Our own personal recommendations and help for mountaineers, trekkers and travellers visiting the town of El Chalten in southern Patagonia.
The town of El Chalten comes as a pleasant surprise. It is tucked away between some rock walls north west of the magnificent Lago Viedma in the Santa Cruz province of Argentina. It has a clean and frontier feel to it and the people are genuinely warm, friendly and helpful.
The town of El Chalten
El Chalten is a relatively new town. It was founded in 1985 so has just celebrated it’s 25 year anniversary. But, it is a very windy town. The winds that race across the “hielo continental” icecap from Chile batter the mountains and head down the valleys to the town and steppes beyond. I have heard it said that with hindsight the town would have been better placed slightly further SE behind a large rock outcrop, thus giving a measure of protection.
The first stop when you enter the town, from Ruta 40 or El Calafate, should be the “Centro Parque Nacional Los Glaciares” . Very informative and interesting. The park staff there are also keen to help identify animals and birds that you may have seen or photographed during your stay.
Heading for Fitzroy, Cerro Torre or the Hielo Continental Icecap?
You must book in with the Parque Nacional office. This involves filling in a simple form stating when you are leaving and when you are intend to be back. Also they seem keen to ascertain responsibility for the group. The office is found on the left on entering the town just before crossing the main bridge.
Parque Nacional Los Glaciares
Seccional Lago Viedma
(9301) El Chaltén
Provincia de Santa Cruz – República Argentina
54 (02962) 493-004
In addition, you must registrar with the local Gendarmería Nacional. They will stamp your passport with a migratory stamp that allows you to cross borders between Chile and Argentina. Again, on your return you must return and report your safe arrival. They will stamp your passport again with an official Argentina entry stamp.
Sección El Chaltén
dependiente del Escuadrón 42 El Calafate
Where to stay, eat and drink?
In the 4 years since we were last there things have grown considerably and there is now a wide choice of places to stay, eat and drink. Prices vary to suit all budgets. These are our personal favorites.
Hosteria Confin Patagonico
The hotel has 4 large comfortable bedrooms with great facilities, including en suite, piped music and WiFi. Breakfasts are supplied as well.
Owners, Claudia Ruíz and Jorge Cerezo, went out of their way to make us feel at home. They also helped us with bus, taxi reservations and supplied us with printed weather forecasts. Highly recommended! Have a look at their website for photos, contact, details and current prices. Tel +54-2962-493094
Microbrewery and restaurant. Friendly staff, great empanadas and tasty beer (rubia or negra). Visit Website
Transporte Las Lengas
Transport to and from El Calefate, Airport ($80), Rio Electrico ($50), Lago del Desierto ($100). Prices at November 2010. Ring 02962 493023 / 493227
Como Vaca Parrilla Restaurante
Quite simply, the best steaks we’ve had in Argentina! Washed down with some delicious Malbec makes for a great evening. Rodrigo, the owner and his staff make great hosts. Conveniently situated next to the Hosteria Confin!
Patagonicus Pizzeria y Bar
Good pizzas and nice atmosphere.
Many restaurants provide veggie meals. Vegetable empanadas are cheap and filling. There is a dedicated vegetarian restaurant but we can’t remember it’s name. It’s just a bit north of La Ceveceria on the opposite side of the road. A bit pricey, but excellent food and wine.
A word of warning. There is only 1 ATM cash machine in the town. At the month end particularly and at busy times it can run out very quickly. We did not have cash for 5 days and relied on the good heartinness of the locals. Make sure you bring enough into town with you.
Mountain Guides and Gear Shops
El Chalten is the self proclaimed national capital of Trekking. With the wonderful mountains on the doorstep and the mystery and magnificence of the Patagonian Icecap, many mountain guiding organisations have sprung up recently. A walk down the main street will find you browsing the windows for glacier trekking and mountain ascents etc.
There are some gear and equipment shops. All basic supplies for an expedition onto the icecap can also be bought here including gas.
Casa de Guias de Montaña, San Martin 310 Tel 493118
Fitz Roy Expeditions, El Chalten Mountain Guides, Mountaineering Patagonia, Patagonia Aventura, Serac Sky y Andanismo, Walk & Trek.
Del Lago, Lago del Desierto Tel 493010
El Refugio, San Martin S/N Tel 493221
El Relincho, San Martin 505 Tel 493007
Lago del Desierto
Piedra del Fraile