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Visit Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia

The Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia is one of the most breathtaking places to visit in the region. It is wild, windswept and utterly wonderful and we thoroughly enjoyed spending a couple of days exploring.

The Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia is one of the most breathtaking places to visit in the region. It is wild, windswept and utterly wonderful and we thoroughly enjoyed spending a couple of days exploring.

visit Torres del Paine

We had flown to Patagonia from Chile’s capital Santiago, where we had spent a couple of days enjoying great seafood at the Mercardo Central and visiting wine country in the Maipo Valley. The flight allowed us to enjoy spectacular views of the Andes and Chilean Lake District as we flew into Punta Arenas.

From there we caught a bus to Puerto Natales which is the gateway to Torres del Paine.

Puerto Natales

It’s a small town with a pretty lake area and we spent the night there before heading out to Torres del Paine.

Puerto Natales

There were plenty of restaurants in town offering great seafood. With its incredibly long coastline, Chile can offer some of the best seafood on the planet. We enjoyed lots of fresh seafood platters in Patagonia, all of which were utterly delicious.

Seafood plate Puerto Natales
crab Puerto Natales

And an intriguing dish called king crab pie. We weren’t sure what it was, so we had to order. It was a gratinated dish – delicious crab meat in a cheesy sauce.

Visiting Torres del Paine – Practicalities

We hired a car for just a couple of days to take us to the National Park – the driving was very easy on clear roads. It is possible to pick up a car at Puerto Natales – the hiring process was all very straightforward and all we needed was a standard driving licence and an international driving permit. We definitely recommend driving if possible – the park is very large with amazing scenery and a car is the best way to visit the various locations at your own pace. However, buses are available from Puerto Natales and run on a regular schedule. It is also possible to join a tour – there will be agencies in Puerto Natales or Punta Arenas which offer coach tours.

When you visit Torres del Paine you have a choice of multiple entrances to the park – the tourist information centre in Puerto Natales gave us a free map of the area. It’s a maximum of 132 km from the town on well-made roads that are clear of traffic.

visit Torres del Paine

It wasn’t long before we spotted Torres del Paine’s cuernos – ‘horns’ – the famous granite peaks that rise upwards of 2000m and define the area. The cuernos have brilliantly descriptive names: Aleta de Tiburón (Shark’s Fin), Fortaleza (Fortress), La Espada (The Sword), La Hoja (The Blade), La Máscara (The Mask), Cuerno Norte (North Horn), and Cuerno Principal (Main Horn).

visit Torres del Paine

You need a ticket to enter the park – follow this link for entrance fees and ticketing information.

You also need to register at the park entrance – just show your tickets at the checkpoint.

Once inside the park the roads are more ‘natural’ – narrower, even single track in places, and many were of a gravel construction. This didn’t make the driving much more difficult – we just had to take a bit more care when encountering cars or coaches coming in the other direction.

The region is stark, wild and windswept and every inch of the journey offered us fantastic views.

visit Torres del Paine

A Tour of the Park

The park is stunningly beautiful and joyful to drive through. There are plenty of places to stop and admire the views of the mountains and lakes. If you are serious about hiking, there are a number of routes through the region, some of which can take several days to complete. We were more limited on time so enjoyed a leisurely combination of driving to the many scenic places and taking lots of walks in those areas.

We passed by Lake Nordenskjöld with its turquoise water…

Lake Nordenskjöld

… and towards Salto Grande Waterfall is on the Paine River, fed by Lake Nordenskjöld. The falls drop around 15m into Lago Pehoé.

Salto Grande Waterfall

Lago Grey

Grey Lake’s name suits it perfectly. It is a fed by Grey Glacier which is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. The glacier is around is thirty metres high at its highest point and approximately six kilometres wide. There is a visitor centre for Lago Grey close to the road which offers parking and refreshments/toilet facilities. It is possible to walk a 6km trail onto a desolate but strangely beautiful beach to view the lake and the icebergs that float serenely across it.

Lago grey
visit Torres del Paine
visit Torres del Paine

It is also just about possible to see the glacier way across the lake.

Base de Torres

We then drove up to the Base de Torres towards our hotel for the night. We stayed at Hosteria Los Torres, which was the posh accommodation option and a bit of a splurge for us.

visit Torres del Paine

There are cheaper accommodation options, including shelters and campsites.

Base torres walk

The following day we enjoyed some hiking along the Base de Torres path. We didn’t have time to do the full trek (the round trip takes around 7 hours) as we wanted to spend time exploring other areas of the park, and also needed to return the hire car, but we enjoyed a lovely, long walk on a gorgeous day. We visited in October, which was just at the start of spring and we were expecting the weather to be cold. It wasn’t – the temperature reached an unseasonably warm 20 deg C but the breeze was strong which made for perfect walking weather.

Torres del Paine lake
visit Torres del Paine

Laguna Azul 

Before leaving the park we took a detour to view Laguna Azul. The road to the lake offered some fantastic views of the Torres Peaks along the way.

visit Torres del Paine

And the lake itself is very pretty.

Laguna azul

Wildlife in Torres del Paine

There is plenty of wildlife in the area although, as with all wildlife, the clue is in the name: it is wild and therefore sightings cannot be guaranteed. We were unbelievably lucky during our visit. One tip that we learned many years ago: if you see people stop, look in a particular direction and point, go over to them and find out what they are pointing at. It’s usually something interesting.

We were initially quite confused by guanacos – when we first saw them we knew they weren’t llamas or alpaca, but weren’t quite sure what they were. Fortunately local people were around to tell us about them. They were to be found all over the park.

visit Torres del Paine
visit Torres del Paine

Because it was early spring when we visited Torres del Paine, the rutting season was beginning. The males compete with each other to impress the lady guanacos. They had a very funny rutting technique. (The background noise is the wind – Torres del Paine is very windy!)

We also spotted hares and lots of birds

ruddy headed goose Torres del Paine

There are apparently around 200 puma living in the area, which is one of the highest concentrations in the world. They are generally quite shy and, although it is quite common to see evidence of their kills along pathways, we didn’t have high expectations of actually encountering one. You obviously have to be cautious – while they are unlikely to attack, they are big, wild cats so it is important to keep a distance. Also, never run away from a big cat – it would definitely want to chase!

We were lucky enough to see this magnificent puma on our Base de Torres walk. It was casually striding through the long grass. We got chatting to another walker as we climbed further up the route. He had been searching for a puma all day and was very envious of our sighting. We pointed him in the direction of where it had been heading but it was probably long gone.

puma

Having been lucky enough to have seen so much of the local wildlife, just as we started the drive back to Puerto Natales, we commented to each other that it would have been perfect if we had been able to see a rhea. And what should appear?

Rhea Torres del Paine

A rhea is a large, flightless bird which is similar to an ostrich. This one was enjoying a strut through the scrub.

And then, on our return to Puerto Natales, we spent one more night enjoying more seafood before heading for the bus stop the following morning, in order to make our way across the border into Argentina. Our aim was to visit Los Glaciares National Park at El Calafate and to hike in El Chalten. Torres del Paine was one of the highlights of our trip to Patagonia – wild, desolate and utterly magical.

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19 Comments

  1. Another great post on your Chile adventures. I’ve been reading them to plan out a future trip to Chile/Argentina for this region and the info and pics are really helpful. It is certainly a remote area but I want to spend a long time there to explore as much as possible. Great info for where to eat and stay in the area.

    • Thank you so much for your kind comment. We absolutely recommend a trip to this area and exploring for as long as you can – it is so wild and beautiful. The whole region has so much to offer.

  2. Such a bucket list trip for us! Breathtaking pictures and fantastic information. Thanks for sharing, I’ll be saving this for a future trip!

    • Thank you! We do hope you get to visit one day, we are sure you will love it. Visiting Patagonia was a bucket list trip for us – it’s a very long way away but we absolutely adored it.

    • Thank you! We were SO lucky with the puma sighting – we just couldn’t believe it. The scenary was just wonderful and, yes, the seafood delicious!

    • Thanky you. The scenery is just wonderful – everywhere we looked we saw a great view. The food was terrific.

  3. The scenery is just spectacular; it reminds me a lot of what I saw in Alaska’s Glacier National Park. It’s so cool you got to see all that wildlife. I’m jealous of your puma sighting. I had to chuckle about your tip with looking where people are pointing; I always joke about how I want to just start doing that randomly to see how many people follow me to look at nothing lol

    • Haha! I think that should become a thing – fake pointing! But yes, if it wasn’t for the pointing we wouldn’t have seen the puma and that was just fantastic! I saw your photos of Alaska and there were lots of similarities, albeit at the other end of the world.

  4. This is such a bucketlist destination. I must say I mostly use backpacking guides as a source and a nice accommodation and a rental car seems like a much more relaxed option. I need all the seafood dishes! The landscape is just stunning and who knew that you can find so much wildlife in such a remote place?

    • Thank you! It was a bucket list destination for us – a dream fulfilled. We’d definitely recommend a hire car if possible – it’s a large park and we enjoyed travelling through it at our own pace. It’s so beautiful there. Oh, the seafood was amazing! Do hope you get to visit one day.

  5. I hope to visit Patagonia one day. When I do, Torres del Paine National Park would be one of the places I’d want to visit. We love seafood. What was the price like? Love all the wildlife that you came across and so cool that you saw a puma! The scenery is beautiful, who can resist snow-capped mountains. Really enjoyed reading this article. Thank you.

    • Thank you so much! We do hope you get to visit Patagonia and Torres del Paine. It was an ambition fulfilled to go there. It was amazing that we saw the puma, we were so lucky! The price for the hotel was a splurge for us, as it was the high-end option, and it was comparable with UK prices (more expensive than the other places we stayed in Chile). The seafood in the restaurants in Puerto Natales was really good value… and excellent quality as well.

  6. This really is one of my dream destinations to visit! The park is an incredible area of beauty and filled with stunning scenery and wildlife. Patagonia is somewhere I really want to see one day and reading this makes me more determined!

    • Thank you so much. Patagonia was a dream destination for us as well – and it surpassed our expectations. It is so wild and wonderful. Hope you get to visit one day.

  7. That beach at Lago Grey with the mountains in the background and icebergs floating around is quite something. First time I hear of rheas and guanacos. How cute are they! How fabulous you spotted a puma in the wild. I only learned recently how ginormous those beasts are.

    • Thank you, Stefan. We absolutely loved the landscapes in Patagonia, especially the glaciers. We were so confused by the guanacos when we saw them. They are adorable and very funny when rutting! We couldn’t believe our luck seeing that puma sauntering casually so close by.

  8. I loved this post. Patagonia is high on my travel wish list. I like the idea of hiring a car to explore the NP. Amazing that you have managed to see a puma, but also all the other wildlife, your photos are gorgeous. Definitely a dream destination, thank you for sharing.

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