National Trekking Capital ~ El Chalten, Argentina

17 March – 22 March, 2018

Although we enjoyed our time in El Calafate and hiking in Torres del Paine National Park, we were looking forward to experiencing the trails of El Chalten, in the northern sector of Los Glaciares National Park, and the best news of all, there was sun in our forecast. Another early morning bus ride, this one only three hours, and we were there!

Los Glaciares National Park peaks, seen from the park service office.

There have been a few places where we carved out some extra time, as we knew Patagonia was moody, the weather changing often during the day. El Chalten was one of those places and we spent six days enjoying her laid-back atmosphere.

We had read on several forums that if you only had one place to hike in Patagonia, El Chalten should be the place. Trailheads are at the edge of town and the national park is free. Contrast this to our time in El Calafate, where we had a 2-hour commute to the park and the entrance fee was $38 per person. What’s not to like?

As we made our approach into El Chalten, the granite needles of Fitz Roy rose from the surrounding landscape, a watchful sentinel over this quaint little town. This mountain has become a symbol for Argentine Patagonia and became even more so thanks to Yvon Chouinard. After his successful summit of Fitz Roy in 1968, with a USA team, he used its shape to inspire the logo for his clothing brand, Patagonia. At roughly 11,200 feet above sea level, Fitz Roy may not be the highest peak in Argentine, but it is considered one of the most technically challenging climbs on the planet, due to its vertical granite cliffs and how quickly the weather can change. To give an idea of this challenge, Everest averages 50 successful climbers per year, Fitz Roy only one.

El Chalten is an eclectic little town, easily walkable, with a permanent population of 1,100. But with the recent paving of a highway leading into town, it’s growing so rapidly that some feel it will become the next Calafate, with spiraling real estate prices. It reminded me a bit of Gardiner, Montana, some roads paved, some still gravel with their fair share of potholes, a very interesting place.

We had three glorious days of mostly sun and little wind, giving us many opportunities to hike, to see Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre up-close. Our hostel, Pudu Lodge, was situated on the edge of town, with access to many of the hiking trails just a block away…perfect!

Scouting out interesting, local restaurants is part of the travel experience, and El Chalten has a fair number of cafes, given its size. We had heard about the German owned La Cerveceria from Backpacker Steve, whose website we researched often during our trip planning.

They brew their own beer, which is the reason he encourages travelers to go. Yes, their beer was tasty, but their menu, although limited, was so enticing, we found ourselves going back time and again, four to be exact.  What we discovered was a quirky little eatery that featured all things homemade, beer to breadsticks and everything in-between.  We loved the local stew, locro, the salmon ravioli, the vegetarian empanadas, and the butternut squash stuffed with sautéed vegetables. For a country that relies heavily on meat, bread, and cheese, this was a delicious diversion. And the staff made us feel like family each time we walked through the door.

El Chalten was everything we hoped it would be, and I finally found a couple of Patagonia’s more lovely residents.

Next Up: Long Night’s Bus Ride

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45 thoughts on “National Trekking Capital ~ El Chalten, Argentina

  • These pictures are beautiful, LuAnn, especially Fitz Roy. You sure know how to visit and enjoy some spectacular places. You couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate title for your blog either.

    Enjoy!

    Hugs, Shirley and Norm

    >

    • Thanks Shirley. We are really enjoying our trip but have to say that there is a part of us that wants to be back in Jojoba, what with Kent and Cookie leaving, and now our buddy Norm not feeling well. Sending you both big hugs and lots of love.

  • El Chalten looks and sounds intriguing and it’s so nice to see blue skies in your photos. Those are some seriously sharp and jagged peaks! I like the photo of the snow blowing across the peaks. At first glance, I thought it was just a cloud.

    Can’t wait for our new neighbors to return!

  • Wow! You really lucked out on the weather in El Chalten. Many folks never even see the Mountains. Cerro Torre is especially hard to see. Nice photos.

  • Wow that’s a great spot. Guess we will have to put it on our list. Thanks,be safe. Frank 

    Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone

    • Given that we had nothing but rain while in Torres Del Paine, we were thrilled to have some sunny days in El Chalten. Nice to hike in good weather.

  • Wow! As usual, your photos are spectacular. I know you are going to say it was the landscape, but you always do it justice. I hope you were able to get the hiking accomplished, that you had hoped for. I still want to see the rest of the United States, but it is great to view what else there is in the world, through your eyes.

  • You did that right! We had only a few days in El Chalten, and the weather was atrocious. We did the Laguna de los Tres hike in solid rain and never got any views. And we only got to eat at La Cerveceria once – perhaps the bigger crime!

    • We were glad to have some good weather after getting rained on the entire time in Torres del Paine. As for La Cerveceria, we were so excited to find a restaurant that wasn’t so heavy on the meat and cheese.

  • I am speechless…or rather writeless. (I am sure that isn’t a real word.) Anyway….gorgeous, beautiful, lovely, outstanding, etc., etc., etc., I just stared at your photos for minutes on end. Magnificent!!! Are those parrots? Beautiful.

    • Thanks Marsha. The mountains here are phenomenal. And yes, those are emerald parakeets. Not the best shot but those buggers wouldn’t sit still long enough or come down from the canopy of the tree to oblige me.

  • What a fabulous landscape! I’m so glad you had a window of great weather for your hiking adventures. Honestly, I don’t think I realized just how beautiful Patagonia is until seeing your photos and reading your posts. And the food looks fantastic. It seems like such a remote place for such gourmet offerings. Great hiking + great food is my idea of the perfect trip. :-))

    • I knew the landscape would be special Laurel, but I wasn’t sure what to expect with the food. Unfortunately food choices aren’t as varied as what we are accustomed to, especially when it comes to vegetables. They like their meat and cheese. When we found La Cerveceria I wanted to go nowhere else. The food there was delicious and healthy.

  • This was one of our favourite places. You got some amazing photos. The header photo especially is fabulous. And you saw the conures! We did too. I was so surprised to see parrots in such a cold place.
    Alison

    • Thanks Alison. I chased those conures all over the park before I got a somewhat decent shot of them. I think they were toying with me. 🙂

  • I don’t think there are enough adjectives to use after looking at your photos. I can only imagine what the real scenery looked like. Wow! So glad you had some sun to experience these spectacular needles. Love the photo of Terry just mesmerized by the Fitz Roy:) The food looks so good but the empanadas caught my eye immediately. That dough with cheese oozing…oh, my! So very glad to hear things are going well. Sure sounds wonderful:)

    • I knew El Chalten would be magical if we only had the sun and we did for 4 of our 6 days. The wild mushroom empanadas at La Cerveceria were the best yet, light flaky dough with wild mushrooms, cheese, and green onion…oh my!

  • I love this post with your dramatic and gorgeous photographs and descriptions. Years back, in another life, we used to have a business importing artisanal products from Argentina. Arghhh, we were so close to Patagonia, but did not get there. At the time our kids were still in school and we had limited time. The one time we did go traveling in country we went the other way! To Northern Argentina. Oh well, for next time.

    That food. Looks and sounds delicious. Thanks for the direct to Backpacker Steve!

    Peta

    • Patagonia is strikingly beautiful but that can be said about so many places in the world. I’m sure northern Argentina is equally beautiful. One day I want to see Igauzu Falls.

  • The scenery is absolutely breathtaking! The weather cooperated! The food and beer looked delish! Such a wonderfully trip we are experiencing with you!

  • That scenery looks stunning! Thanks for sharing, I look forward to following your adventures. My partner is climbing Mt Everest this year, so I’ll be seeing lots of photos of snow filled valleys and peaks over the next couple of weeks.

  • As usual, your photos are all beautiful but your opening photo and the others with the granite peaks of Fitz Roy in the background are spectacular. Your reference to Gardiner, MT had me tripping (way back) down memory lane. We used to stop there a few times each summer (40 years ago!) to load up on supplies before staying at a friend’s cabin. We drove through there about 3 years ago on a road trip and had a hard time recognizing the quaint little town we knew. Anita

    • Yes, Gardiner, MT has changed quite a bit. We still have many friends who live there so it is always fun for us to spend time in Gardiner. Fitz Roy is just spectacular Anita. I just couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Hard to believe that a small town like El Chalten has such a prominent sentinel towering over their landscape.

    • El Chalten has been one of the more memorable places we have been so far during our time in Patagonia. Of course what made it so was nice weather in which to hike. 🙂

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