Wondering how to spend 3 days in El Chalten? We’ve got you covered with this itinerary that covers the top hikes, places to eat and where to stay!
El Chalten is the Trekking Capital of Argentina, some would even say the Trekking Capital of South America! This mountain town is located in the northern part of Los Glaciares National Park and it is home to some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world.
For starters, the views in El Chalten are just magical. You can see the granite peaks of Mount Fitz Roy from the centre of town, you have the turquoise waters of the Las Vueltas River to the east, and a slew of trailheads that beckon you in different directions.
Most visitors to El Chalten choose to spend about 3 days here, which is enough time to tackle the main hikes and get a taste of what this remote corner of Patagonia is all about.
I’ll admit I spent a bit more time in El Chalten, so I’ve handpicked what I think are some of the unmissable experiences in town.
Here’s how to spend 3 days in El Chalten, Argentina during your visit!
3 Days in El Chaltén Itinerary
Day 1 in El Chaltén
Getting to El Chaltén
First things first, you’re going to need to make your way to El Chaltén.
Since there is no airport in this small town, you’ll be flying into El Calafate (there are multiple daily flights from Buenos Aires) and making your way from there.
When it comes to reaching El Chaltén, you have 3 options: you can pick up a rental car from the airport, you can book a private transfer or you can take the bus.
You can read our complete guide on how to get to El Chaltén from El Calafate here.
The bus terminal in El Chaltén is basically non-existent, so the bus will first stop at the Visitor Centre where you’ll get a quick introduction and some warnings about hiking in Los Glaciares National Park (you don’t mess with the weather around these parts!) and you’ll then be dropped off at the entrance of town.
From this point, you can hail one of the remis or taxis waiting around, or you can roll your luggage to your hotel like we did.
Check-in at your hotel
We stayed at Hostería Vertical Lodge and we had a great experience, so that’s our first-hand recommendation.
The rooms were very spacious – great for sprawling out all your trekking gear! Breakfast was abundant with plenty of sweet and savoury options. And they also offered a packed lunch service, which we made use of for our two big hiking days.
This hotel is located right at the entrance to town, so we only had to roll our suitcases two blocks from where the bus dropped us off.
The property overlooks the Las Vueltas River and the Paredón which is the rock climbing wall, plus we were right next to the trailhead to Mirador de los Cóndores and Mirador de las Águilas (two hikes we’ll talk about shortly).
Grab lunch in town
For your first day in El Chalten, I would recommend grabbing lunch at Patagonicus. Today we’re keeping all the activities clustered around the south part of town, including meals!
The menu is simple – pizzas, soups and salads. But you also don’t want to eat a super heavy meal before tackling your first hike!
Hike to Mirador de los Cóndores for Sunset
I’m going to include a hike for your first day in El Chaltén because this is Argentina’s trekking capital and this will be a good warm-up for what’s to come the next day. Don’t worry, this is a short hike – a little steep, but with big rewards.
Mirador de los Cóndores translates to Vultures Lookout and it’s named so because the trail leads you up to a cliff where you can often see condors circling overhead.
This is a 2.6-km out-and-back trail with a 130-metre elevation gain. It’s a fairly short trail but it’s a little steep, so take it easy and use your trekking poles if you brought some.
I’ve seen families hike this trail with young children, so it’s certainly doable. As I said, this will serve as a warm-up for the bigger trails to come over the next two days. You want to pace yourself during your 3 days in El Chalten.
Once you reach the top of the lookout you’ll be rewarded with views of the town of El Chaltén below, Mount Fitz Roy on the horizon and Río de las Vueltas encircling the town. This is where you get those postcard shots of El Chaltén, so bring your camera. It’s a nice spot for sunset since you’re facing west.
If this trail sounds a little too easy and you want more of a challenge, you can add Mirador de Las Águilas, which breaks off from the same trail and offers views of Lago Viedma.
However, I’d maybe save this for your last morning in town right before you leave. This lookout faces east so it’s the best spot to catch sunrise in El Chaltén.
Day 2 in El Chaltén
Hike to Laguna de los Tres
This is going to be the most physically demanding day of trekking in El Chaltén but I can guarantee you’ll bear witness to some of the most unbelievable landscapes in all of Patagonia! I am not exaggerating.
So, the plan is to aim for a day hike to Laguna de los Tres. This is the most iconic trek in El Chaltén, it offers impeccable views of Mount Fitz Roy, and it leads you up to a glacial lagoon that is hidden from sight until you complete the most grueling ascent up a rocky slope.
Laguna de los Tres is 12 kilometres one-way, making it 24 kilometres round trip. Technically, it’s listed as a 22-kilometre trail round trip, but it’s longer if you’re staying near the entrance of town and you have to cross all of El Chaltén to reach the trailhead – that was our predicament! – so prepare for a long day of trekking.
I’m not going to lie, this trek is hard! I mean, the first 9 kilometres are easy if you’re used to walking long distances, but the final kilometres is a steep scramble that’ll make you feel like you’re on a stair climber and it’ll make you question some of your choices.
The good thing is that once you reach Laguna de los Tres, you can rest while enjoying the most epic views of the whole trip.
The descent is rough, though not as bad as the climb, and the hike back feels long. The last 2 kilometres back are the worst simply because of the distance you’ve walked in one day. You probably won’t want to move the next day – I certainly didn’t! – but I still think it’s worth it.
If the above description of Laguna de los Tres sounds horrible and you’re ready to throw in the towel before you’ve even arrived in El Chaltén, fret not. Laguna Capri is here to save the day!
Hike to Laguna Capri
Laguna Capri is located 4 kilometres into the hike to Laguna de los Tres, so 8 kilometres round trip, making it a much more manageable distance.
Also, Laguna Capri is a slice of paradise. The lagoon is a vibrant blue and it offers views of Mount Fitz Roy in the background.
To be honest, our initial hiking goal was to reach Laguna Capri and then head back to town, but it was still so early in the morning when we reached the lagoon and we weren’t tired. We figured we were almost halfway to Laguna de los Tres, so we spontaneously decided to keep hiking.
You can do the same. Aim for Laguna Capri and see how you feel when you get there. If your legs have had enough, you can head back to El Chaltén and enjoy a chill afternoon in town. Maybe visit one of the breweries or do some souvenir shopping.
However, if you feel like challenging yourself and you want to see what lies further ahead, then continue on to Laguna de los Tres. The choice is yours.
Dinner in El Chaltén
We decided to treat ourselves to a celebratory dinner after hiking Laguna de Los Tres. We didn’t even bother going back to the hotel for a shower and a change of clothes – we knew we wouldn’t be able to get out of bed if we gave ourselves a moment of rest after walking 24 kilometres!
We chose Hosteria Senderos, a boutique guesthouse with its own in-house restaurant. We arrived looking sweaty and dishevelled, but they didn’t bat an eyelash. One of the perks of a mountain town!
For dinner, we ordered a blue cheese risotto with walnuts and sundried tomatoes, as well as a lentil stew. We paired that meal with a bottle of Shiraz, and you bet we ordered dessert! We had a chocolate mousse and an apple pancake with calafate berries ice cream.
We were so hungry after completing that trek and this meal was a well-deserved reward.
Day 3 in El Chaltén
Hike to Laguna Torre to see Cerro Torre
Another day, another trek! For your last day in El Chaltén, I would suggest hiking to Cerro Torre.
Cerro Torre stands 3,128 metres tall and its vertical granite face is a prestigious target for mountaineers from around the world. However, for those interested in hiking rather than technical climbing (I think that’s most of us!), there are trails that offer breathtaking views of Cerro Torre without the need to scale its walls.
The most common approach for hikers is the trail to Laguna Torre, a glacial lake that offers spectacular views of Cerro Torre, Torre Egger, Cerro Standhardt and other nearby peaks.
The hike to Laguna Torre is considered moderate and can be completed as a day hike. The trail leads hikers through diverse landscapes including forests, rivers, and moraines, culminating in the stunning vistas of the mountain peaks.
The trek to Laguna Torre is approximately 17.5 kilometres round trip with an elevation gain of around 500 meters. It usually takes between 3 to 4 hours one way to reach the lake, depending on your pace and how often you stop to enjoy the views and snap photos.
We could see the Cerro Torre in the distance for most of our hike, but by the time we arrived at the shores of Laguna Torre, the mountain peak was covered in passing clouds. That’s just how it goes with Patagonian weather! The prize at the end of this hike is the view of the granite spires behind the lagoon if the weather cooperates.
Laguna Torre is a glacial-fed lagoon and often has small icebergs floating around. The lagoon’s water is a bit brown in colour, so that’s a little warning for you if you’re coming with high expectations after visiting Laguna de los Tres. I know I was!
We found this to be a very easy hike and because it was relatively flat, we were able to keep a steady pace.
Dinner at a brewpub
One spot we really enjoyed in El Chalten was La Zorra Taproom.
They specialize in burgers, pizzas, loaded fries and salads. Basically, good ol’ hearty pub grub, which is precisely what you’re craving after a long day of hiking.
Because this is a brewpub, they have their own beers on tap and they have lots of fun ones to try like Scotch Ale, Passion Summer and Choco Milk.
We ate here a couple of times – burgers and loaded fries both times! – and I’ll also mention that they have a location in El Calafate if you’re heading that way.
Is 3 days in El Chalten enough?
I get it, there is a lot to see and do in Patagonia and it can be difficult to carve out enough time in your travel itinerary to fit it all in.
I would say 3 days in El Chalten is enough time to tackle some of the most iconic hikes, marvel at the lagoons and rocky granite spires, and explore the small town.
Of course, you could always tack on a few extra days to do more – hike additional trails, go kayaking, try rock climbing! – however, if other destinations are calling your name, you can certainly move on after 3 days in El Chalten knowing you’ve hit the highlights.
Make time for El Calafate so you can visit the Perito Moreno Glacier and spend the day at an estancia, and if time allows for it, maybe even add on a few days in Ushuaia so you can experience the city at the end of the world.
- How to Spend 2 Days in El Calafate
- What’s the Best Perito Moreno Glacier Tour?
- Best Hotels in El Calafate, Argentina
- How to Choose the Right Gadventures Patagonia Tour
GROUP TOURS – If you’d rather join a group tour to travel in Argentina, check out Gadventures.
CAR RENTAL – To explore Argentina beyond the cities, the best way to do so is by renting a car. Discover Cars offers rentals across the country.
BUS TICKETS – Bus travel is a great way to see Argentina. BusBud offers numerous routes.
TRAVEL INSURANCE – Don’t leave on your trip without booking travel insurance. You can get a quote on SafetyWing.
HOTELS – Booking.com offers accommodations to suit all budgets and travel styles.
TOURS – For a variety of tours and activities, have a look at Viator.