Why is El Chalten called the trekking capital of Argentian. Our El Chalten trekking guide. Accommodation and campsites reviewed. Budget. Transport and hitchhiking from El Chalten.
El Chalten is considered the trekking capital of Patagonia by just about every book and website on the topic. This status can be attributed to quantity not quality; it is not the best trekking in Southern Patagonia, but is definitely the most touristy. We have done several hikes on our way south through Patagonia and were looking forward see the two most prominent peaks, Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre while camping and trekking here.
There are several trails leading to the main viewpoints, each taking between four and eleven hours to hike from the town. The trails are well marked and free maps are available all over the town. Eventually you can combine several trails to make up a hike to suit your needs. There are four free campsites in the park. We saw all the main points in the park over two days trekking, camping one night, you can see the route we followed below.
El Chalten trekking guide. Hiking for everybody
The park is truly for everybody, hiking is not too tough and people from 8 to 80 walk around happily swinging trekking poles. As I mentioned before the trails are well indicated besides there are many people walking around, so getting lost is very unlikely. I don’t think a guide is necessary actually El Chalten is a great place to do your first independent hike. This is not an off the beaten track place for wild adventurous hiking, but the views are spectacular and we enjoyed it.
Our hiking route in El Chalten
We started in the afternoon and hiked the following route (indicated distances are from the start of the route):
Located outside of town, trail starts here, you have to register if you are planning to camp or walk further than the viewpoints, registration is free of charge.
- Laguna Capri (4km)
This is a nice viewpoint of the Fitz Roy Range, the walk here starts with a bit of uphill and some steps but then becomes flat. It was overcast and rainy on our first day for this reason we saw almost nothing on the first day.The laguna is 4km about 1 hour and 15 minutes’ walk from the visitors centre.
- Campamento Poincenot (8km)
The campsite is located just over an hour’s walk further. On the way we could see the glacier Piedras Blancas, almost at the start to the trail to Laguna Los Tres. The campsite had a dry toilet, water was available at a close by river. The campsite was quite full with some groups being loud until late.
- Laguna De Los Tres (10.5km)
The lake is spectacular by any standards, the trail starts close to the campsite, Campamento Poincenot. Unlike the previous day that day we were very lucky to have a perfect sunny weather with no wind.
It is only a 2 or 3km walk from the campsite, but is a steep climb most of the way. There are two lakes (Laguna De Los Tres and Laguna Sucia) and a glacier that you can see on the top. If there is no wind the reflection of the mountain in the lake is amazing. Get up about 2 hours before sun up if you want to see the sunrise from the top.
We broke down our tent before summiting and walked up with our full packs and our tent, if you get up for the sunrise come back and break down your tent after descending, this will also make the climb a bit easier
- Mirrador Glacier Piedras Blancas (10km)
This viewpoint is about 2km from the Campamento Ponenot campsite. We had a really nice view of the glacier. We walked here after coming down from Laguna De Los Tres and had breakfast.
- Laguna Torre (9km)
This was a long walk from Mirrador Glacier Piedras Blancas at the end of the day. It was overcast again and we did not have great views, but the views of the Torre range is supposed to be good from here. The view of the lake and it’s glacier was nice.
- Mirrador del Torre (3km)
Nice views of the Cerro Torre Range, was our last stop on the way back.
We spent 5 days in El Chalten spending a total of A$735 ($50, R750) thus A$147 ($9.80, R150), a little bit less than $10 per day.
Total: A$335 ($22.50, R343), thus A$67 ($4.50, R68) per day
Total: A$400 ($27, R410), thus A$80 ($5.37, R81) per day
Accommodation in El Chalten
El Relincho Camping
A$ 120 ($8, R127) per person, this was the first campsite we stayed. Fantastic hot showers. Very nice indoor common area for socializing. It has a good kitchen (utensils are limited) as well as an area to do laundry by hand. Supermarket across the road. In the main road. It is the most popular as a result most expensive campsite. By the way a shared food section here was very good (area where you leave food you do not want) many camper vans and tourists left things like olive oil, good coffee etc.
La Torcida Camping
A$80 ($5.50, R85) per person, Hot showers. Very nice indoor common area for socializing. Good kitchen. Small, cosy, great place to meet other travelers. Located close to the start of the trail.
El Refugio Camping
A$70 ($4.80, R75) per person. Located next to El Rencho. Kitchen. Showers. We never stayed here
Casa de Cyclistas
Donation, legendary among cyclists in Patagonia. A lady opened her house to any cyclists to stay for free. I spoke to a couple of people, they said it has turned into more of a hostel, a business, you can buy cooked meals A$30 ($2, $32). Only one bathroom. A reasonable ‘donation’ is expected for staying here.
El Relincho Camping, A$150 ($10, R160) for a dormitory bed
Many hostels over town advertising for A$150 ($10, R160) for a dormitory bed
Argentina Pategonia is very expensive, European prices. Mince, wine, bread and Dulce de Leche (boiled condense milk) was cheaper than on the Chilean side.
The price for transport in Argentina is very high, from El Chalten to El Calafate is about 220km and takes 3 hours by bus. The cheapest ticket is A$350 ($24, R360). We hitchhiked everywhere in Chile and Argentina for months, check our post Hitchhiking Carretera Austral for more details. In El Chalten crazy bus prices force many backpackers into their first hitchhiking experience. As a result we had to wait a whole day for a ride along with about 20 others. It was funny to see someone with a backpack walk in to the bus station only to come and stand next to the road a couple of minutes later with a painful expression.
Buy enough gas in Chile it is much cheaper, Doite gas was $3 at most places in Chile, about $8 more north in Argentina and cost $15 in El Chalten.
We cooked in the campsite kitchen, for our hike we cooked some rice before and took it along in a Tupperware container saving on gas.