The epic massifs at Torres del Paine National Park (Parque Nacional Torres del Paine) in Chile draw visitors to an area of unspoiled beauty, where green fields and chill glittering lakes spread out beneath the naked granite spires of the Cordillera del Paine.
Rock climbers and ice hikers come to Torres Del Paine National Park for adventure, while others enjoy the networks of trails that wind past herds of guanaco and through this Patagonia wilderness, occupying 1,100 square miles (1,800 square kilometers) of open space. The easiest and safest way to access the wilderness—home to Grey Glacier, Milodon Cave, and Lake Pehoe—is on a guided tour, which quickly takes travelers to the park’s most spectacular viewpoints, even if arriving from places further afield such as Puerto Natales. Guided tours are especially valuable for those coming from Argentina, as traveling with a guide takes the stress out of border crossing. Tours emphasize a range of outdoor activities, including sightseeing, hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Make reservations for the lodges and dormitories (called refugios) inside the park well in advance, as they fill up quickly; this applies to campsites, as well.
- The wind can greatly increase the chill, so dress in warm layers.
- Many tours offer next-day pickup for those who want to spend a night camping in the park.
- Wear appropriate clothes and shoes for walking on rocky, uneven surfaces.
How to Get There
Torres Del Paine National Park is located about five hours north of the town of Punta Arenas, the closest major city. Most visitors arrive at the Carlos Ibáñez Airport, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) north of town, with direct flights from most major Chilean cities. There are also ferries, geared to tourists, that make the trip. By bus, it's about three hours on a gravel road from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales, the closest major town to the park, set 70 miles (112 kilometers) away, with a range of hotels and other services. While Punta Arenas is worth exploring, you can catch a bus right from the airport to Puerto Natales. Buses run from there to, and throughout, the park.
When to Get There
The park reaches peak popularity from October to March; book everything well in advance if you plan to visit during this window. January is the warmest month, July is the coldest, and May is the wettest.
Guanacos are as much a part of the Patagonian landscape as mountains and lakes. These small, wild animals are the ancestors of modern llamas.