We had long days on the road – but we finally made it somewhere. Read about our road days here.
After a full day of driving we arrived in El Chaltén in the early afternoon. We were absolutely in love at first sight. The snowy mountains, and charming town was simply magic. We made a visit to the visitor center to grab maps and hiking trails. The employees spoke English really well, which was a pleasant surprise, but made more sense once we traveled around the town. The town is packed with tourists and trekkers.
El Chaltén is consistently named one of the top places to visit by various travel guides each year. The town is located in the Glacier National Park. It is a trekking paradise, attracting trekkers, hikers, and climbers alike. More than that, rafting, and horseback riding are also very popular. The town has less than 1500 people, and on any given day has thousands of tourists. I mean, they are everywhere, and from all over the world. The big highlight in El Chaltén is getting the view of beautiful Mount Fitz Roy.
We made our way to a campsite we found on iOverlander, but the site was full. We found a hostel that allowed campers, had hot showers, and Wi-Fi. We paid 300 pesos for a night’s stay there. I needed a hot shower and we wanted some connectivity to check in with our family. The hostel camping situation is not ideal. It is like camping with 40-50 tents in someone’s backyard. It met our needs for a night, and we ended up making some fellow travelers in the common kitchen area. Hi Quentin – hope your travels are going great! Cooking in a kitchen was great, as the wind didn’t affect the stove – oh small joys.
We left the hostel around 10AM to start our day hiking. We decided to do the Torre Trail. The hike included spectacular views of Cerro Solo, Cerro Torre, Laguna Torre and Glaciar Grande. We made it to the lake 9 KM (one way). The hike was relaxing, full of views, and full of different eco systems. We had fun. The only wildlife was a tiny owl we saw. He was so cute! The only negative thing I can say about the hike was the abundance of horse flies. I don’t know if it was my recent shower, or the sunscreen, but I seemed to attract them all. At one point Steve counted 6 horseflies stalking me, buzzing in and around my face – annoying! I did everything to get rid of them – from smooth talking them, to cussing at them, to finally hitting them – they still loved me. Once I made peace with the fact that I was going to have these horseflies forever, the hike continued to wow and impress me. The most impressive was by far the lake and the Grand Glacier. The lake was so cold, it still had chunks of floating ice.
When we had reached the lake we wanted to keep going, but the rain was coming in and we thought it was best to get moving. Our hike round trip to and from the car was close to 20 KM. We got back to the car around 3PM and decided to take care of shopping. We went into a camping/grocery store, and I was very excited to find Peanut Butter – guess what lunch will be for the next week – PB Banana Sandwiches! The camping/grocery store didn’t have a lot for us, so we tried another grocery store – success!
After shopping, it was time to figure out where we were going to sleep that night. We drove to Chorrillo del Salto (waterfalls) parking lot and made ourselves home after a quick hike to the falls. Steve and I were both exhausted from a long day of hiking and were in bed by 9PM – even though it was bright outside. We are getting use to falling asleep during daylight
Day 12 – New Year’s Eve
We left our little parking lot for the Fitz Roy trail head. We decided to take it a bit easier and hike to Laguna Capri & the Fitz Roy View point – 4KM each way. On our hike out at the 1KM mark we stopped for water and saw a group taking pictures towards the sky, we looked and saw it was an Andean Condor! He was way up high making it challenging for photos. Patience paid off, and he flew above us again. We continued up the trail, and Steve stopped and shouted he found the nest. Sure enough, there it was. The white poop trail should’ve made it obvious, but people around us didn’t seem to notice it. Steve and I watched them for about 30 minutes, we felt very lucky to have seen the pair! We pointed them out to other hikers and a few were stoked and thankful. I know my Aunt Patty will be excited (if you are a bird lover like her, you should check out her FlickR page!). Further up the trail, we saw a pair of woodpeckers, we just couldn’t believe our luck. Fingers crossed we will see some deer or a puma! We made it to the lookout, disappointed that the main mountain, Fitz Roy was covered in clouds, but not surprised. The weather changes often, and during our hike the dark clouds just kept coming. We took the short hike to the lake, no chunks of ice, but still blue and beautiful. This hike, even though shorter, was a much steeper hike – 350 meters in a 4KM period. Our way back down we noticed the Condors had left their nest, probably to get food, so we felt glad we admired them on the way up. We saw a jack rabbit, a tiny owl, and a flock of austral parakeets.
After our morning of hiking, we ate lunch (can you guess what I ate!?), and hit the road. Our plan was to spend New Year’s in El Calafate. Overall, we really enjoyed our two days in El Chaltén, and can understand why people travel there from all over the world. If you travel to this part of Argentina – don’t miss it!
Keeping our fingers crossed we will see deer or a puma (from the car) elsewhere!