Hiking and trip advice for Argentina
February 17, 2013 4:48 PM   Subscribe

We will be spending 3 days in El Chalten and 3 days in El Calafate, Argentina in March. What hikes and tours would be most recommended or must sees?

Also, we'll be flying in to El Calafate at 5PM, and plan on traveling to El Chalten that same evening. We would love advice on the best way to make the transfer. Thanks!
posted by graventy to Travel & Transportation around Argentina (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Fitz Roy walk from El Chalten is a must do. It would be super-easy to do it yourself, the track is well marked, and there are heaps of people out there. We paid for a guide just for the local knowledge of the plants, animals, history of the area.

The other popular walk from El Chalten is the Cerro Torre walk. Again well signposted and well travelled.

The national park visitor centre on the way into El Chalten has a lot of good info and maps.

The Perito Moreno glacier is the big attraction in El Calafate. There are heaps of tour operators in town offering various trips including walking on the glacier.

There is a bus company with an office inside the El Calafate airport that goes both ways to El Calafate and El Chalten, but I can't remember their name... Services are infrequent - I would book ahead or otherwise be happy with catching a taxi into El Calafate to spend the night.
posted by trialex at 5:21 PM on February 17, 2013

Best answer: I did the tour on the Perito Moreno glacier. There were two different ones when I was there and one of them had less time on the actual glacier. Go for the one with more time on the glacier. The give you crampons and safety gear and take you on the ice for a couple of hours. It was one of the best things I did in Argentina. It's not every day you get to walk on a glacier, trust me it's something you won't forget!
posted by postergeist at 1:39 AM on February 18, 2013

Best answer: We skipped spending too much time in El Calafate (too much big tourist boom town vibe) and preferred to concentrate in El Chalten. There are glaciers in the Parque Nacional Los Glacieres that you can explore as well (ie. Viedma, Torre) that won't be as crowded as Perito Moreno.

As a three night trek, we did this circuit and it was one of my favorite trekking experiences ever.

El Chalten -> Campamiento D'Agostini (near Lago Torre)
Agostini ->Poincenot
Full day around Poincenot trekking up to Lago De Los Tres or Piedras Blancas.
Poincenot -> El Chalten

This assumes camping, but all of these locations are within a day hike of El Chalten if you wish to spend most of your stay in an inn or hostel. After our trek, we chilled out in El Chalten and did day trips to the Viedma Glacier as well as just general aimless relaxing. If we were feeling more ambitious there's also Lago Del Desierto to the north. That's supposed to be nice, but I can't comment on it.

If your local library has a good travel guide section, the Lonely Planet volume of Trekking in the Patagonian Andes is very useful and definitely worth checking out.

As far as transfer -- there's a shuttle bus that goes straight to El Chalten from the El Calafate airport. We just bought tickets when we arrived on the morning flight out of Buenos Aires. No need for reservations. There are also several shuttle buses that run between and we were able to arrange for our return from El Chalten to El Calafate fairly easily with, again, no reservations ahead of time.

tldr; -- with only six days, and if you like trekking, I'd recommend spending most to all of it in El Chalten. El Calafate is nice, but it's pretty built up now and feels like Tahoe or Breckenridge. If you're looking for a little more plush comfort, that's fine, but if you want some of that legendary Patagonian rusticness, you'll find more of it in El Chalten.
posted by bl1nk at 7:20 AM on February 18, 2013

oh! and money pro-tip for El Chalten: they just got their first ATM installed in the town two years ago, so it is possible to get cash, but the machine did run out often, so it was still advisable to stock up on cash in either BA or El Calafate. About half of the local businesses supported credit card transactions (ie. some pubs and restaurants, some of the guide services and most of the hostels) and in such scenarios people will look on you more kindly if you pop out a Mastercard rather than a Visa. Apparently, the Visa processing lines in Santa Cruz are notoriously unstable and drop connections all the time.
posted by bl1nk at 7:23 AM on February 19, 2013

Best answer: Yes, I was just there and I agree with the above posters.

Absolutely Do:
- The Perito Moreno glacier walk from El Calafate.
- Sendo Fitz Roy from El Chalten
- Sendo Laguna Torre from El Chalten
- The overlook hike that goes up the hill from the far side of the rive next to a small vistor's center is really nice, and only an hour or two. If it's clear you get an amazing view of Fitz Roy and the Torres. I think it's Sendo de los Aguilas or something like that.

- Calafate is very touristy. Chalten is more rustic.
- Both have really terrible, yet expensive food; cash is very hard to get in both places. Both these statements are about 5x more true for Chalten than Calafte. As other said, bring as much cash as you can from BA.
- It's weirdly difficult to find the trailheads in Chalten. Make sure you ask for directions, or you'll spend 30 min wandering around town looking for the trailheads. Once you're on the trails it's pretty well signed, but I would seriously consider purchasing a trail map to carry with you either from one of the supermercados in Chalten or online (Amazon) beforehand. We found them really invaluable when we were out on the trails.
- In Chalten, for the love of God don't go to the Waffleria. Worst food I've ever had in my life. The pizza place near the front of town is OK though, with OK prices.
- Overall Chalten >> Calafate in terms of awesome outdoor stuff. I would plan for one full day in Calafate for the Perito Moreno, and spend the rest of my time in Chalten.
- Sendo Fitz Roy is really, really, really steep for the last mile or so. Goes about 1,000 feet straight up a glacial moraine. Don't say you weren't warned.
posted by annie o at 12:16 PM on February 23, 2013

Oh, also bring food from BA if you can. But don't bring fruit, you can't bring it into the province and the airport people will take it from you.
posted by annie o at 12:18 PM on February 23, 2013

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