5 things to do in El Chalten
- Spot Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre on the famous day hikes, starting right from the town
- Swap stories with the locals at one of the two breweries
- Fill your rucksack with pastries (and try to resist eating them all in the first hour of hiking...)
- Stock up on outdoor essentials before setting out on a multi-day trek
- Pore over maps in preparation for an expedition across the ice cap
Things to do
The hikes to the viewpoints of Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre are the most popular in the park. At 20 km they are both full day hikes but the rewards are worth it!
For those looking to escape the crowds, consider going off-the-beaten-track treks to places like the Electrico Valley, the Los Huemules Reserve and the Tunel Valley where few other hikers venture to. The landscape around El Chalten has been carved out by ancient glacial formations to form deep valleys so the approach hiking here is relatively easy compared to the steep mountainous main trails.
Linking together the day hikes with overnight camping means you can spend longer in the mountains with the added reward of evening sunsets and early morning sunrises. For those seeking a more remote trek, the Huemul Circuit leads you further south to a distant corner of the Park.
The ultimate multi-day hike in El Chalten is the Ice Cap Expedition which loops around the back of Mount Fitz Roy and involves snowshoeing and dodging crevasses on the South Patagonian Ice Cap - the perfect choice if you want to take your hiking to the next level.
Climbing and mountaineering
Given it's proximity to the South Patagonian Ice Cap and the many large granite rock faces, El Chalten is the perfect launchpad for climbers and mountaineers. Cerro Madsen (1806m) is a suitable introductory climb for beginners, whilst Cerro Vespignani (2146m) is a good glacier-level introductory climb further north. Gorra Blanca (2910) stands guard over the Ice Cap, and although it is a physically demanding climb, it is also one of the less-technically challenging peaks. For a more technical challenge, Cerro Solo (2221m) or Cerro Electrico (2257m) are perfect choices.
Experienced rock climbers have a whole host of routes to choose from and there are plenty of equipment shops in town to rent gear if required.
Most people spend a minimum of three days in El Chalten to make the most of the day hikes. However if you're an experienced hiker we recommend you spend longer to really make the most of the off-the-beaten-track trails.
Trips in El Chalten
What our customers think
El Chalten is special. Although a remote town, we (as outdoors people) felt at home with the vibe and the people. The popular hiking trails were well-maintained, but we were very glad to have our guide lead us on the lesser-travelled paths as there were areas we would have had a difficult time determining our way.
Sarah and Jason Colorado, USA November 2017
If you happen to be in Chalten, get a completos from the food truck if it's there - you won't regret it.
Sonia Canada November 2017
El Chalten was our favourite town. Loved the funky, hippy, healthy vibe of the place.
Ellen and John Georgia March 2017
Overall El Chalten was my favourite place! I hiked every day and it was very easy to find the routes and they all led to stunning viewpoints.
Hannah UK February 2017
Some of the most beautiful hiking we have ever done.
Rachel December 2016
How to get there
El Chalten is 3 hours north of El Calafate. There's a direct public bus service that departs both ways three times a day. The bus station in El Chalten is on the edge of town whilst the bus station in El Calafate is more centrally located. Alternatively you can take a shared shuttle service that takes you door-to-door to your hotel.
You can break the journey up with a stop at the petrified forest, a collection of fossilised trees.
You can fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate in three hours, or if you're coming from Chile and from Torres del Paine, you'll need to take a bus across the border which takes around five hours.
Where to stay
There are a range of different accommodations to choose from in El Chalten including basic hosterias, homely B&B's, alpine style lodges and upmarket hotels.
For a more unique experience, the Fitz Roy Adventure Camp north of town is a great choice whilst the Aguas Arriba Lodge offers luxurious seclusion on the edge of Lago del Desierto.
Food and drink
El Chalten's food and wine scene has rapidly grown over recent years as chefs flock from Buenos Aires for a taste of the mountain lifestyle. It takes no longer than 20 minutes to walk from one end of the town to the other so everything is fairly central. Our favourites are:
Techado Negro - Warm, art-decorated, family-run restaraunt focusing on traditional dishes using local ingredients.
La Vineria - Wine bar with over 250 wines from 10 different states in Argentina. Also offer a selection of 50 craft beers including pales ales, porters, pilsner, lager and stouts.
La Ceveceria - Cosy alpine lodge offering locally-brewed pilsner and homemade food. The locro (spicy mountain stew) is a firm Swoop favourite.
La Tapera - Wooden-furnished grill restaurant set over two floors serving up the best steaks in town with a decent wine selection.
Curcuma Natural Kitchen - Small home kitchen offering lots of healthy vegetarian food including juices/smoothies, wraps, salads, soups and stuffed vegetables.They're vegan and celiac friendly and can make nutritious lunch-boxes too.
Waffleria - Stock up on sweet waffles with chocolate sauce and ice cream. The hot chocolate and coffee is also some of the best in town.
Stop off after a long day's hiking at the local empanada shop on San Martin Avenue on your way back to your hotel for a tasty snack to tide you over until dinner.
Tom Ludwig Swoop Expert
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Patagonia is a vast and varied region, with a wealth of things to see and do, a range of places to stay and a limited transport network.
Why not let us do the hard work for you? Our team of experts will work with you to design a 2–3 week adventure to your exact requirements, from hiking and horse-riding trips to wine-tasting tours and undiscovered lodges.
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