Bariloche to El Chalten: The Best Route

by | 10 Apr, 2019

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Two of the the top hiking destinations in Argentina, here’s everything you need to know about how to get from Bariloche to El Chalten. Or visa versa, if you are travelling north from El Chalten to Bariloche.

Spanning five provinces, there’s really only one way to describe the Argentinian side of Patagonia, and that’s massive. And there’s one thing for sure, travelling within it means you’re going to be covering some ground.

Patagonia scenery

Bariloche to El Chalten

The best route for you will come down to two things; cost and time. And there’s basically three ways; bus, plane or car. We’ll cover all three. With information on times, distances and how to buy tickets and how to prepare for your journey.

El Chalten to Bariloche Flight

Hands down, the quickest way to get between El Chalten and Bariloche is to fly. However, do bear in mind that there isn’t an airport in El Chalten. The closest one is 125 miles away in El Calafate. Therefore you will still have a part journey by car or bus.

You can hire or pre-book cars at El Calafate International Airport. Or there’s buses running between El Calafate and El Chalten four times per day at 8am, 1.30pm, 6pm and 9pm. In the opposite direction (from El Chalten to El Calafate) you have 7:30am, 11:00am, 1pm and 6pm.

The journey from El Calafate International Airport to El Chalten takes around 3 hours and the cost is $800 ARG (£14 GBP / $18 USD). There’s a few bus companies running the route. We went with one called CAL-TUR. But there’s also Chalten Travel and Torres Del Paine Travel.

how to get to el chalten by bus

Price wise for a direct flight between Bariloche to El Calafate you are looking at somewhere in the region of £150 GBP /  $195 USD to £200 GBP / $260 USD. Depending on the time of year and how far in advance you book your flight. That’s not including checked baggage costs.

The journey time is 1 hour 45 minutes and the airline is Aerolineas Argentinas. The other slightly cheaper route is to fly via Buenos Aires, but when you start adding on transfer times and time getting to the airport beforehand it’s really not worth it.

How To Get To El Chalten By Car

Another option is to hire a car and drive between Bariloche and El Chalten, down the famous Route 40 Patagonia. The road runs alongside the Andes Mountain Range and stretches the length of the country, totalling 3,107 miles or 5,000 km.

There’s plenty of people who do this, particularly those who choose to hire a camper van. The roads are safe enough but unfortunately not in best conditions in some sections. Particularly on the southern part of the route which you would be driving.

Route 40 Argentina also prone to flooding for part of the route between Bariloche and El Chalten making it impassable. So do make sure that sure than you check this isn’t the case for the time of the year you are travelling because the diversion is long.

The drive from Bariloche to El Chalten is 864 miles or 1,391 km direct, which is around 17 hours driving time. Which is impossible for one person and a lot for two people when you factor in you would have to sleep in the car on route.

I’m not trying to put you off driving when considering how to get to El Chalten. But having travelled Route 40 Patagonia it would be remiss of us not to point out that it’s pretty damn boring. It’s just miles and miles of straight road and barren landscape with the odd condor.  

Route 40 Patagoina views

So unless you are travelling around Patagonia by campervan, I personally wouldn’t hire a car specifically for this journey. Also bear in mind you should take a 15 minute break for every two hours of driving and not drive more than 8 hours per day.

Bus From Bariloche to El Chalten

The cheapest way to travel between Bariloche and El Chalten is to take a bus. It takes a minimum of 24 hours so it’s an overnight journey. And I say minimum because as mentioned above, if Route 40 Argentina is flooded the diversion adds another good few hours on.

Marga bus from Bariloche to El Chalten

There’s only one service that we are aware of currently running the Bariloche to El Chalten bus and that’s a company called Marga. We’ve personally done this exact journey and the buses are comfortable and well maintained with a decent amount of space.

Depending on whether you opt to travel semi cama or full cama o the bus from Bariloche to El Chalten, expect to pay between $3,300 ARG (£58 GBP / $76 USD) to $4,700 ARG (£83 GBP / $108 USD).

bus from el chalten to bariloche

The semi cama seats are upstairs, with rows of 4 separated by an aisle down the middle. They have arm, leg, and footrests and your seat will recline to an angle of 40 degrees. These are the cheapest seats when considering how to get to El Chalten.

The cama seats are downstairs and have 3 seats in a row, 2 next to each other with the third separated by the aisle. Because of this there is more space and the seats recline further to an angle of 55 degrees. They also have arm, leg, and footrests.

We generally travel semi cama because it’s cheaper and we always find we have enough room. However, if you’re quite tall or a single traveller not keen on sleeping next to someone, cama might make the bus from Bariloche to El Chalten more comfortable for you.

Note that you’ll have to print your tickets off before boarding the bus from El Chalten to Bariloche or visa versa.

Bariloche main square

Bariloche Bus Station

The bus from Bariloche to El Chalten that we took left early, at 6.30am. So just bear in mind how you are going to get from where you are staying to the Bariloche Terminal on time. We took the number 20 bus from centro at 5:45am and got there just before 6am.

Marga bus for Patagonia Argentina travel

The next one isn’t wasn’t until 7am, so if we’d have missed it we’d have been pretty stuck. Make sure you have an up to date bus timetable. You can get them from the Bariloche Tourism Office on the main square. And that your Sube card needed to take buses in Bariloche had enough credit.

Patagonia Long Distance Travel Tips

We genuinely enjoyed our journey on the bus from Bariloche to El Chalten. It was an adventure. But we were also well prepared. Because the last thing you want is for it just to turn into hours or boredom and hunger.

Here are our top tips to for a long distance bus journeys from Bariloche to El Chalten:

Take plenty of snacks and water. Inclusive of all bus tickets you’ll get some food and drinks. However, the frequency, quality, and size differs with each company, so think ahead when it comes to your belly on your route from El Chalten to Bariloche or visa versa.

Food on bus from Bariloche to El Chalten

Prepare your entertainment. Some buses have a films showing and some have wifi. However it is not guaranteed. We always download a couple of films, spotify playlists and podcasts downloaded. Plus our kindles at hand. 24 hours is a long time with nothing to do.

Take a battery charger. Most buses in Argentina have USB ports these days, and some have plug outlets. However, more often than not they don’t work or at best are very slow at charging devices. Don’t get caught out with empty batteries. Pack a portable charge pack.

Bring some layers onboard. You might get a blanket and pillow provided. But you also may not. The temperatures on the long distance buses we travelled on in Patagonia tended to be extreme, either freezing cold aircon blasting or the heaters turned up to the max. And don’t forget your travel pillow.

Don’t forget earplugs. From the on-board entertainment to other passengers chatting loudly, earplugs can make or break how much rest you get. Also consider a sleep mask because if the bus stops in the night to pick up passengers on route, that light switch is getting flicked.

Take your toothbrush. Or at least some mouthwash. Hopefully no explanation needed for this Bariloche to El Chalten bus tip.

Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi Office Bariloche

Overnight Bus Journey Safety Tips

Keep your baggage ticket safe. If have a big backpack or suitcase, these go underneath the bus and you won’t have access to them during the journey. You’ll get a ticket when it’s loaded on and will have to show that when you get off to reclaim your bag.

Have some change handy. It’s custom to give the baggage handlers a tip for loading and unloading your bags. They’re not employed by the Bariloche or El Chalten bus station, so rely on tips. If you are so tight as not hand over $20 pesos or so, be prepared for an argument.

Marga bus from Bariloche to El Chalten

Keep valuables with you at all times. There are a few stops on the route from Bariloche to El Chalten bus station. Some just to pick people up, others where it’s optional to get off for a short break and others where it’s compulsory for safety to get off while the bus refuels.

Passports. Cash. Electronic devices. Never leave anything that you’d be upset about going missing on the bus from El Chalten to Bariloche or visa versa.

Have a padlock handy. We didn’t witness any issues on any of our bus journeys in Patagonia. But we have on other long distance buses in South America. So while sleeping we always attach our bags to each other or the seat while sleeping so they’re not easily swiped. These are great.

Have your passport to hand. It can be a little alarming the first time the police or army board a bus you are on. But you’ll soon see how common it is for long distances buses to be pulled over for road side checks. They usually just have a quick look around and check ID’s.

El Chalten mountain scenery

Where To Stay In El Chalten

El Chalten is really small so wherever you choose to stay in town will be close to everything you need. And everywhere is within walking distance of El Chalten bus station. There’s a range of accommodation from basic backpacker hostels to fancier lodgings.

el chalten wooden house

Patagonia Travel Insurance

An adventurers paradise, if you’re travelling around Argentina’s Patagonia you are going to want to make sure you have some good travel insurance in place.

Our go to provider is World Nomads. They have a no bullshit approach to policy wording & have a whole host of activities automatically included as standard.

Get a quick no obligation quote here:

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