If you’ve ever wanted to know what the end of the world looks like, you’ll find it in Patagonia. Located at the Southern tier of the Andes Mountains near the tip of Chile, Patagonia is where the Southern Hemisphere, Pacific Ocean, and the Straight of Magellan combine their powers to concoct unbelievable landscapes. In one day, you can kayak turquoise lakes, hike amongst wildflowers and gaunacos (llama like), cross roaring creeks and rivers, and sip a YOLO pisco sour (a refreshing cocktail made from pisco, a hard liquor made from grapes) served over glacier ice. Patagonia is an exemplar of Mother Nature’s power, beauty, and contrasts of color. Get a sneak peek of Patagonia’s boundless nature through these must-sees in and around Chile’s number one national park, Torres del Paine.
Torres del Paine National Park
The granite towers of Torres del Paine not only give this UNESCO biosphere and reserve its name stemming from torres (towers) and paine (indigenous word for blue), but also serve as the goal for many outdoor enthusiasts who desire to summit the W Trail to the towers and its blue, crystalline pool. Many compare this one hundred and eighty thousand hectares park to a mini-Alaska with its shimmering azure lakes, cascading waterfalls, sprawling glaciers, and abundant wildlife.
The gateway to Torres del Paine National Park is a quaint town named Puerto Natales. Located on the Last Sound Hope, you can fuel up for your adventure in Torres de Paine at its many restaurants with the typical Chilean dishes of pastel de choclo (pie with corn, vegetables, chicken and beef) or curanto (a hearty stew with shellfish, meat, and vegetables), take a day-tour of the Patagonian fyords, gear up at various outdoor apparel and hiking supply stores, or just rest up for spellbinding hikes and a wealth of unforgettable sights for your up and coming days.
En Route to Torres del Paine
From Puerto Natales to the National Park is 24 km, but the road winds amongst amazing scenery. Most recommend taking your time to witness the unexpected such as a guanaco crossing, lake side photo stops, and a tour of Cueva del Milodón (Cave of the Grand Sloth).
Highlights in Torres del Paine
Although the towers are the symbol of the park, there are countless other natural wonders to be enjoyed in Torres del Paine. Whether you decide to camp, glamp, or stay in boutique hotels, there are a few highlights that would be a sin not to experience while in the park.
Lake Pehoe Catamaran
The color in the name of the park can be seen in contrast to the pillars and the sky, but some of the most remarkable hues of blue in the park are from its lakes. The crowning jewel of the lakes is Lake Pehoe. Its aquamarine color invites you for a swim, but don’t be fooled. The waters are mountain and glacier fed. The best way to witness these powerful colors and get to your next hike is via a motorized catamaran. The boat leaves Jetty Pudeto heading towards Refugio Paine Grande two to four times daily depending on weather and the season. Regardless of month, be prepared for a windy and chilly ride. Choose wisely whether to sit inside or outside.
Hike to Summit of Towers, W Trail, or Circuit
Depending on the length of your stay, you can enjoy the five-day W Trek which encompasses hiking along various valleys and lakes with the finale of summiting the Tower base. However, you can do just the towers in a day from your accommodations or camp if you have a shorter stay. For those intrepid travelers, the longest and most strenuous of the hikes is the O Circuit. This 8-day trek goes along the backside of the towers and includes the W Trek.
Grey’s Lake and Grey’s Glacier
You can’t escape the color blue in Torres del Paine. Whether the expansive skies, lakes, or the most powerful otherworldly blue of its glaciers. Grey’s Glacier can be witnessed from hiking trails, but the best way to see it up close and personal is via boat. It is a three-hour journey where you spend one-hour at the feet of Grey’s myriad of blues. With a height of thirty meters and an expansive length of six kilometers, Grey’s Glacier will forever etch glacier blue into your memory. For those that want to become one with the glacier and celebrate, the crew offer the national drink, pisco sour, which is made with lime juice, egg white, sugar, and pisco, served over glacier ice. Salud! (Cheers). On your way to the pier, as you enjoy your libation, keep your eyes peeled as icebergs pass the boat.
Capture blues that change your perspective of color forever in Patagonia. Taste a pisco sour with glacier ice in Torres del Paine. Relish the landscape from the summit of the Towers. Is it not time to experience your version of Patagonia?