El Chaltén, Argentina | Gringo’s Guide to Argentina
El Chaltén, Argentina was a city of contrasts for me. Well, more like a town of contrasts. Hard to say a town filled with 1,500+ people is a city.
The hiking in El Chaltén is some of the best in the world.
Te lo juro.
You can go on three amazing hikes just by stepping outside your front door while in the town. Legit just walk outside and you’ll be at the base of some amazing trails within minutes.
Fitz Roy and the Laguna de Los Tres was absolutely amazing. Well worth the grueling trek to the top. One of the most stunning sites I’ve ever seen. Just look…
El Chaltén, Argentina is a town…a small one to boot. The place isn’t modern. The Internet often doesn’t work. You won’t find many amenities in town. Hell, there’s not even a gym to get a solid upper-body pump at.
So while it’s an amazing place to trek around at, the town is horrific if you work online, like to lift weights, and desire some semblance of modern amenities.
Oh, and outside of a few cervecería, there’s legit no nightlife to be found.
Zip. Zlich. Nada.
Which was perfectly fine most of the time, as a night of rumba was the last thing on my mind after hiking 7-8+ hours in a single day. I wanted food. Lots of it. Then sleep.
Me point is don’t expect to find much in El Chaltén outside of stunning nature and world-class hiking. Come for the hiking and treks, stay for the…
Err, just come for the hiking.
Enough of my fluff, I had a great time in El Chaltén overall and would highly recommend the place for hikers looking to get there fix. So in this here guide, I’ll show you how to do just that…get you hiking “fix” in El Chaltén:
Table of Contents
How to Get to El Chaltén, Argentina
El Chaltén is legitimately in the middle of nowhere.
A small mountain town of 1,500+ people in Argentinian Patagonia (Source), this isn’t an easy place to get to. In fact, there’s really only one way to get to El Chaltén:
Via El Calafate.
There is a bus from Bariloche that travels to El Chaltén, but it takes nearly 19+ hours on a bus. Not my cup of tea. This bus seems to be seasonal. If for some reason you want to ride in a bus for 19+ hours, click here for more information about Bariloche-El Chaltén.
For the rest of us, taking a flight to El Calafate and then getting a transfer to El Chaltén is far more preferable. You’ll find direct flights to El Calafate from these airports:
- AEP (Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, Buenos Aires)
- EZE (Ezeiza, Buenos Aires)
- BRC (Bariloche, Río Negro)
- COR (Córdoba, Córdoba)
- REL (Trelew, Chubut)
- USH (Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego)
- RGA (Río Grande, Tierra del Fuego)
- RGL (Río Gallegos, Santa Cruz)
Most of these flights cost less than $100 USD one-way and take anywhere from 1-2 hours in the air. Once landing in El Calafate, you’ll have two options to get to El Chaltén from the airport.
You can either take the tour shuttle that runs at specific times each day or get a private taxi.
I opted for the private taxi upon landing in El Calafate. It cost $5,000 Pesos and we arrived in El Chaltén about two hours after leaving the airport. Pretty quick.
Taxis from the airport have space for four people and luggage. The bus from El Calafate airport to El Chaltén tends to run 2/3 times per day. So you may be stuck sitting in the airport waiting for a bit.
The cost is $20 USD from what I recall, and the bus leaves at 8 am, 1 pm, and 6 pm. So plan flights accordingly.
If you’re in a group of 2-4 people, it’s far better to take a private taxi. While it costs a bit more, the ride is quick and you won’t have to waste time waiting around in the airport.
Renting a car is another option for anyone looking to get to El Chaltén, but I didn’t look much into it. Seeing as El Chaltén is in the middle of nowhere, that ride is going to be a long one no matter where you’re arriving from.
Understanding El Chaltén Weather & Seasons
Weather plays a unique role in traveling to and hiking in El Chaltén.
On certain days, guides will advise you not to go simply because there’s a few clouds in the sky. You absolutely must pay attention here or you could ruin your whole trip.
But I’ll do my best to break things down for you:
From mid-May through mid-October, El Chaltén is an absolute ghost-town. The sun only shines for 4-5 hours a day and there’s no tourists here whatsoever. Oh, and don’t forget about the insane amounts of snow.
Just look at the weather (Source):
Without tourists and the required service industry help, the town shrinks in size…from 1,500+ to 300-400 people.
High tourist season in El Chaltén is between December through February.
During this time, you can expect the city to be nearly at capacity. Hotels will be full, Airbnbs book, tours unavailable, and all that jazz. I’m not sure the exact figures, but it seems the town goes from 1,500+ people to 10,000 or more during these times. You’ll see people walking around town at all times of the day when El Chaltén is full.
During March and April…El Chaltén can still be fairly full. When I first arrived here in early March, my Airbnb host said the town was at capacity. Not a hotel room available.
Things can also be pretty packed in late October and November. It all depends on the weather. Even if you come during high-season, there’s still some other weather concerns to pay attention to…
Mainly visibility during the hikes.
Hiking is why you come to El Chaltén. If you don’t enjoy a good trek, then this city is an easy pass in Patagonia. There’s just not a ton else to do…except hike.
For hikers, it’s paradise.
But only if you check to confirm there’s solid visibility, no-to-little rain, and no-to-light wind before you embark on a day-long hike. You don’t want to hike all the way to the top of Fitz Roy…Only to find out you can’t see the Patagonia logo from afar because it’s too cloudy.
Or be 4-5+ hours into a long hike only to have rain start coming down hard and the wind pick up. Not fun. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to avoid…and NO you can’t just look outside.
You need to check this website before going on a hike in El Chaltén:
Pay close attention to wind speed, cloud cover, and precipitation. Cloud cover can be tricky too. Low and mid-level clouds can be an issue. High cloud cover may not be.
Feel free to check that site yourself, but probably best to ask the hotel front desk or Airbnb host before planning a hiking trip.
Where to Stay in El Chaltén
This might be the shortest section in the whole article.
Because El Chaltén is a tiny town.
Thus, it truly doesn’t matter what area of town you stay in. You can walk the whole town within 10-12 minutes. From one end to the other. Front to back. Side to side.
Really makes no difference where you are, as the entrance to the hiking trails is never more than a 5-minute walk. Give or take.
So you’re better off simply booking accommodations that best suit your needs and not worrying too much about where it’s actually located in El Chaltén…as long as the place is actually in the town.
There’s also camping sites found at each of the main hiking trails. So if that’s your thing, you won’t have much issue in El Chaltén. Lots of camping options around too.
Best El Chaltén Hotels
There’s dozens upon dozens of hotels, hostels, and Airbnbs in El Chaltén. But you should definitely book something before arriving here. The town is small and accommodation can get sold out here – often.
Just note that…
El Chaltén is not a ‘cheap’ town for being such a small place in Latin America. Expect to pay anywhere from $50-250 USD for a decent hotel room or Airbnb with subpar Wi-Fi.
I stayed in at an apartment near the start of the Laguna Torre trail on the backside of town called…
The place was ideal with hot water, comfortable beds, and hard working hosts. Maid service was included too. They even helped my buddy and I plan our hikes around the days with best visibility.
But the best part?
The breakfast was included and was dropped off every evening around 9 pm. The food came in a small Tupperware, so you could pack it for the hike next morning. Homemade bread, yogurt, fruit, and more. This benefit made packing food for hikes in El Chaltén so much easier.
It’s worth booking Andino Aparts just for the breakfast! Te lo juro.
Decent value at a little less than $100 USD a night for a two-bedroom, one-bath that included breakfast. One-bedrooms run around $65 USD a night.
The Internet was spotty at best, but that’s to be expected in El Chaltén. I found the connection to be stronger here than almost anywhere else in town except one cafe.
Overall, this is my first pick for places to stay in El Chaltén.
Coming in at around $50-60 USD a night, Rancho Grande is another top pick for hotels in El Chaltén. The place is ideally located, modern, and offers a lot to the intrepid hiker.
The rooms look great and the hostel is located near the start of a few great treks.
But the best part?
This place has a 24-hour restaurant – one of the few in El Chaltén. Super useful when you fall asleep at 6 pm after hiking the whole day…only to wake up at 1 am starving and ready to eat a full cow.
You’ll also get an included breakfast here. The staff speaks English, as well.
Overall, I also highly recommend this hotel in El Chaltén.
If you’re looking for something a little bit fancier in El Chaltén, then I’d recommend Hotel Poincenot.
Located right off main street in town, this upscale hotel offers high-end furnishings, a full breakfast included, and stunning mountain views from the room. The service is well-rated and the staff speaks English too.
While the other lodging options listed above are more Airbnb-style or hostels, Hotel Poincenot is a boutique hotel with all the touches you’d expect.
A steal for around $125 a night.
Best Hostels in El Chaltén, Argentina
I wouldn’t say El Chaltén is a backpackers’ paradise.
There’s far more hotels than true hostels, food isn’t cheap, and tours are more than expensive outside of the free trekking options. Plus, you basically have to fly to El Calafate and then bus over to even get to El Chaltén. Oh, and there’s no nightlife and little social scene due to people being exhausted from trekking.
I’m saying you’re better off in a hotel than staying in one of the best hostels in El Chaltén. But if you’re determined to stay in a dorm, here’s the only spot I’d recommend:
Rancho Grande Hostel
Yep, the same place as above. It’s more like 80% hotel and 20% dorm rooms. You’ll still get the included breakfast and access to the 24-hour restaurant. Probably your best bet for dorms in El Chaltén.
But remember one thing about El Chalten…
It’s not cheap!
You’re not going to find “bottom barrel” prices at Rio Grande Hostel. But you should be able to save some money when compared to a hotel and this place is definitely nicer than most hostels.
Restaurants in El Chaltén
I only ate at four different restaurants during my whole time in El Chaltén, Argentina.
Because the first two I tired were horrible. Struggled to finish my meal. Then I found a couple places I really enjoyed…
So I ate these spots the rest of my time in town. Here’s the best restaurants I found in El Chaltén:
- Maffia: Also know as ‘Fabrica de Pastas‘ – this is my favorite place to eat in El Chaltén. The Italian restaurant serves up amazing pasta with hearty portions of meat/protein and authentic sauces. I ate here 4-5 times during my short stay in El Chaltén, as the large portions were ideal after a long hike.
- La Waflería: Great place to grab brunch or breakfast for dinner in El Chaltén, especially when waking up at noon after a long hike. Food here is damn good and the omelets are plenty big. Recommended if you get sick of Italian.
I’m sure there’s a handful of other great restaurants in El Chaltén, but I didn’t try them. I was happy eating at these two spots for my short stay in the town.
Things to Do in El Chaltén, Argentina
If you’re looking for things to do in El Chalten, you better be ready to hike. A lot. For hikers, El Chaltén might be the best town in all of Patagonia. Hell, it might be the best town in all of Latin America if hiking is what you’re after.
You’ll find at least a handful of great hikes along with a couple of other things to do in El Chaltén below:
Fitz Roy / Laguna de Los Tres
This is the absolute best hike in El Chaltén.
It’s long, grueling at the end, and can get crowded…
But it’s definitely worth it.
Because the site of Cerro Fitz Roy, the inspiration for the Patagonia logo, is truly stunning. Just look:
Highly, highly recommended.
Do note though that you should be in somewhat decent shape to complete this hike. The full trail is around 25 km/15 miles long and can take up to 8+ hours to complete.
The final hour and a half to reach the base of Fitz Roy is basically straight uphill and can be more than tiring. To make things easier, you can pay $1,000 Pesos to take a private taxi to the ‘Hostel Pilar’ about 30 minutes outside El Chaltén. From here, you’ll shave about 4 km off the hike…all on the way there.
Taking this “shortcut” is well worth it and highly recommended.
You should also try to start hiking as early as possible. I arrived about 20 minutes before the hordes did because I took the ‘Pilar’ shortcut and started hiking at 7:30 am.
It was incredibly peaceful and stunning. There were also only 15+ other people around. Less than half an hour later, there were hundreds of people at the base of Fitz Roy. Start hiking early!
Oh, and one more thing…
Cerro Torre Hike
I never thought I’d say a 24 km hike is easy, but here I am…The Cerro Torre hike is easy, especially when compared to the Fitz Roy hike.
This hike starts in El Chaltén. There’s no shortcuts or anything. Just find the trailhead and start hiking. Everything is well marked.
The hike took me about 5+ hours to complete and was mostly flat, aside from a few steep parts at the beginning. The view at the end was solid overall, but nothing amazing like Fitz Roy. I’d say this is the second best day hike in El Chaltén.
A limp-wristed Argentinian tour guide told me he wanted to kill me if I used my drone here. I called his bluff, which is something I never would do in Colombia or Mexico.
Dick move on my end? Maybe, but so is telling someone you’re going to kill them.
Hike to Glacier Huemul
It’s not so much a hike, as a quick half-day trip about an hour outside of El Chaltén. You take a shuttle or a private taxi about an hour outside of town and are dropped off at a small farm. You pay an entrance fee and then hike up about an hour or so.
Things get pretty steep the last 20 minutes or so.
Then you arrive at top to stunning views like this…
My buddy and I were the first people here for the day, so we had the place to ourselves at the top. It was stunning.
If you’re coming here, don’t try to take a group tour. Grab a couple other people and pay a private taxi for the trip. It costs around $100 USD.
This allows you to arrive early and enjoy the views with peace and quiet. Highly recommended.
Lago del Desierto
Next to the Glacier Huemul is Lago del Desierto.
I didn’t do much here, as I wanted to just check the place our after enjoying the glacier. My expectations weren’t too high, either.
But I was more than impressed.
Lago del Desierto was one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been. The lake is crystal clear and stunningly beautiful.
If you’re going to visit Glacier Huemul, make sure to take an extra 20 minutes and check out the lake. Just look…
Laguna Capri Hike
This is the one hike I didn’t do in El Chaltén that I wanted to. Just ran out of time.
The hike is “shorter” than the other hikes in the area…coming in at 12 km. However, that doesn’t mean it’s any easier than the others.
The Laguna Capri hike is almost completely made up of steep terrain. There’s no flat, easy parts here like with Cerro Torre.
It’s 3-4 hours up and the same down.
Probably the same difficulty level as the Fitz Roy hike even though it’s 10 km shorter. So make sure you’re in decent shape before embarking on this hike.
P.S: You cannot hike/trek on the Viedma Glacier as of writing, which is the best part of visiting the glacier. So I didn’t include it on this list of things to do in El Chaltén.
Speaking Spanish in El Chaltén?
You’d do yourself some good being able to speak Spanish in El Chaltén. After all, the small town is in Argentina…a Spanish speaking country.
That being said…
It is NOT a requirement to speak Spanish while hiking around El Chaltén. This is a tourist town. The town imports tons of bilingual Argentinians from Buenos Aires to work in high-season. Someone around will always be able to speak English here.
Plus, all the trails and national park information is also available in English. So it’s truly not necessary for you to speak Spanish here. It’ll make life a whole lot easier when ordering food and such, but not a requirement like in other areas.
Still looking to learn Spanish?
El Chaltén Nightlife
That’s funny. Issa’ town of 1,500+ people, y’all. Ain’t no nightlife in El Chaltén.
A couple of cervecerías sure, but no real nightlife. No clubs. Nowhere to dance and drink the night away. Now, you might be thinking…
“But there’s so many tourists here, how is there no nightlife?!”
Think about why people come to El Chaltén:
People come here to hike all day, enjoy nature, and relax. After a long hike, nobody wants to go party the night away. They want to eat a massive meal and go to bed. So nobody goes out here. El Chaltén nightlife, if you could even call it that, is a waste of time. If you’re looking to party, this isn’t the place for you.
Do You Need to Rent a Car in El Chaltén, Argentina?
You definitely do not need a car here.
In fact, the three main trails allow you to start from the town. So you don’t even need to take a taxi or tour for these hikes. Unless you’ve been traveling around Patagonia with a car, I wouldn’t recommend renting one just to come here.
Simply unnecessary in such a small town.
Is El Chaltén Safe?
El Chaltén is 100% safe.
I tried to find crime stats, but they don’t seem to exist online. I can’t imagine a scenario where you’d be in any real harm while in El Chaltén. Maybe petty theft might be a concern if you leave something like a laptop out in the open for some reason.
But locals in Patagonia are not looking to steal from unsuspecting tourists, as they’re more concerned with tourist dollars than stealing electronics.
You won’t have a safety issue here.
In fact, there are many solo travelers and hikers who have no issue navigating El Chaltén and the surrounding nature alone.
El Chaltén for Digital Nomads
This may be one of the first places I’ve been where I wouldn’t recommend trying to get any work done. The Internet simply does NOT work on a consistent basis in El Chaltén.
There aren’t any co-working spaces here ;(
Some days you’ll be able to pull 5-7 Mbps download speeds from the Internet connection at your hotel or Airbnb rental. Other days you won’t be able to get a Google search to open.
The Internet in El Chaltén is satellite only and the connection is not strong. Hell, the wifi here is even worse than Ushuaia.
On days when the town is packed, the connection will be horrific after 4 pm…when everyone gets back from their hikes and posts on Instagram.
On days when the connection is good, you can get workable Internet from 5 am to 4 pm. However, if there are too many clouds in the sky, the connection will be sh*t all day. Aka the Internet is too unreliable for working as a digital nomad.
Movistar SIM cards, international hotspots, and the like do NOT work here.
The best connection will be at your hotel or Airbnb. If that’s not working, there’s one cafe in town that offers a reliable connection…
The connection will be better the earlier you go, like all Wi-Fi in El Chaltén. But I wouldn’t expect too much. This is NOT a digital nomad destination whatsoever.
Gringo’s Guide to El Chaltén, Argentina
El Chaltén, Argentina…
Come for the hiking. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. The mountain town in Argentinian Patagonia is home to some of the best treks in the world and they’re more than easy to get to.
I had one hell of a time hiking around here and truly cherish the time I spent in El Chaltén. But outside of the world-class hiking, the town leaves a lot to be desired.
Hike for 3-5 days here.
Then get back to civilization.
Que te vaya bien