El Chaltén’s claim to fame – the majestic Mount Fitz Roy, known as Cerro Chaltén in the native Tehuelche dialect, meaning “smoking mountain”. This beauty attracts mountain lovers from around the world and can be a trek to get to. Those who make the trip are rewarded with views of the 11,000 ft high peak, the surrounding lakes, glaciers, and endless opportunities for adventure.
If you’re planning a trip to Patagonia – start here for an overview where I cover what to consider before booking your trip, route options and transportation. We did a 2 week long trip that included backpacking the W Trek in Torres Del Paine, a road trip to El Calafate and El Chaltén, and ended our time with site-seeing and wine tasting in Santiago, Chile. Overall, hiking around Fitz Roy and staying in El Chalten may have been the highlight of my trip!
Google pictures of Fitz Roy and that should be enough to convince you! But really,
El Chaltén is remote so proper planning is essential to saving yourself from headaches down the road.
Not the easiest location to get to but definitely one of the most worthwhile stops, El Chalten is about 2.5 hours from the nearest airport. Travel typically starts with a long flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina and from there, flying to El Calafate and driving or private transfer to El Chalten.
Our route started us on the Chilean side, exploring around Peurto Natales and renting a car from there. We then drove across the Argentinian/Chilean border into El Calafate to explore some more before driving to El Chalten and back to Puerto Natales. This worked well for us and I would recommend a rental car for the most convenient travel (though not the most cost-effective option).
We completed Laguna De Los Tres and Laguna Torre, both of which provide stunning views of Fitz Roy and alpine lakes. If I could only choose one, it would be Laguna De Los Tres for sure. Both hikes offer different perspectives of Fitz Roy but Laguna De Los Tres gets you closer and a grander view, although it is a much harder hike.
Distance: 26km (16 mi)
Elevation: 3326 ft
Duration: 8-10 hours (or 6-7 hours with taxi)
The trail starts on the edge of town and winds up into the mountains. The first sector is very steep, eventually it leveled off after a couple miles. The middle sector was easy going and followed a river towards the base of the climb to the Laguna. The first 6 miles of the hike only took us about two and a half hours, but the final climb rose over 1,000 feet in 0.6 miles. We finished the climb in just over 45 minutes, finally got a glimpse of the beautiful summit views and Fitz Roy. Two glacial lakes, one frozen and one not, sat below the snow covered limestone peaks. The weather cooperated with a clear sky, low wind and sunshine; a couple clouds went in and out around Fitz Roy which was very fitting of it’s “Smoking Mountain” name. We ate lunch enjoying the view, along with quite a few other visitors, and descended back down the mountain.
To shorten the hike, we took the Rio Blanco trail down to the backside of the mountain and saw the Glacier Blanco on the opposite side of the valley. We ended up at a hostel called El Pilar. They called a cab for us that took us back to El Chaltén on some back dirt roads for 20 USD (though they didn’t seem too happy to call a cab for us).
This is a very popular hike so be sure to start early if you want to avoid the crowds.
Another beautiful hike to see Cerro Fitz Roy but much easier in my opinion. I liked seeing more variety in landscape on this hike, as well. The terrain is pretty easy, a slight climb as your approach Lago Torre, and there’s a glacier! Once you reach the lake, you can continue on to Mirador Maestri (after a week of hiking we were much too sore to venture past the lake). We also saw some large hawks at the lake.
For both days of hiking, we started semi-early at around 8am and there were still a good amount of people on the trails. If you want the place more to yourself, then definitely get started earlier than that.
For such a remote little mountain town, El Chaltén has a bustling restaurant scene.
Breakfast: La Wafleria hands down has some of the best waffles and coffee. We visited two days in a row (mostly for dessert but a great breakfast spot).
Packed Lunches: Stop by Panaderia Y Cafeteria Lo De Haydee in the mornings to get a “boxed lunch” to take with you on a hike. You can choose a sandwich, fruit, pastry, juice, all for about $8 USD. Lots of food for cheap!
Dinner: Our favorite dinner time activity was hopping around to the different restaurants for an appetizer and a local beer. We never really had a bad experience but a few favorites were the French fries and beer at B&B, Bourbon Smokehouse and Restaurante Ahonikenk Chalten Fonda for tapas and wine.
Dessert: Domo Blanco Ice Cream shop – you must visit. This was some of the best ice cream I have ever had.
We stayed at Los Cerros Boutique Hotel and thoroughly enjoyed our stay. I chose this option originally because all of the more affordable options were booked up and I knew after backpacking and staying in hostels I would thank myself later for splurging. And I did – I loved this hotel. I could on forever about the views, the breakfast, the staff (Patricio!). Make sure to book early if you don’t want to splurge or be stuck with a less than ideal lodging option.. more than 4 months early. We used booking.com without any issues.
The hotel was a short walk down to the Main Street so it was very easy to walk about for dinner and exploring the town. The town is easily walkable so I wouldn’t worry too much about your lodging location being close enough to the main eateries.
Some other options that looked great from the outside –
So that’s it for El Chaltén and the beautiful Cerro Fitz Roy. I’d love to know your thoughts if you’ve ever been or plan to go so comment below and connect with me on social!
Happy Travels xx