How Many Days Do You Need In El Calafate And El Chalten?
For a taste of the region’s highlights, I would recommend a minimum of 5 days in El Calafate and El Chalten. This includes witnessing the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno Glacier and completing the challenging Laguna De Los Tres Trek.
If you desire a more immersive experience, opt for the 7-day itinerary. This allows for extra day hikes in El Chalten, allowing you to see the beauty of this region.
For those with more time and a thirst for adventure, the 10-day itinerary is ideal. Besides the 7-day plan, it incorporates a well-deserved rest day 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.
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
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.
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.
The town itself isn’t much and is built to cater to the tourists coming to see the Glacier. But, you will find some good food here so have a stroll through the streets and look for places to enjoy the local cuisine.
Try La Zorra Taproom for at happy hour for craft beers under $2!
If you arrived super early and are struggling to fill the rest of the day, why not 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.
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:
Day 2 - El Calafate: Perito Moreno Glacier
- Timing: Full Day (9.00AM – 6.00PM)
- Cost: Approximately $40 for the park entrance ticket and bus
People come to El Calafate to experience the sheer grandeur of the Perito Moreno Glacier. The glacier’s thunderous roars and awe-inspiring vistas will leave you speechless.
You have 4 options to see the Glacier:
- 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 800 ARS (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 700 ARS (US$17.50) and you must pay in cash.
Once you’ve arrived, spend as long as you want walking along the boardwalk. Spend time 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.
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:
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.
Mirador Los Condores Hike
Once you’re settled in your hostel, you should still have the rest of the day to fill. I would recommend embarking on a small trek to one of the viewpoints around town.
You have two options:
- Mirador Los Condores – 4-5km round trip
- Chorrillo del Salto – 6-7km round trip
I would recommend 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 for jaw-dropping vistas.
Hiking in Patagonia is one of the many reasons why you should visit Argentina. To see the full list, head to the post below:
Day 4 - El Chalten: Laguna De Los Tres Hike
- Distance: 21km
- Elevation: 944 meter gain
- Difficulty: Hard
The Laguna De Los Tres Trek is a challenging yet rewarding hike that leads you to the base of Mount Fitz Roy. This is the best hike to do in the region.
Start at El Pilar, passing through lush forests and ascending to Laguna Capri’s shores. 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.
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.
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:
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. Make sure you’ve booked a late afternoon flight to give you enough time to get to the airport and check in.
Or, you may be 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:
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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. This hike leads you along Río Fitz Roy, providing incredible views of the Torre Massif—complementing the Laguna de los Tres trek.
Starting above town, the trail climbs through lenga forests alongside the rushing Río Fitz Roy. 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.
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:
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.
If you are keen to do something active, try the Chorillo 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
Found at the north end of Avenida San Martín, this large waterfall offers a simple escape from the more intense trails . Begin at the north end parking lot, following the path along the hillside parallel to Ruta 41. After a pleasant descent and a stretch on the gravel road, you’ll reach the Chorrillo de Salto trailhead.
With less than a mile left, the hike leads to the beautiful waterfall, making for a fun and accessible nature experience.
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 BA 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:
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 circuit provides awe-inspiring views of landmarks like Lago Viedma, the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, and the towering Mount Fitz Roy.
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:
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 would recommend a couple of things on this day: good food, relaxing activities and top tier accommodation.
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.
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