Things To Do In El Chalten
El Chalten is a brilliant town in Argentina with a dazzling view of the northern area of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. Come summertime, a multitude of trekkers and backpackers come to traverse the world-class trail that begins right here. Established in 1985, El Chaltén is still a wilderness town. It’s a strange one, however, that is dotted with ongoing efforts to become a highly developed frontier of Argentina.
The postcard-worthy landscape sets the scene for fantastic trekking and horseback riding adventures. Trails of differing degrees of difficulty run through the national park and around the delightful savannahs of greenery populated by rare species of migratory birds. After an extensive trek, energize yourself with a visit to a neighborhood brewery or chocolate factory.
When To Go:
A large portion of Argentina has seasons that are the inverse of the northern hemisphere; however, as you would expect in a nation of this size, the unique districts and towns have significantly diverse atmospheres. The Lake District is ideal in the springtime (October), during harvest time (March). In fact, it is even more perfect during these months than the summer season. Part of El Chalten’s appeal is its unpredictable weather, so you ought to be ready to encounter the impact of the four seasons - all in one day.
The best time to visit the national park is during the Southern summer, which is between late December and the end of February. The climate is more comfortable, and the daylight hours stretch out for extremely long days, due to El Chalten’s southern location. The summer weather can still bring plenty of breezy and chilly days, however. Outside of this time period, the climate can regularly get to be rather excessive for most visitors.
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Amid the southern winter, El Chalten is blessed with just a couple of hours of sunshine every day and temperatures have a tendency to drop low. Cool summers characterize the territory, with temperatures lower than 16 °c (61 °f) during January, which is the hottest month.
Dubbed as the Hiker’s Paradise, here are the top attractions and the thrilling things to do in the city of El Chalten…
Cerro Fitz Roy
The Cerro Fitz Roy is a long trek with a constant slope, but it doesn’t become too strenuous until you reach the Aguja Poincenot camping site. Allow at least 3 to 4 days in the park because the weather conditions in Patagonia are always changing, so it’s not always optimal to do this trek. It would be a shame to do it while the mythical Fitz Roy is hidden by overcast weather. The path is not particularly technical; the only difficulty for the untrained is the length. The first stretch up to the Camp Aguja Poincenot is very simple, fairly gradual and sometimes passes through open forest clearings where you can admire the incredible views. One of these is the viewpoint for the lagoon Glaciar Piedras Blancas, which plunges the namesake glacier.
Drinking water is not a problem because you can drink from the streams that you find along the way - the water is splendid and fresh. The most difficult part begins once you pass the camp and start the climb to the Laguna de Los Tres. Along a rocky path and slope, it is certainly not a walk. But in the end you will be handsomely rewarded. The glacial lagoon is breathtaking and gives you the feeling of an enveloping stillness that comes from the natural amphitheater. The massive granite rock of Cerro Fitz Roy, with its 3405 meters of height and consistently blue and cloudless sky, will repay your climbing efforts and mesmerize you. You can also set up a picnic here - but be careful not to leave anything (even urinating is prohibited in this preserved area of El Chalten).
Before leaving the Cerro, travel up to the southern shore to get a panoramic view of the lower Laguna Sucia. The waterfall, which runs from the overflow of the Laguna de Los Tres, starts with a jump of over 1000 meters lower on Laguna Sucia, making it not the best place for those who suffer from vertigo. Even from here the view is remarkable – it’s evident that nature truly enjoyed creating this site. After here, you can resume the march and go back, this time in the direction of Laguna Capri. The only downside with reaching Laguna Capri in the afternoon is that the Fitz Roy will be against the sun, making good photos harder to take.
The return trek is even beautiful, especially on the path that runs halfway up the valley carved by the Rio de las Vueltas. The view is boundless and from an observer’s point of view, it is still unique from what you have seen so far. These mountains of rock and brick-brown earth, covered with low vegetation, provide a high contrast to the glacial environment that you just left on your walk two hours ago. You are alone with the silence of the rocks, ice, and earth. The trek is also possible elsewhere in El Chalten, but the trek here in Cerro Fitz Roy is even higher in quality.
Laguna Torre (Laguna Tower)
The Laguna Torre (Laguna Tower) can be reached after 3 hours of trail in a superb route with varying landscapes - all of rare beauty. The path is quite difficult, especially for those who do not regularly engage in hiking adventures. The spectacle of the lagoon, which appears after a final climb in an almost lunar landscape, is breathtaking. It is a lake with intense colors and floating ice blocks.
At the bottom, you will see a huge glacier on the other side of the lake. Be careful when the high wind whips through the banks. The hiking is easy and lasts around three hours, and the landscape, along with the trees and the river, is very interesting- until you reach the lagoon. Near the lagoon, they have an area where some people camp for free. The Laguna Tower is a place of incredible nature, so you definitely shouldn’t miss it.
To get to Glacier Huemul, you need to go to Lake Desert that is just over 30 kilometers from the town of El Chalten, accessible by dirt road but passing through lovely places. In the desert lake, you can perform navigation and make the trail to the Ice Age. You have to pay a fee to enter the track. It takes an hour of climbing to reach the lagoon and the glacier, at which point you can just enjoy the stunning beauty of the place. It is important to take snacks and plenty of water. You can also drink the pond water without any problem.
The glacier, especially the turquoise hue of the lake, is spectacular. You can get a magnificent view of the other face of Cerro Fitz Roy and also the Lago del Desierto as well. It is as beautiful as the other key locations in El Chalten. It is an absolute must-see for anyone visiting Chalten. The walk is quiet at first but has some steep climbs at times with steep trails at the end. You will need the help of ropes to climb. Don’t be discouraged, however: the spectacular view is entirely worth the effort.
Sendero Loma del Pliegue Tumbado
At the Sendero Loma del Pliegue Tumbado, the trail begins right next to the Tourist Information Centre. It has a vertical drop of 1,000 meters. This makes it tiring, but it is not abrupt so you can walk slowly to recover from fatigue and enjoy the marvelous scenery. The end of the trail reservation is always very windy, and the final view is chilly. It is worth the chill, though. Here you will have the chance to see the top three attractions in El Chalten: the Laguna Torre, Cerro Fitz Roy, and the Aguja Poincenot forming an absolutely fantastic landscape.
This hike is considered to be an easy, medium-intensity hiking adventure in El Chalten. Most of the trail is well marked until you reach the field of marine fossils, where you can see fossil rocks in several parts, and there is a little attention needed to follow the stakes. There are two viewpoints: the first already has a great view, but the view from the summit is 360 degrees, and the two are only 15 minutes apart. It is highly recommended to do the hike all the way up to the very top.
It is one of the most stunning places to walk by in El Chalten. The Viedma Glacier is not to be missed, and you have to live it to feel it. It can be reached by catamaran sailing from the Lake Viedma, another beautiful landscape that is also worth visiting. It is an impressive site, and everything on the walk from the rocks up to the glacier is remarkable.
The dramatic escalation and the views from above guarantee the best adventure on this side of El Chalten. The ice cave trek is stunning. It is wonderful to step on the glacier, a vast area of ancient frozen water. It is an endless view of immaculate white with blue curves and great depths. It is best to do this tour with expert guides and with the right equipment needed to walk on ice so you can enjoy your ice age adventure to the fullest.
Road to El Chalten
If you go by bus and it’s a sunny day, sit on the left side of the bus if you are going to El Chalten, or on the right if you’re heading to El Calafate. However, the ideal way is to make the journey by car, so you can stop and enjoy the beautiful, picture-perfect landscapes that show the Viedma Lakes and the view of the striking Andes mountains. You can also get a glimpse of extraordinary forms of the mountain ranges, especially the complex of the Hill Torre and Fitz Roy. While approaching the enchanted village of El Chalten, nature seems to overflow. This offers moments of sensible emotion because of the stunning image produced by the marvelous sites of the Road to El Chalten.
The route of about 220 km between El Calafate and El Chalten is one of the most stunning visual experiences you will ever see. The stretch of the Ruta Provincial enchants the rivers, lakes, mountains covered with ice and guanacos and eagles along the road. The final stretch is especially impressive, as the vehicle travels long and straight stretches with the peak of Fitz Roy ahead. It is common to see an eagle circling near the road. Pay attention to the next parts because sometimes you will find condors, which usually nest there.
Patagonia Hikes el Chalten
El Chalten is definitely the world capital of the best hiking adventures. The atmosphere in this small village is idyllic. The people of the Patagonia Hikes el Chalten are all very hospitable and ready to give you advice on where to go and how to organize your days of travel. If you expect a village with a nightlife, you can do so in the evening where you will find other travelers grouped in small bars along the only main street. Here you can have a little party together with the locals and tourists.
There are countless things to do and, in the simplicity of the place, you will not really miss anything. Spend at least 4-5 days to enjoy it fully and do at least a couple of hikes, maybe rent a bike, or just wander randomly around the attractions that surround the idyllic city.
Glaciar Piedras Blancas
The Glacier Piedras Blancas Glacier can be seen from the front by a gazebo. For the gazebo adventure, the trail leaves the Hosteria El Pilar, but you need to hire a shuttle to get to the location, which is about 10 kilometers from the center. From the belvedere, the view is beautiful, but nothing like the experience of actually going to the site.
You can follow the trail of Laguna Capri / Cerro Fitz Roy and cross the River Piedras Blancas. After that you’ll need to follow the trek via the stones in the river until you reach the glaciers. No doubt the trail is tiring, but if you bring snacks along you should be okay. Also, bring bottles of water, which can be refilled in the rivers or ponds.
The Laguna Capri is the first stopping point before reaching the Poincenot Camp, the designated camp on the first day of trekking to El Chalten. To get here, just walk uphill from near where the track starts. The slope is not very steep and you can go very slowly. You will then arrive at the camp, which is well organized (but rustic, as there are no toilets or faucets). It is located in a very pleasant place, and after another trail you will reach the Laguna Capri with Cerro Fitz Roy completing the hike.
Salto El Chorillo
The Salto El Chorillo is located a few kilometers from town and worth a visit. If you climb the mountain, you will find different waterfalls and reflecting pools, plus incredible views of the Cerro Chalten. It is recommended to climb up to the highest part of the Chorrillo, the place looks excellent and has stunning vistas of El Chalten that only a few other places can achieve.
It's a pretty simple waterfall, (the scenery adds a bit to it), and it is possible to see some Patagonian fauna. It is the ideal site to go to relax for a bit, and is definitely the best option if you are short on time. It is a short trek that can be done quickly if you're used to walking, or if you like to do it while surrounded by a majestic landscape enjoying the sounds of nature in all its dimensions. It has a good mix of tranquility and a magnificent view.
Mirador del Torre
In El Chalten there are several trails; one leads to Laguna Torre. The Mirador del Torre is located where you see a large sign that indicates the peaks and the views ahead, about halfway through the trip. The lookout point has a better view of Cerro Torre and the Laguna Torre, where you can see icebergs quietly browsing the pond. The trail is not that difficult, but it is long. It has many uphill parts that are not steep. You can get down the track in 3-4 hours, depending on your walking pace. All water found on the road, river, lake or spring, is drinkable. The trail is highly recommended, but bring your own food since there are no shops up there.
There are very few places in the world that are able to convey so much freedom and admiration for nature. The whole hiking area around El Chalten is definitely one of these locations. Take your time and let yourself be lulled (or deafened) by the Patagonian wind. If you can find a small shelter where you really rest and take a deep breath, all the better. The paths are always well marked. Keep in mind only one thing: do not underestimate the weather. Always try to have daily updates to schedule your trekking adventures.
When hiking in this part of Patagonia, time is of the essence, the views will leave you breathless, and nature will reward your every effort. Make sure that El Chalten is on your bucket list of the best places to see in Argentina; you will not regret a visit.
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