Torres del Paine, Patagonia
“For our honeymoon, we’d love to go to Patagonia!” These were the words my clients shared a few years ago that first sparked my interest in the region. Even as a travel agent for more than ten years at the time, I had absolutely no knowledge of Patagonia. No one had ever requested this destination before, so I knew I had my work cut out for me. I was excited albeit a little nervous!
As I researched, planned, and created an itinerary for this special couple, I realized I had stumbled upon a hidden gem. Just Google “Patagonia Images” and you’ll understand exactly what I mean. The photos I saw were brilliant, out of this world gorgeous and almost unreal. I knew we had to go. It’s baffling trying to understand why it’s been kept such a secret from the United States. Join me as we take a look! This is hopefully the first of several posts on Chile and Argentina. Please let me know what you think. And make sure to check out the travel tips below.
One of the many lakes, mountains, and flowers seen shortly after entering the park.
Moving further into the park, you’re rewarded with views like this:
Below, views shortly past the entrance to the Torres del Paine National Park, overlooking the valley.
Weather can change quickly, and photos of the same mountain range can appear dramatically different within seconds.
Horseback riding just outside of Torres del Paine. I love horseback riding, but actually hate trail rides. I was worried that this would end up being a boring trail ride, with one horse on top of the other. I was very wrong! We were out for three hours, and because it was just the two of us, our guide allowed us to run with the horses across open expanses several times, once she felt comfortable with our riding abilities (and was almost sure we wouldn’t fall off). It felt like heaven to me but unless you love horses, that may sound strange.
The above shot (taken by Ryan) is indicative of the views we had while riding. This was the best horseback riding experience I’ve ever had. Views around every corner, a friendly guide, and awesome horses! Along the way, not only did we have spectacular views, but we also stumbled upon dogs, sheep, other beautiful horses, cattle, an eagle, and so much more. Amazing.
I will write more later, but wanted to leave you with a few travel tips first:
Getting to Chilean Patagonia – There are several ways to do this.
- You will most likely fly through Santiago, Chile or Buenos Aires, Argentina depending on your itinerary.
- From there, you will need to fly on to either Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales, or El Calafate.
- Next, drive in to the national park of Torres del Paine. Puerto Natales is the closest airport, only one hour away, however there are very limited flights to this airport. The other two airports require approximately 5 hours of driving or more depending on the weather and how strong the winds are. But don’t worry. The drive in, while somewhat rough when the winds are whipping, is beautiful.
- Warning: If you choose to drive yourself, please do some research. Gas stations are few and far in between, and small cars can actually get blown over! Believe me, we saw it happen. And please, WEAR YOUR SEATBELTS! A week before we arrived, there were visitors from India traveling in a small car, headed to El Chalten (mountains in Argentinian Patagonia). Their car was blown over by the strong winds, and a passenger died because he was not wearing his seat belt. So sad…
Packing List: If traveling to Patagonia to explore the mountains and national parks, please make sure to dress in layers. In addition to the typical packing list, we also included
- Quality base layers
- A warm mid layer down or fleece
- Warm, rainproof outer layer/jacket.
- Two quick drying hiking pants
- Hat, gloves, and even a scarf.
- Warm wool socks are also a must, as are quality comfortable hiking boots.
- Sunglasses and sunscreen
- While you may be arriving during summer time (Dec. – Feb.), it can still get pretty cold and windy, so you’ll want to be prepared.
Treks: Depending on the hotel you choose (see below), you will most likely have a choice of easy, moderate, and difficult hikes. Do not underestimate how difficult the hardest hikes are. You should try to come prepared e.g. proper clothing, some prior exercise/fitness training, etc. It’s not that you can’t do the hardest hikes if you don’t exercise regularly, but you may struggle a little more than others if you’re not ready. Also, be prepared for the wind! It can get quite windy here, and presents a bit of a challenge. But as long as you know what to expect, go for it. You will be rewarded with unbelievable sights!
Hotels: Make sure to pick your hotel/accommodations carefully. There are several great choices, and some not so great ones as well. Also, different hotels cater to different types of travelers, so again, you want to make sure you choose wisely, or you will be disappointed. When you find the right fit, however, this will be one of the best journeys you ever have!
Ok…more later. Hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into Patagonia.