South America: Chile – Torres Del Paine
Today I’m sharing more of our recent trip to South America. After visiting the cities of Buenos Aires, El Calafate, and El Chalten in Argentina, we took a bus across the border into Chile. One of the main reasons people go to this area of Patagonia is to go to the Torres Del Paine park. The park was recently added to the list of the World Wonders, coming in at #8 after 5 million people voted! People come from ALL over the world, and despite the fact it’s not the easiest place to get to, that doesn’t seem to stop anyone.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’m sharing more details than anyone cares to know, but hopefully this will help others who plan to travel to the same region.
While the typical hike for the park is 5 days, we didn’t have the time or plan well enough, so we did a 3 day hike. To get to the park we took a bus from Puerto Natales. We were able to leave the rest of our luggage at our hostel in Puerto Natales, only bringing what we would need for the 3 days, including all of the food we would eat, clothes, and toiletries.
This map is produced courtesy of operator Experience Chile from their web site www.torres-del-paine.org
After taking the morning bus from Puerto Natales to the park we got off at the 3rd stop, which is Pudeto/Catamaran. We took a 20 minute Catamaran ride at the beginning to the beginning of the Park which starts in blue in the picture attached above. We then began our trek from Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos (8.4 miles – 4 hours) where we stayed the night. We had to skip over both Glacier Grey and the French Valley due to our time constraint. Please notice the wind in the third picture. While we had heard how windy it was, we never knew it would be SO bad!!! Bad enough to knock me over several times!
On the second day we hiked from Refugio Los Cuernos to Refugio Torre North (8.3 miles – 4 hours). This was a pretty light day. We stopped a lot, even laying down at times! When we reached our refugio we had gorgeous weather and enjoyed the afternoon out in the sun! It was nice to have a shorter day and lots of time to relax! For some reason we didn’t take many pictures this day. You will notice we drank water from the streams!
On Day 3 we had to backtrack a little bit and did a 8 hour hike from Refugio Torre North to the base of Las torres and back (17 miles/8 hours). This was by far the hardest day with the majority of the first half being uphill. We were also greeted with crazy winds and rain the first quarter of the trek and didn’t know if we would be able to keep going, but thankfully the weather cleared up. We climbed 339 flights of stairs and oh my, we were glad when it was all over! Clearly I’m celebrating in the pictures below when we reached the base (the top).
Our tips for traveling to Torres Del Paine:
- Bring empty water bottles and fill up in the streams. You don’t need any filters.
- Bring your own food. We packed plenty of food and skipped the overpriced meals at the refugios (which we heard weren’t great).
- Bring small bottles of liquor/wine – we saved ours from the plane ride over and it was a nice treat after a long day.
- Only bring what you need! We didn’t have much and my back still hurt from the backpack.
- You need poles – rent them at Erratic Rock
- Buy waterproof, hiking shoes. Even though we have hiked all over the world, we didn’t have hiking shoes until this trip and we were glad we did. Tennis/running shoes will not work. There are lots of streams and lots of rocks, so make sure you have the correct shoes.
- Visit Erratic Rock in Puerto Natales before heading to the park if you need to rent items. We rented a canister, pots/pans, bowls, etc all to find out once we got to the park that they provided hot water in the refugios, so not only did we have to carry that around the whole time, but we paid way too much to rent it considering we didn’t use it once. Don’t rent something unless you absolutely need it.
- Book your refugios way ahead of time. They book up fast.
- Be prepared for all 4 seasons in one day. There is no way to prep you for the wind, but I’m warning you now, be prepared!
- The refugios only have a few outlets, so be prepared to wait in line if you need to charge anything.
- The refugios don’t provide towels, buy a quick dry one and bring it!
- Bring a selfie stick! While ours broke and we didn’t have one, it would have been nice to have.
- You will have a lot of down time at night. Bring a good book or a deck of cards.
- There are no ATM’s at the park. Make sure you have plenty of cash to get into the park as well as any other expenses (food) you might incur.