Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Chile
A whole post just about Parque National Torres del Paine. Probably 1 of the most fascinating landscapes in the world.
Puerto Natales 2 Torre del Paine
Cerro Castillo, 7th December
Puerto Natales is not too famous for its outstanding beauty. Even if there are a few quite good, but pretty pricey restaurants. For visitors it’s mainly the gateway to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. And nothing else.
Initially, we thought about heading for the famous W Trek in the national park. But as we’re not able to properly plan our itinerary all useful accommodation along the trail is already booked out when we know a little bit better the dates. Of course, it’s still possible to book with a travel agency. It just gets 3 times more expensive and the refugios they propose at the last minute are not ideally located. That means some days we would have to hike very long distances. Thus, the same we could do with day hikes.
To be nearer to the park entrance we decide to stay in Cerro Castillo. A tiny village next to the border with Argentina. But still, an hour to reach the national park entrance gate.
Some 60 km to Cerro Castillo. On the Ruta del Fin del Mundo.
Cerro Castillo: just a few houses, 3 overprized sleeperies with improvable eateries, and a roadhouse for the hordes of tourists passing by. All a bit depressive.
In the afternoon we drive on. To Laguna Azul. 1 of the very few places you can visit without an entrance ticket.
On the way the 1st photo spot. How great, the guys clearly indicate you where it is.
Shortly after this beautiful spot, they closed the road to Laguna Azul. A construction site. Of course, we can bypass it, but only by driving thru an entrance gate of the national park. What the hell, we don’t want to use our 3 days ticket yet. Arriving at the gate, the rangers quickly find a pragmatic way to save the situation: we have to show them that we really bought tickets, we have the obligation to use the shortest way to the gate near the lake, and we need to swear by grandma’s eternal innocence that we won’t stop or take pictures within the park.
We’re in the park. Without ticket. Great. Of course, we have to follow these special rules applying to us. Maybe with the exception of the last issue.
Finally, we’re out of the park again – no longer restricted to any promises we had given to the rangers.
A short look at the Cascada Rio Paine, then we finally reach Laguna Azul.
The next morning at 6 am. The weather looks quite promising, even if there are some clouds in the mountains.
So, we decide to hike to the famous Base de Torres del Paine today. Quickly we leave for the trailhead. About 1 1/2h away.
On the way, we discover that it was snowing a little bit higher up. Maybe we’ll have to sneak thru some snow.
The entrance gate is still quite deserted. It’s just too early for the many tour buses coming from Puerto Natales. Of course, we ask the rangers about today’s weather. Some are pretty sure we’ll have nice weather, some others predict a rainy day, and 1 thinks it will only get better by next week. So, what to do? Climb the 4h to the base of the Torres, or not? Finally, we decide to ignore all the different forecasts we received and to give the hike a chance. Even if the weather currently doesn’t look too promising.
After 2h we arrive at Refugio Chileno. A lot of people hanging around, many quite exhausted. Even if the more difficult part still has to come.
Then 1h thru forest. By now it’s even snowing. And the view – still has a lot of potential to improve.
Finally, just 1/2h left to reach the lake with the towers in the background. Now a steep trail uphill, with many boulders.
When approaching the lake visibility has definitely improved. But still, there’s no bright sunshine. And the towers are only partly visible. How the hell should all these poor hikers make the Instagram pic of their life under these conditions?
Time for a sun dance. Surely within the next 30′ we’ll have good weather.
Certainly, at Base de Torres del Paine you won’t feel lonely. At this self-declared 8th wonder of the world, there are a few other guys sneaking around and making all kinds of nonsense. All incredibly keen to post their pizza-face with the towers in the background as quickly as possible on Insta.
Whatever, after a few minutes the sun dance starts to be effective. The clouds are disappearing. A pale sun shines.
Then the clouds are back. The power of the sun dance is losing its effectiveness. Time to sneak back. 3h on the same trail.
Puerto Natales, 8th December
Somebody told us that in Torres del Paine we can only expect 3 days a year with a clear view of the mountains. Well, now it’s our 3rd day in the national park. The sky is cloudy, but the view is excellent.
We’re on the road crossing the park to reach all these different viewpoints. Indeed, many other visitors have the same idea. It’s the road used by the countless tours departing from Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas. Many tourists on their 1-day visit to the park before being perched again into their cruise ship with 4000 other victims.
We pass again Cascada Rio Paine.
Then along the southern part of the mountains towards Lago Grey.
Finally, we reach Lago Grey. Visibly another tourist hotspot. Mainly because you can take a boat to Glaciar Grey. Thus, you don’t need to sneak a whole day to see it.
After a short walk along the shores of Lago Grey we’re out of the national park. On the way to Puerto Natales, to get some food for Prado and for us. And finally, back to Cerro Castillo. To our louzy sleepery.
Day 4. The last 1 we may enter the national park with our ticket. We get up at 6 am and plan to reach the boat crossing Lago Grey before 9 am. To have enough time to sneak to Glaciar Grey and back.
So far everything is perfect. Just the weather – somehow it seems to be true that the mountains are visible only for 3 days each year. And yesterday it was the 3rd 1.
Still, we drive to the pier to check the weather. It’s pouring. Even the most optimistic ranger predicts constant rain. The whole day long.
Finally, we decide to drive back to Puerto Natales, to economize on the overpriced ticket for the boat, and forget about the hike.
Just a night in Puerto Natales. Then we’re driving further to the south.
The last few km remaining to reach Ushuaia, Argentina.
Maybe the last question: do we regret that we didn’t go for a multiday hike in Torres de Paine?
- Definitely yes because of the unique landscape. Would be great to hike.
- At the same time definitely no because it’s really a beaten track with hordes of hikers, especially on the so-called W-Trek. With infrastructure on the way permanently at its limits. In addition, the incredibly overpriced and discriminating offer for accommodation and food along the trails. Maybe just a word about discrimination. It’s really hard to understand for what reason foreign tourists have to pay considerably more than local 1s in Chile. Further, for what reason receive travel agents the right of 1st refusal – even if they don’t have any guarantee yet that they will ever sell their expensive trekking tours. Thus, making the hike a lottery for independent hikers whether or not they’ll get eventual last-minute offers.
Whatever, enough of complaining.