Torres del Paine National Park#2 in Best Things To Do in Chilean Patagonia
Exulted as one of the most scenic hiking venues on the planet, Torres del Paine National Park draws admirers from far and wide. You'll marvel at jaw-dropping vistas at nearly every point along the trails—aquamarine lakes, lush forests, glistening Glacier Grey, and, of course, the soaring granite Cuernos del Paine (Paine Horns). While hiking, you'll also notice clusters of adorable guanaco (animals that closely resembling llamas), candor, and sheep.
The park's two most picturesque trails are the "W" route and the "Circuit." The "W" is a four-day trek that, as its name suggests, zig-zags in a "W" formation around dramatic peaks. If you opt to take the "W" trail, you'll want to start at Laguna Amarga and then journey west. On the trail, you'll reach picture-perfect vantage points of Los Cuernos (Paine Horns). Most travelers say that the actual hiking is less challenging than combating Chile's heavy gusts of winds. One TripAdvisor user suggests, "Allow 4 nights [and] 5 days for the "W". […] It is not easy trekking due to wind and rocky surfaces and is so beautiful that it shouldn't be rushed." The "Circuit" on the other hand, encompasses the whole park, but requires seven to 10 days and plenty of hiking experience.
The easiest way to reach the park is a two-hour car or bus ride from Puerto Natales; buses depart daily from Puerto Natales to Laguna Amarga, one of the park's three main entrances. For more information on how to reach Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine, consult our guide to Getting Around Chilean Patagonia. The park is open to visitors daily. Roughly 23 miles from the park entrance, you'll find the Conaf (Chile's National Forestry Commission) visitor center, which helps orient visitors with an expansive overview of the park. During the summer season (November to March), Conaf park rangers are on duty, and welcome visitors from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. During high season, admission costs 15,000 CLP (about $30 USD); during low season, admission costs 3,000 CLP (approximately $6 USD). For more information, consult Torres del Paine National Park's official website.
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#1 Southern Chilean Patagonia
Occupying the southernmost area of the country, Southern Chilean Patagonia (SCP) draws visitors looking to admire the breathtaking landscape. Most visitors flock to Chile's southernmost province—also known as Magallanes (named after 16th-century conquistador Ferdinand Magellan)—to admire Patagonia's breathtaking landscape. From Magallanes' capital city, Punta Arenas, you can journey to Torres del Paine to admire its striking jagged peaks or head to Isla Magdalena to snap photos of thousands of Magellanic penguins scurrying along the shoreline.
Southern Chilean Patagonia is beyond secluded—separated by the Strait of Magellan and two soaring ice caps—but that only adds to its mystique as the gateway to Antarctica. The best way to reach Southern Chilean Patagonia is by plane from Santiago to Punta Arenas. It's also easy to access this region from Southern Argentine Patagonia. Cancha Carrera is a popular border-crossing, located between Torres del Paine and El Calafate (Argentina). Just be sure to acquire a visa before crossing; you can do so at an Argentine consulate in Santiago or before leaving home. For further details on how to navigate Southern Chilean Patagonia, consult our guide to Getting Around Chilean Patagonia.
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