El Chalten, a young mountain village in Patagoniadeclared “Argentine’s Trekking Capital” is a hikers paradise. We spent six nights there giving us plenty of time to enjoy the outdoor activities including breathtaking hikes, stunning views and beautiful waterfalls.
Day 1 – Bus from El Calafate to El Chalten
That morning we chilled at our favourite coffee shop in El Calafate where we could actually get a decent Americano (our first in Patagonia). After the short but panoramic bus ride to El Chalten (that resembles the Calgary to Banff drive), we checked into our dorm room at Rancho Grande and only the two top bunks were open. There hadn’t been any private rooms available online or any other hostels for that matter. Shortly after we arrived, so did one of our roommates who proceeded to go to bed and made for awkward fumbling around with a flashlight in the night to try and get ready for bed.
Re: Internet in El Chalten: A sign posted in the common area reads: “Unfortunately there is no optical fibre in El Chalten, the only possibility for us to have Internet is through a Satellite connection. That is why the service is slow and expensive. This Hostel pays approximately 25,000 USD annually. Sorry for the inconvenience. Thank you for your understanding.”
Day 2 – Chorillo del Salto
The weather was overcast and dribbling rain, so we opted for a short closer hike to Chorillo de Salta in hopes of trying out our camera on flowing water. The “trail” was alongside a logging road and took about 40 minutes. When we arrived it was packed with tourists that clearly did not walk – a few large buses were parked nearby.
We played with the shutter exposure time on the camera and the natural density filter, here was the outcome:
Day 3 – Laguna Torre
We opted to switch from a dorm room to a private room for our last three nights. It was double the price (it actually sleeps 4) but the spacious room, private bathroom, double windows with a stunning view not to mention the privacy of our own room, made it worth the price tag. Oh, and turns out breakfast (bread, jam, coffee) is included.
We chose to do one of the longer hikes (approximately three hours each way) to Laguna Torres. The hike was very rewarding at the end when we viewed the beautiful lake with a glacier spilling into it. Unfortunately we started late in the day (around noon) and didn’t have much time to relax at the lake or go for a swim (we noticed a few others had done the plunge). The difficulty level of the trail was marked as medium, but it would qualify as a fairly easy trail back home. In general, all the hikes in El Chalten were easy compared to what we are used to back home. This seemed kind of strange given that El Chalten is advertised as the trekking capital of Argentina.
As we mentioned previously, South America is flooded with Israeli travelers. This was more obvious than ever in El Chalten where in town with a population of approximately 1000 permanent residents, there must have been over 100 Israeli travelers. Many stores and restaurants had writing posted in Hebrew (in addition to Spanish and English) and the extreme was an “Israeli house” which appeared to be a hostel specifically for Israeli travelers. There were at least 20-30 seen there at any given time.
Day 4 – El Pilar to Laguna Capri via Piedras Blancas & Poincenot
We pre-booked a spot on an over-priced “shuttle” (actually some guy’s van) to drive us down the logging road to the end at El Pilar. This allowed us to hike back to El Chalten without doubling back on our trail. This trek gave us some stunning views of Mount Fitz Roy and its glacier, Piedras Blancas. On the way back to Chalten, we detoured a little to Laguna Capri were Dan went for a brisk dip.
The intensity of the sun is very deceiving down here because of the strong cool winds. It is very common to see people walking around town with nasty and funny looking sunburns. We also learned this the hard way when we were at Perito Moreno Glaciar in El Calafate.
Day 5 – Relaxing at Rio Fitz Roy
After trekking about 35-40 km in the last two days, we decided to give our feet a break and take it easy. We slept in, walked around town and checked out the river that ran alongside the town.
We ran into a couple from England that we met in Colonia, Uruguay and yesterday we saw a couple that we met in Ushuaia. Seems like everyone that comes down to Patagonia takes a very similar path. We are constantly seeing familiar faces in every town we stop at.
Another thing we noticed in Patagonia is that everywhere plays Bob Marley on repeat. It seems a little out of place given the colder climate and lack of white sand beaches.
Day 6 – Mirador de los Condores
After checking out of our hotel we stored our bags and did a short trek up to a viewpoint behind the city. It had a decent panoramic view of the entire mountain range and the town.
We are currently writing this on a 12-hour overnight bus to Los Antiguos, a small town in the middle of nowhere about half way to Bariloche (our actual destination). And we don’t have a hostel booked there (none had websites or online booking) so fingers crossed something is open.