El Calafate

How Many Days In El Calafate and El Chalten? 3 Itineraries

How many days in El Calafate and El Chalten is enough? Here are 3 perfectly crafted itineraries from 5-10 days to help you plan your Patagonia trip of a lifetime!

Contents

How Many Days In El Calafate And El Chalten Do You Need?

How many days in El Calafate and El Chalten is enough?

 

Here are my recommendations:

 

 

  • 5 Days – For a taste of the region’s highlights, I would recommend a minimum of 5 days in El Calafate and El Chalten. This gives you enough time to see Perito Moreno Glacier and complete one or two hikes in El Chalten.

 

  • 7 Days – If you want a more immersive experience, opt for the 7-day itinerary. This gives you extra days in El Chalten, so you can enjoy more hikes and include much needed rest days

 

  • 10 Days – For those with more time and a thirst for adventure, the 10-day itinerary is ideal. Besides the 7-day plan, it incorporates well-deserved rest days which you need alongside all the trekking. With the extra 3 days, you can also complete the Huemul Circuit – an extensive trek through the pristine wilderness of Patagonia’s untouched landscapes or enjoy other adventure activities like white-water rafting.
How Many Days In El Calafate and El Chalten

El Calafate & El Chalten 5-Day Itinerary

This 5-day El Calafate and El Chalten itinerary is perfect for travellers who are short on time or want to see the highlights of the region. You’ll see the Perito Moreno Glacier and as complete the best trek in the region –  Laguna De Los Tres.

Here’s a breakdown of the 5-day itinerary:

 

  • Day 1 – El Calafate : Arrival and exploring the town
  • Day 2 – El Calafate: Perito Moreno Glacier
  • Day 3 – El Chalten: Arrival / Mirador Los Condores
  • Day 4 – El Chalten: Laguna De Los Tres Trek
  • Day 5 – Return to El Calafate / Flight home

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Day 1 - El Calafate: Arrival and Exploring the Town

Kick off your adventure by arriving in El Calafate, a charming town known as the gateway to Patagonia. 

 

Flights from Buenos Aires take 3 hours and 15 minutes. Aim for an early morning flight so that you have the rest of the day to get settled. 

 

The town itself isn’t much and is built to cater to the tourists coming to see the Glacier. But, you here are some things to do on your first day:

 

  • Try La Zorra Taproom for at happy hour for craft beers under $2!
  • Head to the Glaciarium. This is an interactive museum that will provide a detailed history of the glacier and park.
  • For a nice walk, try the Laguna Nimez Bird Sanctuary. This protected area is home to 80 species of bird and you can even see flamingos. The 1.5 mile loop around the lagoon should take around an hour. 
Where To Stay In El Calafate

I would recommend staying at America Del Sur Hostel.

 

The hostel has clean rooms, heated floors and comfy shared areas. But the best part is the outside decking area where you can watch the sunrise and enjoy a coffee with a lake view. 

I consider America Del Sur Hostel to be one of the best hostels I’ve stayed in when travelling South America, simply for the location. For the full list of my favourite hostels in South America, click the link below:

 

 

America Del Sur Hostel, El Calafate
America Del Sur Hostel (Outside), El Calafate

Day 2 - El Calafate: Perito Moreno Glacier

  • Timing: Full Day (9.00AM – 6.00PM)
  • Cost: Approximately $40 for the park entrance ticket and bus or private transfer

People come to El Calafate to experience the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno Glacier

 

You have 4 options to see the Glacier:

 

  • Bus/Boardwalk
  • Kayak Tour
  • Boat Tour 
  • Glacier Hike

For this itinerary, I will outline taking the bus which is the cheapest and easiest and thus more accessible to most backpackers. 

 

After breakfast in Calafate, take the bus into the national park.

 

Buses leave at 8.30 or 9.00. Make sure you buy a return ticket which costs around US$20.

 

The bus takes over an hour to reach the start of the boardwalk. You will stop once along the way to buy your entrance ticket to the national park. This costs US$20 and you must pay in cash.

 

Once you’ve arrived, spend as long as you want walking along the boardwalks, taking photos and waiting for huge chucks of ice fall off the glacier and crash into the water. 

 

If you prefer to do a boat tour to get a bit closer to the glacier, you also book that here. You can walk up to the small cubicles on the boardwalk and book there.

 

Return buses will leave from 4.00PM onwards so be sure to check with your company what time you need to be back on the bus.

TOP TIP:  If you are in a group of 3 people or more then it will cost you the same to book a private transfer.

I was with 3 friends so we booked a private transfer with Trayecto Patagonico. It cost us around $20 each which is roughly the same price as a return bus. 

Is The 'Big Ice Hike' Worth It?

If you’re an adventure lover who wants the top experiences whilst travelling, then the Big Ice Hike is well worth it.

 

It’s the most expensive option but also one of the best, a you get to see the glacier from boat, boardwalk and on top!

Joe from Shall We Go Home Travel on the boardwalks behind Perito Moreno Glacier

Day 3 - El Chalten: Arrival & Mirador Los Condores Hike

On the morning of day 3, take a bus to El Chalten.

 

It’s worth noting that these buses are in high demand in summer. 

 

During the peak season (December-February), they often sell out. To secure your spot, it’s advisable to book your tickets well in advance.

How To Get To El Chalten From El Calafate

Buses leave from the main terminal in El Calafate, situated on Julio Argentino Roca street.

 

Among the available bus companies, you can choose from three: Caltur, El Chaltén, and TAQSA

 

The earliest bus sets out at 8.00 AM, while the final departure is at 6.00PM and the bus takes approximately 3 hours. 

 

I always use Busbud to book my buses in advance! 

Mirador Los Condores Hike

Once you’re settled in your hostel, you should still have the rest of the day to fill. I recommend filling your time with a small trek to one of the viewpoints around town.

 

You have two options:

 

  • Mirador Los Condores – 4-5km round trip (1-2 hours)
  • Chorrillo del Salto – 6-7km round trip (3-4 hours)

I prefer the Mirador Los Cóndores hike, as it’s shorter and offers panoramic views of the town.

 

If you can, plan your hiking so you reach the top for sunset that golden hour glow. 

Hiking in Patagonia is one of the many reasons why you should visit Argentina. To see the full list, head to the post below:

 

 

a walkway to the Perito Moreno glacier in El Calafate

Day 4 - El Chalten: Laguna De Los Tres Hike

  • Distance: 21km round trip
  • Elevation: 944 meter gain
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Timing: 6-8 hours

The Laguna De Los Tres Trek is a challenging yet rewarding hike that leads you to the base of Mount Fitz Roy.

 

This is one of the most popular treks in the world and well worth coming to El Chalten for.

 

The majority of this trek is fairly easy as it slowly increases the elevation as you hike through lush forests.

 

However, the final stretch is a challenging ascent, rewarding you with Laguna de Los Tres’ stunning turquoise waters and unmatched views of the iconic Fitzroy peak.

TOP TIP: You also have the option to camp here overnight which has some benefits. It splits the challenging trek in two so you have less walking to do. And, you can wake up and watch the sunrise over the lake in the morning. I rented a tent, sleeping bag and mat in town from Bajo Zero.

The Laguna De Los Tres hike is one of the best trails in all South America. To see some of my favourite hikes on this incredible continent, head to the post below:

 

 

Joe at Laguna De Los Tres, El Chalten (Argentina) - Shall We Go Home Travel

Day 5 - Return to El Calafate

On day 5, return to El Calafate and take a flight back to Buenos Aires.

 

The return bus will take 3 hours. So make sure you’ve booked a late afternoon flight to give you enough time to get to the airport and check in. 

 

Or, you maybe you’re thinking of travelling into Chile.

 

If so, I would recommend staying the night in El Calafate.  Then you can make the border crossing in the morning to make your life easier.

How To Get To Puerto Natales (chile) From El Calafate

The journey between El Calafate, Argentina, and Puerto Natales, Chile, takes around 5 to 6 hours by bus. To undertake this journey, follow these steps:

 

  • Bus: Begin by taking a bus from El Calafate to the Chilean border town of Cerro Castillo. This leg of the trip takes around 4 to 5 hours, depending on road conditions and border crossing procedures.
  • Border Crossing: At the Cerro Castillo border crossing, you’ll need to go through customs and immigration. Make sure you have your passport and any necessary documents for entering Chile.
  • Bus to Puerto Natales: Once you’re through the border, you can catch another bus from Cerro Castillo to Puerto Natales. This final leg of the journey takes about 1 to 2 hours. From here you can start planning a trip into Torres Del Paine National Park.

Exploring the Argentinian side of Patagonia is a must. But the Chilean side is so close, so whilst your here, why not hop across the border? It’s easy to do! Linked below are two itinerary posts that can help you plan:

 

 

Cerro Torre, El Chalten (Argentina)

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Joe from Shall We Go Home Travel on the boardwalks behind Perito Moreno Glacier

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El Calafate & El Chalten 7-Day Itinerary

This 7-day itinerary for El Calafate and El Chalten is perfect for travellers who want to do some more trekking. You don’t need anymore time in El Calafate but take 2 extra days in El Chalten. This allows you to include another popular day hike and a rest day. 

Here’s a breakdown of the 7-day itinerary:

 

  • Day 1 – El Calafate: Arrival and exploring the town
  • Day 2 – El Calafate – Puerto Moreno Glacier
  • Day 3 – El Chalten – Arrival /  Mirador Los Condores
  • Day 4 – El Chalten: Laguna De Los Tres Trek
  • Day 5 – El Chalten: Cerro Torre
  • Day 6 – El Chalten: Chorillo de Salto (Rest Day)
  • Day 7 – Return To El Calafate

Day 5 - El Chalten: Laguna Torre Hike

  • Distance: 20km
  • Elevation: 518 meter gain
  • Difficulty: Moderate

This is another great trail in El Chalten that grants you an up-close encounter with the awe-inspiring Cerro Torre

 

Starting above town, the trail climbs through lenga forests alongside the rushing Río Fitz Roy. 

 

You then continue to Campo de Agostini,  before eventually arriving at Laguna Torre’s shores.

 

Here, you can witness the Torre Massif up close-up and watch icebergs adrift in the glacial waters of Laguna Torre. 

 

This is a much easier hike compared to Laguna De Los Tres as there’s hardly any elevation. 

If you want to combine a trip to Chile alongside Argentina, then there are several ways to do this with a simple border crossing. The three itineraries in the post below can help you cross the borders a 3 different points in Argentina to see Chile:

 

 

Joe from 'Shall We Go Home Travel' At Laguna Torre, El Chalten (Argentina)

Day 6 - El Chalten: Chorillo de Salto (Rest Day)

After two days of hiking and over 40km walked, time to take a much-needed rest day. 

 

Here are some things you can do in town:

 

  • If you are still keen to do something active, try the  Chorrillo de Salto trail which takes you to a secluded waterfall. This is a 6km round trip with little elevation which is perfect for stretching the legs
  • Visit Mathildas for the best coffee in town
  • You’ll need a big feed after all the hiking. Try Parrilla La Oveja Negra for quality steak. 
  • Grab a celebratory beer in the garden at La Cerveceria

TOP TIP: If you're visiting El Chalten during the summer (Dec-Feb), then make sure you book your restaurants a day in advance. It's a small town and everyone does the same thing - comes back from their long day of hiking, starving and then having to queue outside of the restaurants because they are all full. 

Day 7 - Return To El Calafate

As outlined in the previous itinerary, take the bus back to El Calafate on day 7.  From here you can fly back to Buenos Aires or cross the border into Chile. 

 

Or, you may want to check out the beautiful northern regions of Patagonia (often referred to as Argentina’s lake district).

 

If you want to do this, it’s a two hour flight up to the town of Bariloche.

For more on why this is such a fantastic place to visit and spend time in, head to the post below:

 

 

The Spires of Mt. Fitzroy, El Chalten

El Calafate & El Chalten 10-Day Itinerary

This 10-day itinerary for El Calafate and El Chalten is perfect for experienced hikers who are looking to complete the most challenging treks. I would only recommend this for seasoned hikers who have their own gear and have navigated a multi-day trek before. 

Here is the full breakdown of this itinerary:

 

  • Day 1 – El Calafate – arrival and exploring the town
  • Day 2 – El Calafate – Puerto Moreno Glacier
  • Day 3 – El Chalten – Arrival / Mirador Los Condores
  • Day 4 – El Chalten – Laguna De Los Tres Hike (with overnight stay)
  • Day 5 – El Chalten: Rest Day
  • Day 6-9 – El Chalten: Huemul Circuit
  • Day 10 – El Chalten: Rest Day

Day 6-9- El Chalten: Huemul Circuit

Hiking the Huemul Circuit in El Chaltén, Argentina, is an unforgettable experience that offers stunning natural beauty, challenging terrain, and a deep connection with the Patagonian wilderness. 

 

This 4-day trek takes you through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the Southern Andes.

 

You’ll see including glaciers, crystal-clear lakes, rugged mountains, lush valleys, and dense forests. 

 

The trek also involves camping in the wilderness, which allows you to immerse yourself in the natural environment. 

 

While the popularity of the circuit has been growing, it’s still far less crowded than some of the more famous treks in the world. This allows for a more personal and intimate experience with nature.

 

It’s important to note that the Huemul Circuit is not an easy trek and requires proper preparation.

 

You need to be physically fit, have appropriate gear, and a have good understanding of the trail and weather conditions.

 

But, the challenges are well worth the rewards, and those who undertake the journey are often left with lasting memories and a deep appreciation for the rugged beauty of Patagonia.

 

Here is a post on how to do the trek self-guided.

 

However, if you are an experienced hiker but feel less confident about planning the route yourself, check out these highly rated companies that can provide a guide:

 

 

Are you struggling to work out how many days you need in Argentina overall? Head to the post below to see a selection of itineraries that can help you:

 

 

The Road To El Chalten (Argentina)

Day 10 - El Chalten: Rest Day

After completing 4 days in the rugged wilderness of Patagonia and sleeping in a tent every night, you will want a proper rest day before moving on to your next destination.

 

I recommend a couple of things to do on your final day in El Chalten: 

 

  • Try Yaten Spa to give your body a much needed recovery. They offers massages and have jacuzzi pools and a sauna.
  • For good coffee and even better alfajores (cookies usually filled with dulce de leche or other sweet condiments), try Chaltenos. There’s nothing better than an espresso and a cake after a long day of hiking.
  • And for a good restaurant, try El Parador. This is the top rated restaurant in El Chalten and serves up top quality dishes with a Patagonian influence. 

Visiting Patagonia is one of the highlights of a trip to Argentina. But there’s so much more to see in this incredible country. To see how to combine Patagonia into a one-month itinerary that covers the entire country, head to the post below:

 

 

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How Many Days Do You Need In El Calafate?

You only need 2 days in El Calafate.

 

Everyone’s visiting to see Perito Moreno Glacier and this can easily be done in a day.

 

There isn’t much else going on in town so I’d only recommend staying for 3 days if you have the time and prefer a more relaxed schedule.

 

Here’s how I would spend 2 days in El Calafate:

 

  • Day 1 – Arrival / Visit the Glaciarium / Walk around Laguna Nimez Bird Sanctuary
  • Day 2 – Visit Perito Moreno Glacier

Day Trips From El Calafate

If you did want to stay an extra day or two in El Calafate, here are some other things to do:

 

 

  • La Leona River – you can explore La Leona River  on this full-day kayaking and hiking tour. You’ll kayak down the river for an hour, then pull in to land and hike for a few hours among the petrified forest, where you can stop to see dinosaur bones. Along the way, learn about the flora, fauna, and geology of the Patagonian steppe from your nature guide. (I haven’t done this myself but it was recommend by a friend who said she loved it!).

 

  • Native Cultures 4×4 Experience – Enjoy a 4×4 Patagonian adventure with an anthropological focus. Journey back in time discovering stories of the first expeditions and inhabitants of the area. Admire rock paintings, caves, and incredible landscapes as you learn about indigenous cultures.

How Many Days Do You Need In El Chalten?

The amount of need depends on how much hiking you want to do and how many rest days you want to include.

 

Here are my suggestions:

 

 

  • 2 Days In El Chalten – this is enough time to enjoy the town and complete the best trek – Laguna De Los Tres.

 

  • 3 Days In El Chalten – your first day would be spent travelling to the town, then you could do the Laguna De Los Tres and Cerro Torre hikes on separate days.

 

  • 4 Days In El Chalten – complete the two best treks with a rest day in between. These are tough treks and your legs will be cooked so I would recommend at least 4 days

Day Trips From El Chalten

If you want to stay longer in El Chalten but don’t want to do any more hiking, white water rafting is the way to go:

 

 

  • White Water Rafting – rafting along the Rio de las Vueltas offers an ideal setting, with Mt. Fitzroy every present. Cormarka Rafting have 5 stars from 112 reviews.
Joe from Shall We Go Home Travel at a viewpoint for Perito Moreno Glacier

Patagonia FAQ's

1. When's The Best Time To El Calafate And El Chalten?

The best time to visit El Calafate and El Chalten is during the summer months – Dec-Jan.

 

This is when you’ll have the best weather. Average temperatures are around 18°C and it will be sunny. However, the summer months are also the busiest as these are the holidays for Argentinians. 

 

If you prefer less crowds then I recommend visiting in the shoulder seasons – March and November.

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2. What Should I Pack For Patagonia?

Patagonia is so far south that it still gets cold in the summer. You’ll also be doing a lot of hiking so you’ll need the correct gear.

 

For hiking, you need base layers, hiking boots, a thermal mid-layer and a waterproof windbreaker.

 

Here’s my hiking loadout that ticks all these boxes:

  • Hiking boots – fully waterproof and ankle high are essential for trekking in the Andes. I went into my local Mountain Warehouse and picked up a pair of these and they haven’t let me down since. 
Best Hiking Boots For South America: Mountain Warehouse Hiking Boots
  • Mid-layer fleece – a fleece is lightweight but warm, perfect for whipping on and off when trekking to regulate your temperature. Great in the evenings as well when it’s much colder. I go with R1 Zip-Neck from Patagonia. Mens | Womens
Best Mid-layer Fleece For South America: Patagonia R1 Fleece Pullover
  • Waterproof windbreaker – much needed when trekking in the Andes to deal with the biting winds and rapidly changing weather. I like to use the Patagonia TorrentShell 3L. Its lightweight, warm and packable. The jacket self-stuffs into one of the handwarmer pockets with carabiner clip-in loop. Mens | Womens
Best Waterproof for South America: Patagonia 3L Torrentshell Waterproof
  • Hiking Socks – a few pairs of sturdy merino wool socks that don’t rub. There’s nothing worse than getting a blister whilst hiking. If you are from the UK, try these on Amazon.
Best Hiking Socks For South America
  • Hydroflask Trail Series Water Bottle – I always take this water bottle with me when I travel to South America. It’s 20% lighter than their other bottles and my back appreciates it when I’m on a long hike! It’s also durable, easy to clean and keeps drinks cold for 24 hours!
Best Water Bottle For South America: Hydroflask Trail Series

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