Our self-drive programme – which is fully flexible – allows you to explore the treasures of the Torres del Paine at your own pace. Choose to travel in winter if you want to escape the crows – the quietest season.
We arrange all the logistics, including accommodation and car hire, while you enjoy visiting all the highlights of Torres del Paine.
See the Paine Towers Lake Grey and Salto Grande waterfalls. If you travel in winter you may have the added delight of snow, dramatic frozen lakes and waterfalls.
Together with the special southern Patagonia light, this self-drive has many highlights.
As well as having the car you will have a choice of optional excursions which you can contract directly with the hotel.
Independent, self-drive travel to one of Chile's natural wonders.
Visit Paine Towers and Salto Grande waterfall.
Great wildlife spotting opportunities with far fewer people in the park if you travel off-season.
Spectacular wintry scenes give the park a magical feel in mid-winter.
The whole trip was extremely well-organised and delivered from both the UK and South American sides.
On arrival to Punta Arenas airport head to the car hire desk. Complete the formalities and pick up your vehicle – you will be asked for a credit card as security.
The car will be a Subaru Forester 4×4 or similar.
Head North along Route 9 (away from Punta Arenas). Puerto Natales is 245km / 150 miles from Punta Arenas and the road is paved all the way. The drive should take around 3 hours through forests of southern beech and prime pastureland.
You may well spot Nandues (Patagonian Rheas) and guanacos along the route.
Puerto Natales lies between Cerro Dorotea and the eastern shore of the Seno Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope Sound). It is a bustling town of just under 20,000 inhabitants and owes its origins to the sheep farming estancias at the beginning of the 20th century but now is the tourism gateway to the Torres del Paine National Park and the surrounding area.
There are 3 ATMS IN Puerto Natales and no ATMs in the Park. Also it would be wise to fill your petrol tank up as well as stock up on any snacks.
Overnight, standard double/twin room with breakfast included, Hotel Martin Gusinde.
Head North out of Puerto Natales. At the crossing at Km 23 turn left and take the un paved road (Y-290) towards the Park.
The Rio Serrano administration entrance to the park is 122km/76 miles from Puerto Natales.
A few Km after the turn off you will drive past the Milodon Cave. Its worth stopping to visit. It is a very scenic collection of caves, the most famous of which is the Milodon cave where in 1895 the skin, bones and other parts of a prehistoric sloth (Mylodon darwini) were found. The remains can be seen at the British Museum in London. The caves can be visited between 0830 and 2030 and the entrance fee (not included) is CLP 2,000 (approx. USD 4) per person.
Continue driving to the park crossing the bridge over the Serrano River to the National park entrance and administrsation centre. You will need to pay your park entrance fee and comly with the entrance formalities. Continue on route Y-150 in the direction signposted for Lago Grey.
Days free to explore the park.
You can return to Puerto Natales along the same route you came or alternatively drive across the park to the Laguna Amarga control point and return along the paved road via Cerro Castillo. This route is longer.
Drive to Punta Arenas airport. Give yourself plenty of time for the car return formalities.
Prices From $895 / £759 per person
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Minimum of 2 people travelling, 6 day 4wd car hire, pick up and drop off Punta Arenas airport, unlimited mileage, CDW (with deductible), replacement and repairs in case of mechanical problem not caused by passengers, accommodation as stated based on twin share with breakfast included.
Flights (we can look for these), meals not listed, local gratuities, park entrance fee, optional excursions, tyre damage, Personal Accident Insurance, SACA insurance covering car accesories and theft, permission to enter Argentina.
Hotels are availability dependent (prices may vary).
In Natales, we use Martin Gusinde hotel. This beautifully renovated 3* hotel is located just a few blocks from Puerto Natales’ main square and two blocks from the Last Hope Sound.
In Paine, we use Hotel Lago Grey, which lies next to and with views over the lake. There are 30 standard and 30 superior rooms in total. All rooms have heating, Wi-Fi and safety box.
This is a self-drive trip, and we won’t provide guides etc.
You will meet local staff who work at the hotels.
Almost all dietary requirements can be catered for – please contact us for more.
Included is breakfast at the hotels, which will be buffet style with hot drinks, toast, cereals, jams etc.
We recommend you take some snacks with you from home for the driving, as snacks available in the region are not always the best and very expensive.
The hotels offers lunches and dinners (extra cost), and offer a range of Chilean national, local and international cuisine, depending on what is available to them at the time.
We can upgrade you to full board at extra cost if you prefer.
Being self-drive, you can decide how much activity you wish to do.
Some of the walks can be 5-7 hours long, or just a short wander around, taking pictures.
Drivers need to have a full and current driving licence in order to hire a car, and meet all necessary conditions set by the local hire company.
For most people, Patagonia evokes a vast, windblown plateau, jagged mountains and the life of the gauchos.
The steppe that occupies much of southern South America is only one aspect of a magical region, jam-packed with amazing and contrasting landscapes.
Patagonia (latitudes 40°-55°, approximately) embraces a vast portion of southern Chile and Argentina, from the Rio Colorado in the north, to Tierra del Fuego in the south.
For convenience, we have divided the region into three zones: the Lakes District of northern Patagonian, central Patagonia and southern Patagonia.
Southern Patagonia (latitudes 49° to 55°), encompassing the southern Andes of Chile and Argentina plus Tierra del Fuego, has an altogether more vertical aspect than the rest of Patagonia.
As the continent tapers towards its southern point, the Andes take on new characteristics and offer some truly impressive panoramas.
Much of southern Patagonia is characterized by virgin landscapes where man’s hand has either not been present or, because of the scale of the landscapes, goes almost unnoticed. To the west of the semi-arid Patagonian plateau, mile-high granite spires – e.g. Cerro Torre and Fitzroy in Argentina and the Torres and Cuernos del Paine in Chile – rise abruptly from the Andean foothills, while vast blue glaciers, fringed by southern beech forest, gouge out thevalleys below.
At the heart of these magnificent landscapes lies the South Patagonian Ice Field, an utterly remote icy wilderness spanning hundreds of kilometers, whose glaciers – including the Perito Moreno and Upsala – are tens of kilometres long by severalkilometers wide.
Also characteristic of the southern Patagonian Andes are its turquoise, iceberg-filled lakes. To the west lies the southern portion of the Chilean Archipelago, comprising snow-capped islands and fjords.
Across the Magellan Straits from mainland Patagonia lies Tierra del Fuego which, like the rest of Patagonia, is divided between Argentina and Chile.
The north and east of Tierra del Fuego is flat, but flanking the Beagle Channel in the south, the tail end of the Andes provide very dramatic mountain scenery.
The Lake District (latitudes 40° to 45°) or the Araucania, is a region of dramatic conical volcanoes, evergreen, high-canopy forests and, of course, lakes.
It straddles the Chile-Argentine border, and also takes in Chiloe island, in the extreme north of the Chilean Archipelago. This region stretches from Temuco in the north to Chiloe in the south.
Central Patagonia (latitudes 45 to 49) is one of South America’s best-kept secrets. The vast wilderness area can be divided in two:
This huge region, embracing the sparsely-inhabited southern Araucaria and Aisén Region, features temperate rainforests, snow-peaks (often extinct volcanoes), lakes and, to the west, the Chilean Archipelago: a labyrinth of fjords and mountain-islands. This, the Chilean portion of central Patagonia, boasts the northernmost of Patagonia’s many giant, sea-level glaciers.
The San Raphael Glacier, probably this region’s most famous landmark, is an immense hanging glacier whose seracs calve into an iceberg-filled lagoon.
Find out more about Patagonia with our blog about its wildlife.
Good kit is vital for every trip.
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When planning for the varied climatic conditions encountered in Paine, layering is the most practical and versatile clothing system. It’s worth remembering that our clothing keeps us warm by retaining and isolating the heat we ourselves create.
To best maintain body heat, several layers of lightweight, warm and quick-drying clothing are far more efficient than one or two thick layers. Layers should have the following qualities:
First (base) layer: This layer wicks the sweat away from our skin, thus helping keep the body dry and warm. To this end, synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene should be used.
Mid layers: These isolating layers should also be synthetic (e.g. the known polar linings such as polartec or windblock, which are light and insulate twice as well as wool). Very important layers for retaining body heat.
Outer layer / shell: Finally, the vital layer which protects us from climatic adversities. A breathable, wind-proof and waterproof anorak, such as Goretex.
Give plenty of thought to kit selection, and try to keep weight down.
We also carry an extensive first aid kit & oxygen on all trips, but these are generally for emergencies only.
Below is a more detailed kit list.
Detailed kit list
Chilean Patagonia, in the south of the country, has a climate with lower temperatures compared to the rest of Chile.
Lake District and Patagonia
It can be better to go in the Austral summer (Oct-March). Daylight hours are much longer at this time, with Nov-Feb being popular times to visit. October and March can be very colourful and vivid with less visitors, but weather can be more blustery.
In Patagonia, the weather is, putting it mildly, variable, and variable on a daily basis. It is usually cool and windy all year round but seldom does the temperature fall below freezing point. Some days start with snow and end in balmy sunshine. It is always interesting, and can range from 10°C-20°C in the summer, although the wind can make it feel chilly.
The vast unbroken stretch of ocean to the west and south of the South American continent leaves the Patagonian Andes very exposed to the saturated winds that circle the Antarctic landmass. Also the South Patagonia Ice field influence makes the weather hard to predict. In spring or early summer fine weather may deteriorate almost without warning, bringing rains and eventually snow. Even in summer (Dec-Mar) you should come prepared to find cold, strong winds (up to 130 km/hr) and rainfalls. The summer’s average temperature is 11ºC/52ºF (24ºC max, 2ºC min).
Winter visits to these southern areas are possible, but many hotels close and not all trips are possible. Daylight hours can be very short, but the lack of visitors can greatly improve chances of seeing wildlife in parks such as Paine.
The Lake District’s temperate climate can be said to resemble that of the UK, with rain possible but also enjoying long spells of fine, fresh weather in the summer (Oct-March).
Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.
We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.
We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.
When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.
You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.
What is ATOL?
The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.
And ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.
Who is covered?
To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).
If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.
If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.
Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.
For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.
I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?
If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.
We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.
If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.
You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.
Argentine Patagonia, the southern half of Argentina, is a remote, wind swept land of plains, mountains, lakes and glaciers.
The main airport is at El Calafate which is the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park.
Nearby is the mighty Perito Moreno glacier where you have the opportunity to get up close to the ice on one of the many walkways or on a boat trip.
El Chalten, a 3 1/2 hour drive from Calafate, is the trail head for treks in to the base of Cerro Torre, Fitzroy or for the more intrepid, on to the South Patagonian ice-cap.
Ushuaia, on the Beagle channel, is the southern most city of Argentina. Ushuaia is fascinating for historical interest, is rich in wildlife and is departure port for many Antarctic cruises
Chilean Patagonia is a pristine wilderness of fjords, glaciers, plains, mountains and forests.
Southern Patagonia’s main attraction is the Torres del Paine National park. The granite spires attract many visitors to what some have called the 8th Wonder of the World. The park is a trekkers paradise with two classic treks, the Paine W and the Paine Circuit.
Northern Patagonia, the Aysen region, is one of the least populated parts of the country and is blessed with spectacular countryside.
The main airport is Balmaceda near the city of Coyhaique and must see places include Lake General Carrera and the Marble Caves, The San Rafael Glacier, the Quelat Hanging Glacier as well as driving the Austral Road.
The Futaleufu River is a must for white water enthusiasts.
The region also offers great horseback opportunities as well as kayaking ones. Nature enthusiasts can admire the impressive scenery, imposing glaciers and fascinating wildlife and flora.
Per person, based on two people, shared room
6-day rental small 4wd SUV
Valid from May to 15 September 2022
Shorter/longer stays possible
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Students Study Food Insecurity & Climate Change in Peru University of Edinburgh students and teachers report back from Peru, where they learned how traditional farming techniques could help prevent climate change and reduce food insecurity. The team visited coastal Lima, the Cusco Highlands, and the cloud forest. For Andean Trails and our local team, it was a chance to showcase a side of Peru that many visitors may not see when passing through. It went so well that the University has already signed up its team to another Food Security tour in the spring of 2024. Learning About …
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