The great outdoors of Patagonia

March 29, 2011 7 comments

We’ve just spent 5 days in the national park of Torres del Paine, in the Chilean side of Patagonia. Waterfalls, snowy mountain peaks, lakes of all colours, glaciers, icebergs, never ending lands, condors, huanacos, rain, sun, wind. And rainbows to top it all. It’s a nature lover paradise.

We’ve trekked 4 days in a row, total 26km plus long horseback riding trips. Sometimes with Amalya (in the backpack) and Marcelo (leading the way), sometimes without. I know it does not sound that much but believe me, for people like us who NEVER EVER trek, it’s an achievement! And a newly discovered joy. We can’t wait to be back on the trail.

How to get there / Where to stay:

Depending on the time of the year, low cost Sky Airline flies from Santiago all the way to Puerto Natales (5 hours flight with stopover in P. Montt and then Punta Arenas) which is the gateway to Torres del Paine. However, if that’s not the case, the best is to sleep in Punta Arenas, and then embark on the four-hour scenic drive to Puerto Natales or all the way to the park (another 1h30 drive). It’s best to do all of this with one of the many travel agent, or ask the hotel to arrange it.

Many people also arrive from Buenos Aires, then take a connecting flight to El Calafate (4 hours) for a sleepover of a day or more. El Calafate is in Argentina, 1h30 from the  Chilean border by bus or private transfer, and after crossing the check point, it’s another 1h30 to Puerto Natales. It’s also a fun way to make the journey, we did it on the way back today. The roads are very good and the views beautiful. The children enjoyed it as much as we did.

In high season (Dec. til March), if you want to sleep in shelters (refugios) on the trails inside the Torres del Paine park, you will need to reserve your beds many weeks in advance. Also, it’s probably best with children to trek with an experienced guide, as some trails can be very tough with the strong winds (there’s the famous Big W, did not do it but this is an example. We will come back when Marcelo and Amalya are older!.

Otherwise, there are many lodging options, from the b&b’s of Puerto Natales (and from there, day trips to the park), to the architect-designed hotels Remota or Indigo Patagonia outside of town, or the Explora Hotel Salto Chico whose location is stunning, right inside the park. Explora was our base, something we had booked and saved for a long time in advance. None of the hotels are particularly geared to traveling with the family though.

El Gaucho Marcelo:

We crossed the border by road to Argentina today, all the way to El Calafate, and are now exhausted, in a healthy way. Ready to hit the Perito Moreno glacier manana…to be continued.

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