After nearly 12,000 years since its aboriginal settlement, the icy and remote destination amidst Chilean Patagonia was only reached by true explorers and scientists from late 19th century to the date of park creation, in 1959. Subsequently named Torres del Paine National Park due to its most remarkable geological features, the 3 major granite towers, the protected area soon became known around the planet.
Since then, every year it receives up to 150,000 tourists, mostly foreigners. Mainly during the summer, they seek the harsh, but still preserved environments of the park, despite cases of fires – as seen on the burned trees. The diversity of ecosystems, biological endemism and geological formations are relevant enough to justify the designation as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and the inclusion on most lists of best trekking circuits in the world.
As the area is located hundreds of miles from the nearest airport in El Calafate (Argentina), home to the stunning Perito Moreno Glacier, visitors can only reach Torres del Paine by land. One of the most common options, although quite expensive, is to arrange a tour bus trip from the former city or from Puerto Natales, Chile. Alternatively, you can drive a rented vehicle by the portion of the park carved by tens of miles of roads, where you can see groups of guanacos and rheas amid the steppes and shrublands, flamingo flocks on multihued blue ponds and the largest flying bird of the world (Andean condor) in the sky and mountains. You can also embark on some navigations in the beautiful Grey and Pehoe glacial lakes.
The most recommended way to face the park, though, is to venture out in the amazing landscapes walking through the trekking circuits: the O, which the longest one, or the W. The latter is rather traversed by young adventurers and even seniors, with their large backpacks, hiking poles and weatherproof clothing, in order to overcome ground unevenness and unpredictable climate. On the same day, you can witness the sun, rain, snow, windstorm and even a waterspout!
To relieve fatigue from 3 to 5 days walking, there are free and paid campsites well situated along the sections. In addition to a hot bath and electricity, you can buy groceries, although prices are somewhat outrageous. So make sure there’s enough food with you, because the berries possible to find on the path definitely won’t be enough for your caloric expenditure. At least the water won’t be a problem, since there are numerous pristine sources along the trails.
The best views are only achieved by foot, which makes it worth all the effort. The base of the towers surrounding an azure blue lake, the deicing rapids and the Magellanic subpolar forests in the rise of French Valley, the wall of Grey Glacier and its drifting icebergs; these are some of the incredible sights the explorers will see each mile on their way.
Upon leaving the park, that feeling of joy and desire to return remains, fulfilling the local saying that whoever eats the calafate berry will return someday. All of this makes the Torres del Paine National Park an almost compulsory destination for those who enjoy leaving the comfort zone, getting into harmony with nature and facing great adventures.