Torres del Paine is one of South America’s most spectacular national parks. Lying just over 300 km to the north of Chile’s historically red-roofed seaside city, Punta Arenas, and 100km north of the thriving tourist town of Puerto Natales in southern Chile’s Patagonian region, it stretches across approximately 500,000 acres of wild, untamed mountains, lakes and glaciers.
The park takes it’s name from a set of rock formations in the shape of three towers (“torres” in Spanish) which jut up imposingly in the Cordillera del Paine, penetrating the sky. Just a glimpse of these impressive granite structures makes the journey to southern South America worthwhile.
Lying in and around the craggy snow-topped peaks are lush valleys, kept green by the flow of numerous rivers that meander through the national park, culminating in powerful waterfalls where rock drops away suddenly plummeting into inviting turquoise lakes that stretch out beneath the eye, sometimes so calm their mirror-like surfaces reflect the cliffs that rise dramatically from their lapping edges.
Breathtaking boulders of ice add yet another dimension to the national park where one can find South America’s second biggest glacier. Glacier Grey is an enormous field of ice, 6 kilometres wide and 30 metres high, covering a surface of about 270km². And one of the highlights of Torres del Paine trekking is walking alongside the crystal clear, blue lake and seeing massive chunks of glacial ice float by, as they have done for thousands of years.
The park is also home to some rare and wonderful wildlife, including 15 bird of prey species, flamingos, swans, woodpeckers and Ibis; cougars, foxes, and Guanacos. If you’re really lucky you may get a sighting of the endangered Chilean Huemul.
To really get immersed in the natural wonders of the park you should consider a day or two of Torres del Paine trekking. Tour operators run a number of different treks ranging from one day tours of the park’s highlights to longer more adventurous trips which include zigzagging through the mountains, stopping for the night in “refugios” which provide the basics for a comfortable nights rest. Those looking for a more luxurious place to relax while enjoying the sunset can check themselves in at one of the stylish hotels with staggering views of the park.
Besides enjoying an afternoon hiking Torres del Paine’s beautiful trails, one can also take advantage of the W-trek, a sure way to see all the highlights of Torres del Paine trekking. Say Hueque’s popular ‘5 Day Torres del Paine Trekking’ trip is an outdoor lover’s dream and ideal for the avid hiker.
Say Hueque’s Discover Torres del Paine trips (3, 4 and 5 days) combine the best of the national park- glacier cruises, glacier hikes and of course, trekking Torres del Paine’s favorite day trails. Other activities on offer include horseback riding, climbing and kayaking.
For anyone with a sense of adventure and a love of astounding natural beauty, Torres del Paine National Park is a perfect destination for an absolutely unforgettable experience.