The landscapes of El Chalten and El Calafate are some of the most fascinating in Argentina. For us, this is a destination that everyone should visit at least once in a lifetime. For this reason, we put together this guide to facilitate the organization of your trip and so that you can enjoy all that Patagonia has to offer.
How to get there?
The most convenient way to get to El Calafate is by plane, with regular flights from Ushuaia, Buenos Aires, Bariloche, Trelew and Córdoba during high season. Once at the airport, you can take a bus to El Chaltén. We recommend booking with TAQSA Patagonia Turismo, via Whatsapp at +5402902495843.
Best time to visit El Calafate and El Chaltén
El Calafate can be visited all year round, although the most pleasant months are from September to March. The Perito Moreno Glacier, the main attraction in the area, is open all year round. On the other hand, the best time to visit El Chaltén is from October to March, when agencies, restaurants and shops are open.
7-day guide to El Calafate and El Chalten
In our article, we share our week-long route between El Calafate and El Chaltén. While this may not be the ideal route for everyone, it worked for us in the amount of days we had available. If you have more time in your itinerary, we recommend exploring more trails in El Chaltén.
It is important to note that most of the trails in El Chaltén are self-guided and well marked, so it is not necessary to take an excursion to walk them.
We arrived early from Buenos Aires to El Calafate airport and took the last bus to El Chaltén. Once in El Chalten, we checked into our hotel, had lunch and took advantage of the afternoon to take a short hike to Chorrillo del Salto.
The 7 km trail is easy and runs through a beautiful hillside forest. It can also be done by car or bicycle. At the end of the trail is the spectacular Chorrillo del Salto waterfall, with a 20-meter waterfall.
fter checking the weather forecast the day before, we decided that this would be the ideal day to sleep at Camp Poicenot and enjoy the sunrise at Laguna de los Tres. The day would be clear and the temperatures would not be too low. As mentioned in our guide to El Chaltén, there are two trails to get to Poicenot Camp: the one from Hostería del Pilar and the one from Laguna Capri. After researching and asking for recommendations, we decided to do both trails so as not to miss any sights.
The night before, we booked a van through our hotel to take us to the Hosteria del Pilar, which is 17 km from Chalten. At 9:00 a.m., the van picked us up to start the trip to our starting point.
From the Hostería del Pilar to the Poicenot campground it is approximately 6 km. On this trail, you can reach the viewpoint of the Piedra Blanca Glacier, a breathtaking view!
We arrived at the campsite around 3 pm, where there were already several people. We set up our tent, ate what we had brought, admired the view of Fitz Roy and rested in the sun. As it was getting dark, we prepared dinner with what we had brought. We went to bed early because we had to get up a few hours before sunrise to be able to see the Laguna de los Tres in the best possible light.
In our guide to Chalten, you can find all the information you need to sleep in the camp and some useful tips.
We woke up 2 hours before sunrise, prepared hot coffee in our thermos and went into a cold but full of stars night. We swear we never saw as many as in the middle of the mountain that night!
The last 2 km of the climb are the most difficult, as the trail is quite deteriorated and full of stones. However, every effort was worth it, for as we approached Fitz Roy, our smiles grew wider and wider. We arrived just in time to see how the giant was tinged with a stunning orange-pink hue.
Once at the top we stayed several hours, taking pictures, enjoying the view, resting. Around noon, when most of the tourists were arriving at the lagoon, we started our way back along the Laguna de Capri trail, we still had 11km to go to El Chaltén.
We arrived in town pretty tired, straight to the shower and to bed.
After two intense days, we decided to take a quieter trail and chose to visit the Huemul Glacier. The night before we booked transportation with the company Zona Austral, as the glacier is located near Lago del Desierto, 37 km from El Chaltén.
The trail to the Huemul Glacier is 4 km round trip and takes approximately 2 hours. Its level of difficulty is low to medium, although it has a steep climb on one part of the trail. It is important to mention that the trail is on private property, so it is necessary to pay an entrance fee of $500 (March 2021).
We woke up to a cloudy day, but since it was our last day in El Chalten, we could not miss the trek to Cerro Torre. It is a 19 km trail in total, which takes between 7 and 8 hours. Fortunately, the slope is not too steep, so the difficulty is low. Although unfortunately, due to the weather, we were not able to see Cerro Torre, the trail was equally beautiful. We observed the Laguna, which was full of icebergs from the hanging glacier. From there, you can also walk another 2 km to the Mirador Maestri, although we decided not to do so due to the strong wind that made us feel as if we were flying.
It is important to note that Cerro Torre is best appreciated at sunrise, as it faces west. There is also a rugged campsite called D'Agostini in the area, where you can camp if you wish.
We took the first bus back to El Calafate. We arrived at the station at noon and took a cab to our hotel to drop off all our stuff. After lunch, we hired the same cab that took us from the airport to the hotel to take us to the walkways of the Perito Moreno Glacier.
The walkways of the Perito Moreno Glacier are located approximately one hour from the city of El Calafate. There are three options to get there:
- Own car
- Tourist agency (in March 2021 it was $3000 pesos per person).
- Hire a cab or remis (in March 2021 $4500 round trip for up to 4 people).
The entrance fee to Glacier National Park is ARS $1200 for Argentine residents and ARS $4000 (approximately USD $15) for foreigners.
After walking the walkways and admiring the imposing glacier for a couple of hours, we headed back to our hotel in El Calafate.
Last day of our trip and one of the most incredible. Today is our turn to do the mini-trekking on the Perito Moreno glacier. Although the price can be high (approximately USD$100 per person), if you have the chance, we recommend it 100%. Walking on top of the glacier is something really incredible. We booked the excursion with Hielo y Aventura, the only company authorized to do this trekking.
The excursion begins at the Puerto Bajo las Sombras (before reaching the footbridge area) with a short 20-minute navigation across Lago Rico to the glacier. Once on the other side, there is a shelter where you can leave your gear and the guides put together small groups to walk on the glacier. After we were given helmets and crampons, we started this incredible 1.5 hour walk on the glacier.
The excursion can be complemented with a transfer, but we decided to hire a cab again, as it seemed cheaper and more comfortable. Once the excursion was over, we went back to walk along the walkways of the glacier, since we were there, we could not miss walking for a while and enjoy the view. Then, we headed back to our lodging where we picked up our luggage and headed to the airport to take our return flight.
In Calafate, there are many more excursions to do. We did not have the time to do them but anyway we tell you a little more about them and the glacier in the post about Calafate.
If you have more days we recommend you to dedicate them to Chaltén, a day of rest between so much trekking your body will thank you. Also in our itinerary we had a couple of trekking without doing. We tell you everything you can do here.