Visiting lago del Desierto from El Chalten

Lago del Desierto, or “Desert Lake,” is a stunning body of water located in the Argentine Patagonia, near the border with Chile. Surrounded by breathtaking mountain landscapes, this remote and serene lake offers visitors a tranquil retreat amidst nature’s splendor. Lago del Desierto is known for its pristine waters, which reflect the majestic peaks and glaciers that frame its shores. The area provides opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and boat tours, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Patagonia. Accessible by road from El Chaltén, Lago del Desierto offers a peaceful escape and a chance to reconnect with the wilderness of southern Argentina.


Going from El Chalten to Lago del Desierto

The journey from El Chaltén to Lago del Desierto is one of the most picturesque excursions available from the village. The route follows along the Río de las Vueltas, characterized by its rapids and increasingly clear waters as it approaches the lake. Besides reveling in the stunning landscapes, visitors can partake in boat rides and hikes of varying difficulty levels, making it a noteworthy excursion after the main treks in El Chaltén.

To embark on this journey, travelers can take Route 23, a scenic road that winds through the mountains for approximately 40 kilometers, leading directly to Lago del Desierto. The journey typically takes around 2 hours, allowing ample time to soak in the surrounding beauty. During the tourist season, regular transport services are available from El Chaltén for added convenience.

Despite its somewhat desolate name, the landscape along the route is nothing short of spectacular. Lush forests of lenga and ñire trees paint the surroundings in vibrant shades of green, with the majestic Fitz Roy and Torre massifs, glaciers, and waterfalls forming a breathtaking backdrop.

As travelers venture along the route, they’ll encounter notable landmarks such as the northern boundary of Los Glaciares National Park, located just 8 kilometers from El Chaltén. Further along, at kilometer 13, lies the Blanco River bridge, while a path on the right bank of the Eléctrico River leads to the Piedra del Fraile refuge, offering an optional 2-hour hike for those seeking additional adventure.

Continuing along the route for another 20 kilometers, visitors will reach the scenic Laguna El Cóndor, where the imposing northeast wall of Cerro Fitz Roy dominates the horizon. Finally, arriving at the southern tip of Lago del Desierto, travelers are greeted with the tranquil beauty of the lake, surrounded by pristine wilderness and awe-inspiring mountain vistas.


How to reach Lago del Desierto? The map

How to reach Lago del Desierto from El Chalten


What to see and what to do in Lago del Desierto?

Visitors to Lago del Desierto can immerse themselves in the pristine wilderness surrounding the lake, which is enveloped by lush forests of lenga and ñire trees and flanked by the Vespignani and Forest mountain ranges. This picturesque water body stretches approximately 10 kilometers from north to south and around 1 kilometer from east to west, offering a serene oasis amidst Patagonia’s rugged landscape. Fed by the Diablo River and various melt streams, the lake serves as a magnificent water mirror reflecting the beauty of its surroundings. The Río de las Vueltas, which originates from Lago del Desierto, eventually flows into Lake Viedma.

While there are no commercial establishments or service stations in the area, visitors can enjoy a peaceful retreat in the wilderness. It’s advisable to travel with sufficient fuel due to the lack of amenities. Upon arrival, a short walk of about 300 meters leads to a viewpoint offering panoramic vistas of the lake from south to north. Additionally, a private campsite is located just a few meters from the parking area, providing an opportunity for overnight stays immersed in nature’s tranquility.


History: the origins of Lago del Desierto

The history of Lago del Desierto, or Desert Lake, is intertwined with the complex geopolitical and territorial disputes between Argentina and Chile. The lake lies in a region that has been the subject of contention between the two countries for many years.

The dispute over the border between Argentina and Chile in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, where Lago del Desierto is located, dates back to the late 19th century. Both countries claimed sovereignty over the area, leading to tensions and occasional conflicts.

In the early 20th century, efforts were made to resolve the territorial dispute through diplomacy and arbitration. However, a definitive agreement was not reached, and the issue remained unresolved. The area around Lago del Desierto has witnessed various incidents and conflicts between Argentine and Chilean authorities, as both countries sought to assert their claims to the region.

In recent years, efforts have been made to ease tensions and foster cooperation between Argentina and Chile. However, the territorial dispute over Lago del Desierto and the surrounding area remains unresolved, serving as a reminder of the complex history and geopolitics of the region. Despite the ongoing dispute, the lake continues to attract visitors with its stunning natural beauty and serene wilderness setting.


the huemul lagoon. Treking to Laguna Huamul


More trekking: The trail to the Huemul Glacier in Lago del Desierto

The trek to Huemul Glacier in Lago del Desierto offers an adventurous and awe-inspiring journey through the pristine wilderness of Argentine Patagonia. Located in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Huemul Glacier is a magnificent sight to behold, with its expansive ice fields and towering ice walls.

The trek typically commences near Lago del Desierto, where travelers can arrange transportation to the trailhead. From there, the hike follows a rugged and demanding route, meandering through dense forests, rocky terrain, and glacier-fed streams.

As hikers ascend higher into the mountains, they are rewarded with stunning vistas of the surrounding landscape, including the sparkling waters of Lago del Desierto and the rugged peaks of the Andes Mountains. During the journey, adventurers may encounter a variety of wildlife, such as guanacos, condors, and Andean foxes, enhancing the sense of exploration and immersion in nature.

The final leg of the trek entails crossing the glacier itself, where crampons and ice axes may be necessary to navigate the icy terrain safely. Upon reaching Huemul Glacier, explorers can marvel at the immense size and beauty of the glacier, with its towering ice cliffs and deep crevasses.


Picture of Ramiro Rodriguez

Ramiro Rodriguez

25 years working in travel market, as Sales & Marketing Manager in RipioTurismo, Marketing Manager in Nuevas Ideas Travel Consulting Group. Writer and travel lover.

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