I visited El Chaltén for 5 nights in January 2020 and it quickly became one of my favorite destinations. The big attraction for me is the number of great day hikes walking distance from town. You do not have to keep a vehicle, or deal with transport. You can wake up in the morning hike for 10-20 miles, see amazing scenery and be back in town for a shower, dinner, and a comfortable sleep.
El Chaltén is about 3 hours from the larger Argentina city El Calafate. I traveled to El Chaltén by bus to and from El Calafate. Much more detail on my route can be found here. I used both Taqsa and Chalten Travel on this route. Both were fine and prompt. Selecting the company based on the timetable is a reasonable approach.
El Chaltén town is less than 2 km long and even smaller across. You can expect to walk everywhere including from the bus station to your lodging.
I stayed 5 nights and did three long day hikes and a couple smaller hikes the other day. I am an average shape and am certainly not an avid hiker. I also did not have hiking poles although I did have appropriate hiking boots. All hikes are part of Los Glaciares National Park – UNESCO World Heritage Centre
All hikes mentioned are signposted by the park. There are many wonderful blogs detailing the hikes. I used maps.me to mark the path along my way.
Day Hike #1 Laguna Torre Hike
Flat trail with good views Laguna Torre Parque Nacional Los Claciares El Chalten Argentina
The hike to Laguna Torre (try this site for details) was 17 miles from my lodging to the Laguna around the ridge and back. It was the easiest of the day hikes as there was little elevation. We had a bright sunny day and could see the glaciersand we were able to spot the “tower’ for much of the day.
Day Hike #2 The Fitz Roy Hike
The Fitzroy trek: officially called Laguna de los tres trail. This is on many lists as the best hike in Patagonia. It is surprisingly popular for an 8 hour steep trail. This hike ended up being about 20 miles from my lodging to the end point and some off shoots. Plus a stop at a brewery back in town. I used the blog Hikebiketravel to help me plan this route. I only decided to do the hike the night before when the weather looked good.
You want to start this hike early so you are back down the steep area before the bus groups are heading up. They were starting up the steep part when I was heading down around noon. The last km or so is straight up with no real resting spots. You will have to wait. Going down was okay but I would have preferred to time it to head down by 11:30am. Large groups do not think to stop to let independent hikers pass. You absolutely do not want to be heading up behind or in the middle of them. You want to have hiked the entire way spent an hour or so at the top and be heading down. This means you may want to start as early as 6am.
Once at the lake and Fitz Roy view. It is worth walking down the moraine and left over another small moraine hill to see another blue lake view.
Day Hike #3 Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado
This one, translates as “hill of collapsed folds”?! It was shorter at only 15.5 miles but was way steeper so it felt like the hardest. This trail led to barren rocks that are supposedly rich in fossils. I looked pretty hard but didn’t find any. Still great views from a different angle than we saw previously. A good finale hike as you can see the Fitz Roy Pink and the Laguna Torre from the top of this hike. This site helped with some of the planning and understanding what the trail is like.
Overall this was a beautiful hike and I am glad we went for it. There was forrest, and cow fields, and varied terrain until the end rock/fossil area.
After long day hikes El Chaltén was perfect for relaxing at a local brewery and restaurant. There are many.
Additional money saving tip: There are a couple of free campgrounds on the trails so if you are on a tight budget and have camping gear this is an easy way to save money. Facilities are literally one shared pit toilet, so you will need everything. In January the campgrounds were very crowded with many groups with lots of music playing. It will be a cheap but not quiet experience.
Related post: All about my route through Patagonia https://fishearsoup.com/patagonia-route