Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors
Patagonia, Chile: Torres del Paine National Park
"Why then and this is not only my particular case – does this barren land possess my mind? I find it hard to explain.... but it might partly be because it enhances the horizons of imagination."
– Charles Darwin
Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine is a national park in the Patagonia region in the Zona Austral (southernmost zone) of Chile.
The Cordillera del Paine, the centerpiece of the park, lies in between the Magellanic subpolar forests and the Patagonian Steppes.
The park is located about 70 miles north of Puerto Natales and around 200 miles north of Punta Arenas.
It borders Bernardo O'Higgins National Park to the west and Los Glaciares National Park, home to the massive Perito Moreno Glacier, to the north in Argentina.
Designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve in 1978, the park is renowned for its stunning scenery, imposing mountains, and bitter winds.
The landscape of the park is dominated by an eastern spur of the Chilean Andes, known as the Paine massif. These mountains are separated by quiet green valleys, and surrounded by the rolling grassy hills of the steppes.
Chilean Patagonia, which sits north of Magallanes Province and the Strait of Magellan, across from the Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn at the "End of the World" in South America, is home to ice fields, sea lions, and Magellanic penguins.
The Carretera Austral (Chile's Route 7) is a road that runs from Puerto Montt straight through the heart of the park to Villa O'Higgins. This route makes for an excellent road trip to the park in southern Patagonia with excellent views of glacial lakes and Andean mountains along the way.
Hiking the Park
Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia has long been a popular destination for hiking, and there are clearly marked paths for day hikes and lodges that offer shelter and other basic services. Luxury hotel destinations offer guided excursions, where you can participate in horseback riding through the expansive steppes, or take an exhilarating mountain hike and feel the touch of the famous Patagonian winds.
Luxury spa hotels offer everything a discerning traveler needs after a day in the rugged wilderness of Torres del Paine. There are several hotels offering all-inclusive experiences on the eastern edge of the park. Here you can relax in style and enjoy all the comforts of a 5-star hotel in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
When to Visit
High season in Patagonia runs from December through February, when weather is warmer and the days are long. If you plan to travel the area during this time it is best to book well in advance. If you prefer to skip the crowds and enjoy the beautiful autumn colors, plan instead for a March or April trip. When visiting the area during the low season of May to October, beware the cold winds that blow off the Hielo Continental Sur, the Southern Patagonian Icecap, as temperatures can dip to a chilling -25 degrees Celsius and mountain roads may be impassable.
A Place Unlike Any Other
There are many other great sites in the area that we didn't mention, like the hikes from El Calafate into Los Glaciares National Park, Grey Glacier in the Southern Patagonian Icefield, Fitz Roy near El Chalten, the Chilean Lake District, and Ushuaia on the Beagle Channel with its possibility for trips into the Antarctic.
Of course, you could always just stay in Buenos Aires and sample the local Argentinian cuisine and its Spanish-influenced culture.
But, alas, Patagonia calls... and so do the Pacific and Atlantic nearby - it's an incredible place with majestic mountains and unforgettable views, and we hope you make it the trip of a lifetime.
Argentine and American travelers alike will enjoy this epic park - it's a destination that should be on anyone's bucket list.
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“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
— John Muir