21 BEST Things to do in El Chalten, Argentina
For those who come to Patagonia to hike breathtaking trails and explore rugged landscapes, El Chalten, Argentina is a must-visit! But besides hiking, there are tons of other amazing things to do in El Chalten!
In this small adventure town, you can simply walk from your hotel onto a huge range of trails and exciting activities.
Located in Los Glaciares National Park near the border of Chile, El Chalten has quickly become one of the best places to visit in Argentina for this reason – amazing views, hikes, and attractions!
It’s safe to say that if you come to El Chalten for adventure, photography, hiking, or all of the above, you’ve come to the right place! And with the long list of things to do in El Chalten, you’re sure to stay busy!
But out of all of the amazing activities in El Chalten there a handful that stand out from the rest. So, here are the BEST things to do in El Chalten for every type of adventurer!
21 Things to do in El Chaltén, Argentina
1. Hike the Laguna de los Tres trail to Cerro Fitz Roy
The number one thing to do in El Chalten is (and likely always will be) to hike the Laguna de Los Tres trail to the base of Mount Fitz Roy.
This 21 km (13 miles) round-trip hike isn’t for the faint-hearted. And despite the long distance, the hardest part of this hike begins in the last kilometer.
Here, you’ll need to climb over 400 m in elevation up a rocky path to Laguna de Los Tres.
Don’t worry though, the minute you see the lake and mountain backdrop you’ll quickly forget about the strenuous climb and return hike!
How long: For most, 8 hours is enough to complete the Laguna de Los Tres hike, but if you want to spend a few hours at the lake (like we did) allow more.
Tip: To avoid the crowds be sure to leave El Chalten at around 7 am. By 9 am the trails will be filled with tour groups and other hikers.
For people who aren’t sure they can make the journey, you can instead hike to the Fitz Roy Viewpoint which is only 4 km from the start of the trail.
Camping at Laguna de Los Tres: There are two campsites along the Laguna de Los Tres trail that are free and do not need to be booked in advance. The first and closest to town is Laguna Capri (4km from El Chalten) and the second is the most popular Poincenot Campsite.
This campsite sits only 2 kilometers from Laguna de los Tres making it the perfect spot for hikers wanting to enjoy the viewpoint at sunset or sunrise.
Both campsites have only pit toilets.
2. Hike to Laguna Torre
The next most popular thing to do in El Chalten is to hike to Laguna Torre.
This 18 km (11 miles) round trip is a much easier hike than Laguna de los Tres and is home to one amazing view of Laguna Torre, Glacier Grande, and Cerro Torre.
In my opinion, this is a great alternative to those who aren’t sure whether they can complete the Laguna de los Tres trail or not.
How long: Much of the trail here is flat apart from a few small inclines. So, 7 hours is more than enough time to complete the trail at a steady pace. With that said, you can do it in 5 if you’re a fast hiker.
For those who don’t want to hike the entire trail, you can choose to only hike to the Torre Viewpoint which is only 3 km from the start of the trail.
Camping at Laguna Torre: There is one campsite on the Laguna Torre trail called De Agostini. This campsite is the same as the others on Laguna de Los Res in the sense that it is free and has only a pit toilet.
Tours: You do not need a tour to complete this hike. However, if you do want to learn more about the area, flora and fauna then you can check out this guided trek.
3. Visit Chorrillo del Salto Waterfall
Chorrillo del Salto is a must-visit and easily one of the best things to do in El Chalten.
The waterfall is only 3 km from El Chalten and is accessed via an easy walking trail or gravel road.
For those who have a car, you can actually drive to a carpark only 500 meters from the falls. To get there follow the Ruta Provincial 41 (next to Laguna de Los Tres hike starting point) out of town for around 2.5 km. The carpark will be on your left.
If you don’t have a car, don’t worry, you can hike! The trailhead is at the same place as the Laguna de los Tres hike (right on the edge of town) and is clearly marked. It is a relatively flat an easy 3km-long hike but can be very dusty on windy days.
Once at the waterfall, you can sit back and enjoy the stunning views or even hike to the top of the falls via a slightly dangerous unmarked trail!
Regardless, be sure to visit this beautiful waterfall!
4. Hike the Laguna del los Tres/Laguna Torre 3-day (2-night) trail
The funny thing about this next trail is that you likely won’t find it in many other blogs and that’s probably because it’s not an “official trail” as such. But, what I noticed on my visit to El Chalten is that many people hike each trial, spend a night, and then hike out.
This wastes so much time for two reasons.
One, you hike the same way on each trail (they are return hikes, not circuits) and two, you need to spend a night in town between the overnight hikes.
For those on a budget, with limited time, or who enjoy longer hikes, this isn’t ideal.
However, you can turn both these amazing hikes into a two night, three-day circuit and enjoy two free nights of camping in this stunning region.
You can hike this circuit in either direction either starting at Laguna Torre or the Laguna de los Tres trail. After spending one night on either trail you can hike between the trails via a small walking track (it’s marked on the map and trail). This turns these two hike-in hike-out trails into an epic circuit!
Spend one night at camp De Agostini, and one night at camp Poincenot.
See the map below for reference:
Here’s an example of your days hiking (starting from the Laguna Torre trail):
Day 1 – Hike to De Angostini Campsite and visit Laguna Torre (9 km)
Day 2 – Hike from De Angostini campsite to Poincenote campsite (around 11 km)
Day 3 – Hike to Laguna de los Tres for sunrise (2km). Then, hike out nback to El Chalten via the Laguna de Los Tres trail (8 km)
These trail distances do allow for the hikes to the viewpoints, however, each is only a few kilometers and you have the added bonus of dropping your large bags and hiking light to them from camp.
5. Drink Craft Beer
I never would’ve thought a small hiking town would be home to such a huge selection of tasty craft beer. But, that’s exactly what you’ll find in El Chalten.
Throughout the small town, there are lots of amazing places to try beer made with some of the cleanest water on the planet.
There are lots of microbreweries in town with some of my personal favorites being La Cerveceria (great place for pasta too), La Zorra Taproom, and La Birre de Rancho.
All of these places offer a huge selection of beers and happy hours starting from 5 pm to 8 pm. During these times you can get a pint of beer for around $2 USD.
6. Eat amazing Italian food at Maffia Trattoria
Hands-down the best Italian food I’ve ever had was at this small restaurant in El Chalten. I know, that’s a big call, but I can back it up with that fact my Dad said the same and he’s Italian!
Maffia Trattoria is one of the top-rated restaurants in El Chalten and the place is usually full and bookings are recommended. But, once inside you can enjoy a huge selection of authentic homemade pasta with sauces that’ll make your mouth water.
Prices range from around 10 USD for a pasta depending on the sauce and style (which is dirt cheap for the quality.)
I don’t usually get this excited about restaurants on my ‘things to do lists’, but this place just had to get a very special mention – it was that good!
7. Drive to Lago del Desierto
One of the benefits of having a rental car in Patagonia was being able to venture that little bit further to places many visitors miss.
One of the highlights is the drive from El Chalten to Lago del Desierto.
This stunning 37 km drive along Ruta Provincial 41 is a must for anyone with wheels (even a bike will do.) Of course, you can’t make the entire journey by bike in one go, but there are plenty of awesome places to stay along the way that’ll get you far away from civilization.
Hot tip: To find the hotels on Booking.com use the map section from your El Chalten search and look down Ruta 41.
Honestly, this place is so beautiful!
Once at the lake, you can enjoy a few different hikes including one mentioned below. But to me, I just loved the greenery, birds, beautiful rivers, and surrounding mountains!
To get to the lake, head down the same gravel road towards Chorrillo del Salto Waterfall but continue on as far as the road goes.
Stop and enjoy wherever you please, the drive is just as scenic as the lake itself!
Tour: You can get shuttles out to the lake that can be booked in El Chalten. Once at the lake you can do a cruise which you can book here. It takes you to the Vespignani Glacier to go hiking.
8. Hike to Lago Azul
Another not so well-known hiking track is the short but sweet hike to Lago Azul.
This trail begins just past Rio Eletrico Bridge on Ruta Provincial 41 at Estancia Los Huemules. The trail only takes 45 minutes to walk each way and ends at a beautiful viewpoint overlooking Lago Azul and the surrounding mountains.
It’s a really good short hike for those not up to the longer trails.
The trail itself is on private land and you must pay 500 pesos to hike to Lago Azul. This entrance fee is valid for 3 days so you can enjoy some of the other hiking trails at the Estancia Los Huemules.
The trail is open from 9 am until 6 pm with the last hikers allowed to start at 4 pm. The other trails in the area are the same but since they are much longer, you can’t start them after 1 pm.
9. Spend the day or night at Piedra del Fraile
Along Ruta Provincial 41 towards Lake del Desierto, there is a large bridge that crosses Rio Eletrico.
Here at the bridge, is the starting point to a stunning hike through the beautiful forests in Los Glaciares National Park. There is a large sign with “Peidra del Fraile” written on it, this is where the trail starts.
The trail is 6 km each way and ends at Piedra del Fraile. This small campsite and hostel-style accommodation is an off-the-beaten-path track in a beautiful location.
Although you can’t book the campsite in advance, there are almost always campsites available. and for those wanting a bed, just be sure to arrive early in the afternoon (but they almost always can accommodate people.)
If you don’t want to spend the night then this is still a great day hiking track, which is what we did. The landscape here is different from much of El Chalten and there’s even a good chance to spot Pumas here! Although we didn’t personally see any Pumas, we did see some epic views including Glacier Marconi.
10. Visit La Leona Petrified Forest
La Leona Petrified Forest is one of the most impressive you can see. Located about an hour’s drive from El Chalten, this prehistoric forest is covered in fossilized wood and dinosaur bones.
Although commonly visited from El Calafate, those who have a spare day can venture out here on a day tour from El Chalten.
The forest itself can only be visited on an organized tour as it’s located on private lands. However, this is really one of the most unique things to do in El Chalten!
11. Day trip to Perito Moreno Glacier
Another day trip that’s an absolute must if you’re not visiting El Calafate, is a day trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier.
To me, this is the most impressive glacier I have ever seen and even after visiting twice, I would still love to come back again! It’s by far one of the best things to do in El Calafate and worthy of this list!
There are a range of tours you can do on the glacier including Glacier trekking, scenic cruises, or just wandering the free-viewpoint of the glacier.
Unfortunately, the side of Los Glaciares National Park you need to visit to access the glacier has an entrance fee of 800 pesos per person, but it’s totally worth it!
12. Hike to Glacier Huemul
If you do make it out to Lake del Desierto then the short hike to Glacier Huemul is a great way to stretch your legs and view yet another glacier in Los Glaciares National Park.
The hike to the viewpoint only takes under an hour each way and although short, does climb 200 meters in elevation over the 1.6km trail.
As this trail is on private land there is a 300 peso (5 USD) entrance fee. Despite this, the Glacier Huemul trail is an off-the-beaten-path hike that will see you get far away from the crowds.
13. Rafting in the de las Vueltas River Canyon
El Chalten is an adventure town, and it just wouldn’t be complete without white water rafting. Although not the craziest rapids, this is still a super fun activity in a beautiful region and river.
A great thing about white water rafting is that it’s a good way to spend a rainy or cloudy day (when the views from the hikes would be completely unseen.)
Each company that does the white water rafting provide special suits for the cold water which sits at around 5 to 7 degree Celsius which is very, very cold!
Unfortunately (not really), we went rafting in Futaleufu, Chile instead (which is one of the best places in the word to go) so we skipped the rafting in El Chalten this time around. But, we did hear great things about the rafting in El Chalten and this half-day (4 hours) rafting tour comes highly recommended!
14. Miradores Los Cóndores and Las Águilas
One of the first hikes almost everyone does when they first arrive in El Chalten is the Miradores Las Condores. This short hiking trail is only 1 km each way and offers amazing views of the town and Cerro Fitz Roy.
It’s a great place to spot Condors (although you’re likely to see them a lot in the national park anyway!)
The trail starts from the National Park Visitor Center just on the outskirts of town and is free to hike.
If you’re feeling a little more adventures you can continue hiking on this trail another 1 km to the Las Aguilas Viewpoint. This trail starts about 10 minutes before the Los Condores Viewpoint and leads to panoramic views of Viedma Lake.
15. Go horseback riding
Horseback riding is a fun activity anywhere, but in Patagonia, it’s a must-do at least once!
Throughout the region and in El Chalten specifically, you can ride horses on many private and public land enjoying the wide-open spaces and stunning views.
El Chalten is one of the most beautiful places to ride so there’s no better place to enjoy this activity.
Most of the horse riding is done at Estancias around El Chalten either back towards El Calafate or at an Estancia along Ruta Provincia 41.
You can book tours directly from El Chalten or instead opt to stay at one of the Estancia’s (read below for my favorite) and book a horse riding trip directly with them.
16. Stay at Estancia La Estela
Staying at an Estancia (a station or farm) is one of the best things to do in El Chalten and there are plenty to choose from. However, I highly recommended staying at Estancia La Estela.
It’s located halfway between El Chalten and El Calafate and is the perfect stopover point.
At the Estancia, you can enjoy amazing Patagonia meals, breathtaking view,s and the wide-open space of this remote Estancia.
This is truly an amazing place to stay and one you really won’t regret!
Some other great Estancia’s located near El Chalten are:
17. Refuel with amazing burgers at La Zorra Taproom
I was going to say La Zorra Taproom has the best burgers in El Chalten but to be honest, it would take weeks to try every burger in town and I didn’t have that kind of time (or appetite!) But, I did try a few and found some places were much better than others and La Zorra was the by far the best I tried!
Their burgers are juicy, made with quality ingredients, and served with amazing fries.
After a long day of hiking, this was my go-to place and it’s located very close to the end of the Laguna de Los Tres trail (which got me every time!)
Their happy hour starts just in time for everyone returning from the day hikes in the area and runs from 5 pm to 7 pm.
18. Eat an Argentinian Parrilla
It seems all I did in El Chalten was go hiking and eat, but honestly what could be better? And I was in Argentina so I couldn’t leave without trying an Argentinian Parrilla.
For those who don’t know, a Parrilla is a traditional Argentinian BBQ or grill. The meat is placed on the grill and cooked over coals giving it a great smokey flavor.
In no way is trying a parrilla a “touristic thing” as this is how the Argentinians BBQ, and they BBQ a lot!
There are a few places to try a Parrilla in El Calten but you can go past a place called Parrilla Argentina!
This is the top-rated place on TripAdvisor and the meat here is delicious. The meals are very cheap and come in one or two-person options depending on how hungry you are (or if you’re with friends).
19. Spot Patagonian wildlife
There are a few animals everyone wants to see when in El Chalten. Pumas, condors, huemuls, and woodpeckers!
Unfortunately, some are harder than others to find and on my visit, I never got to see a puma or huemul (I did see one on the Torres del Paine W-trek though.)
But in all honesty, I really wanted to see a woodpecker and I was lucky enough to see two, a female and male! You can see woodpeckers in any of the forest areas around El Chalten and if you look on any of the trees you’ll be able to see where they’ve been by the huge holes they peck!
Surprisingly they aren’t that shy and don’t seem too afraid of humans. If you want to spot one too be sure to keep an ear out because you’ll likely hear them before you see them!
The hike to Laguna Torre is the most common place to find woodpeckers, especially if you go first thing in the morning before all the other hikers are around.
Other wildlife to look out for include birds, flamingos, ducks, and foxes.
20. Satisfy your Sweet-tooth with Waffles
For the best dessert in El Chalten head over to La Waflería! This restaurant specializes in all kinds of waffles including savory ones.
I don’t know about you, but for me, when I go for waffles I want sweet! So, when I went to La Wafleria I had waffles with ice cream, fruity syrup, and berries – and it did not disappoint.
They have a huge menu of different waffles to choose from so you’re guaranteed to find one you like. Expect to pay between 300-500 ARR for a serving which includes two waffles with toppings.
21. Go to the Visitor Center
This is last on my list of things to do in El Chalten, but really it should be the first thing you do when you arrive.
Sure, a visit to the Visitors Information Center doesn’t sound all too exciting, but it is necessary. Here, there are people who will help plan your time in El Chalten and they have lots of important information to offer.
I recommend heading there as soon as you arrive and speaking to one of the rangers. Tell them how many days you have in El Chalten and ask them what they recommend you do while there.
This is important because many of the hikes in El Chalten are very weather dependant. And let me tell you, there is no point spending all day on a very strenuous hiking trail to reach the viewpoint and literally see nothing but clouds.
The Visitor Center has the most up to date and accurate weather forecast and can help you plan your hikes and activities in El Chalten based on it!
Plus, there are tons of information boards around the Visitor Center about hikes and the wildlife in the area, so you might learn a thing or two.
Where to Stay in El Chalten, Argentina
Budget Accommodation in El Chalten
Rancho Grande – Rancho Grande is a great budget hostel with a very social vibe. They have a 24-hour restaurant and own the brewery next door. We stayed here and it was great!
Hostel Pioneros del Valle – Another really top-rated hostel located in the heart of El Chalten. This place has amazing common areas and a great backpacker atmosphere!
Mid-range Accommodation in El Chalten
Posada y Cabañas El Barranco – This hotel is really a great choice for those with a little extra to spend. Rooms start at around $100 and include a good breakfast. The hotel is modern and the staff are very helpful!
Fitz Roy Hostería de Montaña – This hotel is absolutely stunning and has rave reviews. From the modern dining areas to the rooms, the decor is beautiful. The staff here are also notably helpful!
Luxury Accommodation in El Chalten
Chalten Suites Hotel – The Chalten Suites is everything you’d expect from a luxury hotel, modern, well furnished, stunning decor, great location, and extremely attentive staff.
Destino Sur Hotel & Spa de Montaña – Destino Sur is arguably my favorite hotel in El Chalten. The rooms are spacious and the design and styles make you feel like you’re in a Patagonian dream!
Before you go…
Thanks so much for taking the time to read our things to do in El Chalten blog. We really fell in love with this small town and hope you too get to enjoy this untouched wilderness with the help of our guide.
Bailey and I really hope you found the information you were looking for, but if you didn’t please leave us a comment below and we’ll try our best to answer your questions!
Be sure to check out all of our other in-depth Patagonia blogs! We have lots of up to date infor to share! Or maybe, some of these popular blogs might interest you:
April 28, 2020