The small Argentinian town of El Chaltén may be one of my favorite towns of all time. I went from El Calafate, which had thousands of people and dozens of stores to El Chaltén, a town of 1,500 people and only a few streets. Nestled right in the Andes Mountains, it’s a small, cute town in southern Patagonia. This colorful town had such a relaxed vibe to it, and everyone seemed to enjoy the outdoors.
After walking around the town, I was surprised to see they had a school, park, and sports center. There were plenty of locals out in the town, especially because they were celebrating a holiday. They even had a makeshift dance floor with lights at the local park when I was walking back from dinner.
Something to note if you plan on visiting El Chaltén is many stores and hotels are closed in the winter (which is June through August in Argentina). You can still find a few places to stay, but I’d recommend coming during more popular times of the year since there are already so few businesses. It’s also more fun to talk with the locals, who tend to go on vacation during the winter.
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There’s only one gas station when you’re coming into town, so fill up before you head back to El Calafate. There’s literally nowhere else to get gas for hours, so don’t chance it. I heard the line can be hours long during popular times like the summer, so don’t necessarily expect to stop by and be on your way within a few minutes.
Very important tip – get money before you come here! There is an ATM, but it doesn’t accept foreign cards. Many places won’t even take cards, so not having Argentinian pesos isn’t a question. Hit up the ATM in El Calafate before you head here.
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You can find a variety of stores to stock up on supplies here. That includes a clothing store, spa, salon, and several supermarkets. I explored a few stores that had handmade pottery and jewelry, and loved that the owners were making the pots right in the shop.
There is surprisingly a wide selection of food here, including vegetarian, pizza, pasta, and empanadas. Several cafes lined the streets, which looked like the perfect place to enjoy a cafe con leche in the warm sun. There are also many local watering holes to go to at night.
For amazing pizza and beer, I recommend going to La Cervecia. It’s the only brewery in Patagonia, and the recipe comes from the Czech Republic from 1673. A Czech family moved over to start the brewery when nothing else was here opened in the 90s. Today the daughter runs it and you can tell it’s her pride and joy, as it should be – the Pilsner is delicious!
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What to Do
The main attraction is hiking to Mt. Fitz Roy from town, especially since it’s Argentina’s trekking capital. You can walk right into the mountains and choose from one of the many trails to go on. If you’re really adventurous, you can stay overnight and go camping. If you’re a little wary of doing this on your own, stop by the company Walk Patagonia in town to get set up on one of their guided tours.
I recommend alternating hiking days with relaxing days walking around the town, grabbing a coffee, and hitting the spa. You’ll want to rest your muscles after hiking so much!
Where to Stay
I stayed at Hosteria Senderos when I was in El Chaltén and loved it. It’s at the edge of town so a little quieter at night (not that the town is loud by any means). They had a huge breakfast spread in the morning and I slept well in their comfy bed with my window cracked open to get some fresh air in.
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