Torres del Paine National Park in Chile is an incredible region with raw beauty at every turn with ice fields, glacial lakes, unique wildlife, and extreme mountains. We were lucky enough to spend four days here at EcoCamp and experience a sampling of all the park has to offer.
Understanding the Park
To get a grasp on Torres del Paine National Park, our guides gave us a driving overview, pointing out the various peaks, available hikes, lakes and animals. The terrain had us spellbound and to add to the magic, fall turned the grasses along the lakes a beautiful mix of autumn colors.
Guancos are one of the few mammals ready to handle the extreme climate of Patagonia and they thrive here in abundance. Perhaps it’s because they know they are a protected species and irresistibly adorable, but they weren’t at all bashful. This one even batted her eyelashes at me.
The Torres Call
Run-off from the numerous glaciers that crown Torres del Paine cut through the landscape in snake-like fashion. The three sharp thin peaks jutting out in the distance are the “towers” that give the park their name and the place we would be hiking in days to come.
Day 2: Cruising the Park
Day 2 had us on a wild and bumpy boat ride toward the park’s second biggest attraction: Glacier Grey. En route, the amazing Almirante Nieto peaks were calling us to climb them.
Sailing Grey Lake
Lucky for us, our EcoCamp guide Paulo was good friends with the boat captain, so he got us VIP access to the control room. After chatting it up in en Español for a while, the captain insisted that Anne take the wheel. With the feel of the strong winds and a glimpse of the upcoming icebergs, Anne quickly handed back the reigns.
The face of Glacier Grey is split in the middle with a large black island (which about a century ago was fully engulfed by the glacier). This view is of the right side– the “daintier” section of the glacier.
The blue hues of the glacier were so intense they looked surreal.
A Toast to Glaciers
For the sunset sail home, we enjoyed pisco sours and whiskey on the rocks (the “rocks” are icebergs, of course). In the distance you can see the island splitting the glacier in half.
Mount Almirante Nieto
On our return back to the mainland we marveled at these amazing cloud formations hovering around the mountains. Later we realized this was no freak instance, the lenticular clouds are the norm in this extreme climate and the skies of gusty Torres del Paine never cease to amaze.
We had a hard time agreeing if this was a space-ship, a hen on a bed of straw, or just another crazy wind-whipped creation from Torres del Paine. Huge thanks to David Carillet who shared some knowledge in the comments below “They’re known as lenticular clouds, which normally form at very high elevations and have been mistaken for UFOs at times”
Day 3: Hiking the Mirador Trail
The time had come, the Torres would be ours! (Well, at least to the base of them. Climbing to their peaks requires about a week, not to mention the 10-15 years of winter climbing experience). A gorgeous, and incredibly windy, morrain (Patagonia vocab word meaning a U-shaped valley shaped by a glacier) led us toward the Torres for a real Patagonia adventure.
Reaching The Torres
We made it! This photo (as with all of those previous) does a fraction of the justice the Torres deserve. This sight was so magnificent. The vista literally takes your breath away as you stare at the raw cliffs, lakes, snow peaks, and massive boulders.
Goodnight Torres del Paine
Back at Ecocamp, we watch the sun go down behind and with a little Chilean red wine toast an unforgettable adventure through Torres del Paine.
Have you been to wilds of Southern Chile, what was your favorite part? If not, would you love to visit?