Patagonia three - Torres del Paine
Where is Torres del Paine National Park?
Torres del Paine, named after the three granite towers piercing the sky, is located in the Patagonia region of the extreme south Chile. For the sake of this blog I am also including activities in the surrounding areas and additional accommodations in the town of Puerto Natales (the nearest major town to the National Park). Torres del Paine is known for it's gatorade coloured lakes, massive glaciers and endless mountain backpacking routes, the most popular of which being the W-Trek. The National Park is home to a lot of wildlife, Most famously the lama-like guanaco, the puma and the South Andean Deer. Birdlife is also abundant in Torres del Paine, with over 115 species recorded including the Andean condor (whose wingspan is up to 3.2 metres).
how to get there:
The most common way to get to Torres del Paine is with a direct flight from Santiago to Punta Areas (its about a 3h20 flight) from there you will need to rent a car or book transportation to either the National Park it's self or, like we did, a landing pad of Puerto Natales. Guiding companies such as Venture Patagonia, will include this (rather annoying) airport transfer for you! During the busy season, two days a week, direct flights are offered from Santiago to Puerto Natales - unfortunately we were not rising when this was an option. I toyed with the idea of recommending booking a car, but from my time in Torres del Paine it seemed as though, if not with a guiding service, most people booked public transportation and/or hitchhiked within the National Park.
The weather of the region reminded me a lot of home in the Canadian Rockies. Some of the worst wind I have ever experienced was during this trip to even the smallest of lookout points! Much like Los Glaciers National Park, the warmest month of the year is January and the coolest, July. With an average annual high of 12°Celsius (54° Fahrenheit) and an average annual low of 2°Celsius (36°Fahrenheit). The wind for this leg of our trip was some of the strongest I had ever experienced - and the rain came often and unpredictably. Thankfully, we had built in a few "flex" days just in case bad weather hit - we used them all, delaying our modified w-trek by three days. In climates such as this always be prepared for unexpected turns of the weather patterns.
what to pack:
-Hiking boots - I purchased these boots the night before the trip and had to issues with them.
-Waterproof jacket - I brought both a Patagonia GoreTex jacket from a few years ago as well as my red North Face Venture jacket
-Lightweight wind jacket - I haven't gone anywhere without my little yellow Patagonia Houdini Jacket in over a year
-Down or synthetic jacket - I brought two colours of the L3 from the North Face Summit Series
-Hiking pants - I am a fan of lululemon studio pants
-Wool hiking socks - at least 3 pairs
-Leggings/thermal leggings - I packed Glyder Apparel's High Waisted Pure Leggings and High Power Leggings for this trip
-Long sleeve thermal shirt
-Shower shoes (I wear flip flops)
-Refillable water bottles - I brought a 21oz HydroFlask for day hikes, a 48oz Nalgene for backpacking and a little 16oz Nalgene for coffee (since Nalgene are built with surgical grade plastic it is safe to put boiling water in them... this one is also the perfect size for a backpacking hot water bottle)
-Backpacking backpack - I brought my 50L North Face Women's Banchee and had more than enough room on all of our trips.
-Daypack - I brought my 24L Osprey Women's Sirrus bag (and it comes with a rain cover built in)
-Raincover for backpacks
-Headlamp - I use the Petzl Actik Core headlamp, I like that it is rechargeable, lightweight and incredibly bright
-Tent - I brought my North Face Triarch 2 - don't forget to make sure you have a rain fly and a footprint!
-Sleeping bag - I brought my North Face Women's Blue Kazoo with a
-Sleeping mat - I use a Nemo Astro Lite Sleeping Pad
-Camping pillow - This is something I swear by, camping pillowes are a game changer, my go-to is the Nemo Fillo
-Camera - I use the Sony a6000
-International power converter (Chile and Argentina use different outlet types)
-Casual walking shoes
eleven day itinerary:
day one: Fly into Punta Arenas via Santiago
day two: Puerto Natales - sunrise hike and horseback ride Laguna Sofia.
day three: Baguales day hike.
day four: Torres del Paine National Park - Ferrier lookout, Weber Bridge
day five: Torres del Paine National Park - Cerro Paine Day Hike
day six: Torres del Paine National Park - hike to base de las Torres lookout for sunrise. We puled this out of the classic W-trek as the campground at the base of the towers was closed for the 2017/2018 season (and possibly indefinitely) so we wanted to do this portion with as little weight as possible.
day seven: Torres del Paine National Park - Modified w-trek day one - El Chileno to Los Cuernos
day eight: Torres del Paine National Park - Modified w-trek day two - Los Cuernos to Paine Grande via Francés Valley
day nine: Torres del Paine National Park - Modified w-trek day three - Paine Grande to Grey Glacier
day ten: Torres del Paine National Park -Modified w-trek day four Grey Glacier back to Paine Grande. Ferry across Lake Pehoe. Return to Puerto Natales
day eleven: Fly home from Punta Arenas via Santiago
what to eat and drink:
Base Camp Pizza - This small pizzaria offers completely customizable pizzas and beer at affordavles prices - owned by some Patagonia-loving Oregon natives the owners double up on summer by spending October-April in Puerto Natales. Note that this restaurant is cash only.
Miesta Grande - this was our go-to restaurant in Puerto Natales. It has a good selection of Pizza and Pastas, strong wifi and good coffee.
Torres Del Paine National Park
Hotel Las Torres - located at the base of the hike to the towers this hotel restaurant offers (paid) wifi and one of the best lamb lasagnes I have ever had!
We broke up our dehydrated food by eating at several of the Refugios along the W-Trek, I was surprised with how delicious the food was, especially for how remote form of these backcountry cabins are! You can book your meals ahead of time here.
*note: dehydrated melas are insanely expensive in Patagonia - I advise stocking up at your local MEC/REI before coming down.
where to stay:
glamping and camping
luxury: Luxury Eco-Friendly Camping in the Torres del Paine National Park with the Glamping Hub and Eco Camp.
standard: The Yurt Camp has 18 yurts: comfortable, independent tent domes nestled in a dense forest of beech trees and facing the spectacular view of Lake Toro and the Paine Massif. Each yurt has a private bathroom, private terrace and is fully equipped with king or two single beds and heating. Each is finely decorated with woven fabrics and locally handcrafted furniture. All of the yurts and common areas are non-smoking.
budget: Picturesque Vacation Rental for Four Guests on General Carrera Lake in Chile (at only $149USD for four people this property is a steal!). There are two bedrooms and one full bathroom. Both bedrooms have two twin beds each. In the bathroom, guests will find a toilet, a sink, and a shower. Linens and towels are provided. In the living room, guests will find comfortable seating and a fireplace. The fully equipped kitchen comes with a stove, a refrigerator, and an oven.
budget: Six-person secluded cottages on the Patagonia Mountain Range. Each unit includes a double bed, two twin beds, and a bunk bed. They are equipped with everything you need, including an oven, a full kitchen, a dining table, and a complete bathroom.
budget: Camping! All along the W-Trek the O-Trek and variously scattered around the National Park there are camping sites and Refugio. Along the W we camped but had a few dinners at the Refugios to break up our sodium-laden MREs. A lost of the camping sites can be found on this website.
luxury: Hotel Lago Grey - definitely not your budget hotel, this luxury property is located along the shires of Lago Grey and offers an unparalleled experience. "Experience this wonderful setting of the Chilean Patagonia at any time of the year. Clean air, abundant flora and fauna, the stunning Paine and the beauty of Lake and Glacier Grey are the perfect ingredients for a well-deserved rest."
standard: Hotel Las Torres - Located at the entrance (or exit depending on your route) of the W-Trek this secluded property is reminiscent of a luxury estancia at the base of the towers. "Hotel Las Torres is an exceptional destination within Torres del Paine National Park. Located in the heart of the park, our hotel shows a unique character because of its past as a cattle farm, which is still possible to see through our organic garden, our stables and horses, our gauchos as well the layout of the hotel."
budget(ish): Hotel Río Serrano - "Rio Serrano Hotel is a family-owned business, which began as a hostel in 2001, becoming a hotel in 2005 and ending its last construction phase in 2008, becoming the largest hotel in Torres del Paine National Park. Our main objective is to provide a unique and unforgettable experience, taking care of the quality in the service and meeting the standards demanded by our guests, also committing ourselves to the sustainability of the destination."
I spent my three weeks in Patagonia with the amazing team at Venture Patagonia and can not recommend them high enough. Venture Patagonia is a team made up of energetic, passionate and professional individuals with a deep knowledge of the major Patagonian destinations. With their extensive network of friends and local partners, they specialize in connecting people all over Patagonia to give you an authentic taste of local culture. The best part? Venture Patagonia customize each program to match YOUR budget and appetite for adventure. Their aim is to help you live your best adventure! Venture Patagonia is based in the United States, with an office in Puerto Natales, Chile. Their Chilean office is located in Puerto Natales, but operate on both the Chilean and Argentinian sides of Patagonia, allowing guests to experience both Torres del Paine National Park & Los Glaciares National Park.