El Chaltén is a small mountain village in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. It is located in the riverside of Río de las Vueltas, within the Los Glaciares National Park (section Reserva Nacional Zona Viedma) at the base of Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy mountains, both popular for climbing. For this reason this village was named Argentina’s Trekking Capital or Capital Nacional del Trekking.
The village was built in 1985 to help secure the disputed border with Chile. Today the sole reason for its existence is tourism. It is 220 km north of El Calafate.
“Chaltén” is a tehuelche word meaning smoking mountain, as they believe it was a volcano for its peak is most of the time covered by clouds. Other visited tracks and sights are Torre Glacier, Laguna Capri, Piedras Blancas Glacier, Chorrillo del Salto, and Laguna de los Tres.
The village provides national park information for visitors, as well as commercial camping (with showers) and a very limited number of beds, catering mostly for backpackers. On the treks outside of the village free campsites are provided. There are two automated teller machines and relatively no cell phone service. The tourist trade has spawned a few restaurants and shops in town, with a large variety of outdoor equipment for sale, while some of the accommodations provide internet and phone access and show regular movies. Other than that, the town is fairly far removed from the normal flow of news and communication, even during high season (November–February). The town is nearly deserted during off-season (the southern hemisphere winter).
El Chaltén has a dry—yet unpredictable—climate, with light precipitation distributed on a large number of days despite the semi-arid setting, bad weather is exceedingly common. Summers experience long daylight hours, very windy weather, and cool temperatures, mostly below 18°C (65°F) during the day and below 5°C (41°F) during the night. Frost can and does occur in the summer too. Winters bring snow in moderate quantities, and average temperatures around 3°C (37°F) during the day and –4°C (25°F) during the night; however, the coldest nights are much colder than this. Spring and fall are variable, but generally cold as well.