Torres del Paine : a unique experience
It is one of the most visited places in Southern Chile, and with good reason. Landscapes, natural marvels, people and a variety of activities to pursue, they all turn the Torres del Paine National Park into a must-see place for everyone who travels to the Chilean Patagonia.
You’re in awe as soon as you get to the door, where you can see the almost unbearable beauty of the Paine mountains, a 3400 meters high and 12 million years-old formation, covered in eternal snow, surrounded by lakes and forests, blue sky and pure air.
The cool part about visiting the park is that, so you can get to the different natural attractions, you have to do a lot of walking, and that way you get to see all the corners and hidden treasures that this place has to offer.
The park’s administration has defined seven walking or hiking circuits, meant for groups with or without guides. It is always recommended that people leave notices in the administration office with the circuits they intend to cover, especially if the trips are over a day long and requires camping.
Torres del Paine has seven circuits meant for walking, which are set as follows:
1. Paine Circuit: It is one of the longest circuits (7 to 10 days), and it takes walkers around the Paine Mountain, beginning at sea level and hiking up until they reach the thousand meters of altitude. The walk takes you near rivers, lakes and glaciers, such as Dickinson, one of the biggest inside the park, where you can hike on ice.
2. Dickinson Glacier Circuit: walking begins at the base next to Laguna Amarga (Bitter Lagoon), from there –and after a five hour walk- you get to Seron camping site, and other three hours take your group to Coiron, another camping site near forests and hills. Finally, and after three more hours of walking, you get to the Dickinson Refuge, where you can see the beautiful ice formation and, if weather conditions allow it, even hike on it.
3. Pingo-Zapata Circuit: This circuit takes you to the Zapata Glacier, and it lasts only a couple of hours. The trip begins at the Administration Office, from where you are driven to the Grey Refuge. From there, and in only an hour, you get to Pingo Refuge. An hour later, of walking of course, takes you to Zapata, one of the biggest glaciers in the park.
4. Paine Lake Circuit: From Laguna Azul to Laguna Cebolla, it’s a two hour trip that takes you on a road made by all the cars that traveled through this area to the Paine Refuge. There, you can swim or practice fly fishing, amongst other activities.
5. Las Torres Circuit: Excursion begins at the Laguna Amarga entrance. From there, you walk seven kilometers to Cerro Paine, and after some rest the walk continues for two hours to the Chilean Camping Site. There, the geography begins to change and it goes up, after walking for ninety more minutes you get to the base camp site at the Torres, where you can camp and enjoy the wonderful view of the mountains.
6. Laguna Verde Circuit: This circuit is about five hours long, and it takes hikers from the Administration Office of the Park to the camping site in Laguna Verde. It is –probably- the easiest circuit to cover in the park and, obviously, one of the most beautiful.
7. Grey – Snowdrift Circuit: The last circuit to review takes you to Grey Glaciar and French Snowdrift. The trip begins at the Administration Office and after a five-hour walk you get to the Pehoe Refuge, by the lake of the same name. Then, to Grey Glacier, it’s only 3.5 hours to the next camping site, in front of Grey Glacier itself. Another thirty minutes and you’re faced to the French Snowdrift, where you can take a breather and enjoy the sights.
However, and leaving behind the circuits for hikers, the Park also has other natural attractions for every member of the family. Rivers, lagoons, mountains, forests and unique animals in the world, they’re all powerful reasons to take a few days and visit this place.
If you like water activities, for example, you can spend time next to rivers and lagoons that can be found between forests and mountains, such as Sarmiento, Paine, Pehoe and Dickinson.
On the other hand, those who like mountain sports, have a variety of hills, mounts, and mountains to climb. The Torres are the main attraction here, and a gathering point for those who enjoy mountain climbing, but there are other places to cover, like the glaciers, which can be visited and covered by foot with a guide. It’s not a known path to cover, but it’s a special place to visit.
There is something for everybody and never-ending beauty. You can spend unforgettable days and take the time to practice some sports in the simplest way, walking around the Torres del Paine Park. You will not regret it.