Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile

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Pristine Patagonia

Patagonia is truly one of the most pristine and stunningly beautiful places I have ever had the pleasure to travel. The landscape can seem otherworldly in places and yet it holds a majestic unspoiled quality to the scenery. I really don’t think my camera was able to capture the encompassing beauty and tranquility of the place. The diverse landscape and abundant micro climates makes this one of the ultimate adventure trips.  The idea of truly getting away from the world could easy be accomplished in Patagonia. I spent most of this trip in Torres del Paine national Park.

Our Itinerary & Experience

Day 1: En Route to Argentina

A friend and I started the trip by flying into Buenos Aires from the USA. We left the Buenos Aires international airport and had a cab take us to the regional airport to catch a flight to El Calafate which was about 4 hours flight time. From El Calafate which is still in Argentina we had a private car pick us up to rush and try to make it across the Chile/Argentina border before it closed at midnight. Torres del Paine national Park is in Chile. The trip to theborder was about 4 hours and it is literally in the middle of nowhere. We barley made it in time with only minutes to spare. We were processed for about 30 minutes and allowed to continue on to the hotel which was our final destination. The time from landing in El Calafate to arriving at the hotel was around 5 hours. This may seem like a lot of travel time and it was but the payoff was well worth it.

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.

Torres Del Paine Patagonia Chile

 

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.

Patagonia 1

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.

Patagonia 3

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.

Patagonia Feature2

 

Day 5: Exploring the W

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.

Cuernos del Paine from Lake Pehoé

 

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.

Patagonia 4

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.

Planning Your Trip

  • Book a room with a view of the main lake and the Three Towers.
  • Take an excursion that covers the lay of the land to start. Then take specific excursions to get unique views of Patagonia.
  • If I had one regret from the trip, it was that I could not have stayed longer. I had no idea how diverse the landscape would be and how large the park actually was to see and traverse. I felt that I missed a lot of other worthwhile adventures, but will have a list for when I return. The Explora hotel suggests all guests to stay a minimum of four days because it hard to grasp a full experience of the park and what it has to offer in less days.

Locations require clothing suitable for active pursuits outside, and we suggest that you dress in layers. We recommend bringing all that’s necessary for protection from the sun. The key to comfort and warmth is layering.

Base Layer

  • Short and long-sleeved synthetic shirts. Ideally these are made of dry-fit fibers that dry quickly; not cotton.
  • We suggest thermal underwear for colder weather. Ideally, these are made of synthetic, dry-fit fabrics, which will keep you dry and warm.

Insulation Layer

  • Fleece, down parka, or some other warm layer.

Outer Layer

  • Waterproof jacket.
  • Trekking pants, ideally resistant to rain and wind. Jeans are not recommended.
  • Waterproof shell pants that you can wear over your trekking pants in the event of rain or wind.

Miscellaneous

  • Waterproof trekking boots or light hiking boots; preferably with ankle support. Be sure to break-in new shoes before arrival.
  • Sneakers or sports shoes for various other activities.
  • Wool or synthetic socks.
  • Gloves.
  • Fleece or wool hat or headband to protect your ears from the wind and cold.
  • Sunscreen and lip protection. SPF 30+ recommended.Swimsuit.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Small backpack or hip-pack to carry sunscreen, water, camera, extra layers, snacks, and sandwiches on full-day hikes, etc.
  • For inside the hotel: light, informal clothing (the hotel is heated).
  • The W-Trail is worth the full-day excursion to see the incredible diversity of Patagonia.
  • Many nights there are lectures given by the guides. The first night you arrive, make sure you attend the orientation talk. I went to a talk on birds one evening that was quite informative. Topics change daily.
  • Enjoy the resort spa. At Explora it’s located in a separate building on the lake. It has four outdoor hot tubs, one indoor hot tub, a sauna, steam room, lap pool, and more. 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.

Explora Patagonia Chile

  • Patagonia is one of the most compelling landscapes on earth. Torres del Paine is one of the most beautiful natural settings I have ever seen, and the trip for most will be a once in a lifetime experience. The Explora Patagonia hotel is a destination within a destination. First, come to experience incredible hiking within the dramatic beauty of Torres del Paine National Park. Second, stay at Explora hotel in Patagonia to experience first-class 5 star all-inclusive service, meals, fantastic excursions, practical elegance and camaraderie.
  • If the overall beauty of the surroundings was the best part of my adventure but I was to have to say a close second would have to be the Explora Patagonia (Hotel Salto Chico) hotel. This explore hotel group is a high end luxury eco hotel that focuses on sustainability. Everything from the way the hotel was built and materials used to create it are green and work with the surrounding environment with the goal of leaving a small environmental footprint. The hotel has a comfortable modern look and feel with wood accents and large windows throughout the hotel. I found myself many times staring out the windows and being stunned by the beauty of the surroundings. It honestly looks like it is not real at times. I found the rooms were comfortable and well appointed. The staff are friendly, very knowledgeable and seem willing to go out of their way to help with any need a guest might have. It should be noted this hotel is more on the expensive side but after the experience it was worth every penny. The hotel is also all inclusive with all food, trips and beverages. The hotel serves three meals a day. The food and service were amazing. I sometimes found myself not waiting to go out on an adventure excursion because I might miss another fantastic lunch. The hotel also has a full bar that has a wonderful selection of Chilean wines. I also rather enjoyed the indoor lap pool and outdoor Jacuzzi that overlooked the lake and surrounding countryside of the park. All guests decide the day before what excursions they would like to go on. The hotel offers many different adventure trips from simple hikes to challenging climbs. The hotel also has its own stables, where they breed their horses. The animals are magnificent and riding them is a wonderful experience. The trekking and exploration day trips can be as little as two hours to as many as 11 hours long.
  • One thing to note you will not find wifi in any of the rooms. As the Explora site says, their main purpose is to get people to relax and disconnect. There is Slow wifi in the lounge area, but it behaves as if the number of channels are severely restricted. Take their advice, and disconnect. You will not get usable WiFi or mobile coverage. You will have a far better experience by gazing at the view, trekking and conversing with other travelers.
  • If you want to sleep in hotels or refugios (rustic shelters), you must make reservations in advance. Plan a minimum of three to seven days to enjoy the hiking and other activities. Guided day trips on minibuses from Puerto Natales are possible, but permit only a glimpse of what the park has to offer.

Awasi Patagonia Chile

  • Awasi offers guests equally amazing service and all-inclusive amenities.
  • The structure of excursions is slightly different. Unlike Explora’s small group excursions, guests at Awasi are assigned a guide for the duration of the stay.
  • Breakfast is a buffet of meats, cheeses, breads, pastries, yogurt, granola, and more. If you want something special, like an omelet, you can order. Lunch and dinner menus change daily, with the one constant being a side of a red and green lettuce leaves. You typically get to choose from two appetizers, two entries, and several desserts. The chef will accommodate any dietary needs.
  • You must fly into either Buenos Aires or Santiago to access Patagonia. From Buenos Aires, you can fly on to Bariloche, El Calafate, Peninsula Valdes or Ushuaia. From Santiagao, you can fly on to Punta Arenas, Puerto Montt or Temuco.
  • I would suggest spending a day or two in Buenos Aires if you have the time.
  • The official language of Patagonia is Spanish but there are small pockets of indigenous communities within Patagonia who speak Mapuche. A small number of the population even speaks a dialect of Welsh.
  • Patagonia has been visited by many scientific expeditions since the days of Charles Darwin.
  • Most holidays in Chile are related to religion, in particular the Catholic religion, and historical events. More than 70% of the population in Chile is Roman Catholic. Over the past few decades the Evangelical and Protestant faiths have been gaining ground accounting for 15% of the population who declare themselves as belonging to those religions according to Chile’s National Statistics Institute (INE). To recognize their increasing importance in 2008 the government established a new official public holiday, Reformation Day, celebrating the Evangelical and Protestant churches.
2017-06-05T02:32:06+00:00