El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina | Complete travel guide of the best hikes & where to stay
Updated: Mar 12
El Chalten is a small, almost purpose-built town that caters well for those wanting to come & enjoy the surrounding mountains. The town itself has a beautiful backdrop with Mount Fitzroy looking down upon it. The vibe in town is very relaxed with some fabulous eateries serving wholesome food for after a long days’ hike. The streets are littered with many a cozy watering hole in which to enjoy great wine & beer whilst talking with fellow hikers about your experiences.
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How to get to El Chalten and away
When it comes to things to do in El Chalten the answer is simple!! Hike, hike & a bit more hiking for good measure. There are a number of options open to you depending on whether you wish to day hike or spend a couple of days camping up in the mountains.
Day hikes from El Chalten
Laguna de Los Tres from El Chalten
(26.8km with Piedras Blancas Glacier)
8 hours 30 minutes
View of Fitz Roy from both Mount Fitz Roy Lookout & Laguna de Los Tres
If you are not able to fit in the multi day hike & you only have time to do one hike this is the one to do. There are 2 difficult parts, during the first 3km you gain 350m & the last 1km on your climb to Laguna de Los Tres there is a 425m gain within an hour.
Depending on how you feel after the climb to Laguna de Los Tres, there is a small detour to Piedras Blancas Glacier which takes about 30-45 minutes extra. Turn left after camp Poincenot & continue to Mirador Piedras Blancas for a great view of the glacier & Laguna Piedras Blancas.
Cerro Torre & Mirador Maestri
7 hours 30 minutes
Beautiful panoramic view at Laguna Torre
A totally doable hike if you have the time to fit it in. There is a 320m gain in first 3km & a bit of a tough final 2km with a 190m gain to the Mirador Maestri, along a ridge which is uneven underfoot & prone to be exposed to high winds but you are rewarded with stunning panoramic views from the Glacier Grande all the way down the valley.
Multi day hike from El Chalten - Fitz Roy
We chose to do a 3 day, 2 night trek encompassing the 2 day hikes above staying at the free camps Poincenot & Agostini. To read more details about our trek see Laguna de Los Tres (Mount Fitz Roy lookout) & Mirador Maestri – 3 day/2 night hike from El Chalten
This hike is a moderate/challenging hike due to carrying your camping gear but very doable for all with a moderate fitness level. This is a great hike even if you have no multi day hiking experience as long as you love to hike! But I suppose you wouldn't be in Patagonia if you didn't!!
The hike is great preparation if you are considering the Torres del Paine O or W circuits.
2 nights/3 days
Moderate / Challenging
Mt Fitz Roy & panoramic view at Laguna de Los Tres
Hiring camping equipment in El Chalten
To hire trekking equipment there are a few options in El Chalten but we only found one place that offered tents for hire, Bajo Zero. The staff were helpful, most spoke English & the equipment we got was all good quality (well apart from the pan was a bit misshaped & the plates not very flat!).
Bajo Zero – open every day 9am – 10pm
Here’s an outline of their charges as of December 2022
Tent 2 person $ 4,000 per night
3 person $ 6,000 per night
4 person $ 8,000 per night
Sleeping bag & roll matt $ 2,000 per night
Kitchen set 1/2 person $ 1,500 per night
3/4 person $ 2,000 per night
Consisting of stove, plates, a pan, cups & cutlery
Trekking poles $ 800 per day *
Walking boots $ 1,500 per day
I wouldn’t recommend walking in hired boots as they aren’t worn in for your feet but if you have no other option….
Waterproof jacket $1,800
*We thought we had been over-charged but once the lady explained the difference between per night and per day it made sense. They charge the trekking poles per day & the camp gear per night. Which means we paid 3 days for the poles but only 2 nights for the camp gear.
The owner of the shop said they normally allow you to pick up the gear the night before or first thing on the day you leave. We went into the shop at 12/1pm & she allowed us to take the gear due to the Argentina game being on that day. Normally there is the option to put your name down during the day & pick the gear up later.
As always with hiring equipment it is a good idea to get the tent out in the shop & examine the other gear to make sure it is all in order before you leave as it would be a bit of a disaster if you got to camp & realised your tent had a hole!! Everything we received, as mentioned above, was in good nick.
Bajo Zero do not take pre booking for equipment as when you pick up the gear you only pay for the first night (and 2 days of day equipment) & leave your ID as form of a deposit. This allows you to potentially amend your itinerary whilst trekking if the weather was not favourable. However, they did state they have a good stock & unlikely to have any problems receiving the gear you need. Before arriving in El Chalten we communicated with them via Whatsapp on +54 911 5123 6748.
Where to stay in El Chalten
Hostel del Lago
Both before and after our hike in El Chalten we stayed at Hostel del Lago. The hostel has an amazing, relaxed atmosphere. In the common room there is table tennis & pool tables. The kitchens are well equipped to make dinner or prepare food for your hikes & the breakfast has a great selection! If you are going to El Chalten & this place has availability, stay here!!
Where to eat and drink in El Chalten
This place is a cute wine bar, with a wall of wine for you to peruse as well as a nice selection of house wines & Patagonian craft beers to sample. We tried the lamb empanadas & burgers, both of which we extremely tasty!! There are also some meat & cheese platters on the menu which looked fab, but we didn’t have chance to try these.
Bourbon Smoke House
We stopped here for lunch & enjoyed some chicken wings, lamb empanadas (delicious!!) & chilli nachos. The bar has a very mountain walker pub vide being timber built & having an amazing panoramic window so you can enjoy the view whilst sampling the food & washing it down with yet more tasty Patagonian craft ales.
The restaurant had a ski chalet feel, spread across 2 levels & the walls are littered with memorabilia. We ate the lamb and lentil casserole & the steak, both of which were delicious!
How to get to El Chalten and away
Marga Taqsa has the monopoly when it comes to getting here and away & due to that the bus between El Bolson/Bariloche in the north is pricy! We decided to split the journey from Bariloche to El Chalten (which would have been 24hrs) with a few days in El Bolson, which reduced the killer journey by 2 hours as the bus stops in El Bolson en route. The journey from El Bolson to El Chalten was 22 hours & we decided to spend the extra on cama seats but meant the journey cost $ 32,100 (£69/$83) per person instead of 27,950 (£70/$84) (see bus seats in South America for an explanation of what each seat consists of if you are unsure).
From El Chalten we followed the typical ‘gringo trail’ & stopped at El Calafate, the journey again only seems to be serviced by Marga Taqsa, the only option is cama seats, takes about 3 hours & costs $ 8,000 (£21/$25) per person.