Published on March 13th, 2012 | by Mark Chesnut
Top 5 Things to Know About Visiting Patagonia & Torres del Paine National Park
|Morning has broken: Torres del Paine in Chile, at sunrise. Photo: Winky from Oxford|
BY LAURA ELISE
Torres del Paine is one of the most stunning natural sites in South America, and yet many Latin America travel enthusiasts don’t know much about it. Laura Elise fills us in on the basics.
1. Where is it?
Torres del Paine is a national park in Chile; it is also the name of the main peak columns within the park. The park is located in Patagonia in southern Chile, close to the border with Argentina. The park covers 598,000 acres and contains lakes, glaciers, mountains, and pampas.
2. How do I get there?
The easiest way is to fly into the town of Punta Arenas and then travel by road three hours to Puerto Natales, which is the town closest to the park. From Puerto Natales, the park is about another hour away. You can also access the park from El Calafate, a Patagonia town in Argentina. This journey takes about six hours and you should probably plan on spending a night in Puerto Natales rather than going directly into the park. Both Chile and Argentina charge a country entrance fee for American citizens, but this does not apply if you’re crossing the border by land.
If you’re traveling during the summer months, you can also fly directly into Puerto Natales on Sky Airlines with a brief stopover in Puerto Arenas.
3. What is there to do?
Patagonia is a trekker’s paradise, so it makes sense that the number one thing people do in Torres del Paine is to tie on a pair of sturdy hiking boots and take to the trail. One of the most popular treks is the “W”, a three-to-four day hike that hits the park’s main highlights, including Laguna Amarga, Lago Pehoe, Valle Frances, and offers great views of the Cuernos. A longer option is the Circuit, which includes the “W” plus four more days hiking along the other side of Lago Grey.
As Torres del Paine continues to grow in popularity, many attractions are becoming easier to access for day trekkers. Lodges now offer spectacular Patagonia views you can enjoy without leaving the breakfast table, and there are plenty of wonderful vistas accessed by short walks across flat, easy terrain.
4. What should I pack?
Layers, layers, layers. Regardless of when you visit, the weather here can be unpredictable. Make sure you have several light weight, waterproof items of clothing, as well as a good pair of waterproof hiking boots if you plan to do some trekking. Remember a hat and sunglasses to keep the sun’s reflection of the snow out of your eyes and off your face. Sunscreen should also be lavishly applied. Further items will depend on what you plan to do (long trek verses staying in a lodge) and what time of year you’re visiting.
5. When should I go?
Patagonia gets a bit dicey in the winter, which in Chile falls during the American summer. Temperatures drop below freezing and most places close down for the season. The most popular time to visit is during the summer months from December to February. To experience the best of the weather without the crowds, try visiting during the shoulder seasons of October or March.
This is a sponsored guest post.
South America tours and Patagonia tours to Torres del Paine can be arranged by a reputable travel company.
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