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Trekking in Patagonia – El Chalten vs. Torres del Paine

03 October 2022

French-Valley_Torres del Paine National Park. Image property of Beaches and Backpacks




Perhaps  you’ve been longing to see the snow-capped peaks and glaciers of Patagonia, but could never decide what trip suited your fitness level, budget and time frame, read on to see some tips from Brian Kohn, who checked it out for himself earlier this year.


Here are some ways to help you decide, based on your personal preferences:


Do you prefer day hikes or multi-day treks?


El Chalten is all about day hikes. There are a few designated camp sites but they don’t really add much in the way of seeing more of the park. All the trailheads start right from town, making access extremely easy. Torres del Paine, on the other hand, requires multi-day treks ranging anywhere from 3-10 days to do it right, depending on if you are doing part of the “W”, the entire “W”, or the full circuit. It also takes at least 3 hours to get there from Puerto Natales, the launching point for access to the national park, so day hikes are pretty much out of the question.


For day hiking in both wet and dry terrain, we recommend the Women’s Moab GTX or the Men’s Capra Waterproof.


Perito Moreno Glacier in El Chalten. Image property of Beaches and Backpacks.





How much do you like to rough it? And how much stuff do you want to carry?

The good news about carry loads in both places? You don’t need to lug around water because the glacial runoff provides abundant fresh water sources.
If you want to have a rack of lamb and a glass of malbec before slipping into a nice comfy bed, El Chalten is your best bet. The beauty of El Chalten (besides the scenery, of course) is the ability to go on a world-class day hike and come back to some relative luxury.


How much time do you have?


You can see most parts of the national park in El Chalten with three day hikes. In Torres del Paine, you need 4-5 days for the “W” trek and at least a day of preparation to get all your stuff together.


Both options sound great…I still can’t decide!


Brian advises that if you have less time (2-3) days, definitely go with El Chalten. You’ll be able to get at least two awesome day hikes in and see most of the park. In Torres del Paine, you need at least 4 days (including one prep day) to do it right, preferably more. If you have more time (4 days) it just comes down to how much you like to rough it. Do you want to be one with the elements or sleep in a warm bed? Are you okay with putting on a wet jacket and damp boots in the morning? Do you want to carry all your stuff?


For a comprehensive overview of your options or to ask someone who has been there first hand – check out Brian’s blog – Beaches and Backpacks.