El Chaltén is a hiker’s paradise. In southern Argentinian Patagonia, this small town is nestled in the mountains of the Los Glaciares National Park. Above the roofs of the few buildings of the town, the peaks of Mount Fitz Roy and the granite monoliths of the Andes mountain range rise up, as if guarding the town.
This is a place of pure wilderness. Outside of the town, you’ll replace tarmac roads for blue lagoons, grey towering mountains, green rolling hills, and impressive glaciers. If you’re inclined to adventure and inspiring nature on your travels, this is the place for you.
Here is your guide to the ultimate 10-day stay for adventurers in this incredible wilderness. This is not for the faint of heart. But, for experienced hikers and wilderness enthusiasts, it doesn’t get much better.
Day 1 – Welcome to El Chalten
El Chalten is a small remote town in southern Patagonia. It lies a few hours’ drive from El Calafate, which is the nearest airport if you’re flying in from Buenos Aires. Alternatively, your transfer can take you directy from Torres del Paine in Chile if you’re on a full Patagonia tour!
Take the afternoon to settle into your hotel and explore the charming town. Be sure to try some of the restaurants, sample the local breweries, and rest up before the adventure ahead.
The Huemul Circuit
The Huemul Circuit, a loop starting and finishing in El Chalten, will take you well and truly off the beaten path through spectacular landscapes. You’ll walk alongside glaciers, ice float-filled lakes, magical forests and magnificent peaks. With no facilities on the route, this circuit is definitely one for experienced hikers and those who feel at home in the wilderness. But this raw nature of the circuit is sure to reward you with the astounding beauty of the world.
Day 2 – Laguna Toro
Your first day of the circuit will take you up to the Laguno Toro, but there is no easing into this hike! You’ll pass over the log bridges covering swampland and be immersed in a beautiful forest before emerging to find your first campsite. With a view over the Lago Viedma, enjoy your first night sleeping under the Patagonian stars.
Day 3 – Paso del Viento
Waking up to the spectacular Patagonian sunrise as the orange glow reflects on the mountains is an experience you will not forget. There is surely no better way to start the day!
You’ll start the day with a little extreme. You’ll come across a powerful river that you can only cross via zipline. With the help of your guide, you’ll fly over the water and feel the wind in your face! Continue the day walking uphill to the Paso del Viento – The Wind Pass – whose name is not a coincidence! At the highest point of the circuit, you can enjoy the magnificent view over the majestic Patagonian ice field, including the Viedma Glacier and Cerro Mariano Moreno. Make the final stretch to the idyllic lakeside Paso del Viento campsite.
Day 4 – Lake Viedma
On day four, you can marvel at mighty nature as you walk alongside the Viedma Glacier on a long downward stretch. You’ll be accompanied all the way by a beautiful panorama over the Lake Viedma and glacier until you reach Ice Float Bay. This is a place of breathtaking tranquility and outstanding beauty, where the ice floats gracefully sit in the water. Take in the view as you have dinner and set up your final camp for the night.
Day 5 – Onward home!
The final day of the circuit offers a flatter route for you to follow, until an ever-impressive view of Mount Fitz Roy emerges in the distance. You’ll finish the circuit with a final zipline over the River Tunel to the Tunel Bay, where your transport will be waiting for you to take you back to El Chalten.
Take the afternoon to rest and relish in the challenge you’ve just completed, as well as a hearty Patagonian meal!
Spending free time in El Chalten
El Chalten is famed for its hiking trails, but if you want to give yourself a rest, there is a plethora of other exciting activities to try. From fishing to horseback riding, cultural experiences to rock climbing and kayaking, put your feet up for the day and explore some of the other options this town has to offer.
Day 6 – Lago del Desierto kayak
Take a weight off your feet today (you deserve it!) and swap the mountains for the serenity of a lake. Head to the blue waters of Lago del Desierto. This astounding view is a true celebration of the colors of Patagonia: the grey the Andean peaks, the green native forests of lenga trees, the white of the hanging glaciers, and the blue of the lake. There are few better ways to enjoy these magnificent landscapes than from the gentle sway of a kayak. After paddling, stretch your legs with a self-guided amble along the shores of the lake or to the Huemul glacier to take some great shots!
Laguna de los Tres and Laguna Torre
The treks to Laguna de los Tres and Laguna Torre are the two classic routes from El Chalten. Their highlights are the iconic Mount Fitz Roy and Mount Torre peaks that dominate the landscape. The majority of visitors choose to do one trek per day, returning to the town for the night. For a more unique experience, join these two together to make a triangular route!
Day 7 – Laguna de los Tres
Head out from El Chalten in a transfer to the trailhead at Rio Eléctrico bridge. Immerse yourself in a bewitching forest as you slowly climb up towards the Piedras Blancas Glacier viewpoint to gaze in awe at the view of the hanging glacier. You’ll continue on to reach a steep incline but push through – at the top the Laguna de los Tres is waiting for you with its jawdropping views of the magnificent Mount Fitz Roy. In good weather, this makes a unique picnic spot for lunch before heading down part of the way and diverting to Poincenot. Your campsite for the night will be truly memorable as you sleep with a view of the incredible Fitz Roy massif.
Day 8 – Laguna Torre
It’s definitely worth getting up early this morning- the red hues of the sunrise reflecting on Fitz Roy is a view unlike any other. After breakfast, we’ll continue on the lesser trodden path past the Madre and Hija lagoons. Relish in the tranquility of this path that most visitors to El Chalten don’t see before rejoining the main route in Torre valley. At the end, you’ll see one of the most iconic sights of Argentinian Patagonia: the Laguna Torre, Cerro Torre, and their glacier. After lunch here, you’ll enjoy these final views of untouched nature as we follow the Fitz Roy river along the final side of the triangle to return to Chaltén.
Day 9 – Climbing and Ice Trek
The experience of standing on top of a glacier in one of the most remote places of the world is an incredible feeling. It’s physically demanding, yes, but definitely worth the effort!
After a short drive to Los Huemules reserve, you’ll spend a couple of hours treking through a charming Lenga forest. When you arrive at the Diablo Lake, you’re adventure really begins! Put on your safety equipment to climb, slide, and crawl your way to the Cagliero glacier. The blue glow of the ice and its marvellous forms really are something to behold! You’ll get to spend about an hour on the glacier to appreciate the moment as well as take some incredible photos and eat, before heading back the way you came to enjoy the vista and the great outdoors!
Day 10 – La Leona Petrified Forest
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. After 9 days of adventure in the nature of El Chalten, you’ll already be planning your return! On your way out to the airport in El Calafate, make one final stop to wonder at the magic of Patagonia. Midway between the two towns, stop at the petrified forest of ‘La Leona’ to discover the land of the dinosaurs!
You’ll drive along the Lake Argentino to reach the historic Hotel La Leona, before heading on to a traditional estancia (Patagonian ranch). Walk around the paleontological site to discover the 70-million-year-old fossilized tree trunks. Keep your eyes peeled for dinosaur fossils too! From here, head on to El Calafate for an evening flight or for the next part of your trip!
El Chalten is, without a doubt, an incredible part of the world. There are endless options of activities to do here, and this is only an example. If this sounds like something you want to do or if you have any questions, send our team a message and we’ll be happy to help! We can handcraft your trip to El Chalten to make the trip of your dreams come true!