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El Chaltén is a really small but awesome town surrounded by mountains. What’s so great about it is that all the hikes are accessible from town, so you don’t have to pay for any busses to get to the trailheads which have been one of my biggest expensive in Argentina.
On top of that, there’s no entry fee to get into the hikes. It’s all one big park and they don’t even charge you when you arrive. Plus there are a ton of different hikes do here!
Since the town is basically built for backpackers/hikers there are quite a few bars, restaurants, and hostels as well. We stayed at Aylen Aiken which is owned by a very funny man named Sebastian who always has a rock concert DVD playing in the background.
The next morning we were delighted to wake up the clearest blue skies as the weather is a constant gamble in Patagonia. But we heard from the ranger the day before that Tuesday was supposed to be the best day of the week so we decided to leave the Laguna de los Tres hike (the most famous) for Tuesday and do the Laguna Torre first, as it is an easier hike.
This is a gorgeous, relatively easy three hour hike (9km) to a glacier lake. The hike starts from town up a very steep hill but the rest of the way is mostly flat and very scenic.
It takes about three hours to get to the lake and afterwards you can continue another hour to get even closer to the glacier.
This section is more challenging as it’s extremely windy on the trail but it is worth it to get closer to the glacier, I also liked this section because there was hardly anyone else there.
Laguna de los Tres
Our gamble paid off and the next morning we woke up to an even better day for this hike. Thank you Patagonia gods (really two perfectly clear days in a row is a miracle here)!
This hike is 10km but I found it much more difficult then the Laguna Torre (mainly the last km). You have two options for this hike: you can either hike up and down from town the same way, or get a bus in the morning (8 or 9:30am) for 200 pesos that will bring you to a different trail head which you can hike and then take the other way back into town. We opted to do this because you get different views (more of the glacier) and it’s also slightly less steep going up.
The trail will eventually meet up with the other one at the 8/10 km mark. Once you get to the 9km mark there is a rest stop and a giant sign indicating that the next km is very difficult (400m accent) and you should be in good shape to do it. I would have to agree with the sign, I found it pretty challenging especially after a sore ankle from hiking 26km the day before. However, the views at the top are 100% worth it.
Going up you can see the gorgeous fall colours starting to appear and once you reach the top you can see all the mountains surrounding you, Fitz Roy at its closest, and the gorgeous turquoise lake; it’s just incredible.
Having gotten two completely clear sky beautiful days I was feeling pretty happy with my time in El Chaltén. With rain in the forecast for the rest of the week, I decided to combine my rest and travel day and hop on a bus to Bariloche which will be my last stop in Patagonia! Bittersweet, but I think my feet will be happy.