El Chaltén is an adventurer’s paradise as it is situated among some of Patagonia’s most incredible landscape. The town is small, but if you enjoy hiking, biking, climbing, skiing, and other outdoor activities, we absolutely recommend visiting. Staying in El Chaltén will offer great opportunities to experience Los Glaciares National Park and other stunning spots. We put together this city guide with hopes that it helps you prepare for a visit to this Argentine mountain town.
When to Visit El Chaltén
In our opinion, there isn’t a wrong time to visit El Chaltén. It may all be a matter of personal preference, but note that your experience will vary depending on the time of year you choose to visit.
Summer runs from December through February. The weather can be chilly year round, but temperatures are considerably warmer during these months. However, there are more crowds and prices are generally higher.
During the winter, temperatures are much colder and rain and snow are common. There are some extra challenges to visiting in the winter, such as road and trail closures, limited daylight, fewer bus options, and shortened hours at some businesses. Some extra gear may also be required for your adventures. But, we loved visiting El Chaltén in the winter because there were no crowds in the park.
Getting To and From El Chaltén
El Chaltén is a pretty small town, and the most common way to reach it is from the nearest hub city of El Calafate. El Calafate has a small airport and bus terminal, so it can be reached by plane or bus. It is between 3 and 4 hours away from El Chaltén by road. You can take a public bus or drive with a rental car. Check the El Chaltén website for updated prices and bus schedules provided by varying companies, or check at the terminal when you arrive.
Some people also opt to take a day tour to El Chaltén from El Calafate where transport is generally included. This is an option if you have limited time, but we recommend spending more than a day in El Chaltén.
While many bus routes coming to the area transfer through El Calafate, there are some direct routes from El Chaltén to other major cities. Note that some of these operations may pause in the winter. We took a bus from El Chaltén that was supposed to go directly to Bariloche, but took a frustrating detour. Read more about it in this post!
Whatever route or transport you take, we recommend buying bus tickets or booking a tour or rental car before the day of your departure during the busy summer season because options can sell out.
Getting Around Town
Once in El Chaltén, you can walk around town easily. The city is small, so you can walk from one end to the other in about 20 minutes. This makes all the restaurants, markets, hotels, rental shops, and easily reachable on foot. Furthermore, many amazing trails lead directly from town into Los Glaciares National Park, so tours and transport are not required for many activities.
Where to Stay in El Chaltén
Since El Chaltén is fairly small, accommodation options are more limited and may be booked up quickly during busier times of year. There is a good range of options though, from budget rooms to nicer suites. Note that some accommodation options close for the winter, so regardless of the time you visit, it may be best to book in advance.
Here are some great options to consider.
Rancho Aparte Refugio de Montaña – bed in a dorm and shared bathroom
Posada San Antonio – double rooms with private bathrooms with breakfast included
Lo De Guille – double rooms with private bathrooms and breakfast included
Cerro Rosado – private apartment with equipped kitchen
Latitude 49 Apart – private apartment with equipped kitchen
Complejo Nahuel Pan – private apartment with equipped kitchen
Solo Lofts – private loft apartments with equipped kitchens
Chaltén Suites Hotel – double to king rooms with private bathrooms and breakfast included
Destino Sur – double rooms and suites with private bathrooms and breakfast included
Where to Eat in El Chaltén
When we visited El Chaltén in the winter, many restaurants were closed for the season or had more limited hours. However, when Lia’s parents visited in the summer, the town was bustling and many restaurants had lovely outdoor seating making the place feel much livelier.
If you’re looking for a breakfast spot, Lo De Haydee has omelets, pastries, empanadas, sandwiches, coffee, and other options for a simple breakfast. La Nieve is also convenient place to grab similar items. Both of these spots and others in El Chaltén offer box lunches for hikers to take on their adventures.
La Waflería is a good brunch spot as they open midmorning and serve up coffee, beer, and a variety of unique sweet and savory waffles through dinner time. If you have a sweet tooth and want to try some delicious alfajores, head over to Chalteños.
El Chaltén has quite a few bars and taprooms where you’ll find many weary travelers heading for a drink after a day of exploring. Some good options for a drink include La Cervecería, Fresco Bar, La Vinería, La Zorra, and La Birre del Rancho. These spots also offer great food from burgers and empanadas to stews, steaks, and pastas. Pizza is also common El Chaltén, and some good places to grab a slice are Pizzeria Ruca Mahuida and Patagonicus.
If you are looking to try traditional Argentine parrilla, head to Parrilla Argentina or Parilla La Oveja Negra for traditional lamb dishes, ribs, steaks, and more.
Though meat dishes are popular in Argentina, don’t worry if you don’t eat meat. There are a handful of places offering vegetarian options. Some of these include La Bicicleta, Cúrcuma, and El Parador. A few of the spots mentioned above also have vegan options and would be glad to let you take a look at a menu to decide before you sit down to eat.
There are a couple little tiendas and kioskos in El Chaltén, but they are limited and pricier than those in larger cities. If you are planning to cook at your accommodation or pack lunches, we recommend bringing some items from El Calafate or other cities with a larger store if possible.
If you do need to shop, Supermercado Pachamama and Supermercado El Chaltén are a couple of the options in town with a bit more selection. Here, you may be able to grab some fruit, meat, bread, water, snacks, etc.
There are many companies in El Calafate and El Chaltén that offer various excursions, including ski touring, treks, kayaking, and more. These tours are a great option if you need gear, assistance, transport, or other variables offered by a tour. You can find information about some of the tour operators and tour packages by searching online beforehand. For other operators, you may have to reach out via WhatsApp or email for more information and booking.
There are also some rental shops in El Chaltén that rent out gear if you’d still like to do certain activities, such as camping, but don’t want to take a tour and didn’t lug all of your gear down to Argentina with you. We rented camping gear from Viento Oeste.
Overall, an amazing thing about El Chaltén is the access to the trails and amazing views right from town. This makes it easy to hike, camp, and see more of the area on your own schedule without having to take a tour.
There is an ATM near the bus terminal in El Chaltén. However, like many smaller cities in Argentina, the machine is not very reliable, charges a high withdrawal fee, and frequently runs out of cash. We recommend bringing cash from El Calafate, or other larger cities in Argentina. We did not see a currency exchange here, though we visited in the winter when many businesses had closed.
Luckily, many hotels, restaurants, shops, and tour companies in the town accept card as a form of payment.