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What to do For 3 Days in El Chalten, Patagonia

by on 12th May, 2022

Do you have three days in El Chalten, Argentina? Here’s the lowdown on the best tours and attractions, plus sample itineraries to make the most of your time in Patagonia.

El Chalten is a small town built on the floodplain of Rio de Las Vueltas and part of the vast Los Glaciares National Park. The town has some small shops, hotels, hostels, a campsite, restaurants, outdoor equipment stores, and a micro-brewery.

It’s the gateway to some fabulous hiking to Mount Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre, and more highlights. Some people use El Chalten as a base before hiking the nearby Southern Ice Field or the famous Fitz Roy ‘M’ circuit trek.

However, if you’re short on time, you can still enjoy the area’s magnificent surroundings and some lovely day walks from El Chalten. Day treks include the Torre Trail (to Lake Torre), trek to Laguna Los Tres at the base of Mount Fitzroy, and the Loma de Pliegue Tumbado Trek.

Other activities include horse riding, kayaking, and mountain biking.

Fitzroy Trailhead Patagonia Argentina

What is Los Glaciares National Park?

Los Glaciares National Park is a vast and beautiful protected area in Argentina’s Patagonia region. It includes the Perito Moreno glacier, the 160km long Lago Argentino, and the mountains that surround El Chalten.

Los Glaciares NP was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1981. It is also known as the Austral Andes and reaches the border with Chile at Santa Cruz. The western area is predominantly under snow and ice, and the east features arid Patagonian steppe.

Where Is El Chalten?

El Chalten is in Argentina’s Santa Cruz Province, in the country’s southern Patagonia region. It lies 136 miles/220km north of El Calafate, a larger town where most travellers arrive before taking a bus or transferring to El Chalten.

What Can I Do in El Chalten, Argentina?

There are many outdoor adventures available from El Chalten. Many people come for the trekking, which is what we will concentrate on, but other options include:

Kayak: Rio de Las Vueltas (half or full day)

Horse riding: From gentle beginner’s half days to more strenuous tours. 

Mountain biking: Lago Desierto to El Chalten is a popular, full-day route, with Laguna Verde, Glacier Huemel, and Laguna Condor all possible.

There are some restaurants to enjoy, and on pleasant days people can hang around the town. The main attractions are being out and about in the great outdoors.

Overview of Fitzroy National Park, Chalten, Argentina

What’s the Best Way to Spend 3 Days in El Chalten, Argentina?

There are two ways to spend three days in El Chalten. That may sound remiss, but the long summer days (Nov-March) and good quality bus services to El Calafate mean you can maximise your time.

The logistics make these the sorts of itineraries that require booking in advance, especially during the busiest months of November to March. Accommodation and buses get full quickly and may even be full — we can help with these arrangements.

Daylight hours (approx.)

October + February: 12-14 hours

November + January: 14-15 hours

December: 15-16 hours

You can take an 8 am bus from El Calafate to El Chalten, taking 3 hours to travel the 136miles/220km, putting you in place at 11 am. The last bus back leaves El Chalten for El Calafate at 6 pm. That means three days in El Chalten could look like one of the following ideas.

El Chalten Patagonia Argentina

Option 1 for 3 days in El Chalten – maximising your time

Day 1:  8 am: Bus from El Calafate to El Chalten.

11 am: Arrive at El Chalten and check in to accommodation.

Noon: Start a 6-8 hour walk/activity.

6-8 pm: Return to accommodation.

Day 2:  Full day activity.

Day 3:  8 am: Start a 6-8 hour walk/activity.

4-5 pm: Return to El Chalten, and collect belongings.

6pm: Bus from El Chalten to El Calafate.

9pm: Arrive El Calafate.

Tyrolean Traverse over Fitzroy River Patagonia Chalten Argentina

Option 2 for 3 days in El Chalten – the slower approach

Three days in El Chalten could look like this for a more leisurely approach. Note you need to allow more time overall.

Day 1:  Bus from El Calafate to El Chalten, accommodation.

Day 2: Optional full-day activity.

Day 3: Choose a full-day activity.

Day 4:  Enjoy a full or half-day activity, stay the night or take the 6 pm bus to El Calafate

Day 5:  Bus to El Calafate

Kayak Glaciares National Park, El Chalten Argentina Patagonia

What Are the Main Attractions in El Chalten, Argentina?

So, now you know how to organise the logistics, it’s time to work out what you would like to do once there. The main attractions in El Chalten are the following, and we’ll concentrate on our speciality, which is hiking.

Read all about Patagonia’s weather and seasons.

Mount Fitz Roy Day Walk

Mount Fitz Roy is a stunning massif, with blue waters at its feet and striking spires and glaciers. Fitz Roy’s wall slabs can rise from 600-1,500m / 1,967-4,921ft above the surrounding glaciers, making it known locally as the “King of Patagonia.”

The Mount Fitz Roy walk heads north out of El Chalten. People who want a shorter hike with lovely views can take the same path to Laguna Capri and turn back.

Laguna de Los Tres is the final destination for anyone who wants to stand at the foot of Mount Fitz Roy. The walk undulates for 3-4 hours before a last steep hour or two to the laguna.

The effort is rewarded by views of a spectacular granite peak that rises two miles into the sky and the laguna and Glacier de las Tres. The return to El Chalten is by the same route through lenga forests and passing crystal-clear rivers.

Alternative route: Trekkers can transfer to the trailhead at El Pilar, north of El Chalten, then walk south along a trail to Laguna de Los Tres, and then head south to the town.

Time required: 7-10 hours.

Distance: 15.6 miles/25km

Base of Fitzroy and lake with ice, Chalten, Argentina

Mirador de los Condores

Mirador de Los Condores is perfect for those short on time or who want to stretch their legs after a long journey to El Chalten. The loop trail is around 3 miles / 5km long and takes approximately two hours.

Its brevity and proximity to El Chalten make it a popular walk. Rising early or heading out late brings solitude while enjoying the magnificent views of Cerro Torre, Mount Fitz Roy and its glaciers, Lake Viedma and the Patagonian steppe. The spot is named condor lookout because there is a chance to see the emblematic Andean condor and eagles.

Time required: 1.5-2 hours.

Distance: 3 miles / 5km.

Cerro Torre and Laguna Torre

Cerro Torre and Laguna Torre lie to the west of El Chalten and are another unmissable attraction.

The path follows the river Fitz Roy to a viewpoint of the Margarita waterfall and its surroundings. Another hour of walking leads you to the Mount Torre viewpoint; anyone feeling the strain can turn back to El Chalten. The landscape is fantastic, incorporating Mount Torre, glaciers, and the Adela mountain range.

Next, it’s into lenga forests and glacial moraines for a couple of hours before you reach Laguna Torre, at the foot of Cerro Torre. Don’t be surprised to see icebergs calving from Glacier Torre into the laguna.

Cerro Torre stands at 3,128m/10,262ft and is a sheer and needle-shaped peak once thought unclimbable and conquered only after Everest. After drinking it all in, return to El Chalten by the approach route.

Time required: 7-8 hours.

Distance: 12 miles / 19km.

Cerro Torre and glacier Torre Patagonia Argentina

Loma Pliegue Tumbado Trail

Loma de Pliegue Tumbado is a lookout point to the southwest of El Chalten that offers spectacular views of Fitz Roy, Torre and the glacial valley between the two.

The spot itself is nondescript, but the vistas may be among the best of any visit to Southern Patagonia. A trail takes you from El Chalten through a wood to the summit at 1,500m/4,921ft, with the final ascent on scree.

Don’t let it put you off. You can even see the South Patagonia Ice Cap and its mountains on days with good weather. Return to El Chalten along the path you arrived.

Time required: 8-10 hours.

Distance: 13 miles / 21km.

El Calafate and Perito Moreno

We mention El Calafate because almost every traveller will pass through the town on their way to El Chalten. El Calafate is also the starting point for a day trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier.

The Perito Moreno Glacier isn’t in El Chalten, but we do recommend a visit. It is one of the world’s few advancing glaciers, and you can get very close to its 75 m high and 5km wide glacial wall. The white and blue hues are incredible, coupled with its sheer size.

It’s a scenic drive from El Calafate along the edges of Lago Argentino to the glacier, keeping an eye out for condors and eagles. Visitors are often treated to spectacular calvings of icebergs in the waters below, still those of Lago Argentino.

Some trips include walking on top of the glacier (age restrictions in place), kayaking, and boat trips that take you close to the glacier face.

Rainbow close up glacier Perito Moreno, Argentina

What Wildlife Can I See in Los Glaciares National Park?

Birds are the star attractions for many visitors, with more than 100 species recorded in Los Glaciares NP. These include the Andean condor, rheas, black-chested eagles, and finches.

Other animals to spot include guanacos, chinchillas, and two species of small deer called pudu and huemul. Read more in our Patagonia wildlife blog.

What Flora Can I See in Los Glaciares National Park?

The El Calafate flower is one to keep an eye out for, as well as Ñire and lenga trees.

Calafate flowers Patagonia

How Best to Spend 3 Days in El Chalten, Southern Patagonia

Of course, it would be great to be able to stay on holiday forever, but now you know the best tours and things to see for your three days in El Chalten.

There is also some good food to enjoy and everything from eco-camps to longer treks.

Get in touch with our team, and we’ll be happy to talk you through all the options, whether you have three days in El Chalten or more.

Base of Fitzroy and lake with hikers and ice, Chalten, Argentina

 

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