During our trip to Patagonia we stayed at the Torres del Paine National Park 3 unforgettable days. We stayed in Puerto Natales, about 100km further south, and moved within the day. At the bottom of the article you will also find some practical information.
The Paine Massif
Established in 1959, the Torres del Paine National Park is one of the most important National Parks in the Chilean Patagonia and it has been declared UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1978.
Ranked in 2013 as the XNUMXth most beautiful place in the world since National Geographic, for me it was one of the most dreamed places of my entire life and it did not disappoint me at all.
The views, especially on fine days, are breathtaking: granite peaks and glaciers alternate with boundless open spaces and turquoise lakes and the imposing Cerro Paine complex with him sue Torres ed i suoi Cuernos.
The Park also includes a wide variety of fauna and flora. In addition to the famous puma that everyone hopes to meet (but better not put your heart on it, it is very difficult to spot one) in the Park live vicuñas, rheas, condors, flamingos and many other species of birds and wild animals.
Day 1: trekking to the Mirador Torres del Paine (18 Km)
The lagoon at the foot of the Torres del Paine. You can get here by following the signs for Mirador Torres del Paine
The first day we decided to dedicate it to trekking. In the National Park you are spoiled for choice, the paths are many and all beautiful.
Surely the most popular route is what is called the trekking W (if you wonder why this name is given, look at the map: the itinerary has the shape of a w) which can be covered in 4 or (better) 5 days, and the circuit O to travel which better to budget 9 days.
Along both routes there are campamentos or refugios where you can sleep and order a hot dinner. Basic book in advance especially in high season and also budget a fair amount. Prices are not the cheapest.
However, if you have only one day available and you have to choose the best (and also the most famous) in my opinion is to travel a part of the W known as the Torres del Paine viewpoint.
Do you want to go trekking to Torres del Paine? Maybe you might like how organize a trek to Torres del Paine
Actually I would have liked to do the whole W, but we were very tired from the previous days trekking and we decided to take things more calmly and enjoy them a little more.
To get to the top of Mirador Torres del Paine I walked for more than 3 hours, the last difficult and exhausting hour. The day was not the best and there were few hikers along the trail. At a certain point towards the middle of the climb I began to see the three peaks, I saw them getting closer and closer but it seemed to me that I never got there.
But I have a trick: every time I walk uphill and I think I can't do it anymore, what helps me to move forward, to keep putting one foot in front of the other, is the memory of when my dad taught me as a young girl. walking in the mountains.
The trek to the Base de las Torres
Even today, every time I feel exhausted, his words come back to my mind: "Find your pace, the one that is most comfortable for you, no matter if slow or fast, and follow it" he said to me.
I still like his words very much today, I think they are perfectly adaptable to life as well.
So I made it almost to the top when a Spanish guy asks me if everything is ok and if I want to climb with him. So I decide to do the last stretch together until, between a chat and the other, I realize that I have reached the Base of the Towers: in front of us the Tre Torri del Paine and the green lagoon at their feet.
Probably only the Three Towers alone are worth the trip to Patagonia and rival in beauty only with the Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre in Argentina.
I stood in front of the three imposing granite peaks for only a few minutes and under a light drizzle, just long enough to take two photos and catch my breath. Then the clouds almost completely covered the Towers and I decided it was time to go back.
As I went down, however, I made a promise: sooner or later I have to come back here to relive the emotions I experienced on this wonderful day.
Day 2: Full Day Tour to Torres del Paine National Park
A guanaco seems to be a small lookout for the Cuernos del Paine
Surely the best way to fully experience the National Park is to do the whole W trek in several days. Waking up at dawn with the granite peaks of the Cuernos del Paine illuminated by the first rays of the sun it is certainly an unforgettable sight. Unfortunately, if you do not have enough time or do not find a place in the refugios within the National Park, it becomes impossible to do so.
The alternative we chose, not having enough time to travel the whole W, was to contact an agency in Puerto Natales and buy a daily tour which by bus takes you to all the major points of interest in the Park that can be reached by car. The tour is a bit rushed in some cases, but in my opinion it is the best way to see the Park in just one day.
Sarmiento de Gamboa Lake
The Mirador del Lago Sarmiento de Gamboa, yes I know you can't see the lake but I wanted to photograph the guanaco!
The first stop of the minibus is on the shores of this large lake (90 square kilometers) which takes its name from the Spanish explorer Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa. From this deep blue mirror you have a magnificent view of the Torres del Paine granite massif.
Along the way there are also many nice guanacos who here, unlike other parts of Patagonia, seem to be much less afraid of people and let themselves get close enough to take home some nice photos.
Mirador of the Laguna Amarga. the lucky ones will also be able to spot many flamingos here.
Another body of water of a very different shade of color from Lake Sarmiento from which you have another beautiful view of the Tre Torri del Paine and on which, if you are lucky, you can see flamingos.
A little further on is the "Estancia Laguna Amarga" which is the entry point of the National Park and where you are asked to pay the entrance ticket (about 25 euros) which is valid for 3 days.
The view from the mirador Nordenskjold on the homonymous lake and the Paine massif literally takes your breath away
Il Mirador Nordenskjold takes its name from the lake below. From here there is a magnificent view of the Cuernos del Paine. The stop is a few minutes, but enough to take excellent photographs.
The only waterfall that can be visited on this day. You have to walk for about ten minutes from the car park to get to the imposing waterfall, famous for creating small rainbows on the water thanks to the steam. Also from here you have a beautiful view of the Cuernos Del Paine.
The whole area around is very beautiful, rich in fauna (on the path I had a nice encounter with an armadillo!) And flora. The plant that is the host you will recognize immediately for the beautiful red flowers: it is theEmbothium Coccineum, better known as the Chilean fire-bush.
the Paine massif, seen from Lake Pehoe. here is also one of the most romantic hotels in all of Patagonia
Probably one of the most famous places in the Park is this cobalt blue lake. In the tour it is also chosen as a place for lunch for thehotels which is located on a small island which is accessed by a bridge.
Icebergs in the Gray Lagoon
I love this lagoon. Created by Gray glacier it is a large lake dotted with icebergs of a thousand shades of blue. The route runs along the south shore of the lake (opposite the glacier to the north) and offers fabulous and dramatic views of the Cuernos del Paine.
A little uphill there is a path that leads to a panoramic point.
The Cueva of the prehistoric sloth, the Milodon
Declared a historic monument in 1968 and a national monument in 1993, the Milodon Caves were discovered by the German pioneer Hermann Eberhard in 1865.
Inside them were found the remains, bones and skin, of an extinct prehistoric animal, the Milodon, a sloth the size of a bear.
A path of walkways leads to the entrance and inside the majestic cave, inside which there is a reproduction (in plastic!) Of the ancient animal.
La Milodon Cave it is not located inside the National Park, but is still included in the full day tour as it is on the way back about 1 km from Puerto Natales.
Day 3: Kayaking on Lake Gray
One of the adventures not to be missed: a kayak ride among the icebergs of Lake Gray
Among all the adventures that can be experienced in Patagonia, certainly the kayaking among the icebergs of Lake Gray is one of those not to be missed.
Maybe you may like my article on the kayaking in Gray Lake
Kayaking is certainly the best way to experience Lake Gray with its icebergs and then descend along the river inside the Park letting yourself be carried away by the current and always with breathtaking views of the Cuernos del Paine. Many do not take this excursion because it is certainly the most expensive of the whole trip, but I assure you that the day you live is worth every euro spent to do it.
Information on the Park
all the hiking trails are perfectly organized and signposted
As with the whole Patagonia il best time to visit the Torres del Paine National Park is our winter, that is their summer that runs from October to April. Although the weather is always a little unstable, this is absolutely the best time as there are many hours of light, the days are sunny and it is not too cold.
If you intend to do the multi-day treks such as the W or the O Circuit it is necessary book campsites in advance (campamentos) and the refugios because the number of people who are hosted is limited.
If you are not staying inside the park the best base to visit is Puerto Natales which is located about 100 km further south. In Puerto Natales it is also possible to rent everything you need for camping, from tents to sleeping bags, so it is not convenient to bring your own.
There is no direct transport from El Calafate to Torres del Paine, you have to take a bus and change at the border with Chile in the country of Cerro Castillo.
Some agencies in El Calafate also organize day trips, but in addition to having little time inside the Park they are really very expensive and not worth it.
Il entrance ticket to the National Park it costs around 25 euros (21,000 CLP) for foreigners, but is valid for 3 days. If you want to use it for the 3 days it is necessary to ask for it expressly and a stamp will be put on the ticket.
La fauna and flora they are a treasure that attracts photographers and naturalists from all over the world. Guanacos, rheas, condors, eagles and foxes are spotted with incredible regularity. Those who are luckier will also be able to spot the famous puma even if it is a truly exceptional thing.
My encounter with a nice armadillo who didn't seem scared at all by my presence
The flora of the park is also very diverse. You can see plants and trees characteristic of various areas, from those typical of the pre-Andean scrub, to those of the Patagonian steppe up to those of the Andean desert and the Magellanic forest (of which the most representative trees are the Nothofagus: the lenga, the coihue and gnirre).
To protect this ecosystem, the rules within the Park are (rightly) ironclad:
1 - fires cannot be lit (only in campamentos and in dedicated areas).
2 - you can camp only and exclusively in the designated areas.
3 - You have to take your garbage away.
4 - it is absolutely forbidden to damage nature or feed wild animals.
5 - dogs and other pets are not allowed to enter the park.
6 - you must carefully follow the rules of the rangers.
7 - any irresponsible attitude or violation of the Park rules is punishable by law.