Last updated on December 31st, 2018 at 12:03 pm
Patagonia. The word conjures up a sense of adventure and natural beauty. But if you’re short on vacation time, how can you pick and choose among all the amazing destinations in Patagonia? Two of the highlights are Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia and El Calafate in Argentine Patagonia. These two are must-sees if you want to see jagged mountains and impressive glaciers and enjoy some scenic hiking. Read on to find out about our Torres del Paine and El Calafate tours, and how to combine these two spots into one itinerary.
Torres del Paine
Nestled between the Magellanic subpolar forests and Patagonian Steppe is Torres del Paine National Park. This park is a personal favorite of mine (not only on the South American continent but globally speaking as well) and it will, without a doubt, captivate any traveler who visits. Approaching the park on the rustic, dusty roads, passing majestic condors and wild guanacos batting their almost cartoon-like eyelashes, you feel how the cowboys of the Wild West must have felt standing on the brink of the unexplored frontier. Patagonia is the wild west of yesteryear and evokes an almost visceral reaction to run free in its surreal, idyllic beauty.
From the park entrance and throughout, it does not cease to astound. Almost immediately upon entering the park, Laguna Amarga, a salty lake, comes into view behind which the Torres themselves jut up and beckon. It is no wonder why British aristocrat, Florence Dixie, the first explorer in the area in 1879, deemed these mighty towers: Cleopatra’s Needles. Amongst the other, more rotund, jagged, peaks, these three towers seem more reminiscent to those of the slender Guilin Mountains of China than their surrounding counterparts. It is precisely their unique formation that makes them the icon for this park.
Going deeper into the park, the next pair of mountains to be encountered are the Cuernos del Paine (the horns). Standing below these peaks, each one with its own layers of varying coloration and shape is nothing short of humbling. Finally, at the heart of the park is the Grey Glacier at the end of Grey Lake. Walking out on the sandbar in the middle of Grey Lake and having the monumental glacier and its surrounding blue-tinted icebergs floating about it, has engraved itself in my mind’s eye and secured itself as one of my fondest memories of encounters with nature. Hiking and camping in this park is unforgettable; between the solitude and infinite natural beauty, a one-day to multiday trip here will only spark a desire to return to South America to experience more.
Where to Stay
Rustic and cozy yurts complete with heating and showers await guests at Patagonia Camp hotel. This is the perfect lodging for guests who are looking for that perfect mix of luxury with an adventurous flair. The main lodge of the hotel offers stellar views of the lake and mountains beyond and is warm and inviting yet done in a minimalist style that allows the surrounding scenic beauty to be the focal point.
Tierra Patagonia Hotel and Spa
This hotel has been flawlessly integrated into the landscape and is a piece of art in and of itself. Beautifully crafted entirely from wood, the structure, left exposed to be admired, creates a warm and inviting atmosphere. Waking up here, you not only wake up in a natural paradise but also in luxury.
Hotel Las Torres
We also recommend the Hotel Las Torres, and we’re currently offering a 15% off hotel & tour package promotion for this hotel. Watch this video to get a sense of the place:
Getting From Torres del Paine to El Calafate
There are two main ways to travel between these points of interest. By far the very easiest and cheapest is taking a bus from Puerto Natales 112 km (70 miles) south of Torres del Paine. The bus journey takes 5 hours and many bus companies cover this route with high frequency. During the high season, there is also the option of a charter flight, which can be taken from Puerto Natales directly to El Calafate. The flight time is one hour and is available Monday-Friday.
While Torres del Paine, tickles the senses with its grandiose peaks and Grey Glacier, El Calafate is the gateway to Glaciers National Park. The most famous glacier in the park and, an international-must-see, is the Perito Moreno Glacier. The breath-taking, 60-meter high wall of glacial ice seems alive as the ice creaks, groans, cracks and falls away, disappearing beneath the surface of piercing blue water below and resurfacing anew as its own petite (relatively speaking) iceberg.
Take a catamaran boat ride along the glacier and amongst the iceberg fields. Then bundle up as the sun begins to sink as the next show commences: while sipping champagne, chilled in glacial ice water, with no light pollution, experience the ultimate galaxy viewing as the stars begin to appear.
Along with Glaciers National Park, El Calafate offers numerous other natural attractions such as icy lakes, a petrified forest, and several surrounding peaks. Horseback riding through this idyllic and mesmerizing landscape can also be added as an additional jaunt for those who wish to entertain their inner gaucho!
Where To Stay in El Calafate
This hotel and spa offer stunning views of Lake Argentino and neat, clean rooms. The huge open fireplace is the best place to sip a glass of Malbec wine while taking in the surrounding beauty.
Kau Yatun Hotel de Campo & Estancia
This country-style hotel gives the feeling of a luxurious hunting lodge. Surrounded by plains, trees, mountains, and sheep it offers the perfect escape. The rooms are spacious, quiet and cozy.
This is the ultimate luxury lodge in El Calafate. Nestled all on its own on the plains between rugged mountains, the Eolo Lodge’s rooms boast 360-degree views of all the natural splendor that its rustic surroundings have to offer. This is THE romantic getaway.
Book a Torres del Paine and El Calafate Tour!
These two destinations are an absolute MUST in any Patagonia adventure and offer the perfect linkage point between your respective Chilean and Argentine itineraries. Contact our travel consultants today to receive a free quote for a Torres del Paine and El Calafate tour, customized perfectly to your liking!