PN Torres Del Paine

Visiting this national park is clearly one of the highlights of our trip. While it is famous and best known for the three torres (towers) and the so called “W” track you can do a lot more. The “W” track connects the three main attractions in the park and on the map looks like a “W”. The three torres, the French Valley and Glacier Grey means usually a four day hike and you have the option of bringing your own stuff including tent, cooking utensils and your food or you can find the so called “refugios” which offers beds and even full board. The second option of course being much more expensive than the first one.

 

The problem we face with the “W” track is that you are supposed to book it well in advance if you want to get a bed instead of camping. Something we couldn’t do as we didn’t even know when we would arrive in the park. Camping is fine but bringing all our stuff we simply didn’t want to do. Ideally we wanted to go into the park with our camper and hike without organizing anything three month ahead of time.

 

For some reason we simply could not find out on the Internet if that is even possible - and we don't seem to be the only ones. There are several camp sites accessible via a gravel road but no description if you can stay there with a camper. It was only until we walk into one of the several tour offices in Puerto Natales and the guy there gives us the information we need: “You can camp on all the camp sites accessible by road with your camper. Then you can do day hikes and see more or less the same as doing the “W” hike.”

 

So off we go first to the super market to stock up: wine, beer, fruits, bread ... the most important things you need for camping and hit the road very early the next morning with still some way to go into the park. Leaving Puerto Natales at 6:45am we get a beautiful view coming closer with the sun rising a bit later. No clouds in the park is something not happening very often.

Later on we took some even more spectacular pictures with different views of the most amazing mountains we have seen so far. Given that some people come here for more than a week and don’t even get a glimpse of the mountains because they are covered in clouds we consider ourselves very lucky!

 

On the first day we take the hike up to the three torres and stay in the campsite close to the hotel “Las Torres” which is not even shown on the map. In order to visit the french valley we decide to stay a night in the refugio Paine Grande as the hike was too long to get back to the car on the same day. You get there with the ferry as there is no road.

 

On the third day we decide to take a boat tour to see Glacier Grey in the afternoon as it was recommended to us. In between the different trips we have to drive from one side to the park to the other, crossing numerous guanaco on our way. Karin in particular liked them a lot! :-)

 

Glacier Gray is our first glacier of this size. While we have seen glaciers in Europe this is not comparable. As part of the “W” track you can walk very close to this one as well. However, as the weather forecast was not very good we opted for the boat trip. As so often the weather is very unpredictable in this part of the world and it turned out to be a very nice day after all.

 

The entire boat trip lasts three hours. Once arriving at the glacier we get a Pisco Sour (national drink of Chile) on glacier “rocks”. With a bit of a tip we even managed to get a second round ;-) This journey was really great for us because it was the very first time we came this close to such a massive glacier. Surrounded by very nice people we really enjoyed this trip.

 

That night we stay at the campsite Lago Pehoe. Beautifully situated with shelters against the wind and a restaurant. Given the very basic and not always very good campsites we had so far this was a welcome change. The next morning is even more amazing. While it was raining a bit during the night the sunrise is spectacular. The clouds look like they are on fire. Unfortunately there are now also very strong winds and a sand storm and so we hit the road back to Argentina looking forward to even more glaciers to be visited.

copyright © 2018 by michael zink + karin schmidt

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