We spent some 8 days in Patagonia; 3 days in El Calafate visiting Perito moreno glacier and then 5 days in El Chalten hiking.
El Calafate-Perito moreno glacier
Starting point for Perito moreno glacier is a town called El Calafate. It is a touristy city crowded with tourists, living off from the tourism, so expect higher prices than in other parts of Argentina. We lived in the heart of Buenos Aires but the prices here were a lot higher. Its also because Calafate is kinda in the middle of nowhere; to be more specific-in the middle of arid and non-fertile nowhere- so everything has to be imported and thus the higher prices…anyway: We booked our trip to the glacier in advance but I think there shouldn’t be a problem if you book it there (at least it seemed so). Generally there are two options: Mini-trek and Big ice. One difference is that Big ice is obviously longer, you do more trekking on the glacier and you have the chance to get to further-situated paths on the glacier, whereas the mini-trek is shorter and allows you to do the trekking on the nearby part of the glacier only. Another difference is the price. Mini-trek cost us 1500 pesos (120$ roughly)+ some 20$ entry fee to the national park (paid seperately at the park entrance). The Big ice costs 2500 pesos (220$)+ the entry fee. Mini-trek was perfectly sufficient, it is a day trip, you get to see the glacier (you have like 2 hours to walk around and watch it from different viewpoints), you go on a boat to the glacier to do the minitrekking, which is also very nice, and then you do the trekking on the actual glacier for like 1 hour. The only difference is that on Big Ice, you do the trekking for some 3-4 hours. So if you have a lot of money you wanna spend, go for the Big ice, otherwise you’ll be okay with the mini-trek.
Next day we spent wandering around El Calafate (there is not much to see though and considering the prices, I recommend you not to stay there much longer than needed) and in the afternoon we took a bus to go to El Chaltén, the capital of hiking.
Argentines dubb this small town (or rather village) as el capital nacional de hiking (national capital of hiking). It is the starting point for many treks, including the most famous one to Lago de los tres. You can easily buy the bus tickets in El Calafate, no need (and also no way) to book them online in advance.
We stayed there some 5-6 days, which I think is the ideal time to do enough of hiking and have a reserve in case of bad weather (which was our case-3 days with heavy rain and mist and only 2 days with actually good, hiking-ideal weather). El Chaltén is even more in the middle of nowhere than El Calafate and I found the prices a bit higher than there. From this reason, but also because we were feelin’ adventurous, we decided to camp rather than stay in a hostel/hotel. There are 3 campsites on the trekking routes and you can easily rent the camping equipment in El Chaltén if you dont have your own (our case). It’s not that expensive. Unfortunately I dont remember the prices, but we try to do everything as lowcost as possible and this really wasnt that bad, comparing to the other prices there.
We decided to stay in the closest campsite to El Chaltén, some 5 km from there, at Lago capri. I liked that one the most, you have the view on the beautiful lake with the majestic Fitz roy mountain behind it, its magnificent. But be prepared that at night it gets really cold and windy out there, I guess partly because of the lake. Also be prepared that there are no facilities, just one natural toilet. You can wash yourself in the lake which is super cold of course. And bring a lot of food, you’re not gonna get any up there!
From there, we did most of the treks, like Lago Torre, Chorillo del salto and of course the Lago de los tres. Except for the latter, they’re easy. The distances are some 15 km round trip in average (depends on if you are starting in Chaltén or in the campsite). So if you don’t wanna spend too many days there, you can do 2 treks in one day (although I recommend you to do the Lago de los tres in one day only, since thats a tough one). While going up at the Lago de los tres,be prepared for at least 1 hour of tough climbing. But the view you get at the top is totally worth it, so take some snack with you and go for it! One day we had to stay in our tent the whole time because the weather was just so bad. Strange experience, by the way.
Overall, if you have the chance and get good weather, the hikes are beautiful. You can manage to do the most important ones in 3 days, although I would recommend to have at least 1 day as a reserve in case of bad weather.
See more pics on my insta (terinka_d) and our vlog from Patagonia here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXUAdJEjuNo