A Hiking Paradise for Backpackers: El Chaten, Argentina
What better than hiking in the Andes? Beginning your hike from a small backpacking town called El Chaten. For all you backpackers who may sometime feel like no one understands you when you’re home, El Chaten will make you feel normal to be a backpacker and a hiker! This small village, a 2.5 hour bus ride from El Calafate, is paradise for backpackers. The village was created in the ’70s to protect Argentina from Chilean invaders looking for land. El Chaten attracts most backpackers because of hiking and climbing opportunities in the area. There is only one ATM machine in the entire village so make sure to have cash when you arrive. There is one HI hostel, called Rancho Grande Hostel where you can stay at if you don’t plan on camping.
- Laguna de los Tres, Fitz Roy. This is the most popular hike from El Chaten. Beginning your hike at El Chaten, you’ll be going up a difficult flight of “stairs” but then get a break by walking on flat land for a few hours. The view is out of the world. The most difficult part of the hike is the last stretch where you’re going up a steep rocky area to get to the Laguna. Well worth the effort and the view is incredible from up there. You can easily complete this hike in less than 6 hours if you’re somewhat in shape. You can hike it within a day but for more hardcore backpackers, you can hike up with all of your backpacker gear and camp overnight. The trail becomes much more difficult when carrying 40lbs on your back. Well worth the experience though!
- Laguna Torre, Cerro Torre. This was my favorite hike. It was a 12 hour hike on the moutain with a guide. The hike began at 7am and we got back to El Chaten sometime in the early evening. It’s a more difficult hike than Laguna de Los Tres. We caught every type of climat. From sunny, to rainy, to windy, to cold, to snowing. There were a few steep areas where I thought I was crazy to even be attempting hiking this. The last stretch, right before arriving on the glaciers, was brutal. It was a hill with small rocks. Going down to the glaciers wasn’t so bad but going back up while your foot in sinking in the rocks and at this point it was a good 8 hours we were hiking already, I just wanted someone to carry me! It was definitely a physically challenging hike and well worth the price we paid for the tour. The guide was very knowledgeable and once again, the views were awesome. The first thing we did when we got back to El Chaten was get a beer at the Cervezeria. A tradition for most hikers after a tough hike!
El Chaten was definitely one of the highlights in Patagonia. If you plan to travel to Ushuaia, El Calafate or Bariloche, I recommend you make a 2 day stop in El Chaten. You’ll remember this little town for the rest of your life, garanteed!