Parque Nacional Torres del Paine is one of the most spectacular national parks in Chile and of course in South America. UNESCO declared it a biosphere reserve in 1978 and it is internationally recognized as one of the most beautiful and authentic places on the planet. National Geographic also named this park as one of the most beautiful places on Earth in 2013.
Mountain peaks, cascading rivers, waterfalls, lakes, glaciers and incredible wildlife, this park has a lot to offer to every kind of traveler. It is a very well known destination for hikers and backpackers, but it's also a favorite spot for adventure and nature lovers. But if you don't like to walk, just don't come here!
We only had two full days at the park so we did a mix of driving and hiking which gave us an overview but also a little bit of detail of this amazing natural park. To arrive into the Park we drove from Puerto Natales (around 120 km) until one of the park entrances: Laguna Amarga. This was a very scenic drive, specially in the last 60 km. Since we were staying at Las Torres Patagonia Hotel, we decided to explore that side of the park first (after paying of course an entrance fee of 18,000 $CLP per person).
We drove to Laguna Azul stopping at Cascada Paine, a pretty waterfall set in a wide valley against a backdrop of the Torres Del Paine. The falls are impressive but what set them apart are the peaks in the background that grant you spectacular shots. Requires only a couple of minutes walking so this place is highly accessible to anyone (if you have a car of course).
Laguna Azul was our second stop, a beautiful crystal clear water lagoon that offered us a great view of Torres del Paine. No need of trekking to see the famous Paine towers with its incredible granite peaks reflecting in the lagoon. We stayed for a while enjoying the atmosphere and having lunch with great views!
After lunch we went for a relatively short trekking at Salto Grande and Mirador Cuernos. Salto Grande is the biggest waterfall in the park and it's easy to visit with just a small bit of walking involved (around 20 minutes in total). This powerful waterfall is approximately 15 m high and drains the waters of Lake Nordenskjold and the Paine River into the majestic Lake Pehoé. From the waterfall we started the trekking to Mirador Cuernos that took us in total 3 hours (walking + admiring the views + taking several photos on the way). The terrain is fairly flat with only one steeper part, and we could always see the Cuernos ("horns") of Paine in front of us. There are several viewpoints during the trail but the end of the trail viewpoint is the one closest to the horns and the pictures taken there are fantastic! Being closer to the horns allowed us to appreciate better the geology that formed the massif. We returned along the same path with the horns at our back and the sapphire lake on our right.
Next day we drove all the way to the Grey Lake (from Base Las Torres it took us around 1.5 hours since it is all unpaved road). Flowing into the lake it’s the glacier with the same name: Grey Glacier, which can be seen on a relatively short walk (around 3 hours in total – going and coming back). We left the car at the parking space and we walked through the forest and then through a pebbled beach viewing the glacier from a certain distance and seeing small icebergs floating around the lake. It was not an easy walk at the beach because of the strong winds. We also hiked the small peninsula after the beach, which gave us even better views from the lake and the glacier. Grey Lake is a beautiful lake with more than 500 meters of depth and surrounded by the incredible Paine Mountain.
We also stopped at Pehoé and Sarmento Lakes. Both have viewpoints close to the main road so it is possible to go there easily not requiring any kind of trekking.
Last but not least was Salto Chico trail. A trail we didn’t know existed (does not come in the park official map) but probably the one we liked most. Salto Chico is a small waterfall draining the aqua-bluegreen Lake Pehoé. But the best parts were the gorgeous peaks and mountains behind the waterfall, a scenic image we would not forget easily! There are several boardwalks around, all of them with tremendous panoramas of Cuernos del Paine and Pehoé Lake. We walked for around 1 hour stopping for several pictures, videos and just for admiring some of the best views we saw at Torres del Paine National Park. And we were alone all the time while doing this short trail. Only the marvellous nature and us!
Next stop: El Calafate (Argentina)