Travel consultants Marci Koltonuk and Jason Mayo and Marketing Coordinator Michelle Beetham recently returned from a 10 day trip to Patagonia, including 4 days of trekking and camping along the W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park. Read on to discover a glimpse of their experience and for some key Travel Tips for Torres del Paine National Park.
Getting to Torres del Paine National Park
From Santiago, take a 3.5-hour flight to Punta Arenas at the southern tip of Chile – the southernmost city in continental South America before its grouping of islands trail off into the Drake Passage. From there, you’ll need to take a 3-hour bus ride to the town of Puerto Natales followed by another 2-hour bus ride before eventually reaching the crown jewel of Chilean Patagonia: Torres del Paine National Park.
As you wind your way up the dirt roads to the entrance of the park, past sparkling turquoise lakes, surrounded by llama-like guanacos, and condors soaring over snow-capped peaks, you’ll first lay eyes on the Blue Towers from which the park gets its name, jutting straight up over 2000 meters into the air. Its remoteness is part of what makes it so special and it is certainly deserving of the journey it takes to arrive. Torres del Paine is so expansive, and the rugged, windswept landscapes are so striking that you truly feel that you are standing at the end of the world.
Exploring Torres del Paine the W Trek
Travel Tips for Torres del Paine
The W Trek, named for the shape of the trails through the park, is one of the most popular ways for visitors to experience the major highlights and vast array of landscapes this park has to offer. The 50 miles of the W Trek take you along multicolored lakes with pebbled beaches, through thick green forests and valleys, past waterfalls, and around electric blue glaciers that are part of the world’s largest ice field outside of Antarctica. Even if you don’t hike the entire way, the lodges inside the park offer daily excursions to each of these areas.
Day 1: Hiking to Lago Grey lookout to Grey Glacier
Day 2: Hiking to the French Valley
Day 4: Hiking the Towers at sunrise.
Travel Tips for Torres del Paine the W Trek:
Pack layers. It’s true what they say about Patagonia – you will experience four seasons in one day. We regularly went back and forth between short sleeves and sunglasses, rain coats and thermal layers, and wool hats. In one day we experienced warm sun, wind that almost blew us over, pouring rain, and hail.
Give yourself enough time. Torres del Paine is one place where you certainly don’t want to rush. We recommend at least 3 nights in the park with 2 full days. This will give you the biggest chance of experiencing good weather and seeing the towers on a clear day. There are day trips available from Puerto Natales, but in just a few hours you’ll catch only a glimpse of what the park has to offer. With a couple days, you’ll be able to see some of the highlights, and with 5-7 days, you’ll be able to more fully explore the almost 1,000 square miles of landscapes.
You don’t need to be a hiker. Although the hiking trails throughout the park are a major draw, there are tons of other ways to experience the different facets of this part of Patagonia, like horseback riding, kayaking, photography safaris, and wildlife spotting excursions.
Accommodations in Torres del Paine
The W Trek – 4 nights and 5 days of hiking with overnights in refugios along the trail or Eco Camps. There are plenty of comfortable accommodations and dining halls along the trail that make the hike more comfortable.
To experience the park in 5* luxury, we recommend Explora, an all-inclusive resort with a menu of over 50 tours and excursions for every interest and physical level.
For a fantastic 4* all-inclusive option, we recommend Las Torres, located at the entrance to the park with views of the towers and a horse stable on the premises.
Read our Review on Las Torres