I got a chance to go to Patagonia Argentina side to hike Monte Fitz Roy in mid-December 2021. At the time, it was during the pandemic and most tourists travelling to Patagonia Argentina side were domestic tourists. Still, I liked the idea of going to Patagonia outside the normal tourist rush. It meant better prices (or so I thought), and less crowding.
After getting a chance to go through this experience, these are the necessary steps to successfully make your way to Patagonia Argentina to hike Monte Fitz Roy:
Buenos Aires to El Calafate (Starting point of Patagonia Argentina side)
When going to Patagonia, chances are, you will be flying out of the Buenos Aires (EZE) domestic terminal. The best way to save money on domestic flight tickets is to pay in cash. The black market (blue market) exchange rate when I travelled back in December fluctuated between 188-192 Argentine Pesos to 1 USD. Finding the right place to exchange your money isn’t difficult and most accommodations can point you out to the right money exchanger. Just make sure you have $50 and $100 USD bills to get the best exchange rate. Many money exchangers won’t accept anything lower than $50 USD.
Once you have the cash, head over to a local Aerolineas ticketing centre in Buenos Aires to purchase your tickets. Prices range between $80 to $280 USD depending on the day and time you fly. If you pay using local currency, then the cost is 8,330 to 29,154 Argentine Pesos. And if you exchange your money in the blue market, you would be saving between 6,710-23,486 pesos on your flight tickets!
Once you have your ticket on hand, you’re ready to fly to El Calafate! Do keep in mind that you will have to check-in at the airport as they don’t seem to have online check-in for Aerolineas.
El Calafate to El Chalten (Starting point of the Patagonia Argentina hike)
After a 3 hour and 15-minute flight from Buenos Aires, you will arrive in El Calafate. This is a small town and gateway for your trip to Argentina Patagonia.
If you decide to stay in El Calafate, you can take the bus going to town which will cost you 700 pesos. You can also purchase a ticket to go to El Chalten from the airport or the central bus terminal for 2,500 pesos one-way.
I personally stayed in El Calafate in an accommodation called Hostel America del sur. It was pretty expensive because they charge in USD. If you try and pay with cash, they will charge you at the “official” rate which makes this accommodation not cheap. I personally do not recommend it.
One good thing about staying in El Calafate the first night is so you can buy groceries there. This can save you money when packing food to bring on your hike up Monte Fitz Roy.
The bus ride between El Calafate and El Chalten is about 3-hours long. They like to crank up the AC in Argentina so it’s good to have a jacket handy. Some of the seats in the bus don’t work well also so hopefully, you get lucky and get a good seat. Most buses are also double-deckers with the upper deck seat being more comfortable than the bottom deck ones.
Once you reach El Chalten, I recommend taking a taxi to your accommodation (500 Pesos each way) if you are travelling with a carry-on suitcase. My wheels broke trying to walk to my hostel because the roads here have tons of pebbles.
I personally stayed at Traveller’s Hostel which is a very good accommodation.
El Chalten to Monte Fitz Roy
You’re now ready to hike up Monte Fitz Roy! Luckily, the trailhead is easy to find. A simple google search will show you the parking lot for the Fitz Roy trailhead. Just walk towards the parking lot from your accommodation and you’ll see the trailhead there.
Don’t forget to apply sunscreen when doing this hike. Even after applying sunscreen, I was still sunburnt to the max. Renting a trekking pole (500 pesos for two) is also a good idea to reduce the pressure on your knees during the steep portions of this hike.
The Monte Fitz Roy hike is not easy. It’s about 21.4km round-trip with an 864m/2835ft elevation gain. The hike will take you between 8-11 hours to complete depending on your fitness level. Karen and I took 11-hours to complete the hike with picture taking and snack breaks in between.
The first 2km or so was a steady incline and wasn’t that bad effort-wise. This is followed by a relatively flat with some ups and downs for the next 6km. The final 2km is a brutal steep hike on loose rocks and feels like it never ends.
The worst part about this hike is not the hike itself. It’s the stupid horseflies that never stop harassing you during the hike. Having a head net mesh will make this hike less infuriating to keep those asshat flies away from you.
The view from the top is spectacular. And if you’re lucky like we were, we even saw a fox eating food that other hikers left behind.
In my opinion, the hike down is so much harder. It just feels like a very long day and my feet were destroyed by the time I got back to our accommodation.
The Patagonia Argentina Monte Fitz Roy hike lives up to the hype. It’s a beautiful hike with lots of annoying horseflies pestering you. That was the only part I didn’t like about this experience. I know some people like El Calafate; but for me, the town is too touristy and expensive for my liking.
I spent 2-nights in El Chalten which felt just right. It was long enough to complete the hike and rest and recover before continuing on my trip to explore Argentina.