Backpacking around Patagonia was one of the most memorable trips of my life. Hiking in El Chalten surely helped on that!
The place is simply hiker’s paradise and the idea of being in such a remote part of the world makes it even more special.
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I spent just over 2 weeks solo backpacking in Patagonia, and of course, this was short as hell! you could easily spend months exploring this vast region that expands between Argentina and Chile. But even with this short amount of days, I had the time of my life!
I wrote more in detail about it on my post Solo Backpacking in Patagonia in 17 days.
All my time in Patagonia was amazing, but I fell in love with two places in particular, Hiking in Torres del Paine was one of them, and the other one was Hiking in El Chalten.
I arrived to El Chalten by bus from El Calafate (about 4 hours). The road, as with all the buses I took in Patagonia, was very scenic and we stopped in a couple of places to take some photos along the Carretera Panamericana.
MY HIKING ESSENTIALS
This tiny little town was cheekily founded by the Argentinian government in 1985 to take advantage on a territorial dispute with Chile for the area that includes the Lago del Desierto.
Nowadays, this Unesco World Heritage Site it’s known as the trekking capital of Argentina, and it seems there’s always a need to compare with Torres del Paine to see which one is better.
I feel they’re completely different experiences and when it comes to the beauty of our planet there’s no need to rank them.
The town of El Chalten is small, basically 4 roads that you walk all in 10 minutes, but from there you have a number of treks that you can do in 1 hour or multi-day adventures.
I stayed at the Hostel del Lago, those days of November the place was pretty empty, so either you like it or hate it, I prefer to have people in the hostels to share stories, in any case, the place was clean and decently cheap.
As I was not staying for too long there due to my short holidays, I had to choose which 3 hikes to do.
Except for the multi-day hikes, you don’t need any permits or guides to go hiking in El Chalten.
Everything can be hiked solo and you will meet lots of people in the most common routes.
The two most popular hikes are the Laguna de los Tres (the best views for the Fitz Roy) and the Cerro Torre. Both are relatively easy and should definitely be on your list of hikes to do in El Chalten.
My third choice, and eventual favourite, was the Senda a la Loma del Pliegue Tumbado.
All three hikes can be accessed on foot from town.
Laguna de los Tres Hike
The Laguna de los Tres hike is possibly the most famous one. Just to think of getting closer to the summit of Fitz Roy is everything you need to push through the final stretch of the climb.
The hike to get to the Laguna de los Tres is 10.2 Km long so it’s definitely a long day out putting +20Km on your legs, so make sure to prepare yourself with plenty of food and water. The terrain is well maintained and you could do this hike on trainers.
There are two camping spots that look pretty awesome. at 4Km you have the Laguna Capri and at 8Km the Poincenot.
Ask around if you’re tempted to swim in Laguna Capri as when I went there were signs mentioning of a bacteria in the water.
The hike itself, apart from the distance, is not too strenuous and flattish with small climbs.
Only the final section is steeper, there are signs mentioning that it takes an hour to finish that section although I did it in just 40 minutes without really rushing it.
The hike is incredibly scenic and there are a couple of viewpoints for the Fitz Roy, but I loved even more was just the area in general. What an incredible sight.
When you finally arrive to the Laguna de los Tres you get rewarded by a fantastic place to chill and relax. I didn’t want to leave as I couldn’t believe I was there.
From the final viewpoint you can still walk around and discover the Laguna Sucia (Dirty Lake) which is anything but dirty!
What a place!
Senda a Laguna Torre
The Cerro Torre hike is another popular route in El Chalten, at 9Km long (18Km total) this one not only just a bit shorter in distance than the Fitz Roy hike but it’s also easier as is mostly flat terrain with just a few climbs that are not too steep.
That doesn’t mean you should skip it though! it’s still extremely beautiful and with some changing terrains.
At times it goes around narrow paths between tall bushes and I only kept thinking of the signs mentioning that there are pumas in the area! jokes aside, I didn’t hear of anyone being attacked by a puma, and in these well-visited routes I guess they put the signs “just in case” but surely the pumas may be in the more isolated areas.
Right at the start of the hike you will find the Margarita Waterfall which offers some stunning views
At the 8Km mark you find the De Agostini Camp, this is located just a 1Km short from the Laguna Torre so if you’re lucky enough to have time to stay camping let me know how does breakfast over there taste like! 🙂
Senda a la Loma del Pliegue Tumbado
My favourite hike in El Chalten was the less transited one, the Senda a la Loma del Pliegue Tumbado, on this one I finally felt I was in full contact with the Patagonia, as the other two are a bit touristy (still a must!).
It takes 10Km to arrive to the Loma del Pliegue Tumbado viewpoint. On this hike you will go through changing landscapes, and weather conditions, at the top of the Loma I had to put on my winter layers as it was pretty windy and cold.
After a final good climb along a snowy hill, the 360 views are worth the effort and I was really excited when I spotted an Andean Condor flying high but clearly identifiable, that’s a big bird!
If you have a few days, go for this hike! it’s one of the longest single-day hikes over there and even that is empty, you will not have a chance to get lost at all as it’s well signalled.
If you’re looking for overnight camping, there’s a camping site at the Laguna Toro, which shares most of the path with this hike but its diversion is marked as a high difficulty trek and you must register if you attempt to go there.
I also went to the Lago del Desierto on my last day. I took a bus there after a failed attempt at hitchhiking due to a lack of traffic.
It was nice and there’s a pretty walk around, but to be honest, if you’re short of time, you will not miss much and I’d have preferred to do another hike instead.
If you’re heading to the Argentinian Patagonia, make sure to go towards El Chalten for some awesome hiking! you will not regret it. Feel free to drop any comments or suggestions if you have been there! 🙂
Check out the rest of my hiking adventures around the world for more inspiration on your next trip!