El Chaltén, trekking capital of Argentina

Province of Santa Cruz • Argentina

El Chaltén

Shield of El Chaltén

Country: Argentina
Province: Santa Cruz
Department: Lago Argentino
Located on lands ceded by Los Glaciares National Park.

Foundation: October 12, 1985.
Local Government: Municipality of El Chaltén
Inhabitants: 1600 approx.

Vista general de El Chaltén en el valle del Río De las Vueltas

Behind the colossal granite walls that dominate the landscape - as seen in the photo above - is the famous Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the most important continental ice mass on our planet after Antarctica. From this mantle of eternal ice descend the glaciers that feed the great lakes of the area; The famous Perito Moreno glacier is one of them, at the southern end of the Los Glaciares National Park.

To get to El Chaltén, you arrive by plane to the nearest town of El Calafate and from there you will travel by bus 215 km through the Patagonian steppe by a scenic route (paved) that surrounds the Argentino and Viedma lakes.

See Daily bus service to and from El Calafate.

Foundation of El Chaltén

In the context of the conflict with the neighboring country of Chile by the bordering demarcation in the zone of the Lago del Desierto (Lake of the Desert) and the Southern Continental Ice, as a purely geopolitical decision, on October 12, 1985 El Chaltén is created by Law No. 1771 / 85 of the Santa Cruz province legislature, in the Lago Argentino Department, at the confluence of De las Vueltas and Fitz Roy rivers, at the foot of the southern Andes, with the imposing Mount Fitz Roy as a figure that dominates the mountain landscape.
The area destined to this new town, of about 135 hectares, belonged to the National Park Los Glaciares; for this reason the National Congress sanctioned in the year 1989 the law Nº 23.766 / 89 in which the land is disaffected of the National Parks Administration and transferred to the Province domain.
The census carried out in 1991 registered 41 inhabitants. In 2001 the figure amounted to 371, in 2010 it reached 950 and in the last census in 2012 it yielded more than a thousand.

We know that two years after its founding, El Chaltén received approximately 800 visitors, and in the 2012 season more than 120 thousand tourists arrived.
Tourists from all over the world come to know one of the most beautiful and pure places on the planet, where activities in valleys and mountains, rivers, lakes and glaciers, justify that on July 6, 1993 the Provincial Executive Branch, for Decree 1079/93, declared El Chaltén "Provincial Capital of Trekking".

The Argentine Capital of Trekking

The area offers a privileged scenario with multiple alternatives for the practice of outdoor activities and mountain sports. In the area, it is possible to do dozens of itineraries: from visiting panoramic points a few minutes walk and with a minimum effort, to expeditions of several days or climbing the great vertical walls reserved only for the best mountaineers. The most sought after activities in the area are: trekking, andinism, camping, horseback riding, excursions and others such as photography, climbing courses, bird watching, fishing or visiting the legendary Estancias of Santa Cruz. For all this, El Chaltén has been declared National Trekking Capital in Argentina.

You cannot miss a very special spot 37 Km away from this small village: Lago Del Desierto (Lake of the Desert), a place of great natural beauty surrounded by native forests with centenary trees, many glaciers, waterfalls and streams that deny its name (nothing far from a Desert). There, it is possible to practice sport fishing, camping, trekking, among other activities like lake tours.

See Activities in El Chaltén.

Visitor Services

El Chaltén's socioeconomic engine is tourism -with a high degree of private investment- so that the range of services and products is varied and growing. For you staying there are many options being the hostels and cabins the most popular ones. To eat you can choose from restaurants, “pizzerias” and bars. There is a little hospital, a bank and two ATM in town, WiFi in most accommodations. You can use your credit card in some accommodations, restaurants and shops (ask before you book). You should keep in mind that due to the isolated geographical location of El Chaltén you will not find some services such as money exchange bureaus or car rentals.

For more information go to the Service Guide.



by Miguel A. Alonso

It includes maps of all trails, color photograph and the possibility of extending and updating the content using QR codes.