El Chalten, the trekking capital of Argentina, offers so many things to do for those who love to walk. Arriving in El Chalten from El Calafate, it is easy to understand the beauty of this place: in fact, from here, Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy, two of the most iconic mountains in the world, are really close by!
There are, in fact, many treks that start from El Chalten. You are spoiled for choice!
El Chalten is a wonderful town, built in 1985. It can be reached by bus about three hours from Calafate, which is served by an airport. In 1985 Chile began thinking about annexing this part of Patagonia. To avoid this, the Argentine government pushed citizens to go to El Chalten and populate the area. Now El Chalten is a trekker’s paradise, and this post describes what to do in this wonderful town.
The first trek is the most popular among tourists. In fact, the trek leading to Laguna Torre is definitely the easiest of the long-mileage treks. From the center of El Chalten you have to walk 19 km round trip to reach Laguna Torre, with an elevation gain of about 500 meters.
The route is never technically difficult and there are few steep uphill sections. Therefore, the trek to Laguna Torre is suitable for everyone who loves to walk, even without being in perfect shape: you have to be willing to walk a lot (there are 6 to 7 hours of walking between round trip).
The views from the Laguna Torre are impressive! In fact, on sunny days it is possible to see the magnificent Cerro Torre and the lagoon is full of icebergs. With an additional four kilometers between round trips (and a hundred meters of elevation gain: you need at least an hour between round trips) you can visit the beautiful Mirador Maestri. Cerro Torre, from here, is closer, and you can also see the fantastic Argentine glaciers!
To return to El Chalten you use the same trail as on the way out. There is the possibility of sleeping in Campamento De Agostini, a short walk from Laguna Torre. An in-depth look at trekking is available here!
The trek to Laguna Los Tres is as beloved as the one to Laguna Torre. There are two ways to reach Laguna Los Tres. The former departs directly from El Chalten, while the latter requires a transportation service to El Pilar.
I highly recommend the second method! In fact, this way round trip is different. Also, you can see the beautiful Glaciar Piedras Blancas, which in the first method would not be seen.
The trek to Laguna Los Tres is more complicated than the one to Laguna Torre, as the part leading from Campamento Poincenot (where you can sleep) to the Laguna is very steep.
Once you arrive at Laguna Los Tres I recommend walking an additional five minutes to admire the view that encompasses both Laguna Los Tres and Laguna Sucia. Here is a video of the view!
The trek described is 22 km long with an elevation gain of nearly 1,000 meters. Normally, it takes about eight hours to complete the trek to Laguna Los Tres.
In 2023 I repeated this trek, in a different and significantly more grueling way. In fact, I connected Laguna Torre to Laguna Los Tres. In total it turned out to be40 km of trekking in one day, which turned out to be beautiful!
Joining the two lagoons, I also had a chance to see the Mother and Hija Lagoons, spectacular!
The third long-distance daily trek is to the Loma del Pliegue Tumbado. In my opinion it is, of the three treks just described, the most complicated. In fact, the elevation gain exceeds 1,100 meters and the slopes are often tough. In addition, the mileage exceeds 20 kilometers round trip! The mirador Loma del Pliegue Tumbado, however, repays the efforts! In fact, from the Loma del Pliegue Tumbado you can see both Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre!
Again, several hours of trekking must be calculated: at least six! An in-depth look at trekking is available here!
Mirador Los Condores and Mirador Las Aguilas are perfect for those who like to walk little and still see, however, beautiful views. The tour linking these two viewpoints needs about two three-hour walks starting from the center of El Chalten, with an elevation gain of about 200 meters.
From Mirador Los Condores you can enjoy beautiful views of El Chalten and Fitz Roy: as the name implies, it is easy to see Condor! From Mirador Las Aguilas, however, you can fully appreciate the enormity of Lake Viedma!
At the base of the Miradores you can visit the Centro de Visitantes, run by the Park rangers. This, besides being a very useful center (you must pass here before embarking on the Vuelta Huemul, for example) is a kind of museum where you can see the first conquests of the Patagonian peaks.
This combination of activities is perfect for a half day!
Salto el Chorrillo is perhaps the easiest trek of all. It is four kilometers from the center of El Chalten and is practically totally flat. The trek itself is quite boring but, upon arrival, there is a chance to see Salto El Chorrillo, a beautiful waterfall!
However, visiting Salto El Chorrillo deserves space among the activities to do in El Chalten and requires about half a day’s time. You have to calculate about two hours of walking between round trip.
El Chalten is a town beloved by trekking enthusiasts. There are few choices for those who do not like to walk. Prominent among them is definitely the
tour that leads to the Lago del Desierto, just before the Chilean border!
I visited Lago del Desierto to reach Villa O’Higgins, before starting the Carretera Austral by bike:a fantastic crossing recounted here!
There is an additional trek, four days long: Huemul Circuit! A tough, wild, magical trek! I describe this trek in depth in this post.