El Chalten is also home to the famous Perito Moreno glacier - and just for that it's worth visiting.
Getting to the glacier was easy. Twice a day there is a shuttle bus that takes you from the town to Perito Moreno and makes a stop at the dock for those who want to take a boat ride.
On the first day it was pouring. Something like 30 minutes into the hike it dawned on us that another four hours of this could become really miserable, so we turned around and walked all the way back to town to splurge on a couple of fashionable ponchos. Good decision!
To get to Chile, we rented a car. Being very - let's say - budget-mindful, I booked us the cheapest ride available - a simple Fiat with manual transmission and doors that had to be slammed shut. I didn't tell it to Jonny at the time, but during the fist hour of that ride I was holding on to my seat in horror as the car was making roaring noises every time we switched gears. But thankfully, once we left the city, for the next 300 km the road was straight and boring with only few cars around. And by the time we reached Puerto Natales, Jonny figured out the clutch.
The main reason to haul all the way to Chile was to visit Torres del Paine National Park - arguably the most beautiful national park in South America. I argue that it is!
The plan was to camp there for 2 nights and then drive back to El Calafate to catch a flight to Buenos Aires. Here we spent another two full days of hiking. Later on, after getting home and synchronizing my fitbit, I learned that we walked 120 km in just four days!!!
We didn't really know what route we would be taking in the park, so we opted for the last option - camping. It's also the most affordable at $15/person per night. We rented our tent, sleeping bags, mats and a gas stove at a hostel in Puerto Natales.
I'm so glad we had a car with us! Even though during the first night it was parked on the other side of a lake and inaccessible, it still reduced the amount of stuff we had to carry in our backpacks. It also gave us more flexibility and freedom. Surprisingly, not too many visitors come by car - the majority travel with an outfitter.
What later happened with this photo is unbelievable! National Geographic first picked it for the Daily Dozen, a selection of 12 best photos for the day. Site visitors were able to vote for their favourite that day and it won! Then, it was also selected for Daily Dozen: Best of January among one of only 10 other photos. And finally, on March 12 it became Photo of The Day and got published on the main page of Nat Geo's website.
Bucket list #24 is now unexpectedly complete!