E IS FOR EL CHALTEN
Yes, we’re taking you to South America! El Chalten is the trekking capital of Argentina and it’s not hard to see why the place is a magnet for travellers. While the town is used mainly as a base camp, it’s what it’s base camp to that’s the impressive part.
Now we’re not talking a “cocktails by the pool” type holiday here, so if you’re after a relaxing spa-resort trip, this isn’t for you. Right now, we’re talking to the adventurer’s among you – those who get lost in the idea of packing a backpack, hitting the road less travelled and seeing where you end up.
The nearest airport is El Calafarte International Airport (a three hour flight from Buenos Aires) and, because of its remote location, from there you’ll jump on a bus and continue on the four-hour journey along an unpaved road to El Chalten.
The most popular time to visit is Jan-Feb and Easter, and the weather is reliably unreliable so you’d have to pack for the cold regardless of when you go. Wilderness lovers will revel in what El Chalten has to offer - think snow capped mountains, turquoise glacier lakes, uncultivated landscape and a crisp freshness in the air.
Hitch a tent under the snow-capped towers of the Fitz Roy range, and get back to nature with the numerous hiking trails through breath taking mountain scenery. If you fancy yourself as a bit of a mountain climber, you’ll have met a challenge in Cerro Fitz Roy - its summit reaching 3441m, and you won’t be alone either.
El Chalten is a beacon for backpackers and serious mountain climbers from all over the world. That’s not to say you have to own the latest and greatest hiking gear and be a die hard fitness fanatic to enjoy what this place has to offer. Aside from the guided expeditions, most of the hiking trails won’t demand previous training.
There are numerous self-guided treks that range from 30 minutes to five hours, and are of easy to medium difficulty. And when your feet get tired, El Relincho is the local horse-riding ranch, so you can always saddle up and view the scenery that way.
Now if all this talk of exercise has made you hungry, don’t stress, El Chalten has the food side of things covered. They’ve got restaurants, bars, breweries, a gourmet pizza place and, for the sweet tooth, home-made ice cream and chocolate a plenty. What better way to wind down after a hike through the wilderness than with a pint of beer and a slice of pizza? Besides, you’ll have earned it.
- Most major airlines fly to Buenos Aires then it’s an old fashioned road trip from there.
- Accomodation ranges from hostels and guesthouses to hotels, with rates as low as $66/night depending on what standard you require.
- Our advice: seek out a travel agent that specialises in the Patagonia region - it’ll make your life easier in the long run. Expedia can only get you so far.
- If you do try your hand at mountain climbing, please be mindful of your abilities and fitness. Strenuous activity at altitude can be dangerous. That’s why we told you about the bars and the pizza - stick to that, if you’re unfit like us.