El Chalten, Argentina – Top places to travel to in 2020

Written by: Travel Inn

On the Patagonian travel circuit, Argentina’s off-grid El Chaltén is often overshadowed by its more sought-after Chilean neighbor, Torres del Paine. The pocket-size Argentine village was founded in 1985 and quickly became a popular base camp for intrepid alpinists on a mission to summit the fabled granite spires of Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre in the UNESCO-listed Los Glaciares National Park. However, you don’t have to be a die-hard hiker to enjoy the area’s scenic trails. Beginner to moderate routes offer access to Patagonia’s unmarred beauty: primeval forests packed with southern beech trees, snowmelt lagoons, rushing rivers, and jagged zeniths topped with outsized glaciers and floating condors. The upside to El Chaltén’s lower profile is that climbers enjoy less-congested trails. Yet for decades the remote frontier town has remained largely a backpacker outpost due to its lack of top-tier accommodations with high-end amenities like a spa and in-house guides. This will change when adventure outfitter Explora opens a new 20-room lodge next fall on a windswept ridge within the private 14,000-acre Los Huemules Reserve. The luxe two-story property has views of rocky peaks, the jade-hued Electric River, the massive Marconi Glacier to the west, and a seemingly boundless steppe to the east. Inside, guests escape the harsh elements in 645-square-foot corner suites and serene, pine-wrapped guest rooms fitted with picture windows and soaking tubs. There will be cozy communal spaces, including a restaurant serving regional fare and local wines, a central bar warmed by wood-burning fireplaces, and a spa and outdoor hot tubs. But it’s with Explora’s in-depth excursions that the brand truly shines. Seasoned guides lead guests on leisurely treks to picturesque spots like Laguna del Diablo and on highly technical hikes to Cerro Madsen. They’ve carved out six new tracks for beginner to advanced rock climbers and offer multiday camping expeditions across the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. The new lodge is a more polished alternative to a stay in the touristy city of El Calafate, and Explora will also arrange excursions to visit the national park’s star attraction: the Perito Moreno Glacier. Traveling before the hotel opens? Book yourself into the quaint Senderos inn in town and give yourself four nights to explore the region before everyone else catches on. —Nora Walsh


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