Enter your email address

The One Place You Need To Go Hiking In Patagonia – El Chalten, Argentina

by Tony · 10 comments

Hiking Patagonia

Welcome to Mount Fitz-Roy, stretching high above the tiny town of El Chalten, Argentina and offering some of the best hiking in Patagonia.

Trekking In PatagoniaThis town was first established in 1985 for the sole purpose of aiding in a border dispute with Chile. Since then, it has become the base for backpacking day-hikers and some of the most badass climbers in the world.

Trails to the base of Mount Fitz-Roy and Cerro Torre are fairly easy and can easily be ascended in 4-5 hours (round-trip time of 8-10 hours). While the degree of slope at some points in the hike might test the less physically fit, there is no need for any technical training.

If it is a clear day, be sure to bring a good pair of binoculars as you might be lucky enough to witness a few rock climbers attempt to scale the sheer faces of the nearby mountain peaks. These climbs were at one-time considered the most technically difficult in the world and are still difficult enough to only allow for a few people to reach the summit every year.

Hiking In Patagonia – Why El Chalten?

Some of our most fond memories from the past year come from this town of just 6,000 people.  If you like hiking, you can’t help but love this sleepy town:

Hiking In Patagonia

  • Numerous different day-hikes of length and difficulty all beginning right from the hostel door.
  • With the draw of the technically challenging mountain peaks, you, as a day-hiker, will get the opportunity to meet some incredible mountain climbers and get to hear ridiculous stories. This is definitely not as common on the more touristy trails at more well known locations.
  • Spectacular views and breathtaking beauty that is tough to find anywhere else.
  • The town is full of people just like you… the only tourists who make it to El Chalten are the ones looking to hike. No partiers. No families. Just hikers.

How To Get To El Chalten – The Scenic Way

El chalten map

We started our Patagonia adventures on the Chilean side and flew into Punta Arenas. From here, we took a 4.5 hour bus ride north to Puerto Natales, which is the jumping off point to Torres del Paine.

When venturing to Patagonia, the guidebooks might steer you towards Torres del Paine (I won’t disagree that the trails there are spectacular). But you will most likely have to rent camping equipment and only if you are as insane and ignorant of the basic procedures as we were will you even attempt to do a day hike there.

Learn from our mistakes: It’s a 2 hour bus ride from the nearest town and the last bus back to the nearest hostel leaves a few hours before sunset. This means you will HUSTLE up and down the only day-hikable trail (to Mirador Las Torres) if you don’t want to pay extra to sleep in a mountain side cabin or rent a tent.

While we were able to do this day-hike, the stress of jogging up and down the mountain in order to catch the last bus left us drained. So we bailed on the remaining planned hikes in Torres del Paine and took a 4 hour bus ride to El Calafate.

El Calafate is home to the Perito Moreno Glacier. Definitely worth a stop.

Perito Moreno Glacier

From El Calafate, it is only one more 4 hour bus ride until you reach El Chalten! Not a bad little road trip and you get to see a variety of amazing things that Patagonia has on display.

El Chalten Patagonia

Do me a favor: Put El Chalten on your must-see list for when you go to Patagonia and let me know what you think. Get your hike on!

About Tony
Quit his job to try actually following his dreams for once... and is currently loving it. He is working hard to to make this life-style permanent by writing about his adventures and brainstorming money making opportunities with his partner-in-crime, Meg.

JR April 7, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Tony, What sites. Which one of these hikes did the rooster pay a visit? I would love to do El Chalten. If you could only do one hike would this be the one?

Tony April 8, 2013 at 2:06 pm

hahaha Great rooster tail reference…. This place is definitely a top recommendation because of the ease of all the hikes. There are probably 3-4 great day long hikes reachable by walking from the local hotels. Hard to find that anywhere else!

As always though… I still say if you’re in North America, some of the best hikes are in yellowstone/the grand tetons and from what I’ve heard, in the canadian rockies. Those are high up on our list!

nick February 5, 2014 at 1:24 am


Great post. I was in the middle of planning a few days to Torres del Paine for hiking, but your post and a few others persuaded me to re-arrange my trip to include more days in el Chalten. I’m wondering, are there any campsites near/on these trails? I’d like to truly backpack and avoid the hostels/hotels altogether, if possible.


Tony February 5, 2014 at 8:37 am

Staying at the hostels was so easy, that was we never explored campsites. But I did know a few mountain climbers who would just backpack in and camp off the trail. There were very few people down there so almost anything goes…

That being said, there is a ranger station at the edge of town that might do patrols, so watch out! You might want to explore some climbing forums as the climbers have to camp as the beginning of the cliffs is too far from town.

Happy travels, Nick!


Lucila February 12, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Hi There! I’ve been to El Chaltén a few years ago, and I am going there in a few days as well. I’m from Argentina and have to say, it’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited :)
And yes, there are campsites near the trails. There is one camp inside the village itself, called El Relincho. But if you are looking for others nearer to the trails, maybe this image will help: http://senderoslatinoamericanos.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Argentina_ElChalten_Mapa_senderos_autoguiados.jpg Obviously, the icons that seems to be a tent, are campsites. Some of them you have to pay(Piedra del fraile, del desierto and Punta Norte I believe), and others are totally free with minimum facilities. Hope this helps!

Tony February 12, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Thanks for helping out with the advice, Lucila! Love getting someone from the area to share their tips :)

I have vague memories of seeing campgrounds on our hike up the mountain, but wasn’t positive. So glad you cleared it up!

(I’m jealous you’re going back to El Chalten in a few days by the way… Sounds amazing!)

christa July 18, 2014 at 3:17 am

I am really looking to go to Patagonia for my honeymoon. I think it is beautiful and surreal! I want to be away from the busy life and be with nature and my husband. I do however have a question….I am not in the best shape ever. I get a little winded here and there on hikes too steep here on Oahu. Is it all really hard hikes? Or are they all different skill levels? And if we don’t want to do a 10hr hike due to going back to the hotel or what not…is it worth it to turn around? Thank you for the tips!

Tony July 27, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Patagonia is HUGE and you can definitely find hikes that are easier than others. El Chalten has a lot of great hikes that you can find right out your hostel door… but the best ones are definitely the ones that go way up the mountains. There are some cool hikes that barely go uphill but go to waterfalls in el chalten.

We went to the top of one of the nearby hikes in one day from our hostel. It was definitely a hard hike the final hour… and the final hour was the best view. You can also to check out the Perito Merino Glacier which is about 7 hours away from el chalten. You can take a bus to the lookout point and walk around for a few hours. HIGHLY recommend you do this.

Hope this helps, Christa!

Brian January 6, 2015 at 6:12 pm

Tony, great post and totally agree that El Chalten is a spectacular hiking destination. We also did the W trek in Torres del Paine, which was equally stunning. For those trying to decide between the two, here is an overview of the two options that may help you decide: http://beachesandbackpacks.com/2015/01/06/the-best-trekking-in-patagonia-el-chalten-vs-torres-del-paine/

Tony January 7, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Thanks for sharing, Brian!

Great comparison between the two hikes. We did The Towers hike in Torres del Paine (a big fire had shut down the W when we were there) and it was crazy rushed trying to get it done in a day. We should have at least booked a cabin to stay the night because trying to take a bus in and out on the same day was so stupid… we ran up the mountain!

Both were awesome hikes though. We seriously loved Patagonia and it’s much less traveled by Americans, so it was nice to cross that off of our wish list :)


Comments on this entry are closed.

Older post:

Newer post: