El Chalten, Argentina is a small town in the Los Glaciares National Park. It is about 3 hours from the airport in El Calafate along a long section of “Patagonian” flat land with snow covered mountains, glaciers, and glacial lakes in the background.
With a population of 2,000 people (give or take a few depending on if it is high season or not), everything in El Chalten in within walking distance of where ever you choose to stay. Hostelerias (basic hotels) are the main lodging options here and do the job just fine. El Chalten is not a luxury travel destination but an outdoor adventure basecamp.
On the night we arrived in El Chalten, the winds picked up to about 70 mph. It was so windy we had difficulty even walking down the street when against the wind. Walking home from dinner was more like running though since the wind basically carried us.
Even though El Chalten lacks luxury it still can put a nice meal on the table. Our first meal at La Tapera was so amazing I ended up eating there twice on the trip. Mushroom semolina gnocchi on the first day to carb up for the big Lago de los Tres hike the next day:
And the most giant salad on the last day that had melted cheese on top! So, so good:
The main reason why I’m in El Chalten is to hike the Lago de los Tres hike, flanked by Mount Fitz Roy, The hike can begin in and end at the edge of El Chalten. However, the morning we were going to start the hike it was pouring rain. The group I was in opted to bus to a different start point and wind our way through the forest, getting glimpses of glaciers we would not have otherwise seen (Piedras Blancas).
The weather cleared up and rainbows abound:
(Messy, wind-blown hair don’t care)
Lago de los Tres is not a easy hike. It is long and has many rocky climbs through moraine. In total the hike is about 23 kilometers (14.3 miles) but with our different starting point at El Pilar Hosteleria about 20 minute ride from El Chalten. With our new starting point adding a few kilometers, the hike ended up being closer to 16-17 miles when all was said and done. I thought it would never end!
The views going up were fantastic and we made it to de los Tres Glacier and the lake for a much needed sack lunch.
It was gorgeous. There is actually a few glacial lakes at the summit so we did a bit of extra trekking between ham and cheese and dulche de leche dessert cookies.
It turns out we got lucky with the weather despite the rainy beginning. My Instagram friend did it the next day and it starting pouring rain and being windy the moment they got close to the lake reducing visibility to almost nothing. They stayed 5 minutes at the top and left. We didn’t get to see Mount Fitz Roy but still got some good views.
The way back down:
Some drank from the lake, others from the nearby streams depending on how much sediment you wanted in your water. But all totally drinkable. (We all lived, I promise)
Still going down (I swear, this part was the worst. Going down took forever!)
We took the normal route back to El Chalten which dropped us off at the edge of town. I could not have been more glad to see my hotel room shower (which was cold with hardly any water pressure after my roommate and half the hotel got to first).
The first beer tasted so good! And I out-ordered everyone at the table with this massive dish of lasagna which I ended up sharing with the poor saps who only ordered guanaco stew.
Fitz Roy appeared a the next morning after our hike for an hour so we took advantage from El Chalten and snapped some photos. This was the only time we ever saw the peaks.
photo by James
Tiny church, Mount Fitz Roy in the background:
Besides my cheesy salad at La Tapera for lunch a bunch of us went to a chocoleteria for a mid morning snack. All those calories burned, we needed a snack. Dulce de Leche and white chocolate goodies for me (with some cherries bought on the side of the road).
The Lago de los Tres hike was filled with amazing sights and I’m so glad I hiked it but be warned, it is longer than anticipated and takes over 10 hours to complete. But do it anyway because it is worth it!
Reader Question: Favorite post-difficult workout drink- beer, water, Gatorade, Diet Coke? I’m going with the Diet Coke first followed by a beer.