El Chaltén is a wonderful little mountain village about 3,5 hour drive from El Calafaté. It is a hiking paradise with amazing views of the famous Fitz Roy mountain. The village is pretty small with only one main road and a few smaller gravel roads around but even though it is soo small is has plenty of good restaurants and accomodation.
Main street in El Chaltén
WHERE TO STAY?
El Chaltén is a small village with plenty of high quality accomodation. Since the tourist season is pretty short (November - March) we do recommend to book your stay in advance. We stayed at this little Green House and really loved it.
HOW DO YOU GET THERE?
El Chaltén is about 3,5 hours by car from El Calafaté. There are bus operators in this area, but we prefered having our own car. The drive from El Calafaté is very easy and the road is beautiful.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU STAY?
There are tour operators in El Calafté who offer One Day Trips to El Chaltén, but we think you should at least stay 3-4 days and you can easily spend a week here. The area has plenty of amazing hikes and with tkaing into account a bad weather day and a recovery day you easily spend 4 days here.
WHAT SHOULD YOU BRING?
We were surprised how well organised the village was. The restaurants, bars and super markets were all very good and you even have hiking shops where you buy some last minute things (though probably more expensive). You can also rent tents and sleeping equipment if you plan to do hikes for several days in a row. We only did day hikes always returning to our little Green House.
WHO IS IT FOR?
El Chaltén is a hiking and nature paradise. We saw people of all ages and the hikes range from very easy to challenging. Overall the village has a lot of energy and plenty of things to do.
THE BEST HIKES IN EL CHALTÉN
These are some of the best spots in Buenos Aires. Amazing food, great drinks and delicious ice cream.
LAGUNA DE LOS TRES
This is probably Argentina's most famous hike and if you only have time for one hike, this should be the one. The hikes takes around 9 hours (return) to complete from El Chaltén to the Laguna. The first 3,5 hours are relatively easy, but the last hour are pretty heavy.
Read here our full report of this once in a life-time hike.
Laguna Del Torre is the second populuar hike in El Chaltén. The hike itself is much easier than the Lagune De Los Tres, but the final destination is as spectecular. (6 hours return).
Find all details here.
PIEDRA DEL FRAILE
The hike to the Piedra Del Fraile refuge is a lesser known hike in this area and very much a hidden gem. The trek goes along the Rio Electrico all the way to the cute refuge.
Find all details here.
BEST PLACES TO EAT & DRINK
El Chaltén is full of cute, high quality restaurants and bars. Here a some of our favourite.
Home-made comfort food. Perfect after a long day of hiking.
José Antonio Rojo 50 74
Hot chocolate, great cake, amazing coffee - what else do you need after a day in the mountains?
Lago del Desierto 105
Great mircobrewery, that also serves really good pub food like burgers etc.
San Martín 280
Cute all vegan restaurant. They also provide great lunch boxes for your hikes.
Av. Antonio Rojo 219
OTHER THINGS TO DO
LOMA DEL PLIEGUE TUMBADO
We did not do this hike ourselves but we heard from several people that it is amazing. Less known (and less busy) then the famous hikes. With amazing views of the mountains. Takes about 7 hours (return).
Money Money Money
Money in Argentina can be pretty confusing. Due to the high inflation and the constant financial crisis, Argentina has developed a very unique system and depending on how you pay (cash vs. credit card) you get different exchange rates.
Here is how it works:
THE OFFICIAL RATE (Red Dollar):
The official exchange rate is what you see on sites like Booking.com. At the time of our travels that was around 190 Pesos for 1 US$. But don't worry, this rate will never apply.
It used to be that when you paid by credit card they would charge you the official rate. Which was the reason that no tourist ever used their credit card and tried to pay everything in cash. But in November 2022 the Argentinian government introduced a special tourist credit card rate to encourage people to pay more by card (which leads to more tax earnings for the government). At the time of our travel that was around 340 pesos for 1US$. It is still not as good as the rate you get for cash payments, but still much better than the official rate.
We noticed on our credit card statement that first they deducted the official rate but then refunded some of that money.
This also works for booking things online. As long as you use a Non-Argentinian Caredit card (Mastercard & Visa).
CASH (Blue Dollar):
Cash is king in Argentina but also pretty annoying. You can either take US$ and/or Euros (doesn't matter which one) with you from home and exchange them in Argentina or you can use the Western Union App to send yourself money and then pick up the cash in Argentina. (The WU app works very well and you can send the money within minutes. Just make sure you clear the identification process before you travel otherwise your limit is 1000€). At the time of our travel we would get around 390 Pesos for one 1US$ via the WU app.
HOW TO BOOK?
The easiest is to book through i.e. Booking.com but then choose "pay cash at location" as payment method. (BTW: Airbnb does NOT allow you to pay cash at location. You need to pay through the Airbnb system and therefor don't get the great exchange rate.)
TAKE A BIG WALLET:
Since the biggest bill in Argentina is 1000 Pesos (Which equals around 2,50€.) you will carry big bundles of cash. So make sure you take an extra pouch when exchanging money.