Drop Everything You’re Doing And Take A Look At This Ridiculous National Park
Today’s agenda: the rugged, beautiful Torres Del Paine. Or, according to one early visitor, “one of the most spectacular sights that human imagination can conceive“.
And it’s a solid flex. This UNESCO world biosphere reserve is, in fact, one of the most uncontaminated places on the planet. Every casual shot of it deserves to be slapped on a bottle of fancy mineral water.
Everyone from backpackers, adventure junkies and Pinterest users seem to fall in love with its otherworldly mountains, lakes and glaciers at first sight. So here’s everything you NEED to know about this slice of heaven.
Torres del Paine National Park sits in Chile’s Región de Magallanes.
This 1810-sq-km park is for sure one of South America’s best.
The closest major town to it is Puerto Natales – about a four hour ride away. If you’re coming from Chile’s capital, Santiago, just hop on a plane to Punta Arenas and bus on over.
And its landscape is to DIE for.
Landscape? More like dreamscape.
The lay of the land is some of the most unique and diverse you’ll ever lay eyes on. Just imagine snow-capped horned peaks and mirror lakes. Waterfalls, emerald forests, rivers and gleaming glaciers. Are you keeping up?
All thanks to earth movements from over 12 million years ago that shaped these unusual landforms. The resulting jaw-dropping scenery has us all eating humble pie.
Their massive granite towers – or torres – will take your breath away.
A definite highlight of this park is to see the torres (or towers), themselves. It’s named after them after all (Torres del Paine = Towers of Paine).
These three granite peaks loom over the Patagonian terrain in true tower fashion; imposing and impressive. Even on a misty afternoon, the clouds swirling around the highest peak of Paine Grande (3,050m), are a sight to behold.
It’s full of majestic glaciers that you can WALK on top of.
Oh yes, and Torres Del Paine park is chock-filled with glaciers.
Like the one in that photo, called Grey Glacier. We’d argue its more of an unreal icy blue, with jagged bumps and crevices that paint a surreal shape against the mountainside. You can ice trek your way across it, because that’s apparently, totally a thing.
And there are plenty of glaciers to go around.
There’s also Torre Glacier at the foot of Cerro Torre.
This white and turquoise masterpiece is full of ice caves and deep holes that were carved out by water. Climbing it will earn you one heck of a view of Cerro Torre, Torre Egger and other wintery wonders.
Fun fact, because glacier ice is so dense, it absorbs every other color of the spectrum except blue. Hence glaciers often seem to almost glow with an ethereal blueness.
Speaking of blue – the park is full of lakes and waterfalls in EVERY shade of it.
From ghostly greyish blue to a vivid aquamarine – this park seems to be making its way through the colour wheel.
It’s also full of the most beautiful lakes, lagoons and rivers, all formed from glacier melt from the nearby Southern Patagonian Ice Field. The most important river is the Paine, which crosses from lake to lake, crashing spectacularly into three stunning waterfalls along the way (like Salto Grande, shown above).
And guys. You can literally kayak right up to these giant glaciers.
This isn’t your average family kayak trip. Here, you can paddle your way right up close to some of these silent icy giants floating in the lakes. Lakes that are at more than five hundred meters of depth! Phwoar.
And, we bet you’ve never seen a sunrise like this.
Sunrise in this park is probably as good as it gets. Just imagine, the horns of the torres glowing purple and fiery red at early morning as first sunlight catches on the rocks.
Plus, the park is teeming with life, from owls to armadillos.
What’s more, this park is home to a mindblowing variety of plants and animals. Andean condors wheel through the skies whilst guanacos (a close cousin of the llama) graze in the open steppe.
Keep an eye out for foxes, Andean deer and even ARMADILLOS. Lucky visitors might even spot a puma or three. The flora is also rich in everything from desert plants to orchids. And birds are plentiful – from woodpeckers, to the great horned owl.
And it’s a hiker’s paradise.
Most unsurprisingly, the park is a huge hit with hikers. And there are loads of trail options. There’s the famous W trail that runs through the main tourist attractions, and there’s the lesser-trod O Trail that circles the mountain on a 93.2 km trail.
Most of the hikes in Torres Del Paine are doable for anyone who comes equipped. So bring your wife, bring your kids. Hike, fish, climb, ice trek, whitewater kayak. Or just gawp at your surroundings.
You don’t even need to rough it (unless you want to).
Turns out you can actually hike its most popular trail in relative luxury. By that we mean sleeping in beds, taking actual showers and eating hot meals. Rumour has it you can even get pisco sours en route, (supposedly served up with a tiny chunk of glacial ice).
Happy campers just need to book their place in advance, but there’s no shortage of camping grounds. There’s even a ranger station that sells food!
And good news is you can head there year-round.
The usual peak period for travellers is from October into April when it’s warmest. There’s more sunshine, less rain, and the days are longer.
In autumn and winter, sure temperatures drop and it’s more prone to rain. However you’d be likely to spot more wildlife and soak up a whole other level of peace and quiet (and cheaper entry!)
Now excuse us as we book flights.