Day 2: Checking into Patagonia
We arrived at our hotel, Explora Patagonia, early in the morning around 2:00 AM. The stars were magnificent as there is not an ounce of light pollution or for that matter any pollution of any kind in this pristine wilderness. This hotel sits inside the Torres del Paine national Park. The Torres del Paine park has an impressive mountain range as its centerpiece, this national park covering roughly 1,000 square miles includes glaciers and fjords and is home to countless Guanaco, grey fox, puma and birds. We were promptly greeted as our car pulled into the hotel. The staff helped us with our luggage as we had a drink in the bar. The bartender even got up to serve us at 2:00 AM, which was impressive and unexpectedly delightful.
Day 3: Easing into Excursions
The first day of excursions, we opted for the for just a half-day trip. I was tired from the trip and wanted to get a lay of the land. When we arrived at the hotel it was pitch black so I had not gotten a chance to see my surroundings. I awoke to one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I looked out my bedroom window to see the large overpowering jagged mountains bathed in multi-colored light that was reflecting off the rolling mist on the almost glowing turquoise colored lake. It was rather surreal only because the colors and weather would change so fast due to the many micro climates making the colors seem to dance. It was a spectacular show to wake up to.
Our guide was waiting for us after a large fantastic breakfast, and we headed out for a trek around the local lake and a hike up a nearby hill. We were joined by four other guests that has also wanted to come on this trek. It is my understanding no excursion has more than eight guests at a time. One thing you will notice quickly is the need to dress appropriately. The trip was only two hours but in that time we had bright sun, rain, hail and strong winds all at different times due to the different micro climates. One moment I had on a t-shirt, and the next my winter waterproof ski coat. I have never been to a place where the climate can change so fast.
After the short hike we retired back to the hotel to plan out the next day and enjoy the spa. The spa is located in a separate building, on the lake. It has four outdoor hot tubs, one indoor hot tub, a sauna, steam room, and lap pool. Each group (couple, family, and so on) can get its own Jacuzzi. You can soak with some privacy while enjoying the view. When you are sufficiently heated from the hot tub or sauna, you can jump off the pier into the ice-cold lake. It’s refreshing and not to be missed. The spa has drinks and snacks available, including soda, beer, champagne, and tea.
You meet the other guests on the hikes, lunches, at the spa or at nightly dinners. It is always rather lively at dinner as everyone is back from trips and ready to talk about their adventure that day while having a few cocktails by the fire. On this first day of excursions, I found the other guests to be avid travelers who were friendly and interesting.
Day 4: Full-Day Trekking
On the second day of excursions, we decided to go on a much longer adventure trip. The main point of the trip was to be active and see as much of the park as possible. We decided to go see the Grey Glacier. This trip ended up being just three people on this six-hour hike. We trekked along a relatively flat trail that follows the turbulent, glacier-fed Pingo River through open prairies to the Salmon River Cascade. Next we crossed the hanging bridge over the Pingo River and trekked through forests of lenga (a tree or shrub native to the Andes) to the beach before starting the ascent to the Lake Grey Peninsula. There, we enjoyed views of the Grey Glacier and giant deep blue icebergs.
During the hike, we took a small boat right up to an insanely large Glacier to chip off some the 8000-year old ice to make pisco sour drinks. The Glacier was magnificent and the icebergs floating around us were strikingly colorful with backdrop of large mountains covered in snow. This wind off the Glacier can be like a hurricane due to the fact that it can pick up so much speed on this ice sheet. It was a perfect excursion that I would highly recommend to other visitors.
On the third day of excursions, we decided to do another long hike into the middle of the W circuit. The W circuit is a fixture on many lists of the world’s best hikes. Mimicking the shape of the letter itself, the W winds its way through some of the park’s most scenic stretches and can take six days to hike the whole route. I also understand there is a longer hike of the W that can take up to 10 days. We hiked to the Glacier we had outlined part of the west side of the W hike circuit, which outlines the mountain of jagged rocky peaks that dominate the landscape of the park. I found the middle of the W circuit to be more lush and diverse. It was also a little more challenging but also so distantly different.
Day 6: Colorful Hike & BBQ Fun
The fourth and last day of excursions in Patagonia was spent on a half-day hike in the woods on a different side of the park that we had not yet visited. The leaves on the trees were many different colors, and it reminded me of the east coast of the United States during the fall months. We walked by many small waterfalls and just observed pristine nature around us. The second half of the day included an escort to the horse stables for a BBQ. The BBQ was exceptional and a great way to meet the other guests.
The trip home we decided change it up and fly out of Punta Arenas in Chile to Santiago, and then back to the States. I found that coming and going was about the same about of time.