Torres del Paine National Park

Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica, Chile

Hiking the French Valley is part of the W-trek through Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park. It’s about 16 mi round-trip from Refugio Paine Grande to the French Valley Mirador, to see the French Glacier and the Paine Massif as close as you can get. The trail is diverse and only reaches a steep height at the last 5.5 km on the way there. You begin at Lago Pehoe and take grassy paths through the forested valley, on an terrain that the locals call “Patagonia flat,” i.e. an undulating up and down of several feet.

On the way you’ll see tiny magenta--and edible--berries that taste just like apples; you’ll cross small glacial streams where you can fill up your water bottle with fresh, wild water. You’ll trek right by the Cuernos, or the “Horns,” another well-known set of peaks in Torres del Paine. Over the French River you go as you get deeper into the valley, over wobbly rope bridges. The final 5.5 km to the French Valley Mirador has you balancing on thousands of loose boulders on your way up.

The very top of the trek feels like being in the middle of a Patagonian fishbowl: Paine Massif to your left, French Glacier in front, the Aleta de Tiburon (the Shark’s Fin) and the Cuernos to the right, and turquoise Lago Pehoe behind you. The weather up there turns freezing since you’re so close to the glacier, so make sure to wear all your layers once you stop. The whole trek takes about 10 hours with a group. On the way back, be prepared for crazy weather patterns as you go in between the mountain passes in the afternoon; it can turn windy, rainy, cold, then sunny all in the same hour.

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Southern Patagonia, Chile

Southern Patagonia is home to the legendary Torres del Paine National Park. The best way to observe the park’s wildlife, which includes guanacos, deer, and pumas, is to join Tierra Patagonia hotel’s new six-day wildlife photo safari, led by Chilean photographer Pía Vergara. Or explore aboard Nomads of the Seas, a 15-person yacht equipped with helipads, and zodiacs for whale watching.

Day Trip to Torres del Paine

During my stay in El Calafate, my hotel arranged a full-day tour to Torres del Paine for me. I was picked up by a tour operator at my front door, and escorted across the Chilean border into the beautiful national park. The tour and the views was a highlight of my entire trip through Patagonia. I highly suggest making time for a full-day tour, or even an entire trek through the park. Your hotel or hostel will arrange everything for you, making it an effortless and wonderful experience!

Day Trekking in Beautiful, Wild Torres Del Paine

In a single day in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia, we were lucky enough to see herds of guanaco, baby ostriches, and condors gliding through the sky. The clouds parted to give us a glimpse at the famous “towers” and “horns,” and we gazed at the gigantic Grey Glacier from afar, while enjoying the views of several large icebergs from up close. We also visited the section of the park destroyed by the wildfire and are happy to report that it is slowly coming back to life. We were graced with a mild, partly cloudy November day for hiking, although our traveling companions told us the day prior they experienced snow. One of the charms (and challenges) of Patagonia is the opportunity to experience all four seasons in one day. For us, Torres del Paine more than lived up to its reputation of being one of the most stunning places on earth. Since we only had a single day at the park, we chose to do a series of shorter day hikes so we could see more of what the park had to offer. We stayed at the Singular Patagonia hotel in Puerto Natales, and we had a fantastic guide and van transport that allowed us the flexibility of doing one-way hikes.

Looking for lunch

On our way to Torres del Paine - well, to be honest, it was four hours into an eight hour trek - we can across this little fella. So engrossed was the woodpecker in staring at his future lunch wriggling in front of him, he didn’t seem to mind a bunch of gringos getting as close as we did. The wildlife in Patagonia - guanacos, condors, owls, foxes - are worth the visit alone.

A Reason to Return to Patagonia

You’ll see them everywhere in Patagonia in the summer - blue berries hanging off of branches. The berries are a bit sour if they are too ripe - but picked at the right time they are delicious. In a region which sees little fruit, the calafate berries are used fresh as well as in many dishes including jam, syrup, and desserts. These calafate berries supposedly have special powers. If you eat one, then it means you will return to go ahead and take a bite!

Hiking the W

A strange name for a trek, but the W gets its name from its shape. If you trace the complete trail on a map, you will end up with the letter “W.” The W trek is a 4 to 5 day trek in Torres Del Paine park covering approximately 50 miles. It’s the most popular route in the park, so expect to see a lot of fellow hikers. It can be started either at the Refugio Las Torres or Refugio Chileno end, or the Refugio Grey end, or even at Refugio Paine Grande, which is almost central in the route. Or if you’d rather rough it you can camp—if you like a bit of an extra challenge. The trek is a serious trek, you scramble around rocks, climb for hours, you carry your packs. It’s a great workout! But the real treat is the views. The majestic mountains and glaciers surround you as you trek this remote land. As you hike the W it’s hard to not fall in love with Patagonia.

The Drink of Patagonia

The Cebador hands me the cuia, I pause for a moment and think about everything I have learned. I slowly extend my right hand, looking him in the eyes and giving him a slight nod. I take the first drink from the bombilla, careful not to move it around but instead let it sit stiffly in the packed herbal mixture. I drink it all in a short amount of time, trying to suck and slurp the last bit of liquid from the herbs. Once I’ve finished, I hand it back to the cebador with the bombilla pointing towards him and don’t say a word. Now I’m one step closer to fitting into Patagonia culture—I can officially call myself a mate drinker. Mate is basically a traditional herbal mixture served with hot water. I always found it slightly bitter tasting, butI did learn that in some areas it’s served sweet. What makes mate so unique is that it’s complicated—and yes, complicated things are cool in my opinion. There are a number of rules and traditions associated with drinking mate—which makes it slightly intimidating at first. My best advice is to find a local to teach you how to fit into the mate drinking culture.

Beauty As Far As The Eye Can See.

Setting foot in Torres del Paine is like setting foot on another planet. You have to rub your eyes a few times to confirm you’re not dreaming. It’s just you, and nature. The layers of landscape are so vivid. The glacier lakes are the most soothing shade of turquoise against the variegated, jagged and snow caped mountains. The subtle green rolling hills create the most lovely background for the bursting red of the fire bush flowers. All under a blue sky, a real BLUE sky, with huge soft cotton-like white clouds... And then the weather completely turn on you in a matter of minutes (Well it didn’t for us, but it can). We visited Torres del Paine in early November, staying at the Eco-Camp. I highly recommend staying there if you’re planning a trip. The little domes we stayed in are warm, cozy, and magical. The food is fantastic and the guides are very knowledgeable about the region. I personally would recommend the 5-day trek over the 7-day trek (it seems to be a better value/time spent), but for the adventurers with the time I’d definitely do the 9-day circuit. Eat and drink all the Calafate jam and pisco sours you can while you’re there, because you’ll definitely miss it once you leave.

Torres Del Paine, Patagonia Chile

This picture does not even do the beauty of this area justice. It was simply breathtaking. My friend and I spent 4 days in the Park at an Eco Camp. It was such a once in a lifetime type experience. Hiking with no one around, animals everywhere, winds that could knock you over, warm sunshine all day, a glacier and we were lucky enough to not only see 1 of the elusive pumas in the park but 4!

Towering Perfection

The hike to the base of the torres in Torres del Paine National Park is worth every step. The view from the top is breathtaking if the weather permits you its unobstructed beauty, and still magical if it doesn’t. This photograph was taken during our lunch break at the top. The clouds broke just long enough for me almost get a complete shot of all three spires. Mother nature’s work at her best.

Trail to Torres del Paine

The colors of nature in Torres del Paine are amazing. If you do this hike. Be sure to take clothing for all the elements. It can change in a moments notice from sunny and beautiful to strong winds, rain and snow. It would also be wise to take trekking poles. These are very helpful for the descent back to camp.

Sunrise at the End of the Earth

I saw the best sunrise of my life at the End of the Earth. Torres Del Paine National Park in Southern Patagonia is one of the world’s most beautiful places. Located at 51°S & 73°W, about 200 miles north of Punta Arenas, Chile, this park is truly a wonder of fire and ice. It also boasts one of the best hotels in all of the Americas—the famed Explora Lodge ( It’s expensive but worth it. If the weather cooperates, the mountains and sky make for some of the most amazing sights on Earth. This photo was shot about 300 yards from the back of the Explora, looking out over a small lake onto the Cerro Paine range. The fist day I tried shooting the sunrise, nothing happened. I sat out in the cold for two hours and barely saw a hint of red. The next day, I almost gave up and slept in, but, at the last moment, packed up my gear and climbed a nearby hill. I could hardly believe my eyes when the sky exploded into the best sunrise of my life.

Up close to the actual Torres

10 day hike around the spectacular mountain range in Patagonia called Torres del Paine. Went with Mountain Travel Sobek.

Behold Los Hornos

A lifelong dream and “Bucket List,” destination, the southern tip of South America was an exhilarating experience for my husband and me during our adventure trip there. Gazing out from our hotel in Punta Arenas across the Straits of Magellan seeing Tierra del Fuego in the distance is an indelible memory.

Torres del Paine - My South American Walkabout

I packed my bags and spent an incredible 3 weeks in Chile and Argentina in Patagonia. The W hike through Torres del Paine was mind-blowing. The colors were amazing as seen on this lake, Lake Pehoe, with the rainbow and mountains. I stayed pre-hike and post-hike at It was great service, food, and accommodations that made me feel that I was helping keep Torres del Paine enjoyable for generations to come. You can view more on my blog about my Walkabout through Chile and Argentina:

Hiking in Chilean Patagonia

A few years a go a devastating fire ripped through this beautiful national park in southern Chile. It left behind an unquestionable amount of damage to the park, but also created some eerily beautiful sights. I came across these burnt trees during a hike in the park. I spent 4 days in the park hiking up the mountains that make the park famous, but this is still one of my favourite sights.

Hiking the Cordillera del Paine

Torres del Paine is one of 11 national parks in Chile. It is located in Patagonia and has as its centerpiece the incredibly photogenic cuernos. I went on 4 long day hikes into the cordillera, discovering the gray glacier which sits on one side of the cordillera and climbing into the bowl surrounded by the eerily shaped cuernos. The peaks that make up the Torres go as high as 3,500 meters. You can hike the entire perimeter of the cordillera or spend a few days at one of the hotels in the park and hiking in and out every day. The world famous Explora hotel is in the park.

The most amazing mountains you'll ever see.

Switzerland? Colorado? Meh. Patagonia, si! Holy cow are these ranges cool. Add 100 km/hr winds and lakes in 20 different shades of blue green and you’ve got one of the most stunning locations on the bottom of the Earth. This is the coolest place I’ve ever been.

climbing to the Torres

Like something out of a Tolkien novel, the towers take your breath away from disbelief and beauty. Hiking “the W” in the opposite direction allowed us to enjoy the towers last. The hike wasn’t easy, especially scrambling up rocks at the top, but the view is unmatched.

The Wind is Your Friend

You can get all four seasons in a single day in Patagonia. And a constant wind through each of those seasons makes it even more fun. On this hike to The Horns in Torres del Paine National Park, we hit what our guide said were registering a near constant 75-100 mile an hour winds ....just like you see on CNN during hurricanes, but this was sunny, dry an absolutely beautiful. You can almost lean horizontally right into it. And you have to crab-walk on the trail lest you lift off one foot and get completely swept off your feet -- which happened...a lot. What an amazing place. There is no bad weather, only proper clothing....

Base of Las Torres

This is the most famous trek within Torres del Paine, where you hike to the base of the towers for which the park was named. The last 1 km is almost straight up, with you scaling an exposed, sunny face of the mountain until you reach the rocky top. Before you reach the exposed section, you walk through one of the oldest growth forests within the park, which is lush, green, and canopied. You’ll spot Calafate bushes and berries plus plenty of streams and bridges on the way. You’ll also see gauchos on horseback going from the refugios in this mountain pass back out to the pampas. This trek is about 13 mi from EcoCamp (where I stayed), and you climb about 3,000 ft, which is the highest you’ll likely go in Torres del Paine if you’re just trekking. It’s a very fun hike because it’s so challenging, and of course this view at the top makes it that much better.

Dinner and Avalanches

We spent 5 days trekking the Torres Del Paine “W” circuit. We battled all kinds of crazy weather including rain, snow, and Patagonia’s notorious 100km/hr winds all while carrying 40 pounds on our backs. We almost didn’t bring the boxed wine because we weren’t sure it would be worth the weight of carrying it with us. I am so glad we brought it cause the wine was the icing on the cake while we ate our dinner and watched avalanche after avalanche fall from the mountain! Not even the finest restaurant can offer that kind of dining experience!!

No Weather Forecasts Needed in Patagonia

“Let’s not talk about the weather,” said Jorge, our guide, as if I had just brought up a taboo. Jorge laughed and explained that you could never predict the weather in Patagonia and it was better to just not mention it. But when you hike the “W” Circuit in Torres del Paine, the topic of the weather comes up often, mainly because the weather is bit temperamental. Cold persistent rains, sleet, snow, winds that whip white snakes of foam across the water, an occasional patch of sun, dark ominous clouds: this is what a single day might contain. The weather is a supporting character in the cast of the many wonders and challenges of hiking Patagonia (rocky terrain, altitude, the fact you have to buy special hazard insurance just in case they have to airlift you off of a glacier); kind of like your goofy uncle who says mildly inappropriate things at family dinners and makes everyone a little uncomfortable. We did have one fine day in Paine when the winds died and the sun came out and the sky was blue and crisp and we walked slowly as if to try to absorb it all in. I mentioned something to Jorge about how it would be nice if Patagonia was always this pleasant and he said, “But then everyone would come.” And he was right. The weather is what helps keeps the actual experience of being in the rugged, unspoiled, beautiful folds of Patagonia somewhat of a secret.

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