El Chalten was way cuter than I had envisioned. It comes out of nowhere as you make your way in, through the vast barrenness that is Patagonia (outside of the main attractions).
We drove in from Chile Chico. The drive was like all of our drives during our 22 Day Patagonia Road Trip…boring. But oh my lanta, when you finally get a glimpse of something other than flat, desolate plateaus, Mt. Fitz Roy and the Andes don’t hesitate to blow your freaking mind.
The photo above shows where El Chalten sits – at the base of the Andes. You can see the town just below the darker hills, past the blue river water.
And below, is a view of El Chalten taken on the hike back from Fitz Roy. So the mountains are to our back, and route 41 is to our left, along the river.
I imagine the photo below is the second most, if not the most iconic photo of Patagonia. Perhaps second to the three peaks of Torres Del Paine. This is your view about 15-20 minutes out from El Chalten; which is tucked at the base of those mountains (see very first photo on this post).
We naturally got out and took photos upon arriving. Then came back out during one of our days here, and again as we drove from El Chalten to El Calafate. In fact, this view of Fitz Roy from the road might be our favorite view in all of Patagonia. Even in comparison to hiking to Fitz Roy itself. We simply suggest you come decide for yourself.
The photos below were taken during those three different stops.
As stated, El Chalten was way cuter and more accommodating than we had expected. But there are a few things to note – and I wished were more clear to us before heading there. We’ll get to those, but first, the general details about El Chalten.
It is a hiker’s hub FOR SURE. Not totally grimy, but also not a small town in the Swiss alps. El Chalten is somewhere in between.
Most of the hikes start directly from the town, making it a hiking capitol of South America, if not the world.
Gas – there is ONE gas station and it’s on the right just before you enter the town. It’s really more of a trailer with one pump and only accepts cash. We filled up at almost every station we saw, so we didn’t need to use this solo pump. But it’s worth noting.
Cash – the town ATM gets money on Thursday’s. According to the other tourists in line with us at the ATM, it’s near impossible even then, to get cash out. And all across Argentina the fee is 30% to complete ONE transaction. Which won’t be more than $1000-$2000 pesos at a time…which is only $32 USD max. If you have a bank like Charles Schwab who reimburses ATM fees, it’s not terrible, but definitely not ideal. So…if you can, get as much cash out as possible before heading into the southern region of Argentina. We had no luck with 5+ banks in Bariloche, and it didn’t improve as we headed south.
Anitas House – VERY solid doors, heater if needed, but we had our windows open most of the time for a breeze. Full bathtub and shower. It was super clean and comfortable. The only downside was the WiFi and slight sulphuric smell from the bathroom (we experienced this all throughout Patagonia – not specific to Anitas house).
LA NANA for breakfast ($22 for full breakfast, oj, coffee for two people)
LA VINERIA GRILL & PASTA for dinner ($40 for two people – wine, appetizer, meat and salad)
SIMPLE for sandwiches, bars, dried fruit and snacks
(below) Laguna Torre (Cerro Fitz Roy) 8 hours but took us 6.5 (see full blog post)
Mirador Maestri Lookout (6 hours) – didn’t do it. Saving our feet for Torres Del Paine (which we decided against due to weather conditions, but you’ll hear all about that in our TDP blog post- coming soon).
Corilla de Salta – waterfall, short and easy right off route 41.
(below) Laguna & Glacier Huemul – 30 minutes in, uphill. Prettiest water we saw in El Chalten.
Getting to Huemul – Drive route 41 all the way to the end. Or you can hitch-hike. Plenty of people do. You can walk all the way down route 41, it just might take a hot minute. The photo above is Huemul and the photos below were on the drive out. It took around 45 minutes as the speed limit is slow, and the roads are not maintained.
There is a little shop at the end of 41 when you come to a body of water and a parking lot. We paid a small entrance fee at the booth, and the hike took less than 30 minutes. Well worth it!
El Chalten is obviously a backpackers dream. But even if you’re not a die hard hiker, there is plenty to see for all fitness, and hike-interest levels. Clearly we lucked out on weather. For both of our hikes we had mostly blue skies in the 70’s. We were there in early February, for reference. But also keep in mind, the more south you go in Patagonia, the weather can change, and does change, SO FAST.
Just as you can be as active or non-active as you like, you can also find all levels of accommodations and restaurants in El Chalten.
Stay for two days or a month. Just make sure you make it to this section of Patagonia at some point in your life. And don’t forget to check out our full blog post on our Fitz Roy Hike!
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