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Torres del Paine – Summer Wonderland

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View point Glacier Grey Torres del Paine Patagonia Chile

Torres del Paine National Park

The last time I went to the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, it was with a group on our Patagonia Highlights tour.

We approached the park on a brilliantly sunny day with the wind forcefully propelling us towards this UNESCO Biosphere reserve. On nearing the park, the granite spires began to appear in the distance and the word “wow” framed my lips.

Every time I have been, the park has been different. The light, the sky and the weather all affect how we see and perceive this wonderful corner of the World. No matter how many times you visit Torres del Paine, the experience will be different.

 

Magic and jagged

Describing her first sighting of the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, the “original tourist”, Lady Florence Dixie in 1879 wrote in her book “Across Patagonia” – (Published 1880) –  “…now, as if by magic, from the bowels of the earth, a grand and glorious landscape had sprung up around us. . . . jagged peaks were cleft in the most fantastic fashion…”

 

Torres del Paine Patagonia, Chile

 

The park, located in the southern tip of Chile, covers an area of over 180,000 hectares and is dotted with lakes, rivers, mountains and granite spires.

To get there you need to fly to Punta Arenas in Chile or El Calafate in Argentina and from both of  these cities travel overland on a journey that will take around 5 to 6 hours.

The park offers all types of accommodation from luxury hotels, to hostel style refuges and campsites. It is a trekker’s paradise but also offers something for the nature lover, wildlife enthusiast, adventure traveller or your more traditional tourist in search of spectacular scenery.

 

When to go

The most popular time to visit is from October through May –  the austral summer. The park is open all year round but many of the hotels and refuges are closed during the winter months (May to September). Winter does have its particular fascination. The park has far fewer visitors and the wildlife is more visible as they come down into the valleys foraging for food. The main draw back is that the days are much shorter.

Weather wise you can get all seasons in one day – bit like Scotland really!, however in the Summer months the wind can be very strong.

The most popular trek is what is known as the Paine W. The reason it gets is name is that you trek into 3 different valleys which are parallel to each other. Each valley, the Ascencio, the French and the Grey valleys, have different characters and  “prizes” at the end of each. The Grey has the mighty Grey Glacier, the French stunning views of the Towers of Paine, the Horns of Paine and hanging glaciers and the Ascencio has the base of the Towers.

 

Cascada Grey Glacier Patagonia Chile

Grey Glacier Patagonia Chile

 

You can trek the W as part of a group on a Classic W, or self guided or even on a private trip. Those looking for a more demanding trek can do the 9 day Paine Circuit on which you trek around the Paine Massif finishing with the classic W.

 

Achievement

On my trip, the Patagonia Highlights, we did the W after having spent 3 days trekking in the Glaciares National Park near El Chalten, Argentina and before heading off to Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia on the Beagle Channel. My greatest sense of achievement was getting to the base of the Towers on a wonderfully sunny day – as you can see in the picture!

So if you are dreaming of a Patagonia Adventure make sure you include the magnificent Torres del Paine National Park.

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