices

How many days should I stay in the village?

 

The best thing is to sleep there 2 nights to be able to do 2 full day treks, but if you don’t have time it is possible to visit it for 1 day from El Calafate.

 


Best time to visit El Chaltén

 

The best time to visit El Chaltén of the year is during the summer. The season is from October to April, but the truth is that you can visit all year round. In winter there are fewer hotels and restaurants available and the climate is harder for outdoor activities, such as hiking, but it is still possible to visit in winter. 

The town is in an eco-region called ecotone, the transition between the steppe and the forest. The plain abruptly gives way to a mountainous system with forested valleys crossed by rivers and streams. 

The seasons are well defined throughout the year: 

  • Summer is mild with average temperatures of 12ºC, days with many hours of sunlight, normally windy and moderate rainfall.
  • Winter is cold, with an average temperature of 2ºC, short days, little wind and sporadic snowfalls.

 

How to get there?

 

  • Flight: You can take a flight to El Calafate International Airport and from there travel by land the last 200 km to El Chaltén.

 

  • Train:  There are no trains to reach the village.

 

  • Self-drive: The access route to El Chaltén is in good condition, It is one of the newest routes in the country. The route was paved in 2003, it is double-handed, without potholes and perfectly signposted. Routes: Provincial Route 11, National Route 40 and Provincial Route 23.  All paved.

 

  • Bus: There are shared buses from El Calafate to El Chalten. There is also a shuttle service from hotels in El Calafate to El Chalten. If you want to connect El Chaltén with Bariloche by bus there are 2 options. Take 2 days and 1-night exploration from El Chaltén, or go by bus to El Calafate and from there take a bus to Bariloche (24 hours trip). 

 


Do buses from El Calafate operate every day?

 

Yes, both ways. From October to March there are at least 3 options per day. In winter the frequency is low but there is daily service. 

 


Can I find ATMs in El Chaltén?

 

There is only one ATM and sometimes it runs out of cash, so we recommend having cash with you because otherwise you may run out of money. Also the phone and internet signal is sometimes not good and that makes it difficult to pay by card in some places. We recommend that you have cash with you. 

 


Is there an internet connection in El Chaltén?

 

Yes, but the signal is not very strong and is usually intermittent.

 


Does the National Park close in winter?

 

No. The access to the Northern Zone of Los Glaciares National Park is open all year round. 

In the winter months -from June to September- the trails in certain sectors may be impossible to walk due to the accumulation of snow or mud due to thaw, so you should always check the condition of the trails in the National Park Visitors’ Center first.

 

Do you need previous experience to carry out the activities?

 

No. You do not need to have any experience in trekking, mountaineering, horseback riding, kayaking, rafting, etc.In fact, the majority of activities are concentrated on self-guided trails, which run along well-marked roads in good condition so that you feel safe at all times. For longer or more difficult hikes it is advisable to be in good physical condition. Only in the ascensions or expeditions it will be necessary to have some experience in climbing or trekking.

 

Is it possible to travel with small children?

 

Yes. Depending on the age, you should consider certain cares:

  • Toddler: With a baby carrier you will be able to enjoy short or medium length walks of low difficulty.
  • Child: They can do the low-difficulty trails respecting their rest times. We recommend constant hydration and never leave them alone.  
  • Teenagers: They can do almost all the excursions if they are used to walking in the mountains.

Some excursions have age restrictions such as rafting, kayaking, etc.

 

Are there activities that do not require walking?

 

Yes, it is possible to go on horseback rides, fishing outings, car or bike rides, guided tours of historical sites, etc.

 

What is the proper tipping?

 

  • Restaurants: it’s customary to tip about 10% of the bill. Note that tips can’t be added to credit-card bills, so carry cash for this purpose. Estimate around USD 10/15 per person for the guide, for a full day tour and half of it for the driver.

 

  • Hotels: You should tip porters for handling bags (calculate an amount of currency equal to about $1.00 for every two bags, the same amount is calculated for drivers if they help you with your suitcases), the housekeeping (between US$0.50 – $1.00 per night), and the concierge staff if you have used them to arrange dinner reservations, transportation or leisure activities.

 

  • Taxis: In Argentina, we don’t regularly tip taxi drivers.

 


How much money can I spend per day in El Chaltén?

 

We estimate around USD 50/100 per day, per person for daily expenses like eating, shopping and transportation, depending on how much money you want to spend on these.

 

Exchange money and using CC

 

Credit cards and US dollars are widely accepted, but it will be more convenient for you to exchange pesos rather than using US dollars because the rate that shops or restaurants use might not be the most convenient.

 

What facilities do NOT exist?

 

El Chaltén is a very young and developing town, so some facilities do not exist yet: Hospital (the nearest district hospital is in El Calafate), banks and exchange offices, cinemas, theaters, cultural centers, auditoriums or convention centers.

 

What to include in your luggage

 

Patagonia is famous for its changeable climate and for the strong winds during the austral summer. Particularly in the El Chaltén area, cloudy or rainy days are frequent in the summer and the temperature contrasts between day and night are accentuated due to the proximity of the Southern Continental Ice. 

If you are going to spend the night in a base camp, you should bear in mind that it is not unusual for small snowfalls to occur, especially in the months of October, November, March and April. Good footwear (preferably trekking boots) and clothing using the layering method (first an undergarment that allows rapid evapotranspiration and drying, then another warm garment and finally a windbreaker) is the most recommended.

 

Tickets to Glaciers National Parks

 

To enter Glaciers National Park we do not have to pay for the entrance. Unlike the South Zone (where the Perito Moreno Glacier is located) in the North Zone of Los Glaciares National Park there is no entrance fee. 

You can enter freely to all the trails that start from El Chaltén and run inside the National Park. There are trails located outside the National Park on private property where you will have to pay the entrance fee, as in the cases of the Laguna Azul and Laguna Diablo in the Estancia Los Huemules or the trail to the Huemul Glacier in Lago del Desierto.

 

Where to go for a run?

 

Everything in El Chaltén is a running track. Nature everywhere and huge spaces to run there are millions. A very nice walk is to skirt the Río de las Vueltas, a zigzagging route with spectacular landscapes.

 

Where to meditate?

 

El Chaltén offers several places of peace and contact with nature to meditate. So much so that the well-known Buddhist monk of French nationality, Matthieu Ricard, passed through the town and meditated in the Los Huemules Reserve, in the Cagliero post and in the Poincenot Camp area.

In addition to these places, you can also meditate in the great viewpoints of El Chaltén. You just need to separate yourself from the crowds a bit and find quieter spots.

 

Where to watch the sunset?

 

In El Chaltén, more than watching the sunset, you must see the sunrise. It is a unique experience. There are different places to see it, the most complicated (but also most incredible) is to go up to the Mirador del Fitz Roy at 4 in the morning. It is a 2-hour hike that must be done at night. If you are not so adventurous, another alternative is to go up to the Mirador del Pueblo, which is a short and achievable path that is next to National Parks. If you do not want to climb any mountains, you should go to the bridge at the entrance to the town, where it also looks beautiful, and it is faster and easier. The important thing is not to miss it.

Sustainability

Local businesses

 

  • Sirio Artesanías

Tools and objects made of wood, metal and textiles. Mates, accessories, looms. In Sirio Artesanías you will be able to find souvenirs from this region.

Address: Lago del Desierto 330, Z9301 El Chaltén.
Days and hours: Monday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Price: Free entry.

 

  • Chalteños: alfajores y dulces artesanales

It is a coffee with artisan elaboration of alfajores and sweets from the region. You can go to enjoy tea time and, if you like their products, buy to take away or give as gifts.

Address: Av. Del Libertador Gral. 249, El Chaltén.
Days and hours: Monday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Price: Free entry.

 

Who to meet

 

  • Guido Grando – Iron Artist

Guido Grando is a craftsman who, in addition to traditional blacksmithing, creates other objects, such as making cutlery. Although he is not a native of El Chaltén, he fell in love with the city when he met it and now lives there. He inaugurated the first art gallery in El Chaltén, “La  espatula rosada”, and he exhibited a sculpture of a large metal condor with outstretched wings.

Address: Antonio Rojo 236
Phone: +54 2962 493251


How to help

 

  • Comedor Comunitario Municipal

It is a municipal soup kitchen created to give food to people affected by the pandemic. Although it was first a private action, the Municipality took over and now these activities are carried out at the Municipal Headquarters.

Address: Av. Martín M. de Güemes 21

 

Sustainability tips

 

  • Take your reusable bag with you when you go shopping.
  • Choose the consumption of local products from artisans and small producers.
  • Travel the city by bike or on foot, it is healthy and does not leave a carbon footprint.
  • When you go on an excursion, ask for food without plastic wrap.
  • Don’t leave trash in nature.
  • Take a reusable bottle with you to carry water in restaurants.
  • Don’t feed native fauna.
  • Use rechargeable batteries and batteries.