In our South American itinerary, the next very much awaited stop was the Argentinian side of Patagonia and the Los Glaciares National Park.
After our two days in Torres del Paine National Park, we took the Busbud again, which by the way has super comfortable buses with huge leg space, adjustable backrest and footrest. From Puerto Natales, there was no direct bus to El Chaltén, so we purchased 2 separate tickets in advance: Puerto Natales → El Calafate for the morning, and El Calafate → El Chaltén for the afternoon.
Here we had a similar case as with our bus from Punta Arenas → Puerto Natales. Our Puerto Natales → El Calafate bus arrived before schedule, because on the Chile-Argentina border there was no queue. (But in the peak season, it is possible that people have to wait hours on the border control.) Because of this earlier arrival to El Calafate, we could still reach the earlier bus to El Chaltén. However, our original bus ticket was for the bus in the later afternoon. But because the earlier bus was not full, we managed to change our tickets, so we didn’t have to wait 3 hours at the El Calafate bus station, and this way we arrived in the late afternoon to El Chaltén, so we could also do a short hike in the evening.
Few hundred meters before the bus station of El Chaltén our bus stopped and everybody had to get off the bus. And that happened, what we could not imagine before.
They directed us into a house, which was a welcome center. The Spanish speaking and the English speaking people had to go to different rooms. And we got a ~10-minute introduction to the Los Glaciares National Park with videos, presentation, photos and a super useful overview of the tracks in the park.
We were so amazed. This professionalism, and the well-organized welcome with a great overview of the information that everybody was keen on, was something that we couldn’t imagine to experience.
This already was a sign, that our stay in the Los Glaciares National Park will be 5* experience.
El Chaltén is a tiny little village at the foot of the mountains. After arriving at the accommodation and reading through the brochures and the hike map, I still decided to do the short, ~1,5-hour Condor hike, taking advantage of the situation that the sun went down after 10 pm.
The weather was amazing, sunny and this short hike was the perfect ending of the day.
On the way up during the hike, there were a couple of information boards, which taught about condors. And on the 1st lookout, there was a nice view of the village and Fitz Roy behind, which is actually the symbol of the Patagonia Outdoors brand. Then I continued and reached the 2nd lookout, which was facing the other direction, with lakes in the background. It was amazing, with the last rays of the sun.
On the way down back to the village, I bumped in a group of cows, which were walking around freely on the field.
The owner of our accommodation highly recommended us, that next they when we are hiking up to Fitz Roy, we should take hiking poles, so still in the first evening we went to hire 2 pairs of hiking poles. It cost around 4 EUR/pair.
Fitz Roy day hike:
The next day we started early, because this again was a quite long hike → 20 km, and everybody told us in advance that the last part is very tiring and we wanted to make sure, that we have time to just sit down and admire the view - and we are not in a rush, as we were in Torres del Paine, at the Base of the Towers hike.
So after an early breakfast, we left the accommodation at 7 am. The start of the hike was at the other end of the village. So after the easy warm-up through the village, we started the trail. The first part went through trees and was not that easy. We started to worry a bit if it is gonna be like this the whole way, but then we reached the flatter part of the track. It was easy to walk there, and the view was amazing, and also the weather was very sunny.
After a while, we arrived to a lake next to a campsite, from where we had an amazing view of Fitz Roy. With the blue sky and the bright sunshine, it looked like a postcard. And the trail continued with the view on Fitz Roy.
On the whole track, there were small wooden signs after every km, but we were thinking that they were not showing correctly the distance. Because we definitely had the feeling that we walked way more than 1 km between 2 signs.
After walking a lot more, and passing by a beautiful river with crystal clear water, where we filled up our water bottles, we soon arrived at the beginning of the last and the toughest part.
FYI: On the whole way obviously it is forbidden to throw away rubbish, and on the other hand there are no toilets either.
However, at the beginning of the toughest part, there is a “toilet- hole”. Which is recommended to use, because from there there is really no way to find a hidden spot.
The trail map and the signs are also saying that the last part is 1 km, but here we were 100% sure, that it couldn’t be. Because to do this last part of the hike took us 1 hour and 15 minutes, without stopping to have a rest or sitting down. We only stopped, when we were out of breath, and even then we continued after a few seconds.
What makes this last part even more difficult, is that the road is covered with stones and gravel and therefore it is very slippery. The poles really helped me a couple of times not to fall.
However, the whole way up totally worths it because the view from the top is beautiful.
By the time we arrived up, it became a bit cloudy, but we could still see the mountains a bit behind the Laguna de los Tres.
TIP: Most of the hikers stop and sit down on the top, maybe go down until the laguna, but only a few of them continue to explore the smaller hill on the left hand-side. After the tough hike it is understandable that tourists are too tired to climb another hill, but it totally worths the last effort, because the hidden king-blue glacier-lake is only visible from there.
We were very happy that we started the hike early in the morning because this way we could spend almost two hours on the top, to admire the scenery. It was so beautiful that I could stay there the whole day, but we had to keep in mind, that we were only half-way and we still had more than 10 km hike ahead of us.
The way down, especially on the gravelly part just before the top was also a challenge. We really had to pay attention to not fall on the slippery gravel.
After the steep part there is a fork, and we decided to take another track on the way back, in order to see other parts of the area as well. On this other way, we had to walk ~10 km to the North until Hostería El Pilar. The longest part of this track went in the forest, and from this track, we were able to see the huge and stunning Glaciar Piedras Blancas.
Along the Rio Blanco, we finally arrived to Hostería El Pilar. From there we wanted to call a taxi to go back to El Chaltén, which was ~15 km far from the end of our trail. When we arrived at the asphalt road we called a taxi and asked for the price of the lift to El Chaltén. We were quite shocked, because the ride cost around ~25 Euros, so we decided to try to hitchhike. After a very short waiting, came a car, and the driver stopped and without hesitation took us to the village.
For dinner, the delicious local filled empanadas were a perfect choice. There is a big variety of them: you can buy spinach-, tomato&mozzarella-, ham&cheese-, plum-, and bacon- empanadas, so I would recommend to try them after a long tiring day.
Laguna Torre day hike:
The second day we also took another ~20 km hike. We read everywhere that this hike is not gonna be as tough as the Torres del Paine and the Fitz Roy hike, but after 2 days of 20+ km hikes, it was not easy either.
After the first ~3 km, we reached a nice viewpoint where we could already see the glacier from the distance.
And on the rest of the trail, most of the time, when we were not walking in forests, we could see the glacier. On the hike, we saw a couple of woodpeckers and a lot of other birds. Sometimes we were looking down to rivers from above, sometimes we were walking just along the river.
This path was quite different from the Fitz Roy hike.
The endpoint of this hike was Laguna Torre with a great view of Glaciar Torre. After finally reaching Laguna Torre, we had a picnic there and relaxed a bit. From the lake there was an option to go further on a gravel path to Mirador Maestri, which faces the glacier frontwise, however we decided to not go to the very last part ~2km, because we wanted to make sure that we get back to El Chaltén on time, to reach our evening bus back to El Calafate and on the other hand, we didn't have hiking poles with us.
Even if there were some clouds both days, we were super lucky with the weather, because the weather forecast predicted rain both for the days before and after our visit to El Chaltén.
After arriving back, we quickly bought some empanadas for dinner again, then picked up our backpacks at the accommodation, and headed to the bus station to take our bus back to El Calafate, the last stop of our Patagonian Adventure.
Have a nice day,