Hiking trail tale: Laguna de los Tres
While writing this article I’m flooded with mixed emotions. I’m sitting in my garden, listening to birds whistling, sniffing up the smell of lavender in bloom and hearing planes passing by. We live underneath one of the busiest flying routes in Europe and can almost always see or hear a plane flying by. I never gave it any thought they could be shot down from the sky just like that. Those things only happen in the movies. Not in real life, I thought. For me, who has a slight fear of flying, this means of traveling by plane will never be the same again. We travel bloggers cross the world to embark on adventure after adventure and it could have been any of us. It’s a crazy world we live in. It’s not going to be a sad writing today, but I didn’t want to let this pass by without mentioning anything about what happened. Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the victims of this horrible crime.
A few days ago when nobody could have predicted this would happen, everyone in The Netherlands was mourning about the loss against Argentina in the World Cup. Once the final drew closer, I figured that if we would lose, my pick would be to lose from Argentina. The people over there are extremely passionate and love soccer. In fact, they are passionate about everything that they do. Today we’ll take you back to one of the most impressive hiking trails we ever did, located in this immense and rugged country.
The trail we are talking about is the one leading up to Laguna de los Tres. It starts from a small mountain village called El Chalten, located beautifully in the shadows of famous Andean mountain peaks such as Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy. The fun already starts when driving up to El Chalten, when the weather is good the views on the Andes are just stunning.
El Chalten is a mecca for hiking and mountaineering. There’s a ton of trails to pick from for every level of fitness. We spent 3 days there and as there are no mountain huts (and we didn’t bring our camping gear on this trip) we did some day hikes from the village.
The trail to Laguna de los Tres can also be defined as the trail up to the base of Cerro Fitz Roy. When in El Chalten, you have to be very lucky that the weather is clear so you can see the mountains. We’ve talked to people who had been waiting for days for the weather to clear up to be able to hike into the depths of the Andes. We were incredibly lucky and the mountains were out of the clouds most of the 72 hours we spent in town.
Anyone who is in decent shape can do this walk. It’s just quite long, 4 hours up and 4 hours down along the same route. However if you think it’s too heavy, just turn around any time. The way back is the way down …
The trail starts with a gentle ascent from the valley. It’s easy to follow and is usually either a sandy track or some logs in grasslands. When we got to the first Mirador (view point) it was still cloudy and we were afraid we’d walk to the base of the mountain “for nothing”. The day before we took a hike to Cerro Torre and on the way over, that one was in the clouds too and once at the base, it remained in the clouds. The scenery was still stunning, yet not as beautiful as it could have been…
In the valley between El Chalten en Cerro Fitz Roy there’s a great chance of spotting condors. They barely touch ground so you shouldn’t forget to look up into the sky every now and then. Big chance you will see them circling way up in the air, looking for prey. They are some of the most amazing birds we’ve ever seen.
After about 3 hours of walking through some lenga forest and seeing the Piedras Blancas Glacier in the distance, you will arrive in front of something that looks like a wall. Or in the hiking world known as a really steep trail. The last part of your hike will be a 450 metres eleveation gain, on a rocky stairs that will take you about one hour to complete. It may be quite the challenge for some hikers but take your time, you will be rewarded. Breathe in and breathe out and just remember that you will be glad you did it, once on the top.
We had been told that the views would be gorgeous so pushed on even though it was incredibly hot that day (it does not always rain in Patagonia!) and we had no idea of Cerro Fitz Roy would be in or out of the clouds as you can’t see it from the bottom of the climb. So when we took the last steps up and arrived at the top of the ridge, the grand view opened up in front of us and it was just breathtaking. Even though you are still 2.000 m. below the top of Fitz Roy, it seems so close.
The laguna was still frozen but that didn’t matter. It made the scenery even more special. We scrambled up a bit further to have a look into the next valley with a view of Laguna Sucia and the Río Blanco Glacier. And then we just sat down and enjoyed the beauty. Chunks of ice broke off the glacier and crashed into the lagoon below and condors were occasionally checking in. Realizing the way back would be another long one, we viewed Fitz Roy once more and started our descent down into the valley.
On the way home, we took various looks back over our shoulder. Fitz Roy stayed out of the clouds for the rest of that day. The views from the Mirador we had been earlier on were stunning, yet we had to return to the village before it got dark.
If you are ever in El Chalten and happen to have good weather, make this hike your number one priority. You will be rewarded!
We don’t think we will ever return here. Why? Our days here were perfect. Normally it rains here at least 5 out of 7 days. Chances of be able to experience those days again are slim. We’ll just cherish the memories we have and wish everyone else will get to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of El Chalten like we did.
Want to read more hiking trail tales? Then check these out:
– A day on the West Highland Way
– Hiking the Laugavegur: Iceland’s best multi-day trek
– Rimstigen: the forgotten hike in Nærøyfjord
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My condolences on the recent tragedy – so terrible for all of the families and I’m sure it is acutely felt in the Netherlands.
The water at that elevation is such a lovely shade of blue – not sure if I’ve ever seen it in nature before. I really need to make it down to this part of South America, as I’ve only been in the northern part of Argentina. The landscapes are beautiful and you captured them nicely. What are the accommodations like in El Chalten? I imagine there are some nice spots to relax between hikes.
Thanks Dave for your support. We still can’t believe this happened and everyone I speak to seems to know at least one person who was somehow involved in the crash. Totally unreal…
While in El Chalten we stayed in a hostel. I can’t remember the name but there are plenty of them. We had a double room for a fairly good price and breakfast was included. It’s already been a couple of years though so I’m sure that the options will be much larger than a couple of years ago. I know there’s plenty of hotels and also some campsites. Something for everyone’s wish!
Great post- your hiking info always makes me feel so adventurous! Love your photos- especially those featuring Fitz Roy; incredible!
Thanks Hannah – happy that you feel adventurous. There’s a bit of adventure in everyone, you just have to know where to find it 😉
I think the whole world is in shock over the recent tragedy…it really should not happen, ever, and it could have happened to anyone. My condolences to the people of your country and those who had loved ones who sadly died in this attack.
Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful views. It must have been so magical hiking up in the mountains! I would never get sick of that scenery. Gorgeous!
Thanks for your support Lauren, it’s totally unreal what happened and so many people are mourning here. Holland is a small country and everyone seems to be involved in the crash one way or another.
What an inspiring landscape. We were fortunate enough to spend 18 months exploring New Zealand and the experience has left me with the desire to explore more mountainous countries such as Argentina. thanks for the inspiration and the great guide!
Margherita @The Crowded Planet
What a wonderful trip down memory lane this was Anto. I also visited Laguna de los Tres on a sunny day. It was one of the best days of my life; wonderful scenery, great weather and to make things better, I was there with my whole family. It’s such an amazing place!
Wow – 18 months in our fave country? That’s awesome! The longest we got to spend there was 6 weeks and it was not nearly enough to cover all the tramping tracks we wanted. I’m sure that you will love Patagonia, it’s such a gorgeous place and somehow resembles NZ, although it’s rougher and more quiet…
Wow, what a stunning collection of pictures you have included in this post. I love reading about your hiking trails in South America. Given that we have yet to set foot on this continent, the more posts we read like this the more we are ready to get out and explore especially on those awesome trails that provide such stunning views.
The view over the Río Blanco Glacier really is stunning and one that would be a cherished memory for sure! I am intrigued as to the difficulty of these hiking trails. Are they for beginners or do you need to have some sort of experience the further up the trail you go?
I truly hope you guys will make it to South America one day! We are experienced hikers and found this trail relatively easy, however I’ve spoken to various unexperienced one and they said it was hard but not impossible. The only hard part is the last bit up which can leave your breathless for quite a while. Other than that, I’d say just go for it!
Great post! I just wanted to share a report I wrote describing my experience hiknig the Laguna de los Tres hike late last year. I included a bunch of pictures and maps. Perhaps some of your website readers will find the additional resource useful. Here it is: https://backpackersreview.wordpress.com/trip-reports/los-glaciares-national-park/
Thanks for sharing Jon!