*Our Patagonia trip was from 28 November to 19 December 2016.
From Puerto Natales, we took a 5.5 hour bus ride to El Calafate, where we bought connecting bus tickets to El Chalten. The journey from El Calafate to El Chalten took us about 3 hours (Side note: We strongly recommend TAQSA buses).
We could barely contain our excitement when we finally arrived at this surreal place! Check out Fitz Roy in the background! 😀
Why El Chalten?
El Chalten is a must-visit stopover for anyone who loves nature and hiking. Popularly touted as Argentina’s Trekking Capital, it is a base for many treks and trails around the area (check out the various hiking spots and trails below!)
El Chalten is situated within the Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site with stunning natural beauty such as glacial lakes and rugged mountain peaks. The map below shows a bird’s eye view of the main attractions of the Park.
As avid hikers, we just couldn’t wait to check this place out! We completed a total of three hikes here, which spanned from easy to moderate in terms of levels of difficulty.
Hike 1: Laguna de los Tres (10km return)
We started off with a 10.2km return trek to Laguno de los Tres, hoping to catch the infamous Fitz Roy mountain in its full glory. The trek started from Sendero al Fitz Roy, which was just a five minute walk from our accommodation.
El Chalten is a trekker’s haven indeed, and you won’t get lost with the well positioned signs all over the city and along the various trails. 🙂
The weather didn’t start off too well, but we had learnt from our past 13 days of experience never to judge at first glance – Patagonian weather is just so incredibly unpredictable. Along the trek, there were various miradors, or lookout points, for great photo opportunities.
Our first mirador was mirador Rio de las Vueltas, which was only about 30 minutes from the starting point. Due to the weather, we could not see the mountains in the distance, but it still looked lovely nonetheless.
Mirador del Rio de las Vueltas
The next noteworthy mirador was mirador del Fitz Roy, which promised a splendid unblocked view of the Fitz Roy mountain. The peaks were eluding us, however, owing to the fog and clouds in the morning.
We continued trudging on, hoping the weather would get better. The start of the trail was hard, but it started getting a tad more difficult, and the last one hour was quite challenging. Here are glimpses of the different types of terrain we had to trek through for this 9 hour return trek (this is a leisurely pace – if you hike quickly you can do it in half the time).
Glimpse of glaciers along the way – we even heard ‘explosions’ – and soon realised that they were avalanches!
And… our final view for the day:
Massive glacial fields right in front of us!
A pity that Fitz Roy was blocked 😦
Well, we guess our photos would have turned out better (with more to see) had the weather been clearer, but we felt that the fog also added character to the place. In fact, right before we left, the fog was closing in upon us and it was so surreal – quite an experience to behold indeed! 🙂
(only because of the weather!)
Trek to Laguna de Los Tres
10.2km round trek
Level of difficulty: Moderate
Hike 2: Walk to Chorrillo del Salto (4km return)
As we had to recover from our long hike from our first day at El Chalten, we decided to go easy with our second walk and opted for a very short hike to Chorrillo del Salto, a 20 metre waterfall nestled at the foothills along the Chorrillo river. The short hike takes you through gravel roads and sparse deciduous forests. It is surprisingly easy and is suitable for all ages and fitness levels. At the end of the trek, you will be rewarded by a lovely view of Chorrillo del Salto!
Trek to Chorrillo del Salto
4km round trek
Level of difficulty: Very easy
Hike 3: Loma del Pliegue Trek (10km one way)
Perhaps the highlight of our stay in El Chalten, this trek was no easy feat – partly due to the weather (more on that later). Although the recommended time was 4h one way (10 km to the mirador), we took about 12 hours to complete the return trek. The draw of this trek is that at the end point, you can get to see the entire mountain range around El Chalten, including Fitz Roy and, if you are lucky, Cerro Torre.
A strange and precariously balanced rock en route
El Chalten when we looked back
The trek was uphill 90% of the time, with gentle to moderate inclines. We thought the trek was mostly manageable despite some challenges, but the last part to the lookout would be rated life threatening, because of the huge gusts of winds that literally swept us off our feet and transported us a few metres away each time they blew, and slapped sand and rocks in our faces (too painful to even remember). As such, we didn’t get to the highest point, but got a relatively decent view of Fitz Roy and its surrounding peaks. We reckon the view would have been unbeatable had we managed to ascend this on a clear day.
The promised view – Before the life threatening leg of the trek began
And finally, as we hid behind a huge rock as we fought for our lives, we managed to take a few amateur shots with the sand slapping our faces:
It was such a pity we couldn’t venture further, but this was an experience that we would never, ever forget.
Check out the mushroom cloud threatening to eat us alive as we scrambled our way down the mountain!
(the experience of a lifetime!)
Loma del Pliegue Trek
10km trek (one-way)
Level of difficulty: Moderate to life threatening
Our home for the 3 nights there was Cabanas Austral. We had our very own private lodge that was complete with en suite facilities – bathroom, kitchen and a very small dining table on the first floor, and a bed on the upper floor. The place was clean and well-equipped; however, the ventilation was pretty bad and we found ourselves perspiring in the middle of the night, even when windows were left open. Still, the accommodation was located within easy walking distance of many trails, and we were satisfied. 🙂
Address: Avenida San Martin 649,
El Chalten Z9301ABA, Argentina
Goodbye, El Chalten, you were a dream!
*This is a non-sponsored post.