Torres del Paine National Park in the Patagonia region of Chile is a breath taking place to visit. Have you ever felt so small while comparing yourself to your surroundings? Well, while you look out over the horizon of the park, get ready to feel irrelevant to the beautiful nature that surrounds you. If you are in the mood to feel accomplished and see some amazing things in the meantime, do yourself a favor and visit the park. The park has a wide range of sceneries. There is the jagged mountain range with the iconic towers, open fields filled with Guanaco (llamas close cousin), turquoise waters, a crystal clear glacier, the list goes on.
Before you start your journey to the bottom of the world, here are a few tips on preparing for your trip. If you plan on hiking some of the trails in the park (which is a MUST) invest in some good hiking boots and break them in before you take your trip. Trust me, you will thank me later. Also, try and do some small hiking trails around the area you live in. This will help you make it through your hikes, they can be tough. Make sure to bring clothes that are weather appropriate. Depending on the time of year in Torres del Paine, you can experience all four seasons in one day, so pack smart! One last thing that will be of use, hiking poles. Whether you rent them in Puerto Natales (closes town to the park) or bring your own, they will be life savers when you are hiking back down the rocky terrain.
Now on to the fun stuff, things to do! The park has so much to offer. One of the main adventures you can do is the “W” hike. This hike is a multi-day outing that takes you to see most of the highlights in the park, such as the base of the towers. You can also visit Grey Glacier which is 6 kilometers wide and about 30 meters high. If you love animals and want to experience something unique, try horseback riding. One option is, Tercera Barranca. The ride is 6 hours long along open fields overlooking the Torres Del Paine mountain range and it is breathtaking. Just being outside walking around through the park is a good enough of an excuse to check it out.
The one thing that still stands out to me from the park was the hike to the base of the towers. It was easily one of the most difficult things I have ever done, but by far the most rewarding. The hike is 12 miles long with a 2,800ft rise in elevation. The first half of the hike is nothing but one big ol’ hill. After making it halfway through, the terrain flattens out with just a couple rising hills. Once you make it to about mile 4, the trail starts to incline again. You keep going and going thinking you are almost to the top because by this time, you feel like you must have already hiked 6+ miles, when really you still have 2 more to go. After what feels like forever, you finally reach the top, and boy is it worth it! You overlook an aqua blue, icy body of water that lies at the foot of the towers. That view alone makes the 4.5 hour hike up there worth every ache and pain. The reward of seeing a view like this in person after such a demanding hike really makes this trip worth it.
One tip I can offer from my own experience would be to plan ahead. Like a said above, make sure you pack appropriately. If you plan on hiking, layer up. You will start to warm up once you get moving. At the top, the wind can be bone chilling and you are going to want to bundle up. Another tip is to account for travel time. In the park, the roads are gravel and take a little longer to navigate. There are a few hotels that are available in the park, but if you would like to stay outside and drive in, the closest town is about an hour and a half drive away.
I hope Torres Del Paine makes it on your bucket list, I promise it is worth it!