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El Chaltén

The wild and windy town of El Chaltén was built in 1985 at the confluence of the Río de las Vueltas and Río Fitz Roy, at the base of the renowned Fitz Roy mountains, to support the growing numbers of tourists in the area who came to explore the famous icy peaks. Apparently Argentina also started developing the town to claim the increasingly popular area and avoid territorial disputes with Chile; later in 1994, an international ruling council declared that Argentina did indeed own the land.

The saw-tooth mountain range provides a dramatic backdrop for the town, which includes two of the toughest challenges for mountain climbers: Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro el Torre. El Chaltén is the indigenous Tehuelche (Aónikenk) name for Fitz Roy, which in their language means “Smoking Mountain.” The name was given by Argentine scientist Francisco Perito Moreno.

El Chaltén has grown significantly since its recent founding, though there are still only 500 or so year-round residents. Situated just north of Los Glaciares National Park, this small village has earned the title of Argentina's national trekking capital, and now thousands of international outdoor enthusiasts come every year to summit Cerro Fitz Roy, the majority of which visit between January and March. It’s important to book accommodations well in advance (sometimes even up to a month) if you plan to visit then.

With plenty of hostels, restaurants, and outdoor supplies shops, El Chaltén is a good base for climbers looking to set out on multiple-day guided excursions into the National Park or on a simple day trips into the nearby valleys and foothills for stunning panoramic views of Fitz Roy. Basic tourist services operate from October until April or May, after which the town tends to shut down for the harsh winter season.

The village church, Nuestra Señora de la Patagonia, is a small, yellow tin chapel with a beautiful stained glass portrait of the Virgin within (Los Andeles, between Avenida Güemes and McLoed). Another chapel of interest is the Toni Egger Gedankkapelle, to commemorate climbers who have lost their lives on the peaks.

Pop: approximately 500; Phone Code: 02962


Other places nearby El Chaltén: Cueva De Las Manos , Perito Moreno, Lago Posadas, Los Antiguos , Gobernador Gregores, Parque Nacional Perito Moreno , Rio Turbio and El Calafate.

15 Jul 2009

Things to do in El Chaltén

Miradores de los Cóndores y de las Águilas

133825The Miradores de los Cóndores and de las Águilas trails begin from the park office. At first, the main trail passes through the compound, to the trailhead to the left. The path then rises steadily ...
El Chaltén, Argentina

Hiking in El Chaltén

133824The biggest attraction in El Chaltén is the wide web of hiking trails that weave around the base of the two giant massifs, Torre and Fitz Roy. There are three main circuits, each with a set of ...
El Chaltén, Argentina

On a Rainy Day

133801Whether the weather is keeping you from hitting the trails, or an injury has rained on your parade, El Chaltén’s community offers a few activities to fill the hours. The national park service, ...
Other Activity
El Chaltén, Argentina

Lago Toro Hike

The trail to Lago Toro, not to be confused with Laguna Torre, makes for a long, but relatively easy, hike. Starting at the signposted trailhead on the grounds of the national park headquarters, the ...
El Chaltén, Argentina

Piedras Blancas Hike

The nearly two-hour Piedras Blancas hike is moderately difficult (12 km / 7.2 mi). The glacier views from its trail are well worth the effort. From Campamento Poincenot, a climbers-only campground, ...
El Chaltén, Argentina

Laguna Capri Hike

This is an ideal trek if you've only got one day to hike. Just a simple two-hour trip (one way, 7 km / 4.2 mi), the trail to Laguna Capri begins north of town and has good signage, so no guide is ...
El Chaltén, Argentina

Garganta del Río Fitz Roy

The relatively unknown Garganta del Río Fitz Roy--it makes infrequent appearances on most maps--is a short, easy trek. Starting in El Chaltén, the one-hour hike follows a path through lenga beech ...
El Chaltén, Argentina

Winter Sports

When the cold weather settles in, many abandon El Chaltén until spring brings the warmth once more. Come winter, when snow blankets the Río de las Vueltas valley, visitors break out the skis (both ...
Other Activity
El Chaltén, Argentina

Kayaking and Canoeing

Paddling the rivers and lakes is a great way to enjoy El Chaltén's glacier-frosted spire mountains and ancient forests. Traveling the gravel-braided Río de las Vueltas is a popular trek. Another is ...
El Chaltén, Argentina

Horseback Riding

Explore the ragged landscape surrounding El Chaltén the way the pioneers did: on horseback. Even now, locals travel the backcountry on horse. The most common trail is on Cerro Fitz Roy, the most ...
Horseback Riding
El Chaltén, Argentina

Lago Viedma

Eons ago, when the glacier Campo de Hielo began receding, it gouged the landscape to form Lago Viedma, halfway between El Chaltén and El Calafate. Cruise this lake’s icy waters to the foot of ...
El Chaltén, Argentina
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