Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine National Park

Torres del Paine National Park
Image: Explora Patagonia - Hotel Salto Chico

 Torres del Paine National Park is located in the province of Ultima Esperanza, northern part of the Region de Magallanes y Antartica Chilena, also known as the XIIth. Region of Chile. Created in 1959, today its area is 227,298 hectares, the distance from Puerto Natales, the nearest city is 112 km and from Punta Arenas, the regional capital is 312 km.

The protected area, managed by CONAF (National Forest Corporation) presents a wide variety of natural environments, such as the world famous Torres and Cuernos del Paine, valleys, lakes, waterfalls and rivers from glaciers of the neighboring Campo de Hielo Sur (Southern Ice Fields), one of the largest freshwater reserves on Earth. 

In 1978 the Sanctuary was declared Biosphere World Reserve by the UNESCO and in 2013, it was chosen The Eighth Wonder of the World by Virtual Tourist, among 300 tourist destinations of 50 countries. It is also worth mentioning that in a special edition of National Geographic, Torres del Paine ranked fifth among the most beautiful places in the world. On the other hand, in a recent publication, the world-renowned Time magazine chose Torres del Paine as one of the best places in the world to visit in 2023. The Chilean national park was described as a "paradise for hikers, as well as being one of the best places on Earth to see wild pumas".


Year after year, the number of visitors, especially foreigners from all over the world has been increasing, a condition that has forced to apply certain restrictions that in the past did not exist. Parque Nacional Torres del Paine borders with Los Glaciares National Park, in Argentina. Rio Don Guillermo Border Crossing connects these two major tourist attractions.




How to Get to Torres del Paine

By Air: It is the most usual way used by travelers. From Santiago, the Chilean capital to Carlos Ibañez del Campo International Airport in Punta Arenas, the flight lasts approximately 3 1/2 hours without considering any stopover. Once arrived, you can spend the night in Punta Arenas, 22 km South of the airport and 312 km from the park or go directly to the city of Puerto Natales, 112 km from the entrance of the protected area.

Traditionally, the massive arrival of tourists to the region has always been through sea cruises and flights arriving in Punta Arenas.  However, in recent times, Puerto Natales has undergone a significant development in its tourist infrastructure, improving access, especially through Teniente Julio Gallardo Airport, where flights of Sky Airline will arrive directly from Santiago throughout the year as of June 2023. This is the best option in case of limited time to visit the place.  

By Ferry: This is the most scenic way to reach the National Park. From the city of Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales there are 4 days of unforgettable voyage through the Southern Channels, Glaciers and forests that reach the shore of narrow fjords. 

In addition to the comfortable transport of passengers, the ferry boat safely and reliably moves from small vehicles to trucks and machinery. Ferry Routes Here.

By Land: The shortest way between Santiago and the city of Punta Arenas is of approximately 3100 km. The route is through Chilean territory to the cities of Osorno or Puerto Montt, from there you cross to Argentina until reaching Integracion Austral Border Crossing, also known as Monte Aymond, the most important of the Magallanes Region. Paso Internacional Integracion Austral is located 196 km NE of Punta Arenas by paved route and 336 km from Puerto Natales. You can also reach the park from the neighboring tourist town of El Calafate in Argentina through the Rio Don Guillermo border crossing (Cancha Carrera on the Argentine side).


When to go?, Climate

Torres del Paine can be visited at any time of the year, although undoubtedly the Summer season, between December and March is when the largest number of tourists arrive at the place. 

Just like throughout the Patagonian region, the weather in Torres del Paine is unpredictable, during the summer the temperature can occasionally reach up to 20-22 degrees C., but the average ranges between 10-14 degrees C., winds are sometimes very strong and can easily reach 120 km / hour or more. The park is open to tourists all year round, although during the Winter not all services are operational and weather conditions are decisive when venturing into any of the circuits allowed at that time of year.

In favor of Winter tourism, it can be said that at this time the Natural Sanctuary acquires a different majesty when it is covered with a white mantle of snow, generally between June and August. During this season the average temperature is 0 degrees C. and although it seems strange, the winds are much more moderate than in Summer. The low season runs from May 1 to September 30 of each year.

Online Ticket Purchase

You must enter aspticket, the official site for the purchase of tickets to Chilean national parks. Once inside the portal, select Torres del Paine National Park. The system is easy to use and works similarly to the purchase process of air flights. 

It is very important to buy your ticket before visiting the protected areas, as this will guarantee your access, otherwise you may find that the park is full and you will not be able to enter.


 

Services and Facilities

Parque Nacional Torres del Paine
Image: wildernesstravel.com/lodging/
Rio Serrano Hotel & Spa

The Sede Administrativa (Administrative Headquarter) is located on the north bank of Lago Toro, where there is also a Visitor Center and a lookout. In the offices are processed the permissions to climb the summits of the area, fishing licenses or special sports activities.

The main entrances enabled for vehicle access to the park are Porteria Rio Serrano, 80 km from Puerto Natales; Porteria Laguna Amarga, 129 kms. from Puerto Natales and Porteria Lago Sarmiento, 112 kms. from Puerto Natales. There are also the "Guarderias" (Ranger Stations): Lago Grey, Laguna Verde, Lago Pehoe, Pudeto, which stay open all year round and there are also Guarderias in faraway places enabled only in the high season, in all of them the rangers provide the necessary information to the visitors that require it.

Torres del Paine is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Patagonia, the infrastructure to serve tourists goes from Free Campsites, which have basic services and you must take your camping equipment and food; Paid Campsites, with many more amenities than the free ones; Refugios (Shelters), the most comfortable option but with the highest cost. For those who do not like physical effort there are cozy Hosterias (Inns) and Hotels, including five-star ones. 

There are also navigation services, food sale, horseback riding and crafts. The main camping sites are: Rio Serrano, Pehoe, Lago Grey, Laguna Azul, Paine Grande, Lago Dickson, Los Perros, Seron, Los Cuernos. Some of the most outstanding Hotels and Inns in Torres del Paine are Explora Patagonia Hotel Salto Chico, Rio Serrano Hotel & Spa, Hotel Las Torres Patagonia, Hosteria Lago Grey, Hosteria Pehoe, Patagonia Camp, Ecocamp Patagonia, Hotel Del Paine, Cabanas Lago Tyndall. To spend the night in Mountain Campsites is mandatory to have a reservation. In summary, access, infrastructure and services are of the best quality, the only thing left to chance is the climatic factor.



Attractions in Torres del Paine, Tourist Circuits

Photo by Matt Gross on Unsplash 
Undoubtedly, the center of attention and main reason to visit the place is to enjoy the geological wonder represented by the Granite Towers and Horns, and immortalize them in a few photographs or videos. But it is not only that, you will also appreciate the environment constituted by a variety of lakes of iridescent waters, highlighting Lago  Pehoe (which has been ranked as one of the most beautiful on the world), Grey, Nordenskjold, Sarmiento, Toro, Paine, thousand-year-old glaciers such as the Grey, Tyndall, Geyke, Pingo.
 
The places where to go and activities to do depend on the weather conditions and how much time the visitor has for that purpose. There are different trekking options, of all degrees of difficulty and duration. From short one-hour hikes that you can even do with children to the world famous "W" and "O" treks.

* Base Torres Trek, an unmissable experience where you will reach the closest place to the emblematic granite peaks and the lagoon at their feet. Medium/high difficulty level, full day, hiking time is 8 to 9 hours approximately.

Valle del Frances (French Valley trek), a route of approximately 20 km. in total, in addition to a sailing trip through the beautiful lake Pehoe. It can be done as a full day excursion, but is normally part of the W circuit. The difficulty level is medium/high.  

Tours in 4x4 vehicles, a comfortable way to get to know the Biosphere Reserve, is through its 100 km of roads. Unlike trekking, by vehicle you can not directly reach all the attraction points, but a majority of them. In the nearby city of Puerto Natales and the regional capital Punta Arenas there is a good number of Rent a Cars and Tourism Agencies for this purpose. From Puerto Natales can be accessed through 2 different roads, the route through Cerro Castillo of more than 150 km, which leads to Laguna Amarga and Sarmiento Entrances. The other route is the most recent 80 Km. road, passing through La Cueva del Milodon Natural Monument (Mylodon's Cave), in this case the access is through Porteria Serrano.

 
Serrano River Navigation, the stunning voyage is divided into two stretches, the first begins in Puerto Natales, sailing through the Ultima Esperanza Fjord to Bernardo O'Higgins National Park, visiting the Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers, then boarding semi-rigid boats and navigating upstream to the Park.

The "W" Trekking Circuit, one of the most famous trekking routes in the World, through the main attractions of the National Park. Called "W" because of the shape it adopts when joining the points through where it passes: Valle Ascencio, Valle del Frances and Glaciar Grey. The walk has a length of 71 km, it can be done between 4 to 5 days.

The "O" Trekking Circuit, a route of just over 110 Km., very demanding physically and mentally, the approximate duration is 7 to 8 days, the "O" includes the "W" circuit. Its name refers to the circular shape of the route which also shows the hidden side of the Park as it goes around the entire Torres del Paine Massif. You get impressive views, including the Campo de Hielo Sur (Southern Ice Field) from the height.

Wildlife Watching, including the typical Guanacos everywhere, other mammals such as the Puma, Ñandues, different species of Foxes, the Huemul and the Condor, animals represented in the National Coat of Arms.  

Grey Lake and Glacier
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Excursion and Navigation of Grey Glacier, located in the Western part of the Park, also forming part of the Southern Ice Field, one of the main attractions and one of the must-see excursions when visiting Parque Nacional Torres del Paine.

Sport climbing, those interested in climbing a summit in Torres del Paine must request a permit for that purpose, which must be processed in person at the Administrative Office. In addition, all persons residing abroad (whether Chileans or foreigners) who wish to carry out scientific, technical or mountaineering expeditions in the Chilean border zone require authorization from the Direccion Nacional de Fronteras y Limites (DIFROL), the requirements for this procedure are published at www.difrol.cl, HERE.
 
Among the most outstanding peaks are Mount Almirante Nieto, although its name is little known, this is one of the most popular among climbers because it has a less difficult route compared to the other mountains of the massif. The rest of the range is made up of the renowned three main Towers: South, Central and North; the Cuernos del Paine (Main and North Paine Horns) in addition to the peaks Aleta de Tiburon (Shark's Fin), Fortaleza (Fortress), Espada (Sword), Hoja (Blade), Mascara (Mask) and others.

The park can be explored in a leisurely way by following the various hiking trails duly authorized by the National Forest Corporation. However, the most daring can perform other activities related to adventure tourism such as the climbs described above, kayaking, rafting or horseback rides.

Hotels, Tour Operators, Excursions



Car Rental in Magallanes Region


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