El Chalten: My Patagonia Highlight

Posted by on November 15th, 2012

Vaya Adventures is fortunate to serve so many travelers across the US and Canada. While it’s great to speak with folks from all over, it isn’t every day that I get the opportunity to meet them in person.  However, a few weeks back was an exception and I had the pleasure of hosting a group of in our offices in North Berkeley.  Our conversation touched on many of the last minute questions that arise before any tour of Patagonia: what clothes to bring, the types of electrical outlets in hotels/lodges, local currency, as well as the different places they would be visiting. Patagonia boasts an astonishing number of breathtaking adventures:  kayaking around icebergs, hiking to the base of the famed Paine Towers in Torres Del Paine National Park, trekking on the Perito Moreno Glacier in Glaciares National Park, touring the remote Estancia Cristina, and much more.

 As I mulled over the various destinations they would get to check out, I remembered my own experiences doing all these things, and it occurred to me that there is one place in Patagonia that stands out in my mind from all the others: El Chalten, home to the legendary peaks of Mt. Fitzroy and Cerro Torre, on the Argentine side of Patagonia.

 With so many spectacular locations and incredible experiences, why was El Chalten, a small mountaineering town founded just 27 years ago, foremost in my mind?

 After saying goodbye to my guests I finally realized what it was.  There is no other place I know of in Patagonia that has a great little town located right at the trailheads of two spectacular hiking trails.  There are some other small towns worth visiting, and there are some magnificent national parks and trails, but this is the only one where great small hotels and cozy restaurants sit within 5 minutes walk of the trailheads.  Featuring miles of hiking trails, rivers, glaciers, and lakes to explore, El Chalten is a day hiker’s paradise.  On one day you can hike up to the base of Cerro Torre, and the next day take a completely separate route to the base of the iconic Fitz Roy.  The trails are easy to follow and there are a bunch of easier and more challenging variations.  Each day you return back to a cool little town to enjoy the local restaurants and pubs, like La Tapera.  Life doesn’t get much better than this.

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