Head south of Chile to Torres del Paine. An extraordinary national park that offers varied landscapes, between glaciers, cliffs and turquoise lakes. It is a real paradise for hikers who dream of walking in the heart of nature between the Andes Mountains and Patagonia.
Torres del Paine is not only a park of great beauty; it is also a biosphere reserve registered at UNESCO. There is a unique flora and vegetation areas from the forest to the desert, through the pre-Andean matorral. The fauna is also remarkable. Armadillos, pumas and rare endemic bird species can be seen. So don’t wait a minute more to plan your stay in Torres del Paine, and discover this remote and wild region.
O and W trekkings
This is the flagship activity of the park, a hike of several days that bypasses the Paine massif, and passes through all the scenic spots.
It is possible to do the whole circuit (trail O) in one week, or only part (trail W) in four to five days. Shelters and campgrounds are scattered all over the course, but you still have to carry your bag and basic elements.
Therefore the trek can be quite difficult if you are not used to it. In addition, the weather might change quickly and can become very threatening. But with a guide and good equipment, nothing is impossible. When you reach the viewpoints and you see the three granite points standing proudly toward the sky, it was definitely worth the effort.
The Salto Grande and Salto Chico Waterfalls
If you don’t have the time to embark on a trek for several days, or the weather is not conducive to a long walk, an easy and accessible alternative is to go to the waterfalls.
The first on the way is the Salto Grande, only a 15 minute walk from the car park. Its waters come from the great lake Nordernskjöld and arrive into Pecohé Lake.
At the exit of the lake Pecohé, below, you will see the waterfall Salto Chico. You can even have a little lunch break here and admire the scenery from the luxurious hotel restaurant.
West of Lake Pecohé, you will see pieces of icebergs floating in a creamy turquoise water. This magical place is called Gray Lake. It stretches in length at the foot of the glacier of the same name, which pours its large pieces of ice adrift.
From Gray Lake lookout point, the view at height is striking, especially when the sky clears and lets glimpse the glacier in the distance. To reach it, only a 45-minute walk is necessary, and the walk is very pleasant. Those who want to approach the icebergs can even embark on a small boat that crosses the lake and get close to the glacier.
The Cuernos viewpoint
Starting in the direction of Salto Grande, then branching off towards Lake Nordernskjöld, the path leads to a magnificent viewpoint. In front of you, you will see the lake against the backdrop of the three “horns of the Paine”.
These characteristic rocky peaks are visible only in clear weather, and are recognizable by the alternation of colors. Indeed, the center of the horns is white granite, while the tips and bases are rather dark. This geological feature is very rare, and contributes to the growing reputation of the park.
Canoeing on Pehoé Lake
Stuck between Gray Lake and Nordernskjöld Lake, Pehoé Lake is not blessed with icebergs, but it is no less remarkable. There are catamaran trips on the lake, but the best way to cross is by canoe.
Enjoy the tranquility of the place to breathe the fresh air and drift to the foot of the mountains. This sports activity will give you the opportunity to rest your legs after hiking, and to work your arms. You will have plenty of time to slowly contemplate snow-capped peaks, Andean vegetation and dramatic cliffs. You can even make a portion of the big trek around Gray Lake if you have any strength left.
Discover the Valle del Francés
If you follow the W trail, the “French Valley” is the middle track, enclosed between Cerro Paine Grande and Cuernos del Paine. But you don’t need to do the whole trek to admire this beautiful view from the Francés point of view.
It is possible to join the path from Paine Grande, crossing the Pehoé Lake by catamaran. From there, a little more than four hours of walking are waiting for you to reach the point of view, and as much to return.
This will give you the opportunity to observe the “horns of the Paine” from all angles. You will also observe the many mountains around, including Cerro Catedral and Cerro Aleta de Tiburon.
Contemplate the famous Torres del Paine
Let’s finish this list of activities in apotheosis. The three rocky peaks that gave their name to the park remain a well-kept secret. There is not necessarily a week’s trek to reach them, but you still have a good day of walking at a steady pace.
To cut the route, it is possible to spend a night in front of the “torres”, and come back the next day quietly. If you don’t have time for the O and W trails, this outing is a must. You will see that it will be the highlight of your visit. Combined with a cruise on Gray Lake, and the contemplation of “Cuernos”, you’ll have a tour of the main things to see in Torres del Paine Park.