Sunday, March 13, 2016

El Chaltén, Argentina: Stunning, Stunning Patagonia

From El Calafate, I took a quick 3-hour bus to the adorable city of El Chaltén.

What It's All About:
El Chaltén is another amazing town in Patagonia - known for its various famous hikes, it's located in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares itself and tucked SUPER cutely within the mountains. The town itself is super small (but growing fast from tourism!) - basically just a Main Street lined with the sweetest little cafés and restaurants ever. This town truly feels like an adorable, tucked away little ski village. I not only loved the hikes I took, but the entire feel of the town - I could have hung out there, surrounded by gorgeous mountains and cafés, forever.  This was definitely one of my favorite towns ever.


There's two main trails that people come to hike - Mt. Fitz Roy/Laguna de Los Tres and Laguna Torre.  However, there are tons of other trails as well - you can even combine the main trails or extend them to do multiple days of camping/trekking (some people you meet here are pretty hard-core with their tents and hiking poles and all). For the most part, though, both the popular treks can be day ones (good, because I would have definitely failed the camping part given my complete lack of equipment.)

Cliffnotes of the Day:

Pulling into El Chaltén! Entering the national park - and look, it's surrounded by mountains!

  • My first day, I chose to hike the most famous trail, Laguna De Los Tres - it's known to be the granddaddy of the trails and the prettiest one. I had wanted to save it for the next day, but the weather up here in Patagonia is incredibly unpredictable. If there's a nice day, you take advantage of it because the next day might be totally different.
  • The hike itself for Laguna De Los Tres is 10km and is supposed to take around 7-8 hours in total.  The beginning wasn't too bad, as the trail kind of rolls up and down and has various beautiful viewpoints. There's also incredibly helpful markers and signs which indicate how far you've gone. 

First viewpoint from Laguna De Los Tres trail - rolling hills, winding rivers - Patagonia you are ridiculous

The entire time you walk up, you get different viewpoints of Mt. Fitz Roy

Around Km 4 or 5, there's a lake! And Mt. Fitz Roy looks like it's pretending to be a chimney

You also pass by cute little rivers the whole time. And the water is all drinkable!  I tried it out (against all the crazy voice in my head), and I am still alive today.

  • When you reach Kilometer 9 (1km left!) of the trail, it gets completely ridiculous. The last kilometer involves a crazy steep rock scramble - it has tons of loose scary pebbles, and the wind was blowing like a maniac the day I went. The last kilometer took longer to get up than the previous 3 km combined.  BUT MADE IT.


The water is this absolutely gorgeous turquoise blue

Made it!

If you hike a little further along the lake, you discover another lake hidden behind the mountains to the left.  This one was super sunken-in and had dozens of tiny waterfalls flowing into it. This was my view while I ate my lunch.

  • At the top, I ran into Jacob, who I had met on the glacier tour a couple days earlier - he was with a friend, and the three of us hiked down together.  All I have to say is, the last 2 kilometers were torture - you just get so tired of walking. I also maybe wanted to saw my knees off.  And then I hobbled around all night like a geriatric. 

But we saw wild horses on the hike down!

  • The next day, I was planning on taking it easy, but it turned out to be another completely beautiful, sunny day. And my knees had kind of recovered after a good night's sleep, so I was like, "what the hell, I'll go hike Laguna Torre today." Laguna Torre is only 9km, but it doesn't involve any kind of insane rock scrambles, so it only took maybe 5-6 hours total.

Starting my path up, rock climbers!

My first glimpse of the mountains at Laguna Torre. I have to say, people say this one isn't as pretty as Laguna De Los Tres, so I wasn't expecting much. But obviously, it's still freaking gorgeous.

I hiked this trail alone the whole day (this photo is courtesy of a couple Spanish girls I ran into), which I wasn't sure if I would love. But I did. I literally just took my own pace, thought about issues, resolved them, got into fights with myself, resolved them, thought about great parts of trip and everything I'd done, etc. It was the best.

And just like that, I reached Laguna Torre!  The water isn't as pretty, but there's huge ice chunks floating in the water!

This was my chosen lunch spot today. There weren't that many people, and it was seriously one of the most relaxing hours I've ever had in my life.

And I made this rock pile!  Be impressed.

Zoom in on the crazy snowy mountains

Some of the peaceful hiking scenery on the way back

Overlook into the canyons

And the end of the hike overlooks onto adorable, adorable El Chaltén!

  • I had booked a bus to a city at the end of Patagonia in the north called Bariloche - a 24-hour bus ride (ouch, I know).  It left at 8pm the next day, which left me with one last free day. I had planned to maybe go on one last baby hike or something, but the weather the third day was terrible (torrential winds and rain and no sign of the sun) - going to prove that the weather in this region really does change super rapidly. And at this point, I was just really glad I'd done the two main hikes.  So I maybe spent the day holed up in one of El Chaltén's adorable little cafés.

WiFi is notoriously terrible everywhere in El Chaltén, but this café had kind of passable WiFi (I use "passable" very loosely here).  But I did have the most delicious omelette, scones, and mint tea that I've ever had. I LOVED THIS CAFE.

  • El Chaltén was truly an amazing, relaxing, adorable little retreat (minus the intense hiking, of course). After a couple of days, I loved strolling up and down its main street and stopping here and there for an ice cream or a tea in one of the shops.  The hiking was also some of the most stunning that you'll see in Patagonia - in my opinion, this town absolutely cannot be missed!


  1. Me quito el sombrero! (U r probably up to spanish level 4? So will be able to understand)
    You are a strong girl!
    Miss youu xxx

    1. Level 4 out of......100?? :) Haha

      Miss you so much! xo

  2. Seriously gorgeous pics! Glad you were able to have some nice weather and enjoy the two hikes. :)

    1. Thanks love! Kind of like Colorado though, yes?!