Reasons to go to El Chaltén

  • Hit the trail on a series of unbeatable day hikes in the heart of Los Glaciares National Park to Laguna de los Tres, Cerro Torres and beyond
  • Camp in the shadow of Mount Fitz Roy to watch the sunrise over its peak by a turquoise glacial lake
  • Get wild on the Huemul Circuit trek, climbing remote mountain passes and past glaciers to sleep next to the Bay of Icebergs
  • Kayak on the still waters of Lago del Desierto or saddle up to follow the mountain bike trails by its shores
  • Soak up the laidback atmosphere of El Chaltén itself, planning your next hike in its many funky bars and cafes

What can I do around El Chaltén?

Illustrated Guide

When to go to El Chaltén

What to see and do around El Chaltén

Day hiking around Mount Fitz Roy

Female hiker on a day hike from El Chaltén in Los Glaciares

El Chaltén’s unparalleled location in the shadow of Mount Fitz Roy makes it one of the world’s best destinations for day hiking in the mountains. The three most popular day hikes are all around 11 miles (18km) in length. 

Laguna de Los Tres is probably El Chaltén’s most celebrated day hike, which takes you past the epic Piedras Blancas glacier to an unearthly turquoise glacial lake that’s entirely overlooked by the craggy peak of Mount Fitz Roy

The second most popular day hike from El Chaltén is to Cerro Torre, whose narrow pinnacle points to the heavens, while sheltering another extraordinary lake – this time bobbing with icebergs from the neighbouring glacier.

To see the Fitz Roy massif in its full wide-angle glory, try Loma del Pliegue Tumbado, a slowly ascending day hike to a series of extraordinary panoramas across the entire mountain range.

There are also plenty of wonderful shorter hikes around El Chaltén to be enjoyed. Nearby Lago del Desierto offers the picturesque Huemul hanging glacier with its pretty lake, while you can do a great round trip from town through the Huemules Reserve to Puesto Cagliero, a mountain refuge tucked under yet another beautiful hanging glacier. 

If you want to stay even closer to town and just have an hour or two, try the mountain viewpoint at Mirador Condores, or the forest walk to the Chorillo de Salto waterfall. 

Multi-day hiking trips beyond Mount Fitz Roy

Glacier hiking on the Southern Ice Field expedition

El Chaltén’s two most popular day hikes – Laguna de Los Tres and Cerro Torre – can easily be joined together with an overnight camping stop to form a delightful two day trek. Getting to catch the evening sunsets after the day hikers have returned to town, and waking up to sunrise in the mountains make this a real Los Glaciares highlight.

For those looking to push themselves a little more, the four day Huemul Circuit is undoubtedly one of the best ways to explore the remote corners of the national park. The circuit involves ascents of the dramatic Viento and Huemul mountain passes, takes you hiking alongside the Viedma glacier and has you wild camping on the shores of the Bay of Icebergs.

The ultimate route in El Chaltén is the eight day South Patagonian Ice Field Expedition which loops around the back of Mount Fitz Roy and involves snowshoeing and dodging crevasses on the South Patagonian Ice Field itself. More than just a hike, it requires a high level of fitness and willingness to adapt to continually changing and unpredictable conditions. The challenges shouldn’t be underestimated but the rewards are immense.

An equivalent wild experience (albeit slightly less demanding), is the Los Glaciares Wilderness Trek, which involves five nights of wild camping along glaciers, rivers and forests in some very little-visited areas of the national park.

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Harriet says

I've spent over 500 days trekking in the Andes, Himalayas, Caucasus and Alps, but nowhere beats El Chaltén for day hiking​. Where else can you walk straight out of your hotel onto the trailhead and be sat next to a glacier and a mile high granite spire to eat your lunch?

Harriet Pike Head of Swoop Patagonia

Rock Climbing & Mountaineering around El Chaltén

El Chalten Mountaineering

Climbers have been coming to the Fitz Roy massif since before El Chaltén was even founded, and the town continues to be a major draw today. The many large granite faces of the Fitz Roy massif make it the perfect launchpad for climbers and mountaineers, with a number of one day ascents available (if you're a beginner and just want a taste of rock climbing, then introductory lesson can be arranged to build your skills).

Cerro Madsen (5925ft/1806m) near Laguna Torre is a suitable introductory climb for beginners, whilst Cerro Vespignani (7040ft/2146m) is a good glacier-level introductory climb further north. For those climbers looking for a more technical challenge, Cerro Electrico (7405ft/2257m) is a perfect choice.

Multi-day ascents are also available. Gorra Blanca (2910) stands guard over the Ice Field, and although it is a physically demanding climb, it is also one of the less-technically challenging peaks. Cerro Solo (6630 ft/2221m) offers a more technical ascent. 

Experienced rock climbers have a whole host of routes to choose from and El Chaltén has plenty of equipment shops in town to rent gear if required.

Kayaking & mountain biking around El Chaltén

Kayaking on Lago del Desierto near El Chaltén in Los Glaciares

While the temptations of the Fitz Roy massif are undeniable, El Chaltén has far more to offer than just hiking. The surrounding area offers plenty of options to explore with a variety of adventure sports activities.

Kayaking is available in several locations close to El Chaltén. A favourite is at Lago del Desierto – a 90 minute from the town, where you can combine paddling on the lake with a short hike to the Huemul hanging glacier. The northern stretch of the Rio de La Vueltas offers gentle paddling suitable for beginners that takes you past mountains and swathes of lenga forest. Further upriver where the canyons narrow, the river builds in size and strength to sections of adrenaline-pumping Grade 4 rapids that are perfect for whitewater rafting. There are further kayaking opportunities on the river at Rio La Léona between El Chaltén and El Calafate.

The scenic gravel road from El Chaltén to Lago del Desierto is also perfect for mountain biking, especially if you’re heading away from town to take advantage of the prevailing winds. Waterfalls, small lakes and sweeping mountain vistas can all be enjoyed from the saddle.

If you want to combine as many activities as possible, Swoop's Los Glaciares Multisport Adventure offers the chance to try out the best, along with a taste of rock climbing and some of El Chaltén's most scenic hikes.

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Swoop says

Most people spend a minimum of three days in El Chaltén to make the most of the day hikes. However, if you're an experienced hiker we recommend you spend longer to really make the most of the off the beaten track trails – as well as soaking up the town's fantastic atmosphere.

Exploring El Chaltén town

View of the centre of El Chalten town

One of the great attractions of hiking around Fitz Roy is getting to spend time in El Chaltén itself.

Although it’s little more than a village in size, El Chaltén in the hiking season can feel a lot like the centre of the outdoor and adventure sports universe. Its streets have a host of funky cafes and bars to relax in as well as all the outdoor gear shops you’ll need if you want to buy extra supplies. On top of this, the local food scene is booming snd chefs flock here from Buenos Aires for a taste of the mountain lifestyle.

El Chaltén an incredibly laidback place with a ‘frontier town meets rustic ski resort’ vibe. You’ll find plenty of first time hikers, serious trekkers and avid mountaineers here, all looking forward to adventure or sharing stories from the trail. When the mountains are this close, there’s always something to talk about over a craft beer or glass of malbec – all before you get ready to get out hiking again the following morning. It’s the kind of town where you can easily spend an extra day or so just soaking up between trails.

With so many hikes within easy reach, El Chaltén has little need for formal attractions, but make time to visit the Capilla de los Escaladores, a simple chapel paying tribute to the climbers and trekkers lost in the mountains in modern times.

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What our customers think of El Chaltén

El Chaltén trips scored 4.4/5 from 259 reviews

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If you happen to be in Chalten, get a completos from the food truck if it's there - you won't regret it.

Travelled: November 2017

Sonia - Canada

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El Chalten was our favourite town. Loved the funky, hippy, healthy vibe of the place.

Travelled: March 2017

Ellen and John - Georgia

El Chalten is a small town completely dedicated to helping tourists enjoy some of the most amazing mountains on earth. The trekking is relatively easy. The views of the mountains are almost unbelievable. We were blessed with clear sunny weather the whole time. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2023

Peter Heywood - UK

We also loved the horseback riding and lunch at Estancia Bonanza. What a special place!!!!! The best lamb we had in all of Argentina and the staff made us feel like part of the family. Gorgeous property!! Read the full review

Travelled: December 2022

Andrea Cohen - USA

Wonderful mountain range; beautiful valley with curving river; cute little town. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2022

Mei-Mei Kirk - USA

This is a most beautiful part of the world and to have the opportunity to explore it on foot was truly wonderful. We were also very lucky with the weather! Read the full review

Travelled: December 2022

Lynne Harris - USA

Go to El Chalten!! It was totally worth the extra leg of travel. Don’t be intimidated by the hike lengths. You find that extra gear when surrounded by the scenery. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2022

Alexander Miller - USA

This trip has definitely opened our eyes to what is possible to plan and do in a few days, especially with help from Swoop. Having the opportunity to experience such a unique part of the world in such a seamless way was amazing. Read the full review

Travelled: March 2019

Katherine Cappellacci - Costa Rica

Both El Calafate and El Chalten were fun to spend time in. Great shopping and food, showers too! Read the full review

Travelled: February 2019

Brian McIntyre - United States Of America

Amazing! It's a land of immense beauty, I've seen nothing like this. We saw Fitz Roy in the best weather possible and it takes your breath away. Grueling hike to the base of the towers in Torres del Paine brings a magical moment of first seeing them in the clearing in the clouds and staying in full view. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2019

Elen Ace - Canada

El Chalten turned out to be our favourite place of the trip - such a lovely, charming town with amazing restaurants and bars! Read the full review

Travelled: December 2018

Anne Marie McGonigal - United Kingdom

I really enjoyed El Chalten – it's a great size for a trekking type town and a fantastic base from which to explore the surrounding areas. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2018

Amil Patel - United Kingdom

Our guide was awesome. His knowledge and commitment clearly made the difference – and was the primary reason why you should do this trip with a guide, and not just on your own. What would we tell family and friends? Go there! You won't regret it. Read the full review

Travelled: October 2018

Henrik Sand - Denmark

Pay guide gratuity in euros or US dollars rather than the local currency so that you don't get stuck with too many AR Pesos – their currency is not accepted outside of their country, including Chile. Read the full review

Travelled: September 2018

Tracie Wingo - USA

El Chalten is special. Although a remote town, we (as outdoors people) felt at home with the vibe and the people. The popular hiking trails were well-maintained, but we were very glad to have our guide lead us on the lesser-travelled paths as there were areas we would have had a difficult time determining our way.

Travelled: November 2017

Sarah and Jason - Colorado, USA

Overall El Chalten was my favourite place! I hiked every day and it was very easy to find the routes and they all led to stunning viewpoints.

Travelled: February 2017

Hannah - UK

Some of the most beautiful hiking we have ever done.

Travelled: December 2016

Rachel -


Where to stay in El Chaltén

Sunset view of Mount Fitz Roy from Chalten Camp in Los Glaciares

One of the greatest attractions to El Chaltén is being able to walk straight from your hotel door onto a hiking trail and the town has plenty of accommodation options to choose from. According to your taste and budget options include basic guesthouses (hosterías) charming B&Bs, alpine-style lodges and upmarket hotels.

If you want to range slightly further from El Chaltén, you can find a number of excellent luxury lodges for total seclusion. There are also several excellent estancias close to El Chaltén if you're after more of a gaucho experience.

There aren't refugios on the hiking trails around El Chaltén in the same way as you'll find in Torres del Paine, but there are some excellent upmarket camping (or glamping) options near to El Chaltén.

How to get to El Chaltén

El Chalten How to get there

El Chaltén is 135 miles (215km) north of El Calafate and its airport – the main gateway to Los Glaciares National Park. There are regular buses between the two, though as El Chaltén's bus station is on the edge of town it's often easier to take a shuttle or private transfer direct to your hotel. The journey takes around three hours.

The road from El Calafate to El Chaltén is a particularly scenic route, passing close to Lago Viedma before the massed peaks of the Fitz Roy range loom above you in the final approach to the town. Rarely does a mountain range so dramatically announce its arrival. If you're driving this route, you can break the journey with a stop at the petrified forest at La Leona, roughly halfway between the two towns.

Flights from Buenos Aires to El Calafate airport (airport code FTE) take around three hours. In high season there are as many as six flights a day, as well as connections to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, Bariloche in the Lake District, Trelew (for Peninsula Valdes) and Cordoba.

If you're travelling from Chile, it's effectively a day's travel from El Chaltén to Torres del Paine National Park. From El Calafate, allow 5-7 hours to cross the border by road to Puerto Natales and then a further 2½ hours by road to Torres del Paine.

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