- How to reach: I took a bus from El Bolsón
- Cost: ARS 1920 for Semi – Cama. This includes dinner and breakfast (About Rs. 8200 for Semi sleeper)
- Departure Time: 14:30
- Travel time: Approximately 21 hours
- Other Details: Most of the buses in Argentina are very comfortable with clean toilets and regular water supply. The buses To El Chaltén are not every day. Please check the availability before planning. I took the bus on a Friday. So, it’s available on Fridays for sure.
El Chaltén is almost synonymous to Patagonia and that made it one of my travel goals. I was elated when I made it but to my disappointment, the weather was at its worst. The wind was too strong, it was drizzling all the time and according to weather forecasts, it was going to get worse in the next three days. As they say ‘In Patagonia, the weather can be anything at any time of the year’. I couldn’t wait for three days there for the weather to be alright owing to its high cost of living and my limited time in the country.
I had no intention of leaving having just spent a night in the hostel so I picked a hike that was near the hostel before I headed for the next place.
My first view of Rio FitzRoy
I was very excited about this place because whoever has been to Patagonia and/or whoever intends to come cannot stop bragging about this place but as soon as I reached, I felt intimidated by all the professional trekkers. They were a bunch of people checking out the maps, discussing prospective routes, most of the people had professional gear in place. I felt like a kid in the wrong place. I was too embarrassed to even ask anything at the tourist information desk because of my complete lack of knowledge about this place.
I managed to grab a map from the tourist information desk and just left to look for a cheap hostel. The very first hostel I stopped by was cheaper than the cheapest option available online so I took it.
It wasn’t great but I rarely look for ‘luxury’. A bed in a warm place was all I was looking for. The only problem I saw there was the toilet door didn’t lock, I mean did not even latch (Toilets without locks are common in Argentina). I put dustbin by the door each time I had to use the washroom.
I met an Israeli couple in my hostel who invited me to join them to the waterfalls nearby. I was more than happy to. El Chalten is also the place where I learned a lot about Israeli culture. I later often joked that South America is being taken over by Israelis and there are probably more Israelis here than there are in Israel right now. You would believe it if you were there.
I learned a lot from my varied interactions with different travelers from Israel. From cooking efficiently in hostel kitchens to trekking fearlessly.
Waterfall Chorrillo del Salto:
- Distance: 3 km
- Time: Around 45 min
It’s a short walk from the town and not difficult at all. The terrain is pretty flat. The only difficulty was the strong wind and walking like a penguin with all those layers of clothing. It was too much to handle so we hitched a ride while returning.
The weather was too cold to take a dip in the water but it was pretty good to just sit by it and relax.
Hike: Mirador de Los Cóndores and Mirador de las Águilas-
- Distance: 2 km (One way)
- Time: About 1 hour for both (one way)
- Difficulty level: Easy
- Other Details: The hike is same till one point. Mirador de Los Cóndores is a little detour from Mirador de las Águila
Next day evening I had plans to leave for El Calafate and I didn’t want to leave without having done any hikes. The place is popular for good hikes. So, the crazier version of me won and left for a hike even though the weather was not the kind where you should be stepping out of the hostel at all.
Next day evening I had plans to leave for El Calafate and I didn’t want to leave without having done any hikes. The place is popular for good hikes. So, the crazier version of me won and left for a hike even though the weather was not the one where you should be stepping out of the hostel at all.
The hike was better than my expectations as it was only drizzling most of the time and I had made my peace with the strong winds. I met some equally retard people while hiking which made me feel better about my decision.
Hike Sendero al FitzRoy (Laguna de Los Tres):
I had the opportunity to take a stop at El Chalten again on my way north and this time, the weather was perfect. I couldn’t have asked for better weather.
- Distance: 10 km (One way)
- Time: About 4 hours at an average pace
- Difficulty level: Hard
- Other details: The first km is steep but the next 8 km is pretty flat and easy. It’s the last km that is the highlight of the hike and makes it a ‘difficult’ category hike
This 3405m high mountain will stare at you in all its might and make you smile with it.
Fitzroy is the most popular hike around here and it’s really no exaggeration. It deserves to be on the ‘must-do’ random lists available online. Naturally, I was disappointed when I couldn’t do it the first time around. So, when I got a chance to stop here again, I grabbed the opportunity to go on this hike. The weather was perfect but there was still one problem.
There are only two ATM’s in the town- one does not accept chip cards and the other was out of cash. I used my cash to pay for my hostel and was out of money. I made myself pasta with just one tomato for dinner but what about snacks for the hike? It’s an intense hike of 10 km and the last km is a steep climb.
I had just reached and was leaving the next evening so couldn’t even borrow money from anyone. The hostel served no breakfast (By the way, I managed to find a cheaper hostel than the last time).
I decided to go ahead with my hike in spite of this little situation of mine. This is what I had with me – one tomato, a packet of cereals, and some marmalade.
The hike is extremely beautiful with multiple streams of water, a beautiful lake in between, camping area by the lake, and of course mount FitzRoy is a sight to watch.
The last km of Fitzroy is very challenging I would say, as it’s very steep with loose rocks. There was some work going on to make a better track there which would make it slightly less dangerous.
On my way back from Fitzroy, I met these amazing people again, whom I had met in Buenos Aires with Sean (whom I had met in Iguacu. Sounds like Inception?) We parted ways quickly as I had a bus to take and they were in their first km of the trek. I did not have the heart to tell them that the first 9 km put together is not as difficult as the last one km.
List of Treks to do around here (From the pamphlet I got at the tourist information desk):
|Sandero Al FitzRoy|
|Laguna Capri||4 km||1:45 hs||Medium|
|Campamento Pincenot||8 km||2:45 hs||Medium|
|Mirador Piedras Blancas||10 km||3:30 Hrs||Medium|
|Laguna de los Tres||10 km||4:00 Hrs||Hard|
|Laguna Madre e Hija||8 km||2:15 Hrs||Medium|
|Sendero Al Torre|
|Mirador del Torre||3 km||1:15 Hrs||Medium|
|Laguna Torre||9 km||3:00 Hrs||Medium|
|Mirador Maestri||11 km||4:00 Hrs||Hard|
|Mirador de los Cóndores||1 km||0:45 hs||Easy|
|Mirador de las Águilas||2 km||1:00 Hrs||Easy|
|Chorillo del Salto||3 km||1:00 Hrs||Easy|
|Pliegue Tumbado||12 km||4:00 hs||Hard|
|Laguna Toro||16 km||7:00 hs||Hard|
|Piedra del Fraile||6 km||2:00 hs||Easy|
- The distance is from the starting point of the trail
- Time is for one way of the trek
**The other most popular trail is – Laguna Torre
The ATM’s were working when I returned from Fitzroy, I hogged on a lot of food and took my lesson of always keeping eatables on me. Since then I’m never out of bananas and bread.
Did you ever have to do a hike with almost nothing to snack on?