One of the most epic views in South America is from the Fitz Roy Trek in Argentinean Patagonia. The hike to the famous Mount Fitz Roy starts in the little town El Chalten in a secluded part of southern Argentina. Thousands of travelers come here every year to hike, trek or climb.
Mount Fitz Roy is on the border of Chile and Argentina and a part of the Southern Patagonian Ice field. Although most of the Patagonian Andes are on the Chilean side, this Argentinean hike shouldn’t be missed.
Los Glaciares National Park is a popular place for outdoor enthusiasts. It has countless hiking and trekking options and very harsh Patagonian weather for which you’ll be very well rewarded.
Due to the rock towers, it is often compared and confused with Torres del Paine national park in Chile. I’m first to admit I didn’t know which one is which before we came to Patagonia. But hiking the Fitz Roy Trek and trekking in Torres del Paine made me realize that the towers of Fitz Roy are much higher making them more impressive. You might also recognize the shape from Patagonia outdoor clothing.
How to get to El Chalten and best time to visit
The fastest way is by plane. With a direct connection from Buenos Aires, the nearest Argentinean airport is in El Calafate, about 2,5 hours away from El Chalten. We use Skyscanner and Kiwi to find the best deals on flights. Then check the bus schedule from El Calafate to El Chalten to book your ticket. Renting a car is not necessary; El Chalten is a very small town where everything is within walking distance.
The cheapest way to get to El Chalten is to take a bus from wherever you are to El Calafate and take a connecting bus to El Chalten.
We’ve arrived hiking from the Chilean side. After hitchhiking our way through Patagonia and the famous Carretera Austral in Chile, we hiked for 24 km the Chile-Argentina border. You read that right. The only way to cross to Argentina in this part is on foot. And from Lago del Desierto we hitchhiked to El Chalten.
Best time to visit Fitz Roy is from October to March during the summer in the southern hemisphere. April is still fine and less crowded option. Most of the hotels and restaurants are closed off season as there are almost no travelers coming during the windy and cold winter.
More information about the Los Glaciares National Park
- Mount Fitz Roy is the highest peak at 3,375 meters
- There is no entry fee into the park and all camping within the park is free
- Camping gear is possible to rent in El Chalten or bring from home (prices for outdoor gear are over the roof in Argentina)
- You don’t need a guide here, there are plenty of signs along the way and visitor center in town can provide you a map
- Watch for wildlife – condors, guanacos, foxes, and woodpeckers
- The weather is colder and windier than in Torres del Paine due to the enormous ice field right behind the Fitz Roy massif
- Overall the park is less crowded than Torres del Paine
- Mount Fitz Roy is one of the most difficult mountaineering destination
- The whole Fitz Roy massif was traversed by one of the craziest mountain climber in the world Alex Honnold and his friend, watch here
- Mount Fitz Roy is also called Cerro Chalten, Chalten in indigenous language means “smoking mountain”, because of the almost constant cloud around the summit
The Fitz Roy Trek
22 km round-trip; elevation gain 1,025m
We are waking up early in the morning and with our head lamps on leaving the hostel. The starting point is at the north-west end of El Chalten and thanks to the big signs it can’t be missed even in dark. The morning frost was slightly crunching under our feet as we hiked to the Laguna Capri campsite and the first Fitz Roy lookout point. After 1 hour of easy walk, we made it right in time before the sunrise at around 8:00 am. The giant towers were dressed in orange colour and everyone was watching quietly in awe.
Next 4km are equally easy slightly going uphill until the next camp Poincenot. If we were trekking the loop of Fitz Roy Trek and Cerro Torre, this would be a great place to stay. It’s a nice big camp in the forest with a view of the Fitz Roy. The steepest part starts right after the camp.
Sun warmed us up long before the last challenging section. We were dripping sweat on the 2km steep uphill to the Piedras Blancas lookout. But once we were on top. WOW! The Fitz Roy Trek ended with the best view in Argentinean Patagonia. The Fitz Roy massif standing so high it was hard to peel my eyes from it.
We hiked down to the Laguna de los Tres and Michal couldn’t resist jumping into the lagoon. He managed to convince another bystander to jump in as well and few others followed.
As we were walking the path on the left side of the lagoon, it led us to the top of the rock where we saw another lagoon: Laguna Sucia. What a nice surprise, we didn’t know there are 2 lagoons next to each other.
It was a very hot day and Michal found another great spot to jump into the Laguna de los Tres on our way back. Full of endorphins we hiked down to El Chalten passing another great sight, a couple of condors meeting at their nest. Shortly after we were watching a big flock of colourful Magellanic woodpeckers. It was interesting to watch how they can peck a huge hole into the tree with just a few strikes.
This day was nothing short of amazing. We highly recommend hiking the Fitz Roy Trek when you visit Patagonia.
Accommodation in El Chalten
The little town of El Chalten is constantly developing. From campsites and hostels to fancy hotels, you can find here anything that suits your style and budget.
We stayed at a campsite in town for 150ARS (10USD) per person.The campsite had regular bathrooms with hot showers, common area with kitchen inside the heated house, wifi, trekking maps and very helpful staff.
More basic campsite with outside kitchen under the shack cost 100ARS (6USD).
When we came in the beginning of April, it was very cold during the night. So after the sun thawed the frost on our tent in the morning, we packed our camp and went to a hostel. After weeks of camping, we wanted to stay somewhere warm so we could wake up early feeling at ease and hike the Fitz Roy Trek.
Basic dorm hostel Las Cuatro Estaciones for only 120ARS (8USD) per person is at the very end of town, right before the trail for the Fitz Roy Trek. It’s usually fully booked and we didn’t find it on any booking sites. If you want to book ahead visit Hostelworld. We enjoyed the comfy feeling of a real bed while staying near the trail and without freezing our butts off in the tent.
Money situation, food, and water
The economic crisis and high inflation is not a welcoming situation for the tourists. Unlike in Venezuela where tourists due to the high inflation of Venezuelan Bolivar can live like millionaires, Argentina is unbelievably expensive. Especially after coming from Chile.
As an example, an outdoor jacket here costs 3 times more than in US or Canadian online store. Due to the high prices, we had to keep our days backpacking Argentina to a minimum.
ATMs in town let you withdraw maximum 2500ARS (145USD) with a 7USD transaction fee. Most of the hostels and restaurants don’t accept debit and credit cards. And exchanging Chilean pesos is not a good idea either. Many places in town exchange other currencies but for half of the actual exchange rate. So that leaves you with using the ATM.
The cheapest meal in the restaurant we could find was chicken with rice for 180ARS (10 USD) but most of the meals are around 20USD. The main problem appears when you go grocery shopping. The 3 little stores are almost empty; at least they were in April. They didn’t leave us with many options for cooking. Most of the products were pasta, pasta sauce, fruit and vegetable and cookies. We were expecting to find more in the trekking capital where dry food is essential.
The little bakery in town hurt our budget but saved our bellies, their pastry is delicious. We chatted with the local baker who told us how difficult the economic situation is for them and how they could hardly survive in El Chalten.
Thanks to the giant ice field on top of the mountains, all taps in town have drinking water. There is even a water tap right next to the big hiking map in the beginning of the Fitz Roy Trek.
So when are you coming down to Patagonia?
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