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Argentina Travel: El Chalten Information

February 28, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 233

Travelers to Argentina will hear mention of El Chalten in association with Patagonia's most iconic sites, Mount Fitz Roy (Cerro Chalten), Cerro Torre, Lake Viedma, etc. It is a tiny little town 220 kilometers from El Calafate, and has some options in lodging and dining. For travelers looking for a base in this region of Patagonia, El Calafate is certainly the better option. However, passing through El Chalten is obligatory for trekkers and climbers to the mountains, and during the summer months, the town does offer some basic options in lodging and camping.

El Chalten is in the Rio de la Vueltas (river) valley in the southwest of the Santa Cruz Province and within the boundaries of Los Glaciares National Park. The word "chalten," meaning smoking mountain, comes from the language of the Tehuelches, an indigenous people who have inhabited the area for many thousands of years. The town was established fairly recently, in 1985, for which reason it is known as "Argentina's youngest town." The principal motivation was to consolidate Argentina's territorial claims in the region, in an era in which boundary disputes with Chile were at their most heated.

At the time of its foundation, the site of the town consisted of a simple inn and a bridge and in the first residents endured years of scarce resources and scanty infrastructure. By 1991, the town counted with 41 permanent residents, increasing to 371 in 2001. The town's growth in recent years has come about principally in order to serve the steadily increasing number of trekkers, climbers, and adventurers that set up base here in the summer months.

Most visitors to El Chalten come here to practice mountain sports and to explore the surrounding Patagonia wilderness. The area offers excellent climbing, for which it has been declared the "national capital of trekking." Indeed, Cerro Torre and Mount Fitz Roy (or Cerro Chalten) continue to draw world-class alpinists intent on conquering the iconic peaks. Other popular attractions are the day hikes to the surrounding lakes and glaciers, including Glacier Piedras Blancas, Chorrillo del Salto, Laguna de los Tress, and Lago del Desierto.

Travelers should be prepared to deal with scarce amenities. There is a bus terminal. The town does not have a bank, cash machines, or money exchanges, and no cell phone reception. October through March are the best months to visit. During the remainder of the year, the town is fairly abandoned and weather conditions can affect travel plans. Connections to other points in Patagonia are via road, some of which is paved and some not.

This article about El Chalten was written by a Argentina vacation expert at Argentina For Less who specializes in helping you organize a best value Patagonia vacation packages. Fully customized itineraries coupled with personal and friendly service are the hallmarks of a Latin America For Less vacation.

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