Hiking from Villa O’Higgings to El Chalten

From Villa O’Higgings in Chile, we intended to cross to Argentina in order to reach El Chalten. This would be our second hike involving a border crossing 😉 However, in contrast to our Paso Vuriloche hike where we could leave part of our luggage in Puerto Varas, this time we had to carry everything with us… Which meant Kai had to carry more than 20kg and I around 16kg! When I think about it now, my back still hurts!

The hike was supposed to take 2 days (orange line on the map below):

  • the 1st day involved a shuttle from Villa O’Higgings to the lake San Martin, then a ferry crossing to the Chilenean frontier post and from there we 22km hike to reach the Argentinian border post and our camping spot for the night
  • and the 2nd day consisted of walking around the Lago del Desierto in order to reach the street leading to El Chalten. From there, we planned to hitchhike the last 37km separating us from El Chalten

Crossing borders again!

Our hike started quite nicely by a 3 hours boat ride from Villa O’Higgings to the border post in Chile. There, we got new stamps in our passports before starting walking on a wide and well maintained gravel path. We had company for this hike, as one girl we had met the day before in our hostel walked with us and Valerie was still traveling with us. The way was going up pretty much all the time, but it wasn’t steep and our suroundings were breathtaking.

After 3 good hours, we had our first glimpse on the Fitz Roy as its summit appeared above the trees. And what a sight it was! A few minutes later, we arrived at a sign telling us we were finally in Argentina.

From there, the trail was less easy. The gravel road ended and the path looked more like a crosscountry forest trail… We had to cross small streams, avoid many branches and roots – and it turned out to be quite exhausting with our heavy backpacks… Nevertheless, walking in the shadowy forest was enjoyable as the sun was shinning hard 🙂 After another 3 hours, we arrived at the Argentina border post, where we checked into Argentinia and set our camp for the night. The view from the camping site was stunning, with the lake and the Fitz Roy in the background!

The following day, we thought the path would be relatively flat as it was following the lake’s shore. Well, not at all! It was a narrow forest trail going up and down all the time… With all our lugagge on our backs, it was quite exhausting! However, it was well worth it, as it offered wonderfull views on the Fitz Roy, the Glacier Huemul and the Lago del Desierto. After 15km and 5 walking hours, we finally arrived at a bridge crossing the outflowing river of the Lago del Desierto.

Once we crossed it, we were able to reach the road going in the direction of El Chalten. As the buses from costed about 400 ARS per person, we decided we try our luck with hitchhiking. In the end, our 2 hiking buddies found two separate cars to hitchhike and we joined a tourist bus for 100ARS/person. 

Our impressions on the hike

The hike itself is not very hard, but the amount of luggage we had to carry made it quite exhausting. Nethertheless, it is a very beautiful trek offering breathtaking views on the Fitz Roy. The camping site at the shore of the Lago del Desierto is really amazing! There is no toilet, kitchen or shower, but the landscape makes up for it. All in all, a nice way to enter Argentina 😉


Practical Information

Transportation

From Villa O’Higgings, you first have to take a shuttle to the lake San Martin and then a ferry to the Chilean border post. Be aware that the boat does not run everyday. The cost for this trip is 38.500CP/person including the shuttle and the boat.

If you prefer, you can hike only the first day and skip the second one: there is a boat crossing the Lago del Desierto everyday at 11:00am and 05:00pm. It will bring you directly at the road going to El Chalten.

From the Southern point of the Lago del Desertio, there is a bus going to El Chalten for 400ARS/person. Otherwise, you can hitchhike. It takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach El Chalten.

Food

During this hike, you will cross borders, which means you cannot take any fruits or vegetables with you. Theoretically, you don’t even have the right to take salami or cheese, though the guards were not very strict and didn’t take ours 😉 no need to worry for the water, you will often cross springs to fill your bottle.

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