In the Argentinean part of Patagonia you will find the little mountain village El Chaltén. I was recommended to visit this place because it is really easy to do hikes from here. El Chaltén is not located on a high altitude and it has a lot of hikes surrounding Mount Fitzroy which can be done in a day. For a hiker with little experience, like myself, El Chaltén seemed like a good place to get to know hiking and Patagonia. In El Chaltén I definitely learned that hiking does not need to be too strenuous or off-the-grid, but that if you put in a little effort you will be rewarded for that.
We flew from Bariloche to El Calafate and after watching Ajax getting kicked out of the champions league, we took the bus to El Chaltén. The bus ride to El Chaltén is an easy ride of under 3 hours (€ 12 per person) and I even managed to spot a flying snow owl from the bus! El Chaltén is a small town, so you can walk to most of the hotels from the bus station. Unfortunately it started raining when we arrived to El Chaltén and we couldn’t see the famous Mount Fitzroy behind the village until the next day. We stayed in hotel “Kalenshen” for two days. We had a private room with private bathroom and a breakfast included for € 30 per night. I thought this was a good deal for Patagonia and it seemed like prices for hotels dropped when you booked closer to the date for the stay. Personally, I was very happy with the breakfast as it had actual (real!!) cheese, next to the pastries and jams you will find everywhere in Argentina. After two nights we had to take the bus back to El Calafate, but you can take an evening bus so we had two full days to spend in El Chaltén. If you want to do all hikes the area has to offer I would recommend staying an extra night or getting up really early 😉
El Chaltén is a really charming town, you will get all the winter sports feels because of the architecture which features a lot of wood. Just like in Bariloche, you will find lots of cozy microbreweries where you can have dinner. We would recommend to have dinner and beers at La Cerveceria Chaltén, as it has a great atmosphere and good weissbeer.
Hiking in El Chaltén
I was a bit scared to do a hike again after the Peru debacle, but luckily my experience in El Chaltén was much better. In El Chaltén you can do two main hikes, the hike to Cerro Torre and the hike to Laguna de los Tres (on the base of Mount Fitzroy). The sight was really bad the day that we were supposed to go hiking. I really wanted to do the hike to Laguna de los Tres (8 hours), but we decided on doing the hike to Cerro Torre instead (6 hours). Apparently the last part to Laguna de los Tres is very uncomfortable when the weather is bad and it is not advised to do the climb. I was a bit disappointed, because I was curious for Laguna de los Tres, but I decided it would be better for my confidence if we would do the other hike instead (at least I would make it all the way up). In the end, the weather wasn’t that bad when we were walking; it was actually nice that we didn’t sweat in our hiking gear and we quickly made it to the lagoon at Cerro Torre. At the lagoon we were almost blown away by the strong winds and we safely made it back down.
There is a hike that connects Cerro Torre with Laguna de los Tres (Laguna Madre y Hija hike, 2,5 hours). We decided to take the connecting hike back to our hotel, as this meant that we didn’t have to do the same route twice. Luckily you can spot Mount Fitzroy at the end of the connecting hike, unfortunately it was too late to walk to the Laguna de los Tres, but we still got good views of Mount Fitzroy when the sun started shining later that day. All in all, it was a super successful day and I felt better prepared for Torres del Paine, which we would do later that week.
In El Chaltén you can also do a couple of hikes of just a few hours. We also completed the hike to the Condor Viewpoint during our stay (1,5 hours), as Hielke always loves spotting birds of prey. Surprisingly we did see some condors, but we didn’t bring the right camera lens, so we didn’t take any pictures.
Because we didn’t end up horseback riding in Bariloche, we booked another horseback riding tour in El Chaltén. We booked our tour with El Relincho and did the Del Bosque riding tour (€ 55 per person). Riding a horse in Argentina was a real bucket list item for me, so I was super happy to complete that item and feel like a real gaucho 😉 The day of our tour the weather was super beautiful, mainly with blue skies and during the second half of our tour we had amazing views of Mount Fitzroy! The pampa-like surroundings of the tour were super impressive and diverse so it is worth going for the views alone. As I already had horseback riding experience I got to ride one of the biggest horses of the group, I don’t think I ever rode such a big horse before. Hielke also did really well during this tour. He managed to steer his horse from the group so I could take pictures and he could take pictures of me (he’s a real talent).
What I really liked about this tour is that the guides trusted you to treat the horses right. The horses mainly walked in a straight line, but they would listen if you wanted them to do different things and I was able to speed up if I wanted to. Apparently horseback riding is very popular with Dutch speaking people, as we met a lot of them during this tour.
Horseback riding is just one of the many non-hiking activities you can do in Patagonia. We also learned that you can do a kayak tour near a gletsjer in El Chaltén. This tour costs just over € 100, which is a lot cheaper than the kayak tours that go to the Perito Moreno gletsjer. If we would have known before, we probably would have also booked that tour. Another activity you can do in El Chaltén is hiring a mountainbike or go star gazing!