El Chaltén is in the Patagonian region of southern Argentina. El Chalten was founded in the late 70s/early 80s as an outpost of Argentina to anticipate land claims of Chile for that area. It is still a small town that is best known for being the gateway to Mt. Fitz Roy and Cerro Torres, two of the most rugged and impressive peaks in the Patagonian Andes. The growing number of hiking tourist lead to an increase in construction and in summer the town is full of tourists.
- From El Calafate : Daily buses take 2h30 hours to drive the 222 kilometers (138 miles) over a newly paved road (it's fully paved; 2012). Price for the buses is 275 pesos one way (~$23USD@black market rate; November 2014). Avoid the company Taqsa/Marga; they have old and bad buses with failing or no ventilation at all which is terrible. Their price is 10 pesos less than the other two competitors, Cal-Tur and Chaltén Travel.
- From Bariloche : Buses ride the half-paved Ruta 40 across the desert-like landscape (24 hours; 2014). On the way, they stop in El Bolson, Esquel, Perito Moreno and Los Antiguos (12 hours). Marga has a direct bus that leaves on odd numbered days, but there is a longer route that goes through Rio Gallegos and El Calafate that leaves everyday. Buses are likely 1500 pesos or more. The general rule of thumb is that the bus will cost about US $5 for every hour of travel. Beware the company Taqsa/Marga, who advertise a semi-cama with two meals (as of 28/03/14) for their Ruta 40 route, however it was just a seat and only a crappy breakfast on the 24 hour ride.
Only by foot or car. The main streets have been recently paved. Side streets remain mostly gravel.
The permanent gas station in town has closed down, however there is a temporary one setup on the main road just outside of town (look for the giant blue box with the YPF symbol). They are only open 9am-12pm and 3pm-8pm. (December 2013)
The information point from the national park (across the bridge, about 500m from busstation) is very helpful with information about the trekkings.
On the Laguna de los Tres hike
- Lago del Desierto. A dead-end ripio road (about 37 km one way) leads you to the very remote Lago del Desierto through a wonderful valley along a river. You can do easy hikes and strolls there and enjoy the peace and quiet. edit
- KouSeki Mountain SPA, Cerro Solo 136 (Same block as El Gringuito supermarket), . 10-13, 16-20. Offers a variety of therapeutic and relaxing massages, complemented by Thai herbal sauna and steaming compresses. (49.19,72.53) edit
This area is a trekking mecca.
- Laguna de los Tres. 8 hours (mostly easy) round trip from the town. There are outstanding views of the Fitz Roy range along the way. The trail ends at the cobalt-blue Laguna de los Tres, at the base of Cerro Fitz Roy. The last 1.5 kilometers of this hike are very steep and exposed, and as a result some hikers choose to overnight at the nearby Campamento Poincenot prior to climbing the last, difficult stretch, though it is possible to do the whole round-trip trek from town in one day. A 500-meter, well marked additional trail winds around to to the left of Laguna de los Tres and leads to a spectacular, cliff-side overview of Laguna Sucia, some 200 meters below Laguna de los Tres. A good alternative route is to start at Hosteria El Pilar and hike back to El Chalten, stopping at Laguna de los Tres mid-way.
- Laguna Torre. 6 hours easy round trip that leads to a lake at the base of the dramatic Cerro Torre, which, although only 3100 meters tall, was not summited until 1975, a generation after all the 8000-meter+ Himalayan peaks had been conquered. Cerro Torre's near vertical walls and a permanent, unstable ice veneer at its summit defeated all earlier attempts. Backpackers can combine the Laguna de los Tres and Laguna Torre treks using connecting side-trails that create a loop. There is an optional side continuation to Dagostini that leads closer to the glacier near Laguna Torre.
- The Condor Mirador and Eagle Miradors are easy climbs (two hours at most combined) behind the National Park office. Great views of the town, and the Fitzroy range and of course Condors.
- Beside hiking you can do a boat trip combined with a glacier trek on the Lago Viedma and the adjacent Glacier Viedma.
- In the centre of town you can also pay to go horse riding with a gaucho guide along some of the major walking trails. The horses here are very easy-going and well suited to beginner riders.
Supermarket with everything hiker and camper might need. Opening hours depend on season but in general closes rather early so better check out upon arrival.
The calafate berry ice cream (a bit like blueberry but milder) from the ice cream shop in the middle of the town is worth trying.
If you plan cooking at your hostel or while camping, there are also two small grocery stores that sell food and supplies. If coming from Bariloche or El Calafate, it's advisable to bring some groceries with you as the variety locally is limited.
There are a number of restaurants in town, mostly with meals from 70 pesos upward. For budget travellers, your best bet is to cook, unless you can survive on empanadas only.
- Como Vaca, Lago del Desierto 410. Very nice parrilla restaurant, great steaks and also other home made food at fair prices. Open at 19h. Can be very busy around 21h. edit
What better after a long hike in the mountains then to enjoy a good beer. Home brews (rubia y negro) at the Cervezeria! Good food and friendly staff as well. Though 50 pesos for two beers is a bit pricey.
- La Nieve. This is the bakery that supplies many of the area restaurants and shops with empanadas. They have some of the best prices (5 pesos for an empanada) and s many of the locals talk about of as having the best deals. Friendly staff. edit
- Rancho Grande Hostel, 02962-493005, . HI-hostel.
- There are several free camping sites in the park
- Hosteria Koonek, Lionel Terray (415), ☎ 0054 02962-493304, . (,Hosteria Koonek) edit
- La Comarca Hostel, Perito Moreno 70. Cheapest hostel in town, very close to bus station, friendly owner but with bad ventilation in the dorms. Appears a bit shabby from the outside but is really quite nicely-appointed. 75ARS per bed (April 2014.) edit
- Latitud 49° Apart - B&B, arbilla 145, ☎ 0054 2962 493347, . 2 apartments full equipped up to 4 people. warm and modern ambient, with complete kitchen, fridge, microwave, central heating, clean service, towels and linen included. lcd 22" with DVD recorder and available films. wi-fi internet. 3 double rooms with private bathroom at B&B accommodation. breakfast and wi-fi internet included. good view and convenient location rear the bus station. (49° 20' S,72° 54' W) edit
- La Base, ☎ 0054 2962 493031, . Small guesthouse with garden, 6 rooms with private bathroom + 3 shared kitchens. edit
- camp with locals, try asking locals in back streets to camp in their backyard (for example a friendly man in a light blue house behind the Rancho Grande and Poincenot hotel). You get the same or better service as the campsites for half the price. You might also be able to negotiate a dormitory style accommodation this way. edit
- El Relincho campsite. Mediocre service, big surcharges for storing luggage and other extras, very crowded and expensive. edit
There are only two ATMs in town. One is located in the bus terminal. The other is a couple blocks away. Neither of the ATMs work for cards with chips in them. It's best to take out cash before arriving to avoid potential problems. (March 2015)
Cash is king -- most businesses, including the bus companies, and restaurants do not accept credit cards. It's best to come earlier in the day, as the ATM will run out of cash towards the end of the day.
There is no mobile phone connection in or around town (apparently much to the delight of some of the hippie population). Internet connections are slow at best but predominantly nonexistent, despite what the hostel, hotel or establishment might advertise.
Travel the Carretera Austral in Chile.
Biking from El Chalten to El Calafate is doable in two days. At around 120 km from El Chalten there is an abandoned pink house next to the road where many bikers spend the night. The police is known to show up around 8 pm some days to throw people out. Try to arrive late at the pink house.