A Travel Price Comparison for Families, Couples, and Backpackers Cuenca vs. El Chalten for Vacations, Tours, and Honeymoons

Should you visit Cuenca or El Chalten?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Which city should you visit? Read on to compare the activities as well as the prices of travel for Cuenca and El Chalten. We'll break down costs for accommodation, food, transportation and more to help you learn more about these two destinations. Then, you can figure out if either of these two places are accessible based on your travel budget, schedule, and interests. So, let's dig into it.

Where Should I go: Cuenca or El Chalten?


Cuenca is a vibrant colonial city in southern Ecuador, the third largest in the country, and the capital of Azuay Province. Cuenca is considered as Ecuador's most important and beautiful colonial city after Quito. Dating from the 16th century, Cuenca's historic center, a Unesco World Heritage Site with its trademark skyline of massive rotundas and soaring steeples, is a magical sight in which you will feel like you are moving back in time. Cuenca is the center of many craft traditions, including ceramics, metalwork and the internationally famous panama hat. The nearby villages also offer many other handicrafts. Tourists enjoy wandering the ancient streets discovering picturesque alleys and hidden corners, where nuns march along cobblestone streets and kids in Catholic-school uniforms skip past historic churches. Fascinating historic monuments and fabulous views are found at every turn. Cuenca also has outstanding art museums and festivals. For a rewarding cultural experience, visit during Easter to attend the Festival of Religious Music.

El Chalten

El Chalten is probably one of the most beautiful areas of Patagonia, especially at the slightest ray of sunshine and one of your cheapest destination while you are travelling in Patagonia. Indeed, you will spend your days hiking and there are no park fees. There are restaurants, souvenir shops, and outdoor stores but most of them will not accept credit cards so before heading out, get cash in El Calafate or your previous stop. For the beginners, it will be long hikes in a magical setting and for the experts perhaps a week long expedition to the greatest glaciers of the world. To discover the way people live in the pampa, you may also decide to stay at an Estancia. In the stunning Estancia Santa Thelma, about 300km away from El Chalten, you will be able to explore the surroundings by horse, live a unique experience in the middle of the nature and its vast plains occupied by thousands of merino sheep and horses and of course eat a typical meal of the region.

For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best Wildlife Tours to Ecuador, The Best Hiking & Trekking Tours in Ecuador, The Best Hiking & Trekking Tours in Argentina, and The Best Adventure Tours to Argentina.

Which place is cheaper, El Chalten or Cuenca?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Cuenca is $42, while the average daily cost in El Chalten is $9.65. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Cuenca and El Chalten in more detail.

  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Cuenca $13
    El Chalten $4.30
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Cuenca $26
    El Chalten $8.60
Compare Hotels in Cuenca and El Chalten

Looking for a hotel in Cuenca or El Chalten? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Cuenca

Hotels in El Chalten

Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.

Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Cuenca Hotel Prices and El Chalten Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Cuenca $11
    El Chalten $2.30
Typical Local Transportation Prices in Cuenca

Below are a few samples from actual travelers for transportation costs in Cuenca:

  • Taxi Ride

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Cuenca

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Cuenca:

  • Ecuador: Airport Transfers on Quito, Guayaquil and others.: $30
  • Private Transfer from Cuenca to Guayaquil.: $104

Is it cheaper to fly into Cuenca or El Chalten?

Prices for flights to both El Chalten and Cuenca change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.

  • Food Meals for one day
    Cuenca $15
    El Chalten $3.56
Typical Food Prices in Cuenca

Below are a few samples from actual travelers for food and meal costs in Cuenca:

  • Lunch
  • Snacks
  • Empanada
  • Hot Dog

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Cuenca

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Cuenca.

  • Street food Tour in Cuenca,Ecuador: $33
  • Cooking Class & Market Tour in Cuenca: $55
  • Private Cooking Class: $125

  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Cuenca $16
    El Chalten $2.59

Tours and Activities in Cuenca

Here are a few actual costs in Cuenca for available activities, ticket prices, and tours:

  • Cuenca, Ecuador Half-Day City Shared Tour: $25
  • Cuenca-Ec- City Tour with Panama Hat factory Half Day: $30
  • Cuenca Half-Day City Tour Including Panama Hat Factory: $30
  • Walking Tour Through The Historic Center Of Cuenca: $30
  • Cajas National Park Half Day Tour from Cuenca: $40
  • Private Cuenca City Tour including Turi Viewpoint: $40
  • El Chorro waterfalls and Busa lake tour from Cuenca: $44
  • City Sightseeing Tour: $45
  • Cuenca, Ecuador Half-Day City Tour: $46
  • Amazing Cajas National Park Tour from Cuenca: $48
  • Cuenca City Tour: $48
  • Cajas National Park Small-Group tour from Cuenca: $49

Tours and Activities in El Chalten

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for El Chalten are as follows:

  • 3 Hours Grilled Lamb Experience in Estancia Bonanza: $55
  • Rafting experience on the Rio de las Vueltas in Patagonia: $120
  • Rio de las Vueltas Rafting Experience - El Chalten: $120

  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Cuenca $14
    El Chalten $1.18

When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Cuenca and El Chalten, we can see that Cuenca is more expensive. And not only is El Chalten much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to El Chalten would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in El Chalten and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Cuenca would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Cuenca than you might in El Chalten.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Cuenca Expensive? and Is El Chalten Expensive?.

When is the best time to visit Cuenca or El Chalten?

El Chalten has a temperate climate with four distinct seasons, but Cuenca experiences a warm climate with fairly sunny weather most of the year.

Should I visit Cuenca or El Chalten in the Summer?

The summer attracts plenty of travelers to both Cuenca and El Chalten. Warm weather and sunshine bring visitors to Cuenca year-round.

In July, Cuenca is generally cooler than El Chaltenin January. Daily temperatures in Cuenca average around 22°C (72°F), and El Chalten fluctuates around 27°C (81°F).

El Chalten receives a lot of rain in the summer. In July, Cuenca usually receives less rain than El Chaltenin January. Cuenca gets 17 mm (0.7 in) of rain, while El Chalten receives 110 mm (4.3 in) of rain each month for the summer.

  • Summer Average Temperatures July and January
    Cuenca 22°C (72°F) 
    El Chalten 27°C (81°F)

Should I visit Cuenca or El Chalten in the Autumn?

The autumn brings many poeple to Cuenca as well as El Chalten. Cuenca attracts visitors year-round for its warm weather and sunny climate.

Cuenca is much colder than El Chalten in the autumn. The daily temperature in Cuenca averages around 12°C (54°F) in October, and El Chalten fluctuates around 21°C (70°F)in April.

It's quite rainy in El Chalten. Cuenca usually gets less rain in October than El Chaltenin April. Cuenca gets 42 mm (1.7 in) of rain, while El Chalten receives 150 mm (5.9 in) of rain this time of the year.

  • Autumn Average Temperatures October and April
    Cuenca 12°C (54°F) 
    El Chalten 21°C (70°F)

Should I visit Cuenca or El Chalten in the Winter?

Both El Chalten and Cuenca are popular destinations to visit in the winter with plenty of activities. The warm climate attracts visitors to Cuenca throughout the year.

It's quite cold in Cuenca in the winter. In the winter, Cuenca is much colder than El Chalten. Typically, the winter temperatures in Cuenca in January average around 4°C (39°F), and El Chalten averages at about 16°C (61°F)in July.

In January, Cuenca usually receives less rain than El Chaltenin July. Cuenca gets 14 mm (0.6 in) of rain, while El Chalten receives 30 mm (1.2 in) of rain each month for the winter.

  • Winter Average Temperatures January and July
    Cuenca 4°C (39°F) 
    El Chalten 16°C (61°F)

Should I visit Cuenca or El Chalten in the Spring?

Both El Chalten and Cuenca during the spring are popular places to visit. Plenty of visitors come to Cuenca because of the warm climate and sunshine that lasts throughout the year.

In April, Cuenca is generally much colder than El Chaltenin October. Daily temperatures in Cuenca average around 10°C (50°F), and El Chalten fluctuates around 22°C (72°F).

El Chalten gets a good bit of rain this time of year. Cuenca usually gets less rain in April than El Chaltenin October. Cuenca gets 35 mm (1.4 in) of rain, while El Chalten receives 130 mm (5.1 in) of rain this time of the year.

  • Spring Average Temperatures April and October
    Cuenca 10°C (50°F) 
    El Chalten 22°C (72°F)

Typical Weather for El Chalten and Cuenca

Cuenca El Chalten
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 4°C (39°F) 14 mm (0.6 in) 27°C (81°F) 110 mm (4.3 in)
Feb 6°C (43°F) 22 mm (0.9 in) 26°C (79°F) 150 mm (5.9 in)
Mar 8°C (46°F) 15 mm (0.6 in) 25°C (77°F) 140 mm (5.5 in)
Apr 10°C (50°F) 35 mm (1.4 in) 21°C (70°F) 150 mm (5.9 in)
May 14°C (57°F) 41 mm (1.6 in) 19°C (66°F) 70 mm (2.8 in)
Jun 19°C (66°F) 35 mm (1.4 in) 17°C (63°F) 40 mm (1.6 in)
Jul 22°C (72°F) 17 mm (0.7 in) 16°C (61°F) 30 mm (1.2 in)
Aug 22°C (72°F) 23 mm (0.9 in) 18°C (64°F) 30 mm (1.2 in)
Sep 17°C (63°F) 20 mm (0.8 in) 19°C (66°F) 80 mm (3.1 in)
Oct 12°C (54°F) 42 mm (1.7 in) 22°C (72°F) 130 mm (5.1 in)
Nov 7°C (45°F) 33 mm (1.3 in) 24°C (75°F) 160 mm (6.3 in)
Dec 5°C (41°F) 15 mm (0.6 in) 27°C (81°F) 140 mm (5.5 in)