Memoirs from a trip to Torres del Paine
Have you ever seen a postcard from Torres del Paine and desperately wish you were there? Such image found in Chile tourist guides, in giant size prints at the country’s airports, and in prominent photography books can quickly spark that feeling in almost everyone that looks at it.
That is what happened to me about two years ago. I saw it and decided that travelling to the Torres del Paine had to be in my bucket list. No matter how or how much it would take, all I wanted was to visit the world’s eighth wonder.
Beyond Torres del Paine
I was already consumed by the granite towers, but before organizing my trip I wanted to know what else could Torres del Paine National Park offer. What I found pleasantly surprised me. You can visit different glaciers within the Park, being the Grey glacier the most outstanding. It is located in a lake that has the same name, blue colors and floating icebergs. It has one of the most amazing views in the area and attractiveness I didn’t want to miss. I also read that boat trips are organized and they take you closer to the glacier. I wished I could be feet away from this millenary iceberg.
Another thing I found out is that this Park is the home for about 50 pumas, which makes it the best place in the world to spot Chile’s largest feline. Here I decided to further my research and browsing different sites for information and I learned that seeing a puma was a matter of luck. Hopefully I’ll see one.
I also understood that trekking and tracks such as the W or the O –the famous routes to go into Torres del Paine– are not the only options to explore the Park. There are many others, including horseback riding through the pampas or walking the trails such as Mirador Cóndor, with panoramic views to the Paine Horns and lake Pehoé, or the Ferrier Viewpoint in the Park’s east side, among others. Everything that I read just seemed wonderful.
Let’s get on with it!
I had already made the decision to go. Now I had to find out how. First I thought about camping at the Park’s shelters or camping sites. I wanted to enjoy nature to the full and wake up right there, but I was not sure I was ready to have a camping experience in such a remote place. I also wasn’t thrilled by the idea of carrying on my back the clothes and food I needed for my adventure. Then I decided to look for “accommodations and hotels in Torres del Paine”. I was in that search when I found explora, the only luxury hotel inside the National Park.
explora Patagonia makes a fascinating proposal, with more than 40 tours to explore all the corners of the place I so wanted to visit. You can choose among trekking or horseback ride, from a half a day or a full day, and they also offer the trip to Grey glacier. I checked the rooms and they all had incredible views of the natural landscape surrounding the hotel. The ones facing south had views to the Salto Chico cascade while the others looked as though the Paine Horns were right inside the room. The bed looked comforting and the Spa with outdoor Jacuzzis was a very tempting invitation. No need to say more. I clicked and reserved four nights at explora Patagonia. The agency promised that all I needed to worry about was enjoying myself.
To live the explora experience
I landed in Punta Arenas in the morning and they were waiting for me at the airport to take me to the Park. I hopped on the van with other two travellers and the adventure began. While on the road, they gave me a book with the explora philosophy and a welcome message to understand our itinerary. We traveled for about five and a half hours enjoying the landscape and we stopped to have something to eat before arriving to the hotel.
A few hours later, a guide welcomed me at explora, showing my room and inviting me to an exploration during the afternoon. He suggested the Mirador Cóndor trekking. I left my things and prepared myself for the trip. We walked out of the hotel and climbed to the viewpoint, from where we got a glimpse of the entire Park. He showed me condor’s nests, we saw guanacos and I was thrilled to be there. I was at the Torres del Paine National Park, something I had dreamed about since I saw that picture in front of me.
In the evening, before dinner, a guide approached me to suggest next day’s expedition. The challenge was a big one! He proposed we go to the base of the towers. “The weather is going to be wonderful tomorrow. You cannot miss Torres del Paine with that sun”, he said. Although I had planned to do that exploration on the last day, I remembered something I had read: the weather in Patagonia is totally unpredictable and sometimes you need to make last minute decisions to make sure you see the granite towers.
The time has come!
I woke up impatient that morning. I wanted to see the towers from a close distance. In order to do that, I had to walk nine kilometers. We equipped ourselves with walking sticks, water, snacks and sandwiches for lunch. We began walking and slowly went into the heart of a wonderful forest. At times we met other walkers and we passed each other. The road was so delightful that it didn’t matter how much further we still had to go or how steep the trail was; and that is how we reached the summit. A turquoise lagoon at the slopes of the huge granite towers welcomed me.
I had reached the goal. At last I was at Torres del Paine. The weather was on our side just like the guide had told me. It was sunny and the blue sky was a perfect contrast to the clouds and the towers. I approached the lagoon and felt quite small. While I gazed at the landscape the wind was in my face. It was just perfect! I went back to meet the guide and my travel partners to share a warm soup and lunch with a splendid view.
The way back also had its charm. I came back happy for my achievements: to have walked that distance and seen Torres del Paine. The best part was on our way back to the hotel in the van: we saw a puma! There it was standing magnificently on a hill, watching everything around it. We got out of the car to see it better. It was definitively my lucky day!
I strongly recommend it!
I was just as surprised with every exploration on the days that followed. From the hotel’s dock and navigating through turquoise waters of Pehoé Lake I went to the Grey Glacier. I went horseback riding to the Serrano River and visited the east side of the Park going up to the Ferrier viewpoint, with views to glaciers, rivers, and forested mountains.
Needless to say, the hotel’s food was delicious and the bed was as comforting as shown in the web page. I enjoyed the outdoor Jacuzzis and felt that the promise had been fulfilled.
All I had to do was to worry about enjoying myself. Another destination crossed out of my bucket list; the next one could probably be Easter Island. Someone told me explora was also there.