El Chalten is hands down my favourite place in Patagonia. The town shown here to above is extremely tiny where there are more people on the streets than cars. Everyone’s walking around in their hiking gear – great vibe to the town. Here there are many hiking trails, short (lasting about 2 hours), day hikes and multi-day hikes.
Because we got stuck in Ushuaia and had to change our plans, we went from 2 full days here to 5 full days. It truly was a blessing in disguise. 2 days is not enough. We could have stayed here for longer easily. The above map shows the hikes that we did but there are many more hikes and the best thing is the hikes all start at the town of El Chalten. which means you don’t have to be dependent on the bus and their times. Start whenever you like. One thing that took a while to figure out was food. The grocery stores there are very slim pickings and the produce is not fresh. We ate out every night at amazing restaurants, i don’t think we ever had a bad one, but it makes day hikes more difficult since there’s nothing to pack for a lunch. Thankfully, many bakeries were open at 7am. We could grab delicious empanadas (many different combinations) and pack them for the day. 3 was enough for lunch and they were only 12ARS each (1USD). Another great thing is that you can drink straight from the stream on the hikes and it’s ice cold water. Here is where i tried the helado for the first time and had it just about every day since. So many flavours and their helado is comparable to the gelato in Italy.
To get to Laguna Torre, it’s about a 20km round trip hike to the base of the lake shown in red on the map above. Once at the lake, there’s another unmarked trail and brings you arround the lake and closer to the glacier as seen above in this photo, which is another 5km round trip. I could classify this hike as medium. Getting out of the town of El Chalten has a lot of elevation gain in the first 1km or 2. After that it flattens out. During the hike there, the whole sky was overcast and you couldn’t see the mountains but as the we got to the lake and sat down for lunch, the clouds started to part until they were all gone and you have this magnificent view in front of you. Since this was our first whole day here, we didn’t figure out the whole bakery thing and definitely did not eat enough. I did however have enough water thankfully. Filled my 3L camelbak and drank it all. We spent about 4 hours there, a little too long and started hiking back in the high heat of the day. Cold in the morning, hot in the afternoon.
That night after almost passing out in the shower from hunger, I had the best steak.
Lago de los Tres
Oh Lago de los Tres, or as I call it the ‘Fitz Roy hike’ (the hike that will bring you the closest to the fitz roy mountain range) was the most mentally and physically challenging hike to date. Once again there was a lot of elevation gain getting out of the town, but once that was over it was nice and flat and since it was a clear sky that day, you could see the Fitz Roy the whole time you were hiking. So the first 10km are great. The last few kilometres, oh gosh, they will kill you, not going up, but coming down. Switchbacks combined with large steps suitable for a giant. it’s difficult, but do able. On the way down, my right knee was causing me a lot of problems, i was using my hiking poles as a crutch.
Viedma Glacier Trek
The day before our ice trek it was pouring rain all day and then we woke up to a present surprise: blue, clear skies. Took a bus, then a boat to the viedma glacier. You can also trek on the pierto morneo glacier, but the viedma is a lot bigger and less touristy. They provided the crampons and they are awesome to walk in, so sturdy and give you a lot more confident in walking around. We walked up and down the crevasses and in between caverns. The tour guides would walk ahead and carve steps out of the glacier for us to walk through. Near the end we came to a flat spot and they broke out the Tia Maria. Chipped some ice off the glacier and into your cup. Great day to spend on the glacier.
Mirador de los Condores
Short little hike just outside the town, takes only about an hour to get to the top. Great spot to see the sunset or sunrise, we did this hike twice, both sunset hikes. On our last night here we grabbed a great bottle of wine and some empanadas and climbed to the top to see the sunset. Great end to the perfect little town, met so many great people here and got to know previous friends better.