El Chalten – hidden gem of Argentina

It’s the best discovery of a new place I have ever made. Literally, I feel blessed to be in beautiful mountains of Patagonia about which I had never heard before!

So it all started from El Calafate, Santa Cruze which we visited to see Perito Moreno Glaciers. We never heard about El Chalten before, even when we searched for places to see in El Calafate nobody told us to go to this little village in the bottom of the most gorgeous mountain peaks. That’s why, I’m going to tell you more details so that you could enjoy this incredible place.

While walking in El Calafate you will find lots of travel agencies offering tours to El Chalten. But we decided to get a bus ticket and go there by ourselves (this way you will save some money). We had only one day to spend in El Chalten, that’s why we couldn’t see all the lakes which requires full day hiking with overnight camping. If you have time you should spend at least 2 days there, as hiking in the trails up to the highest lakes takes too much time. Which lakes? Keep reading.

Chalten is popular for its epic Fitz Roy peak (3405 m) and turquoise blue lakes. Actually it reminded me lakes of Alberta, Canada but the peak was different. It’s situated 3 hours of driving from El Calafate and is a very small village. Most of the people in the village are tourists J. If you love camping, it’s perfect. Grab your tent, hike for hours in the wild nature of mountains and put your tent to rest overnight. We hiked 8 kms and it took us around 5 hours. We got extremely tired (ok, we are not fit hikers :-D).

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View of village El Chalten

Before heading to the mountains make sure you have the following items in your backpack:

  1. Comfortable hiking shoes – I hiked with my running shoes, as I was not ready for this trip and my feet hurt a bit. I’m not complaining thou.
  2. Water and food – once you start hiking on the trails there is no café, kiosk or anybody selling water. Make sure you have plenty water and some food/snacks.
  3. Sunglasses, sunscreen cream, insect repellent, flashlight – yes, the sun up in the mountains may burn your skin and if it’s a clear sunny day you will get lots of sunshine.
  4. Cap, gloves, waterproof clothing, warm clothes – even if it’s sunny it may be pretty freezing when you get closer to glaciers or higher in the mountains.

Ok, now if you are ready what you can see in one day?

We reached to Chalten at 11 A.M and hit the trails right away. Trails are more wild and don’t expect to have nice steps like in Los Glaciers National Park. I had to get a stick to help me go up. If you have a hiking stick, take it. While going up there’s a breathtaking view opening and you feel more inspired to go upper. The trails go through thick forest where you can see the biggest woodpecker of South America and if you are lucky enough you will see jaguar. We saw only the woodpecker, probably jaguars were away from the trails in the daytime. May be we were lucky not to see jaguar? 🙂 That’s why we were warned that we should come back by the time sun goes down to avoid any wild animal. There are certain spots for campers which is pretty safe. We didn’t camp there, but met lots of people who were going to stay in the mountains overnight.  If you are planning to be back in the village before the darkness, calculate your time.

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Start point of trails

So, after hiking 3 kms we came to the road fork one of which was leading to lake Kapri and another one was going to the view point of Fitz Roy peak. We took the road to the view point first as we were extremely excited to see that stunning view. We hiked for another 1 km before reached that point. And there we go, I was speechless. I was numb. I was just staring at Fitz Roy peak and thinking how mother nature created this beauty!!

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Fitz Roy Peak

We took a short break here and went back to the fork to take the other path leading to lake Kapri. While hiking we saw the famous woodpecker which was working on the tree. You need to listen to the noise, otherwise you might miss it.

Hiking another kilometer on this path we reached to crystal clear lake Kapri. The view with this lake and Fitz Roy peak in the background is a million-dollar view!! It was so epic that we took a bit longer break here eating our snack and watching this view to fix in our memories as much as we could. If it was not so cold I would definitely jump into this water, but it was freaking cold. It was 15 C degree in the village and much colder in the mountains. Not sure if you can swim if you go there in January and February, which are summer months here. Unless you love ice cold water :).

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Lake Kapri with Fitz Roy peak

After taking in this beautiful view we hiked back to the start point of trails. We were thinking to go to Chorillo del Salto waterfall but we didn’t have time. We had to catch up our bus back to El Calafate. It’s not a huge waterfall, but if you have some time go check it out. I strongly recommend to start with Fitz Roy viewpoints and Lake Kapri if you have only one day. If you manage to come back earlier from these two points, you can visit the waterfalls. It’s much easier to reach waterfalls.

If you are going to camp, then make sure to see Laguna de Los Tres and Laguna Piedras Blancas which are higher in the mountains closer to glaciers.

Enjoy your trip and let me know if I can help you with some other information!

Don’t forget to check @ourlifeinasuitcase_by_sara Instagram account for more photos.

Cheers!!

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