Glorious hiking in southern Patagonia
‘Talisman-like’ Monte Fitz Roy attracts thousands of climbers and hikers each year
With its wildly jagged profile, Argentina’s Monte Fitz Roy is one of the world’s most spectacular and recognisable mountains. “Talisman-like”, it attracts thousands of climbers and hikers each year to El Chaltén, the remote village at its foot, says Jonathan Franklin in the FT – a “little paradise” that, with its fabulously fresh air and clean water, could be “the world’s best place to escape the confinement and claustrophobia of the Covid crisis”.
Rising to 3,405 metres, the summit of Fitz Roy is not a realistic goal for most visitors, but there are countless lesser climbs, as well as walks, mountain bike rides and road trips, to enjoy in this dazzling part of southern Patagonia.
In December, a new lodge, the Explora El Chaltén, opened ten miles north of the village, joining six other South American hotels in the Explora group of “expensive but exquisitely located” properties.
Situated in the privately owned, 5,800-hectare Los Huemules Conservation Reserve (named in honour of an endangered species of deer), it was assembled from more than 100 prefabricated parts in order to minimise disruption to its surroundings. The result is stylish and luxurious, with hardwood floors, a full spa, and huge windows affording views of snowcapped peaks.
A day-long hike from the lodge takes you through forests that ring to the “staccato soundtrack” of Magellanic woodpeckers to the Cagliero Glacier, a “tongue of ice” that descends from the peaks and dips into a glassy lake, the Laguna El Diablo.
The views along the way – largely dominated by the summit of Fitz Roy – are dramatic. And a solitary cabin at the water’s edge provides a welcome midway break. It serves a good line in empanadas and has a wide selection of wines, which is impressive given that every bottle has to be “hauled over several mountain valleys” to get there.