Hiking

Camping El Chaltén: a guide to free sites

Patagonia can be expensive to travel, with accommodation prices among the highest in South America. For the money-conscious hiker, El Chaltén on the Argentina side has a range of free campsites to explore the scenery.

Camping El Chaltén and the surrounding area is an excellent option for adventure travellers mindful of budget. Or perhaps you just love to get outdoors! Either way, we’ve put together this handy little guide to the best campsites for trekking around El Chaltén.

Free campsites in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares

The most popular trekking routes from El Chaltén are to the west of the town in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. This is where you will find iconic sights like Mount Fitz Roy, Laguna de los Tres, Cerro Torre and Glaciar Torre.

Throughout this area there is a choice of free campsites located close to the natural landmarks along the hiking trails.

The peaks of Cerro Torre and Mount Fitz Roy, seen in the distance here, are the iconic images of El Chaltén
The peaks of Cerro Torre and Mount Fitz Roy, seen in the distance here, are the iconic images of El Chaltén

Campamento Poincenot

This is is the main camping spot for trekkers who want to see the famous image of Mount Fitz Roy at sunrise over Laguna de los Tres.

It’s about a 10-kilometre hike from El Chaltén town, and located conveniently close to the starting point for ascending to Laguna de los Tres.

The site is set in a forested area, which provides some respite from the strong Patagonian winds. There are two toilets on site. A short walk away, in the clearing towards Mount Fitz Roy, a stream provides perfectly safe natural drinking water.

From Campamento Poincenot, the climb to Laguna de Los Tres is roughly 2 kilometres and around 400 metres’ elevation gain. If you’re going for sunrise, allow at least an hour for the ascent. We set off at 5am for a 6:15am sunrise, and made it just in time!

View Campamento Poincenot on map

Campamento Poincenot has toilets on site, but also suggests alternatives!
Campamento Poincenot has toilets on site, but also suggests alternatives!

Camping de Agostini

This is the campsite closest to Laguna Torre. The tent pitches are just a couple of minutes’ walk from a fantastic view of Cerro Torre over the lake.

Camping de Agostini is about a 9-kilometre hike from El Chaltén, clearly signposted all the way. There are kilometre markers, making it easy to pace your trek.

If you’re taking on a multi-day hike, it’s approximately 17 kilometres’ hiking distance from Campamento Poincenot.

The camping area is under cover of trees, and not far from a flowing river for drinking water. Toilets are provided.

From Camping de Agostini you can also take a 2.5-kilometre walk around Laguna Torre to Mirador Maestri, where you will find spectacular views of Glaciar Torre, part of the South Patagonian Ice Field. We made sure we had time to fit this into our itinerary and we would highly recommend it.

View Camping de Agostini on map

We spent a night of our El Chaltén trail in Camping Agostini, close to clean water and great views
We spent a night of our El Chaltén trail in Camping Agostini, close to clean water and great views

Campamento Laguna Capri

Laguna Capri a short distance from the main trail, and a good option for multi-day hikers who want to explore the area in depth. The lake offers a picturesque alternative view of Mount Fitz Roy over its blue-green waters.

Campamento Laguna Capri is a small, free campsite situated among a sprout of trees close to the shore of the lake. Like the other camping spots in the area, a toilet is provided, and clean natural water nearby.

You can find Campamento Laguna Capri by taking a short detour from the route between El Chaltén and Campamento Poincenot. About an hour into the trail from the town, after 3 kilometres or so of steep uphill gradient, you will see a signposted diversion to Laguna Capri.

If you don’t want to make the early morning hike up to Laguna de los Tres, Laguna Capri is a great way to see the sunrise on Mount Fitz Roy from afar. 

View Campamento Laguna Capri on map

Laguna Capri is visible in the distance from Laguna de los Tres
Laguna Capri is visible in the distance from Laguna de los Tres

Campsites around El Chaltén town

Many trekkers prefer to stay in hostels or hotels in El Chaltén for an injection of comfort either side of a strenuous hike. For ultimate outdoor types, though, there are options for camping in the town.

Camping El Relincho

  • Price: 150–430 pesos per person dependent on season
  • View on map

Camping El Relincho is located conveniently on Avenida San Martin, the main road in El Chaltén. It is not far from the starting point of the main trekking route to Laguna de los Tres.

It offers good facilities, including hot showers and an indoor communal area for preparing trekking food and meeting other travellers. There is no wifi.

Camping La Torcida

  • Price: USD 6 in high season / USD 8 in low season
  • View on map

Camping La Torcida is located on the south-west side of El Chaltén, close to the starting point for the hiking trail to Laguna Torre. It is in a scenic open setting near the Rio Negro, but vulnerable to strong wind and rain. You may need a good tent!

It is a fairly small, family-run campsite with 20 pitches available. The facilities include hot showers, toilets, electricity points and wifi. There is a kitchen on site but you may need to bring your own utensils.

There is a house in the grounds for common use, with books and board games provided. The staff are knowledgeable about the local trails and happy to provide information and advice.

Camping La Torcida is close to the starting point for the trail to Laguna Torre
Camping La Torcida is close to the starting point for the trail to Laguna Torre

Eco domes: a new option north of El Chaltén

An  option for the slightly more luxury yet sustainably minded traveller is to stay in an eco-dome site. There are two of these around 12 kilometres north of El Chaltén: EcoCamp Patagonia Domes and Bonanza Eco Aventura Camping.

The concept uses geodesic dome lodgings, with shared bathroom spaces and community domes offering charging points. Shared domes are available for solo travellers.

Eco domes are an alternative option for those who prefer to stay in comfort and take day hikes into the national park. Situated north of the town, the hiking route to Laguna de los Tres is easily accessible.

El Chaltén: a mountain town with some of Argentina's best hiking trails
El Chaltén: a mountain town with some of Argentina’s best hiking trails

Camping El Chaltén: what to know before you go

For a guide to the popular hiking trails in the area, you can check out our article on El Chaltén trekking.

The local routes are well-suited to people with limited trekking experience. The pathways are well maintained and the routes clearly marked. While there is some uphill work, with a decent level of fitness it is manageable.

If you are planning to camp during your visit to El Chaltén, you may find the following tips useful:

  • Most campsites have no lighting. Make sure you bring a torch – you’ll be glad for it when you need the bathroom in the night;
  • Don’t camp anywhere in the national park other than in official campsites;
  • Avoid lighting fires in campsites – bring pre-prepared meals;
  • Water from streams and rivers in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares is safe to drink, but visitors need to be respectful to keep it that way. Don’t wash in the natural water sources, and stay at least 30 metres away if you go to the bathroom;
  • While the weather can be very cold in Patagonia, the sun is also fierce at times – bring sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat;
  • Unless you are a highly experienced hiker, do not leave the marked trails;
  • Hike with a partner or a group. If you get lost or injured, there aren’t many rangers about;
  • Keep the campsites and park clean. Take your litter with you;
  • Do not feed animals in the park, or wild dogs in the town;
  • On the incredibly rare occ you meet a puma and it becomes aggressive, stay calm, make yourself big, shout, and throw rocks;
  • Pace yourself, drink plenty of water, and – most importantly – don’t forget to look around and enjoy the amazing scenery!

Have you camped near El Chaltén? Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

Are you planning on camping in Torres Del Paine during your Patagonia trip? Check out our guide to the W Trek for novices.

Check out our suggested Patagonia itineraries for 28 days and two weeks for help with planning your trip.

For practical information on the region, check out our articles on how much a Patagonia trip costs and how to get around Patagonia by bus.

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Patagonia can be expensive to travel, with accommodation prices among the highest in South America. For the money-conscious hiker, El Chaltén on the Argentina side has a range of free campsites to explore the scenery. Read our handy guide to find them.

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