El Chalten is an essential place to visit in Patagonia. This El Chalten Hiking Guide by guest author Valentina from Valentina’s Destinations has everything you need to know about hiking in El Chalten so you can spend your time here enjoying the incredible scenery on the best hikes in El Chalten!
El Chalten is considered the hiking capital of Argentina, and you’ll be sure to hit all the highlights with this targeted 3-day El Chalten hiking itinerary. This itinerary is designed for hikers who are planning to spend their nights in town at a hotel and enjoy the best day hikes in El Chalten. As many of these El Chalten hikes are lengthy and challenging, this itinerary is most suitable for experienced hikers and athletic individuals.
3 days Hiking in El Chalten
Why spend only 3 days in El Chalten? El Chalten is considered the gateway to Patagonia. It’s where you’ll find the famous Fitz Roy mountain and other incredible peaks as well as an abundance of glacial lakes and lagoons.
However, there’s much more in Patagonia to explore. Even on the Argentinean side, you may consider visiting El Calafate, Ushuaia, or Bariloche. Not to mention, the Chilean side of Patagonia. Additionally, many travelers visiting Patagonia decide to cruise to Antarctica (which adds at least 10 days to any trip).
If you aren’t backpacking, and you prefer day hikes, 3 days is a good amount of time to spend in El Chalten. It may also help to keep in mind that El Chalten is a very tiny, remote, village. There’s very few shops or restaurants (you can pretty much hit all of them in 3 days). So, if you like to experience more than hiking, you won’t want to stay here too long!
There are several comfortable hotels in El Chalten. These are located within walking distance to trailheads and restaurants.
How to Get to El Chalten
The easiest way to get to El Chalten is to drive from El Calafate. El Calafate town has an airport while El Chalten does not. You can arrange car rentals at the airport or in advance. Consider staying in El Calafate for a couple of days, as it is a beautiful town with many unique attractions like glacial ice trekking, a petrified forest, & a wildlife sanctuary where you can visit flamingos.
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Google maps predicts a 4 hour drive from El Calafate to El Chalten. From personal experience, the drive took no more than 3 hours. The roads are well paved, flat and straight. You won’t encounter many other cars or trucks on this road, so you can go pretty fast. Along the ride, pay attention to your surroundings. You’ll be likely to spot a herd of guanaco grazing or a condor flying up above.
PRO TIP: Make sure to fill up on gas before driving to El Chalten from El Calafate, or vice versa. There are no gas stations between the two cities! There are no gas stations, rest stops or stores of any kind between the two cities. So, even if you aren’t staying in El Calafate, you may want to visit there first to stock up on food or snacks.
El Chalten Hiking Itinerary – Day 1
On day 1 in El Chalten, I recommend hiking to the legendary Laguna Torre. In the evening, enjoy handmade pasta for dinner at Maffia, then, a glass of Patagonian wine at La Vineria.
Most accommodations will offer to pack a brown bag packed lunch for a small fee, perfect for day hikes around El Chalten. When you check in, make sure to let the hotel know that you will need one for your first day.
You will be hiking to Laguna Torre. This is a classic El Chalten hike that you should not miss! At Laguna Torre, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of mountains, glaciers and valleys. When you arrive at the trailhead, you’ll see a big sign that says ‘Senda a Laguna Torre.’ You can easily walk to the trailhead from any hotel in town. Alternatively, there’s some parking near the base of the trailhead.
Laguna Torre is a lake formed by glacial meltwater. Since it was formed from glacial meltwater, it’s known to have a special greenish blue hue. Sometimes this color is called ‘milky turquoise,’ and it comes from the rock sediment that is grinded to a fine powder as glaciers move around.
This hike is around 19 kilometers or just over 11.5 miles in length. It takes most hikers 7 to 8 hours to complete. During the trek, you will gain only 800 feet in elevation. Most of the path is quite flat.
Along the hike, you will pass by many scenic viewpoints. You’ll see the gorge of the Fitz Roy river as well as the Margarita Waterfall. Once you get to Laguna Torre, you may consider adding on a visit to Mirador Maestri. Visiting Mirador del Maestri will add another 4 kilometers and 1-2 hours to your trip.
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Mirador del Maestri is named after Cesare Maestri (the first man to climb Cerro Torre). From this viewpoint, you can catch stunning views of the Grande and Torre glaciers.
The Laguna Torre hike is very popular, and the trail gets busy. It’s best to start your hike as early in the morning as you can. We started just after sunrise. Once you reach the lake, this is an excellent place to have lunch before turning back.
In anticipation of tomorrow’s hike, head to Panaderia Que Rika and stock up on some empanadas. You’ll be able to enjoy them the next day as you rest at Laguna de Los Tres.
You’ll want to grab dinner at Maffia in town. Maffia is a homestyle Italian restaurant where freshly made pastas and desserts take center stage. Maffia also offers an awesome selection of regional wines. Be sure to ask your server for recommendations. To continue sipping on delicious Patagonian wine, head over to La Vineria. It’s a cosy neighborhood wine bar offering small plates and a warm ambiance.
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Many people don’t realize that Patagonia is a wine region. Its cool and dry climate is excellent for producing flavorful reds. Grapes grown here include Malbec and Pinot Noir, and Patagonian wines are known for rich varietal character and strong acidity. However, the Malbecs from Patagonia tend to cost more than those from Mendoza.
If you have a sweet tooth, you may prefer to grab dessert at Heladeria Domo Blanco (El Calafate’s neighborhood ice cream joint).
Hiking in El Chalten Day 2
On day 2 in El Chalten, challenge yourself to reach the stunning Laguna de Los Tres. Afterwards, reward yourself to a feast of Patagonian lamb at La Tapera or delicious waffles at La Wafleria.
You’ll want to start your day as early as possible, since this is a long hike! Make sure to pack the empanadas that you purchased last night. Today’s recommended El Chalten hike is to the famous Laguna de Los Tres. It’s an epc 24-26 km journey that will take 8-10 hours round trip.
The trailhead is located at the end of St. Martin street. You can easily walk there from any of the downtown hotels. This is the most desired hike in El Chalten, so the trail gets very busy. If the sun is up by the time you start, you’ll catch sweeping panoramas of the De las Vueltas River as you embark on your trek.
Continue down the path and you will enter a valley that loops towards Mount Fitz Roy. After you pass the Poincenot Base Camp, you’ll begin a treacherous climb. It’s a very steep 400 meter (1,300 feet) ascent to reach Laguna de los Tres. The climb takes about an hour, and it’s grueling! Take your time and be careful.
As you are climbing the last section of the trail, you may start to add on layers. It gets quite cold and windy when you reach the top sections. Finally, you’ll reach the gorgeous blue lagoon and the De los Tres glacier. This is considered the best view of Fitz Roy’s granite wall, and you can also catch the surrounding peaks. Take a break here and enjoy your empanadas.
During the entire hike, you’ll gain a total of 700 meters (or 2,300 feet), although half of that elevation is gained during the last hour climb to the top. This is one of the most iconic treks in Patagonia, one of the best hikes in El Chalten and it is a photographer’s dream!
After you’ve recovered from the Laguna de Los Tres trek (Yes, it’s okay to take a nap). Enjoy a traditional Patagonian dinner at La Tapera. La Tapera offers regional favorites served in hearty portions. The ambiance is rustic with a log cabin feel and a central fire for added warmth.
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If you haven’t tried it already, the Patagonian Lamb is an iconic dish that shouldn’t be missed. Lamb raised in Patagonia is world renowned for its quality and flavor. Sheep farming has been an important part of Argentina’s agriculture since the early 20th Century.
Still hungry? Head to La Wafleria for a waffle topped with chocolate and strawberries (or whatever else). It’s a fun hangout spot with a communal table and local memorabilia.
El Chalten Hiking Itinerary Day 3
Day 3 is the most relaxed day you’ll spend in El Chalten. You’ll need this rest after the intense days you spent hiking! Take this time to enjoy some flavors of Patagonia, and then set out on an evening sunset hike. Spend any remaining time today fine tuning your remaining travel plans.
Sleep in and relax on the morning of day 3 in El Chalten. You’ve earned it! Once you finally make it out of bed, head to a small neighborhood shop called Chaltenos. This is the perfect place to enjoy a cup of espresso and try alfajores.
Alfajores are a favorite Argentinian dessert. They are sandwich cookies with a layer of dulce de leche, and they melt in your mouth! Sometimes, they’re dipped in chocolate, or rolled with a layer of coconut flakes.
The cookies are traditionally made with corn starch, butter and flour in equal parts. Dulce de leche is a milk based caramel sauce that’s also popular in Argentina, especially Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, this isn’t a gluten free or vegan friendly dessert.
Tasting the homemade alfajores at Chaltenos is an Argentinean foodie experience that you have to add to your bucket list! Chaltenos has very limited hours, so be sure to check in advance before arriving. You’ll only get a chance to visit this place during late morning/early afternoon.
After enjoying your espresso and alfajores, stop by La Cerveceria for a taste of local brews. This cozy gastropub and microbrewery serves free popcorn with your cold pint.
Another foodie favorite in El Chalten is White Dome Ice Cream. So, if you have room for another dessert, you may consider visiting this place.
The best way to to end your visit to El Chalten is with a short evening hike that offers incredible sunset views. An hour or two before sunset, head towards the trailhead for Mirador Los Condores.
Mirador Los Condores is one of the most scenic short hikes El Chalten. You can walk to the trailhead easily from downtown, and while it is a steep hike, it’s only 1.2 miles round trip (a piece of cake compared to the hikes you did on day 1 or 2!).
Once you get to the viewpoint, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of El Chalten town and the surrounding mountain peaks. The views of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre from up here are awe-inspiring! Make sure to bring flashlights or give yourself enough time to hike back to town before it gets dark.
Finish your last day in Patagonia with a hearty and flavorful meal at Restaurante Ahonikenk Chalten Fonda Patagonia. You’ll experience regional home cooking in a relaxed setting.
If you are looking for a more formal dinner to cap off this trip, consider instead Destino Resto at the Destino Sur Hotel. Destino Resto offers a more extensive wine menu with expertly crafted dishes. The presentation is innovative and the service is top-notch.
TIP: Be sure to fill up on gas before leaving El Chalten.
I hope this article has got you excited for your El Chalten hiking adventure!. Although it can be challenging, hiking in El Chalten is an incredible experience you’ll never forget! Have you tried any of these hikes in El Chalten? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to know how you got on.
About the Author
Valentina’s Destinations was born from Valentina’s obsession with meticulously researching, organizing, and planning her travel itineraries. She is originally from Serbia, but grew up in Chicago, and loves hunting down local restaurants, unique experiences, and hidden gems. You can follow her adventures on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
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