Hiking Heaven: El Chaltén

It’s hard not to love Patagonia. To see those jagged mountains piercing the Argentine sky and think, “Meh, I’ve seen better” is basically impossible. The mind just doesn’t work like that. Instead, your heart swoons and presses against your rib cage as that instinct that has been dormant for way too long rises up your spine to tell your brain, “I want to go to there. I want to climb that.”

View of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre El Chalten

El Chalten, Provincia de Santa Cruz, Argentina

You are now in Patagonia. As you travel through its barren, wind-swept pampas the long-legged guanacos flirt as they bat their eye lashes so long that you can see them from the bus window. They almost taunt you with a wink, as if to say “I know you want take a picture of me, but by the time you find your camera in your purse… (whisper) I’ll be gone.”

View of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre from Ruta 23

View of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre from Ruta 23

El Chaltén is the Patagonian version of hiking heaven. Once you get there, it’s pretty easy to see why. There are day hikes, viewpoints, glacier treks, ice-climbing, challenging multi-day alpine hikes and walk-for-hours-in-the-rain hikes. Except for the glacier treks and ice-climbing, no guides are needed as all trails are very accessible from town and clearly marked. This terrain is as wild as it looks and the weather can change rapidly. Winds can reach 40-60 km and rainstorms can suddenly blow down the valley as it did on our hike to the Fitz Roy from Hostel Pilar.

Mom smiling in the rain on the way to Fitz Roy

But when the sun comes out El Chaltén is one of my favorite places in the world. Is it worth a trip? Most definitely.

Cerro Torre El Chalten, Argentina

Hike to Cerro Torre

Practical Stuff:

How to Get There: Take a 2.5 hour bus ride from El Calafate. There are 3 daily bus services in the morning, mid-day and early evening. Buses runs only in the summer from November to March and will cost you about 90 pesos (about $20) one way.

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