18 Best Things To Do In El Chaltén, Argentina


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Welcome to El Chaltén, the trekking capital of Argentina! El Chaltén is a small town on the northern edge of Los Glaciares National Park, surrounded by stunning mountains in every direction.

Most people come to El Chaltén to experience the rewarding hike to Laguna de los Tres, with its pristine view of Mount Fitz Roy. There are plenty more outdoorsy things to do in El Chaltén, including rafting trips, ice climbing, and estancia visits.

When I told my guides at Ecocamp Patagonia in Torres del Paine that we were heading El Chaltén, they would invariably sigh with happiness. “I love El Chaltén,” they’d say, dreamy smiles on their faces.

And as soon as I got there, I realized why. El Chaltén is a tiny, idyllic town set between mountains. It’s close to everything — the trails begin literally right in town, and you can hike from your accommodation without worrying about transportation to the trailhead!

And the hikes? They are SPECTACULAR. Some of the best in all of Patagonia. You can hike every day for a week and have a different experience each day.

I should also let you know that El Chaltén is a wild place. In this remote town, you should expect the weather to be varied, the wifi to be slow, and the phone signal to be non-existent. This is the place for a digital detox! (Though if you really need wifi, head to PAISA High Mountain Coffee. More on that below.)

So if you’re looking to unplug, spend your days hiking in the mountains of Patagonia, and your nights enjoying Argentine lamb and craft beer, you are going to love El Chaltén! Here are the best things to do in El Chaltén, Argentina, a mountain town you’ll never forget.

This post was published in February 2024 and was co-written by Adventurous Kate and Riana Ang-Canning.

An intensely teal lake surrounded by jagged mountains covered with snow underneath a blue sky.
Laguna de los Tres and Mount Fitz Roy, via Shutterstock

Things to Do in El Chaltén, Argentina

Hike Laguna de los Tres trail to Mount Fitz Roy

If you’ve seen any one photo of El Chaltén, it’s from Laguna de los Tres. Hiking to this gorgeous viewpoint, with the teal lake set in front of Mount Fitz Roy, is the number one thing to do in El Chaltén and one of the most popular hikes in all of Patagonia.

Keep in mind, this is not a hike for beginners. This is a long hike, and the last part is a challenging uphill slog — but if you’re a fit and experienced hiker with the proper gear, you’re going to love it. 

Laguna de los Tres, or Lake of the Three, references the three mountains that surround the lake: Mount Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre, and Mount Poincenot. Along the trail you’ll enjoy panoramic views and options to detour to nearby lagoons or camp for the night. 

The Laguna de los Tres trail starts from right in El Chaltén. “Sendero al Fitz Roy” on Google Maps is the trailhead, perched on the end of town. Dress appropriately — the trail experiences strong winds, and in Patagonia, the weather can be unpredictable — bring hiking poles, and be prepared for the final kilometer (0.6 miles) to be the most difficult part.

This out-and-back hike is 22 km (13.7 miles) in total, with over 1000 meters (3200 feet) in elevation gain, and should take about eight hours to finish. You can hike independently, as the trail is popular and well-marked, or you can join a hiking group with a guide

For hiking enthusiasts looking for a more intense adventure, there’s also a two-day guided tour, which includes overnight camping and visits to nearby lakes Laguna Torre and Laguna Capri. 

Kate posing with two peace signs in front of the Fitz Roy mountain range, jagged gray mountains surrounded by clouds.

Hike to the Fitz Roy Viewpoint

If 14 miles of hiking to Laguna de los Tres and back isn’t for you, you can still do part of this hike and enjoy spectacular views — just stop at the Fitz Roy Viewpoint. This is actually what Charlie and I did, as we were still somewhat destroyed from hiking to the Base of the Torres del Paine in Chile.

Hiking to the Fitz Roy Viewpoint is about a three-hour out-and-back moderate hike. Just the right amount of hiking when you want a satisfying activity but not quite an all-day hike.

There is a point in the hike where you see a split trail, one side heading to the view of Cerro Fitz Roy, one side heading to Laguna Capri. The two trails join again, so you can do the trail in a circle and return back to El Chaltén.

Fun fact: This view of Fitz Roy is what they modeled the Patagonia brand logo on! And you can also see Fitz Roy from Laguna Capri itself, which is a popular spot for camping. You can also enjoy views along the way, like Mirador Río de las Vueltas.

A small gray-green lake surrounded by jagged gray mountains with a low-hanging cloud dwarfing them.
The view above Laguna Torre, via Shutterstock

Hike to Laguna Torre

The second big hike in El Chaltén after Laguna de los Tres is the hike to Laguna Torre. This 17.5-km (11-mile) challenging hike winds along the Río Fitz Roy valley, offering mountain vistas and viewpoints along the way.

The trail starts from the town of El Chaltén, or you can connect to it from other hiking routes in the area. The out-and-back hike takes about five hours (though if you take a look at the reviews, many hikers report it taking closer to seven). Some hikers choose to camp overnight and hike back the next day.  

If you don’t want to hike the whole thing, you can just hike the first 20 minutes of the trail, until you see a waterfall down in the valley. I won’t lie, this isn’t the huge payoff that the hike to the Fitz Roy viewpoint is — but it is something if you’re up for a mini-mini hike.

A river winding through a valley in Patagonia, tall snowcapped mountains on each side.
This river is pretty mighty if you go further down!

Raft down Río de las Vueltas

There are more outdoor activities in El Chaltén than just hiking! One of the best non-hiking things to do in El Chaltén is to go on a rafting adventure down the Rio de las Vueltas

The first section of the river is calm, allowing you to admire the views of Mount Fitz Roy and the local flora and fauna all around you. Then it’s time for an adrenaline boost! Hang on tight as you and your fellow rafters navigate 10 km (6.2 miles) of Class III rapids.

Keep in mind that this activity is dependent on the water levels. Charlie and I booked a rafting trip, but unfortunately we weren’t able to go due to high water levels during our visit. If rafting is high on your list, you might want to reserve on your first day just in case it gets postponed a day or two.

A black and white shot of a big white glacier on top of a jagged mountain.
Trekking Cagliero Glacier is one of the most adventurous things to do in El Chaltén Argentina! Via Shutterstock.

Trek on Cagliero Glacier

Patagonia has a collection of extraordinary glaciers, and ice trekking is one of the best ways to get to know them! In this guided ice trekking experience you’ll have a chance to explore the Cagliero Glacier and Laguna del Diablo, or Devil’s Lagoon. 

Note that this is a challenging excursion — much more so than Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate. You and your group will journey from El Chaltén to Los Huemules Reserve for a three-part adventure. Part one is a two hour hike along the Diablo River through a lush forest.

Part two involves taking via ferrata rock climbing stairways to the glacier viewpoint — not for anyone with a fear of heights!

Finally, in part three, it’s time to strap on your crampons and trek directly onto the icy Cagliero Glacier! You’ll be on the glacier for about two hours before turning around to return to El Chaltén. 

A hiker standing on a lookout in front of some jagged green mountains.
A hiker at Piedra del Fraile, via Shutterstock

Hike to Piedra del Fraile 

Another beautiful hike in the El Chaltén region takes you to Piedra del Fraile. On this 13-km (8-mile) route, you’ll trek along the Eléctrico River and Blanco River before reaching the Piedras Blancas Lagoon.

The Piedra del Fraile trail connects with the Fitz Roy trail to reach Laguna de los Tres, if you want to add on a less crowded side hike. Just know that this will add up to a long day overall.

A mountain range with a blue and white glacier spilling between the peaks.
One of the best views in El Chaltén: Piedras Blancas! Via Shutterstock.

Hike to the Mirador Piedras Blancas

If you’re after a more moderate hike in Patagonia that still has stunning views, the Mirador Piedra Blancas trail is one of the best things to do in El Chaltén.

This 10-km (6.2-mile) out-and-back hike starts from El Pilar or the Eléctrico River, and should take about three hours to complete.

Along the way you’ll see stunning views of the Piedras Blancas glacier and waterfalls, and you may even get to witness a calving!

A waterfall falling between two rock falls, surrounded by red and orange fall foliage.
Chorrillo del Salto has a great payoff for your hike! Via Shutterstock.

Hike to Chorrillo del Salto Waterfall

One of the most accessible trails in El Chaltén is the hike to the Chorrillo del Salto waterfall. This 6.6-km (4-mile) easy hike is suitable for children and should take less than two hours to complete. One of the nicer things to do in El Chaltén when you want a low-key but active day!

If you’re short on time or have mobility concerns, there’s a parking lot closer to the waterfall so you only have to walk the last stretch of the trail. 

And don’t forget to pronounce it the Argentine way — chor-REE-sho del Salto! Double Ls are SHs here!

A calm blue lake surrounded by snow-covered mountains.
Laguna Azul in El Chaltén, via Shutterstock

Hike to Laguna Azul

The hike to Laguna Azul is one of the best rewards for the least amount of effort. It’s only 90 minutes of hiking along a 5.3-km (3.3-mile) moderate-grade loop track for views of two beautiful lakes and a waterfall.

On this hike, you’ll cross over a suspension bridge to visit Laguna Verde and Laguna Azul with mountains and glaciers in the distance. This track is located within Estancia Los Huemules, which is on private land, and you’ll pay an entrance fee.

You can check opening hours and reserve your entry here. Keep in mind that the Argentine exchange rate is volatile.

Also, you should know that there are many Laguna Azuls in Patagonia — the region is covered in beautiful blue lagoons! Make sure you’re hiking to the one near El Chaltén before you head out. 

Icebergs floating on a still blue lake, a big purple mountain behind it.
The view while sailing Lake Viedma in El Chaltén Argentina, via Shutterstock

Take a boat trip on Lake Viedma

Lago Viedma is one of the largest lakes in Argentina and is fed by the Viedma Glacier. From El Chaltén, you can take a boat trip out on the glacial lake to see the ice up close.

You’ll enjoy sailing on the bright blue waters and admiring the sights and sounds of the tall glacier walls. Keep your eyes peeled for calving ice!

Some Lake Viedma excursions include the opportunity to explore the glacier itself via ice trekking or ice climbing. Get in touch with the visitor center in El Chaltén, Centro de Informes Turisticos, to see their latest offerings, as they’re not posted online.

A bartender pouring beers at an enormous, tall bar, with lots of interesting craft beers written out on it.
La Zorra is a must-visit in El Chaltén. I enjoyed their tangerine.

Visit the El Chaltén’s Craft Breweries

You may be surprised to learn that both El Chaltén and El Calafate are home to a ton of craft breweries — there’s just something about the mountains that attracts brewers!

Most of the breweries serve delicious food, so they make the perfect celebratory spot after finishing a hike.

La Cervecería Chaltén is a great spot for lunch, and they serve some fun, customizable pastas, in addition to their collection of beers — and they bring you a bowl of popcorn, too!

La Zorra Taproom is another brewery worth visiting (they also have another location in El Calafate, which also sells merch), as well as La Birre del Rancho and Fresco Bar.

A still gray-blue lake surrounded by forests and mountains.
Lago del Desierto brings the gorgeous views! Via Shutterstock.

Visit Lago del Desierto and Vespignani Glacier

You can enjoy a full day of sailing, hiking and epic views on this day trip to Lago del Desierto and the Vespignani Glacier. From El Chaltén you’ll drive out to Punta Sur Port and board a boat across Lago del Desierto.

After sailing past glaciers and mountain terrain, you’ll hike the trail of your choice through the Glacier Vespignani Reserve. There are three trails to choose from with varying difficulty, so explorers of all levels can participate.

Once you’ve finished hiking, you’ll enjoy a snack and then head back to El Chaltén. 

A line of hikers walking through a landscape that looks like the surface of the moon, all brown and rounded rocky surface.
La Leona Petrified Forest, via Shutterstock

Visit La Leona Petrified Forest

Walk through prehistoric Patagonia when you visit La Leona Petrified Forest. Here you’ll be able to explore an eroded landscape with 70 million-year-old petrified tree trunks and dinosaur fossils. It looks like you’ve dropped onto the surface of the moon!

La Leona has hiking trails, historic sites, and lots of places worth exploring.

If you’ve rented a car and are driving from El Chaltén to El Calafate, or even just from El Chaltén to the airport, I recommend making a stop at La Leona Petrified Forest. In fact, this is pretty much the only worthwhile stop on the three-hour drive.

If you’re traveling between El Chaltén and El Calafate by bus, there is no stop at the petrified forest.

Two men on horseback riding through a valley of golden grass in Patagonia.
Horseback riding in Patagonia is a must! Via Shutterstock.

Go horseback riding

Another great way to explore the terrain of El Chaltén is on horseback. Head out on a two-hour horseback riding experience in Estancia Bonanza where you’ll cross over rivers and streams, ride through forests, and have beautiful mountain vistas surrounding you.

There are morning or afternoon rides available, and both include a light meal. And yes — children are welcome on this excursion!

A man checking on sides of lamb roasting over a fire.
A Patagonian parrilla is all about the lamb!

Enjoy an Argentine parrilla at an estancia

You’re invited to a Patagonian lamb roast at the ranch Estancia Bonanza! While Argentina may be all about the beef, many people don’t realize that cordero, or lamb, is what dominates menus in Patagonia.

From El Chaltén you’ll head out on a scenic route — including walking across a suspension bridge and riding in a 4×4 — until you reach El Establo (the barn) where your traditional grilled meal awaits. 

Your meal will include chorizo, grilled lamb, roasted vegetables, and grilled fruit with cream for dessert.

A big, thick steak on a plate, next to some steak fries.

Eat Argentine steak

If you’re a meat eater in the least, you can’t come to Argentina and not enjoy their most famous culinary achievement! You’ll find plenty of restaurants in El Chaltén dishing up large steaks to hungry hikers. 

I really enjoyed the steak I had at La Tapera, a bife de chorizo (which strangely does not contain chorizo — it’s an Argentine cut), pictured above. Other great steak spots in El Chaltén include La Viňeria; Butch, Bar de Carnes; and The Asadores.

You can also enjoy a glass of Patagonian red wine with your steak, though be aware that the local wines are not as deep and complex as the reds you’ll find further north in Argentina, like the Malbecs of Mendoza. 

A big cabin in El Chalten reading "Paisa HighMountain Coffee" on the sign.

Drop into PAISA High Mountain Coffee

Whenever I travel, I always search for the best coffee in town. And PAISA was absolutely the winner in El Chaltén. In fact, they made the best flat white I had in all of Argentina! What a find, especially for a tiny mountain town!

If you’re a coffee drinker longing for something nicer than burned filter coffee (often the default in Patagonia), I highly recommend you visit PAISA and treat yourself to their delicious espresso beverages and fabulous desserts.

It’s also worth noting that they have fast wifi, which is hard to come by in El Chaltén. You might not even have phone signal here! So if you need to text your family or post a few envy-inducing shots to Instagram, this is where to do it.

An enormous blue and white glacier surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and in the foreground, a walkway covered with dozens of people posing for photos.

Take a day trip to El Calafate and Perito Moreno Glacier

While technically you can take a day trip from El Chaltén to El Calafate and Perito Moreno Glacier, I don’t recommend it. It’s a three-hour drive to El Chaltén, and then an additional hour to Perito Moreno Glacier — and driving eight hours in a day is just nuts.

That said — I know that plenty of people will attempt to do this anyway, so I might as well give you advice on how to do it safely. You’ll only be able to pull this off if you have a rental car; the buses won’t make it possible.

Because Patagonia has long hours of daylight in the summer, I recommend you wake up early and head straight out. Stop in El Calafate for something to eat, then head to Perito Moreno. From there you’ll be able to hike up and down the extensive platforms, allowing you to see the glacier from lots of angles.

Head back to El Calafate when you’re finished and grab some more food, or maybe a beer if you’re not the designated driver. Perito Moreno Glacier is the main attraction in the area and the reason why people visit El Calafate, but the town of El Calafate is a fun place to walk around and perhaps do a bit of shopping before heading back.

Now — if you’re set on doing a glacier trekking tour, which I did and absolutely loved, you’ll need to time your visit around the arrival and departure of the tour. And you’ll be driving back after sunset, which can be risky in such an isolated area.

If you REALLY want to do that, I recommend you overnight in El Calafate before heading back to El Chalten.

Read More: 25 Epic Thing to Do in El Calafate, Argentina

A hiker with a backpack walking underneath a wooden gate reading "Sendero al Fitz Roy."
Like to hike? Come stay for a week.

How Much Time to Spend in El Chaltén

How much time you spend in El Chaltén really depends on how much hiking you want to do. I would recommend a minimum of two full days to fit in one big hike and one other activity, like rafting or horseback riding, or perhaps another hike. 

If you’re coming for the hardcore trekking experience, you’ll want 3+ days to explore this region. Maybe even a week or longer. Plenty of people do this, including lots of Argentines.

It’s possible to do a day trip from El Calafate to El Chaltén, as long as you have a rental car — and I think it’s easier than doing the reverse because it’s a three-hour drive since you’re not coming all the way from the glacier itself.

Keep in mind that the weather in Patagonia can be wild and varied. It’s not unusual to experience all four seasons in a single day. That means that bad weather days can happen.

Giving yourself a little extra time in El Chaltén will give you a buffer in case you have bad weather days — or high-water-can’t-go-rafting days, like we had.

A small town of colorful small houses, surrounded by tall mountains on all sides.
El Chaltén is snuggled up between the mountains!

How to get to El Chaltén

The easiest way to get to El Chaltén is to fly into El Calafate Airport (FTE), a regional airport you can reach from other hubs in Argentina, including Buenos Aires. From there, you’ll board a 2.5-hour bus to El Chaltén. If you’re coming from El Calafate town, the bus ride is three hours long. 

Buses from El Chaltén continue north, stopping at more points in Patagonia, making El Chaltén a great addition to a longer Patagonia trip. From El Calafate, you can fly or take a LONG bus ride to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego.

Should you rent a car for your trip to El Chaltén? I think it makes sense to rent a car if you’re visiting both El Chaltén and El Calafate, and absolutely essential if you’re planning to day trip between them.

But if you’re only heading to El Chaltén and planning to hike and do outdoor activities, I don’t think it’s worth the expense — just take the bus and hike straight out of town. That’s one of the nicest things about El Chaltén — the entire town is the trailhead!

A small hotel room with a big bed covered with a golden bedspread.
My cozy hotel room at Hosteria Senderos in El Chaltén.

Where to Stay in El Chaltén

While El Chaltén is a small village in a remote part of Argentina, there are hotels and guesthouses to suit every budget. However, most of these places are small establishments with limited rooms, so it’s important to book ahead of time.

One thing to keep in mind that even if a hotel claims to have wifi, it might not be at a functional speed to do anything beyond read plain text.

Top-Rated Luxury Hotel in El Chaltén: If you’re looking for the most scenic place to stay in El Chaltén, you’ll want to splurge on Patagonia Eco Domes. They’re located a bit outside of town but the views don’t get better than this! You can also enjoy the on-site bar, restaurant, sun terrace, massage services, and daily breakfast. 

Top-Rated Mid-Range Hotel in El Chaltén: I stayed at Hosteria Senderos and found it to be an excellent mid-range option. It’s right across from the bus station, which is very convenient if you have an early departure or heavy bags. There’s a restaurant on site with decent food and the rooms are comfortable, though small. The wifi is so slow it’s barely functional, but that’s what you get in El Chaltén! 

Top-Rated Budget Hotel in El Chaltén: Budget travelers can check out Andino Aparts for an apartment-style stay in El Chaltén. The apartments come with a separate kitchen and dining room, and a continental breakfast is served daily.  

Find deals on places to stay in El Chaltén here.

A sign for a hostel with another sign pointing to different cities around the world with arrows pointing in different directions.
Early December was lovely in El Chaltén!

Best Time to Visit El Chaltén

Peak season in Patagonia is from December to March, which is summer in South America. This is when you’ll have the best weather – though keep in mind that the weather still varies wildly in this region – and the longest days.

You’ll have the most hours of daylight in December and January, which also can make these the busiest and most expensive times to travel to El Chaltén. To avoid the crowds but still get good weather, I’d recommend going at the tail ends of high season — think late November to early December, or late March.

I went to El Chaltén in early December and it worked out really well. While we didn’t have the endless blue sky days that we had in Torres del Paine (seriously, check out those photos if you haven’t yet), we were able to enjoy clear views of Fitz Roy, even when it was overcast.

No giant rain clouds, no hoards of people — worked for us!

Kate and Charlie taking a smiling selfie in sunglasses and hiking gear, in front of the Mount Fitz Roy jagged mountain viewpoint.
We loved El Chaltén!

Is El Chaltén Worth It?

Yes, El Chaltén is worth it! I absolutely loved my time in El Chaltén; it almost felt like a fairy tale. El Calafate might look like it has more on paper, but you absolutely can’t compare it to what El Chaltén feels like.

I think the nicest thing about El Chaltén is that the hiking trails start right from the town. That makes it so much easier to get out and explore without worrying about transportation. Imagine if all towns had this!

So yes, a few days in El Chaltén is a vacation well spent. I hope you have the most wonderful time in El Chaltén — and Patagonia!

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Have you been to El Chaltén? Any suggestions? Share away!

Autor: Adventurous Kate
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