El Calafate and El Chalten, Argentine Patagonia

We spent just over a week between the two small towns of El Calafate and El Chalten.  Both towns lie just outside the Los Glaciares National Park, El Calafate at the south end and El Chalten to the north.

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El Calafate is situated on Lake Argentina, the 3rd largest lake in south america.  We were staying in a little house attached to a hostel… with a fantastic view!

The town is named after a small thorny bush with yellow flowers and dark blue berries (a type of barberry).  Apparently once you eat the berry it guarantees your return to Patagonia!  However, the main draw for tourists is visiting one of the most famous glaciers in the world – Perito Moreno Glacier.

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Perito Moreno Glacier

The 250 km2 ice formation is 30 km in length and is one of 48 glaciers fed by the southern Patagonian ice field (the 3rd largest in the world after Antarctica and Greenland).  We took a bus to explore the area around Perito Moreno Glacier and took a boat trip to get even closer to the glaciers icy snout!

After a couple of nights in El Calafate we took an excursion for a few days to Argentina’s self proclaimed ‘trekking capital’ – El Chalten.  It was built in 1985 to help secure the disputed border with Chile. Today the sole reason for its existence is tourism and in mid -winter in felt much like a ghost town with the vast majority of hostels and restaurants shut for the winter season.

“Chaltén” is a word meaning “smoking mountain” in the indigenous language, this may have been because the top of Fitz Roy (the main peak) is usually covered by clouds, or possibly because the mountain face often lights up in shades of red and orange during sunrise.  It’s situation, right at the base of the Fitz Roy mountain range is stunning.

The view from our room wasn’t bad either – you can see where the town gets it’s name…

After a couple of days of pretty miserable weather (we finally experienced the famous Patagonian wind / sleet / rain combination….which wasn’t much fun!) we were rewarded with a couple of perfect trekking weather days…. it was time to start planning a proper trek.

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Our main trek was up to point ‘D’ the longest and toughest day trek of the bunch.  We also did some shorter treks up to Mirador Condor (twice!), Mirador Aguilas, Mirador Torre and to the waterfall at Chorillo del Salto.

Here were some of the photos from the shorter treks…

We were lucky to meet a lovely Irish couple, Genny and Richard, who had been living in New Zealand for 3 years and were now travelling in South America before their return to Ireland.  They were on our bus to the Perito Moreno Glacier and we joined them for some trekking in the El Chalten region as well!

We did the amazing 8 hour Laguna de los Tres trek with Genny and Richard and if it wasn’t for their excellent pace setting we could well still be up there….!  Their great company along with the amazing views definitely made up for our aching knees the next day…

We felt very pleased with ourselves that we managed to complete on of the most famous treks in Patagonia, despite it being midwinter (even if I did have to ungracefully scramble up very steep icy tracks on my hands and knees!).  Feeling satisfied it was time to leave the Los Glaciares region.

The next day we would attempt to cross the border to Chilean Patagonia for a week or so before leaving Patagonia and South America for good and starting our long journey home…

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3 thoughts on “El Calafate and El Chalten, Argentine Patagonia

  1. Pingback: Reflections: Top Natural Wonders | WHERE ARE RYAN AND ANNA?

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