El Chaltén is a small town founded in 1985 by Law No. 1771/85 of the Legislature of the Province of Santa Cruz. The date of incorporation was set for October 12, 1985, making it the youngest city in the Argentine Republic.
El Chaltén is a service settlement in a conflict-ridden and sparsely populated area dominated by Santa Cruz Province, whose sphere of influence has been rapidly expanding since the problems on the border with the neighboring Republic of Chile in the Lago del Desierto area were finally resolved in 1994 by an international ruling in favor of Argentina. The region has been settled since 1987 and has experienced dramatic growth in population and infrastructure. Immigrants from various parts of Europe, who first arrived in Punta Arenas and later crossed into the continent via the Ultima Esperanza pass, settled in the Chaltén area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The first settlers in the region were Fred Otten, followed later by the Ramstrom, Halvorsen, Rojo families from Spain, Madsen from Denmark, Martín Bjerg, Alberto Wittwer, Jean Henriksen, José Pérez Rubio, Wittwe, and Mac Leod, all of the bearers of a dream of common progress, expressed in various tasks such as sheep farming.
Today they commemorate their epic, the streets of El Chaltén, which proudly bear the names of these pioneers for whom rooting in the region was hard, sometimes even violent, as they faced various adversities such as the language, lack of money, and the constant battle with large corporations.
The Main Natural Attractions
El Chaltén was recently declared the “National Capital of Trekking” because it attracts tourists from all over the world interested in typical mountain sports, especially trekking, mountaineering, horseback riding, rafting, excursions, but also in exploring the flora or fishing.
The weather is unpredictable and there can be rapid changes in the weather. In summer, the temperature in El Chaltén varies between 15 and 3 degrees.
Among the various natural attractions located near this small mountain town are worth mentioning: Cerro Chaltén, Cerro Torre, the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Argentino Lake, Viedma Lake, Capri Lake, Piedras Blancas Glacier, Viedma Glacier, Laguna de los Tres, Chorrillo del Salto, etc.
Viewpoint Los Condores & Aguilas
This trekking circuit is the shortest in the series of options. It is a viewpoint from which you will have the best panoramic view of the entire valley with its hills and needles, the town, and the river De Las Vueltas. It starts at the entrance of the city, starting from the visitor center of the National Park. It is possible to see condors and eagles. It takes 1:30 for the one way, 3 hours in total. This lovely place is one of the easiest trekking path you have available. As a personal experience, when I visited and made this circuit, I shared a lovely conversation with a middle aged woman, who really enjoyed doing it, as it was easy to follow, well marked paths are available at all times, and the view at the top is simply amazing.
The Chorrillo del Salto
This is a 20-meter high waterfall located only 4 km from El Chaltén. Part of the way is by car, and another part is on a National Park trail. Since it is so close, it can be reached on foot in 1 hour, or by car in a 15-minute drive along Route 41, which borders the Rio De Las Vueltas. This loop trail also has a trail bike.
From El Chaltén, we grabbed our trekking poles and headed to one of the easiest trails for those just beginning the adventure of hiking: the Capri Lagoon. At the end of the village, a signpost announces the ascent to Laguna de Los Tres, the closest point you can reach to climb the famous Mount Fitz Roy, which only professional climbers attempt.
From this sign, a sign also points to the ascent to the Laguna de Capri, where the first camp is located to spend the night and plan further hiking from there.
It is not more than two hours that separate the Capri Lagoon from El Chaltén, but the path is so interesting that it is one of the most chosen by visitors.
The trail is a bit difficult on the first section of the hike, as you have to do a lot of climbing. We found that we gained elevation as the trial progressed. We were able to observe the small town of El Chaltén and all the points of the compass that surround it.
Mountains, a valley that serves as an entrance, and next to it the famous Río de las Vueltas that makes its way until it runs parallel to the small town that grows bigger every day.
The path becomes much narrower until we enter the forest, where you can see all kinds of species, among which the lengas stand out.
Through the clearings of the vegetation, we can see different mountains and peaks, some of them covered with snow, as well as small streams and waters that we can cross with the help of bridges. The lagoon of Capri is a paradise. The decoration by the neighboring mountains, including Mount Fitz Roy, makes it one of the easiest and ideal routes to start the different hiking trails of El Chaltén.
Cerro Fitz Roy
The Fitz Roy or Cerro Chaltén is a 3405-meter-high mountain in the east of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field on the Chilean side near the border with Argentina, in Patagonia, near the town of Cerro Castillo and the town of El Chalten.
The mountain group to which it belongs forms one of the great nunataks of the Patagonian Ice Field. A few kilometers south of this mountain begins the last undefined border area between the two countries (outside Antarctica), which reaches Murallón Hill in the south.
It is located within two national parks: the Bernardo O’Higgins National Park and the Los Glaciares National Park. This peak offers an imposing spectacle, as its crests and edges appear between glaciers and clouds, taking on surprising colors at certain times of the day depending on the sunlight.
Despite its average height (it does not even reach half the height of the Andean giants), the mountain has the reputation of being “extremely difficult”: it has enormous expanses of almost vertical, polished, and slippery slabs, on which winds of enormous force constantly blow, demanding the highest level of technical skill from the climber. The climate in the region is exceptionally harsh and unstable. The area is difficult to access, but with the development of the towns of El Chaltén and El Calafate, which have international airports, accessibility has improved. However, climbing the mountain is still extremely difficult and reserved for experienced climbers only due to snowfall, wind, and sudden weather changes.
Mythological legend “El Chalten” from the book Joiuen Tsoneka by Mario Echeverría Baleta
One of the few mountains of which we know the name imposed by the indigenous people in El Chalten, called Fitz Roy by the white people. This name means “bluish,” for that is the hue in which it is constantly seen.
When Elal, carried by the swan, reached the summit of El Chalten, he could admire from there the grandeur and beauty of the country that would hereafter be his.
As Elal descended the steep ravines she met two terrible enemies, Kokesne and Shie (cold and snow), who were defeated by the hero striking two flints that kindled the fire.
The astonishment was so great that fearing Elal would teach them how to make fire for birds and beasts, they went away and let him descend from the mountain.
El Chalten is considered sacred because it was the first point of contact between Elal and Patagonia.
Tsonekas: proper name of those called: Tehuelches, Aónikenk, or Chonkes.
Elal: proper name of the hero of the Tsonekas
In conclusion, if you want to enjoy and visit one of the youngest towns in the world, El Chalten is a great option to enjoy with your family or alone. It offers you multiple options with various