Featuring spectacular milky lakes and breathtaking mountaintop views, Torres del Paine National Park is Chile's and possibly South America's most famous park. Since it was declared an official Biosphere Reserve in 1978, it has attracted adventurers and nature lovers from all over the world eager to set out in one of the least-spoiled terrains on earth.
And itâ€™s no wonder why: with its postcard-perfect views, towering granite peaks, majestic mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, babbling streams, lakes, and rivers, Torres del Paine offers unparalleled natural beauty and first-class trekking. More than 100 different bird species, guanacos, foxes, the Patagonian deer as well as pumas can be observed in their natural habitat.
Whatâ€™s more, the park is equipped with excellent infrastructure, making it easy for trekkers of all skill levels (and discomfort thresholds) to plan out their ideal hiking itinerary. Trails and campsites are clearly marked and well-maintained, and there are several restaurants and lodges set up throughout the park.
There are numerous ways to see the park, from simple day trips, to more ambitious multiple-day treks. Popular hiking and trekking circuits include The W, The Circuit, The Valley of the Rio del FrancĂ©s and others that either wind through the RĂo Pingo Valley to the base of Torres del Paine or onto Laguna Verde, Laguna Azul and Lago Paine.
Signing up for a trip through an agency is an easy way to hit the trails; guides can be hired from Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales. Most companies will take care of the nitty-gritty details such as arranging transport, food and lodging. Larger groups can custom design a trip and contract an agency to take care of the logistical details. When choosing an agency, be sure to focus on its reputation, rather than on prices. If youâ€™re averse to guided tours, go-it-your-own trekking is possible with careful planning and foresight.
The weather in Patagonia is unpredictable, and trekkers should be prepared to face harsh winds and bitter cold temperatures at any time of year. Proper gear, including good hiking shoes and a warm sleeping bag, are imperative. The warmest months are from December to March, however, this is also when winds are fiercest. Wintertime is somewhat mild, though days are short and visitors must stay in lodges instead of camping, and park access may be limited. Check current weather conditions before heading out.
Travel Skills: None