Review: Torres del Paine
Torres del Paine, Chile
Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine
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For those who like mountainous scenery, Torres del Paine has the lot – snow covered mountains, glaciers, lakes, rivers, forest, rough grass land and the amazing Cuernos del Paine or ‘Towers’, the picture seen in all the guide books.
There are guanaco, foxes, pumas if you are very lucky (we weren’t), rheas, vultures….
There is also excellent walking for all abilities from the 7-10 day circular Paine, the 4-5 day W trek to shorter walks around the park. The Torres del Paine Trekking Map published by Zagier & Urrity Publications 1:80,000 is probably the best around. It can be bought from Amazon: www.amazon.com/Torres-Paine-Trekking-English-Spanish/dp/1879568357. This has contours and lists both distance and estimated walking times for each section of a trail. We were booked into HOSTERIA LAS TORRES for four nights. This is in a superb setting at the start of the path to the Towers. Rooms were spotlessly clean and comfortable but fairly basic. There is no TV, fridge or internet in the rooms, which upsets some guests. Accommodation in the park is expensive and if you are after the facilities of a five star hotel – forget it. The nearest to this is the Explora, which is serious money. Evening meals were expensive and a set menu, which wasn’t to our taste. However, hidden under the bar counter was a menu with a wide range of big sandwiches, which provided a cheap and substantial meal. Breakfasts were good but the packed lunches were very expensive and not very filling.
The Hosteria has several guides who gave a presentation each evening about trips planned for the next day and would answer questions and give advice if you wanted to do your own thing. There were usually three or four different trips available.
We signed up for the FULL PAINE EXCURSION. There were eight of us in a mini bus with the guide. We drove to the park entrance at Laguna Amarga ranger station. A puma had killed a guanaco the previous day and there were at least 20 condors circling above it. The message had obviously gone out "the party's here." We watched them land and feed off the carcass and then almost throw themselves into the air in an attempt to get airborne again.
There were plenty of photo stops along the way. We parked at a viewpoint over Lake Pehoe. A grey fox appeared, walked along the road in front of us and settled down to sleep behind a bush. We got within five yards and it just lay and watched as everyone took pictures. Unfortunately the weather packed up and it began to rain. We had a brief stop at the Administration Centre, where there is small but disappointing display.
By the time we reached Lago Grey it was raining steadily with bits of snow. We walked down through the wood to the lake shore for a long, wet, windy walk across sand bar to look at a few minuscule icebergs. At this point my dodgy knee miraculously started giving problems and we ambled back through the wood looking at the vegetation. The others came back very wet and generally disillusioned. The Full Paine excursion includes a glacier boat trip option. None of us wanted to do this so we had plenty of time to stop on the way out. If anyone had wanted the boat, we think the morning would have been frustratingly short and the afternoon waiting for the sailors' return boringly long.
The rest of the time we pottered around the area by ourselves. Osteoarthritis in a knee meant I wasn’t able to walk as far or as fast as I would have liked and many walks had to be cut short when faced with a stream that needed jumping. We enjoyed the walk back along the road with glimpses of the towers and a small waterfall. There was a delightful short nature trail from Hosteria las Torres which dropped down through trees and grassland to the river.
We were lucky and had three glorious warm days with brilliant blue skies and plenty of sunshine. Wind was a problem. It could be very still but you would suddenly get very strong winds off the mountains, which could blow you over.
One of the walks everyone does is to the ‘Towers’- the three great big peaks on all the postcards. The path crosses a dodgy suspension bridge and climbs steeply up the side of a deep gorge. It then levels off and runs across the slope of the gorge before scrambling up 300m of moraine and rocks to the view point. We had already decided we wouldn’t do the last bit but were keen to reach the base of the moraine. The path along the gorge was about 24 inches wide with a very steep drop into the gorge. It acted as a wind funnel with the wind blasting down the gorge so you could hardly stand against it. We struggled for about 25 yards before Michael decided it was too dangerous to continue. The wind was bitterly cold, blowing new snow off the mountain straight into our faces. Down in the valley the sun was shining and it was warm.
Torres del Paine was seriously brilliant. We had asked about having a hire car for use in the park but had been dissuaded by our travel agent who said the roads were unpaved and poor. We regretted we hadn’t stuck to our guns about having a hire car as we would have been able to explore a much wider area. The roads were fine if driven with care. There was a decidedly dodgy bridge just after the park entrance with large notice asking all passengers to get out and walk across the bridge. The bridge was only just wide enough for a mini bus to drive across. On our way into the park we had to get out. After that, drivers ignored the instruction and we stayed put.
Torres del Paine was part of a longer trip to Argentina and Chile. I wrote a summary review here.
Our pictures of Torres del Paine can be seen here.
121 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.