Robel Sur was a welcome sight after a long and tiring 32 hour journey to Calafate. This was my second visit to Calafate and El Chalten and my third to Argentina.
A few more houses have been built in the area but we still received the same warm welcome. I do not think it will be my last visit.
We started our hiking in Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine in Chile and then returned to Calafate for a few days enjoying the local beer and wine before going to El Chalten. The nature reserve on the shores of Lago Argentina is worth a visit.
El Chalten was founded on October 12th 1985 by a decree that ordered its creation in order to promote human settlements in the Andean range of the province of Santa Cruz. The provincial government built El Chalten to reinforce its border with Chile which was in dispute at the time. This has now been settled.
El Chalten has not changed since my last visit in 2010. If you are a backpacker, or mountaineer it is a great place to visit, whatever your level of experience. The trails start on the edge of town. We spent 5 days hiking and enjoying the many good restaurants and bars every night.
Besides the main campsite, there are several small ones in the residential area of town that cater for a few tents. Every street has at least one B&B.
There are stores selling expensive camping gear. I did not see a good selection of dehydrated food. You can purchase partially used propane bottles if you are only doing an overnight camp.
Below are pictures of the places we visited.
Map of El Chalten – Argentina
South America showing location of Calafate & El Chalten
Robel Sur is my "Home away from Home" when I am in Calafate. It is my base when hiking in Puerto Natales or El Chalten.
On our return from Puerto Natales there was fresh snow at the Chile - Argentina border. Customs and Immigration was quick and efficient on both crossings.
Calafate is on the South shore of Lago Argentina and is a hub for the road and air links for Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.
Laguna Nimez is a wild-life reserve and a bird sanctuary.
The Ananda has good meals and beer, at local prices. It's close to the Nature Reserve with good views of the Lake. It was busy with families, especially on weekends.
Lago Argentina has area of 1415 sq Km and is the source of the Rio Gallegros
The coaches stop at Hotel La Leona on the way to El Chalten. A chance to get some snacks and stretch your legs for the next 3 hours. We did not stop on the way back.
The 225Km road to El. Chalten is good but very little traffic was encountered. Fitzroy range in the distance.
Chorrillo del Salto falls are about 3Km from El. Chalten. The walk follows Rio de las Vueltas along a very dusty road. Fill your water bottles before starting and at the falls for the return.
Margarita Falls flow into to the Rio Fitz Roy. We walked this way to Lago Torre.
Lago Torre is a 3 hour walk from town. The trails are in good condition and well marked. Glacier Grande and Co. Grande (2751 Meters) in the back ground.
Loma del Pliegue Tumbado overlooks Lago Torre. There was some snow as we got closer to the top. Above the tree line I was guided by poles painted orange on one side. Easy to see on the way up but hard to find on the way down. In poor visibility it would have been very difficult.
Laggo Torre from loma del Pliegue Tumbado at about 1400 Meters. We walked to this lake the previous day. The path around the Lake can be clearly seen on the right of the picture.
Monte Fitz Roy. This 3400 Meter peak is visible from anywhere in EL Chalten.
Lago Capri is an easy walk from the town. The waters are very clean and clear. There is a campground here. Monte Fitz Roy in the distance.
Lago Capri. There is space for everyone to sit and relax. If you are going to Rio Blanco including the short loop off the main trail is worthwhile.
Glacier Fitzroy Este & Piedras Blancas. We took a mini bus to Hosteria El Pilar and then walked along Rio Blanca to Campamento Poincenot and then back to El Chalten. This was a good last day before we got the late bus back to Calafate.
View from Mir. Aguilas with Lago Viedma in the distance. The flatlands in Patagonia are very dry as little rain falls. Most of the water is melt water from the many glaciers.
Mir. Condores is a 2 hour hike from the Park Ranger station with a good view of El Chalten. We saw Condors circling above the mountains.
Nothofagus B&B is clean and friendly. It is a short walk from the centre of town, and good restaurants are close by. We recommended it.
I have been asked several times which I prefer, the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in Chile or Parque Nacional Las Glaciores in Argentina.
If you want to spend each night in a B&B and have a good dinner and breakfast before choosing what trail to do then El Chalten is the one to choose.
If you want to do a multi-day hike but want to spend each night in a different bed the Torres De Pine W- Circuit is the one.
If you want to do a multi-day hike camping, there is not much difference between the two parks. Both have good trails, scenery and campsites. Once you move away from the main areas you will be on your own. In either you can hike for days and only meet other backpackers.
In El Chalten the trails end in the town so you can get a Burger and Beer as soon as you finish. In Chile there is a long ferry and bus trip to get back to Puerto Natales, but that is part of the adventure.
I hope to return and do the O-Circuit in Torres Del Paine.
Below are some of my previous South American adventures:
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