El Chalten / Argentina

IMG_3960IMG_3965IMG_3990DSC04412DSC04424DSC04418The route from El Calafate to El Chalten is along a straight highway with nothing to distract from the Fitz Roy mountain range ahead…visualize the Patagonia label in real life, outlined by a setting sun behind it. The quaint low lying town is tucked away in a valley, massive mountains on all sides. We had two days here and wish we had a few more. It’s a destination for hiking and climbing, with gradual and winding trails for backpackers and leisure hikers like us, to peaks that real climbers dream of and train for.

We stayed at a (new feeling) hostel — Patagonia Traveler’s Hosel — which was right on the main strip, within walking distance of all we needed…hiking trails, grocery store, and an ice cream shop. We spent a full day on the Laguna Torre trail (~16 miles roundtrip). It was a great trail to start off on, long and winding, ending at a still glacial lake with beautiful sculptural chunks of ice floating in cloudy green water. I imagined a positive correlation between a skinny dipping here and years lived, but I refrained and instead munched on some cookies with Reece. We met a super nice older couple from Bariloche, who offered us a beer on the spot, and a night if we passed through their town near Bariloche. We naively said yes, thank you, we’ll be there (story later)!

One night we went to La Cervezeria (note that there are two cervezerias and this is the better one, so we heard). The small dark space had a romantic cozy feel, raw wooden tables, healthy young couples from all over leaning in around their warm meals, one candle melting on each table. This was our favorite meal so far…a real salad with thick sweet balsamic, and locro, a local hearty stew with lamb, potato and veggies. Mmmm.
Heading out, we picked up an early morning bus down the road and started an epic 30-hour voyage by bus to get to our volunteer program in Patagonia. Bye to el Chalten for now, but hopefully we’ll be back.

At a glance…

  • Do go hiking!
  • Eat/drink Try locro at La Cervezeria (here). As many travel blogs warned us, the grocery stores (we only saw one) are pretty bare, so bring in your fresh ingredients and healthy snacks, otherwise you’ll be munching on cookies along your treks.
  • Don’t rush off, spend a few days.
  • Tips When you’re bussing by day book the top front seats (normally 1 – 4) for the best view! If you’re traveling over night don’t choose these because you get blasted with the oncoming light. A lot of the buses pull right up to Hostel Rancho Grande (a bigger hostel on the main strip, apparently little character). Bring sunscreen and a Nalgene if you’re out all day!
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