Hiking in Argentina’s Patagonia is an experience that you will never forget. The scenery in Los Glaciares National Park is breathtaking. I had the opportunity to do some hiking here during my latest trip through South America. Compared to the Chilean side of Patagonia I found that hiking on the Argentinean side was less stressful because you don’t have to plan so much. Most of the hikes around El Chaltén(Main base for hikers) are day treks, so there is no need to bring a big heavy backpack. All of the hiking trails around El Chaltén are free, and best of all you do not have to fight with reserving a spot on the trail like you do for Chiles’ Torres Del Paine park.
I’m not a big fan of camping, so I liked the idea of doing day treks and coming back to all my comforts; restaurant food, a hot shower, and a clean bed. Don’t get me wrong! The Chilean side requires a lot more planning and cost more, but I still recommend doing both sides if you have the time and money because the scenery is equally beautiful, and both sides of the park will always be part of your most sacred memories.
How To Get There.
The best place to use as a hiking base for Argentina’s Patagonia is El Chaltén because most of the popular hikes like Laguna de Los Tres, and Laguna Torre start at the edge of town, and there is plenty of budget options for both accommodation and restaurants. El Chaltén, also known as Argentina’s Trekking Capital is a small mountain town that is located within The Los Glaciares National Park and is approximately 220 km(4 hours) north of El Calafate.
If you are flying from Buenos Aires, you will need to fly to El Calafate first then take the bus. The bus from El Calafate to El Chaltén takes 4 hours and cost 45USD. Most backpackers coming from Chile will stop in El Calafate to see The Perito Moreno Glacier, then take a bus to El Chaltén.
The Main Hikes
Laguna De Los Tres
The first hike that I did was The Laguna de Los Tres Trek (22km, 7 to 9 hours return) This walk gives you views of Cerros Fitz Roy, Poincenot & Torre. The silhouette of this mountain view may appear to be somewhat familiar to you because it is part the main background of the famous logo for the hiking brand Patagonia.(See photo further down) I did this hike twice because I had booked extra days in El Chaltén, and the first time that I went up the view was a bit distorted by clouds. All I brought up both times was water, a sandwich, a few snacks, and a warm jacket in a small daypack.
If you want to have an amazing experience you can camp at Poincenot for free and get up early in the morning to hike one hour up to the Lago de Los Tres viewpoint for sunrise. I was not ambitious enough to do this, but I have seen some stunning pictures taken from other backpackers who have.
The other popular trail to do is Laguna Torre (20km, 5 to 6 hrs return). This hike will give you great views of Cerro Torre. The hike is relatively flat making it somewhat easy but it still requires a lot of work so bring food, water, and some warm clothes in a small daypack. Unfortunately, it was relatively cloudy the day I went obstructing the view a bit, but it is still an amazing hike and a great memory.
Things To Note!
Hiking Gear Is Expensive.
Please bring all your hiking gear from home! All modern hiking equipment is extremely expensive in Argentina, due to massive inflation problems. The costs are even higher in El Chaltén due to its remoteness.
There is only one ATM that is near the bus station. It does not always work, and it often runs empty due to its popularity. So it is best to stock up on Argentinian Pesos before you come to town. Most restaurants take Visa and Interact but the internet connections are a hit and miss, so it’s good to have some cash as a back-up. I used my credit card most of the time and only had a problem using it once.
The best time to go to Patagonia is from Nov – Feb(summer). It is recommended to book ahead during this time. I booked one week in advance and had no problems finding a dorm bed at a hostel during the week of Christmas. Southern Argentina is more expensive than most other places in Latin America, the average price of a dorm bed during the busy season is $25 USD per night. El Chaltén pretty much shuts down during the winter months due to the harsh winter weather. The owner of the hostel that I stayed at closes his hostel and moves back to Buenos Aires for the winter months.
Heads up! The internet in El Chaltén is horrible! Hopefully, you are going to Patagonia to hike, not surf the internet all day. But if you do have something important to do that requires a secure connection like booking a flight or important baking, you may want to do your business in El Calafate or somewhere that has reliable internet before you come to El Chaltén.
The weather in Patagonia is always volatile. During the time I was there(late December), I learned very quickly that you just go on the hike that you want to even if it is cloudy or raining. I stayed in the hostel one day because of bad weather only to find that by the afternoon the skies were clear and the views were postcard perfect! Ask the owner of your hostel or guesthouse for the best advice on if you should go hiking that day or not.
It’s also wise to bring a warm jacket or a sweater so that you can hang out at the top of the trailhead for an hour or more in case you get bad weather. The weather changes often, so if you have some warm clothes, you can wait at the top for a while in the hope that you may get a beautiful view of the peaks.
If you want some more information on what to do in Patagonia you can check out my other blog posts How To Hike The ‘W’ Trek In Patagonia or The Perito Moreno Glacier. If you have any questions, then feel free to leave a comment below.
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