Torres Del Paine and Puerto Natales
Torres del Paine, also known as Macizo or Cordillera del Paine, are a group of mountains that are located in the Southern Chilean Patagonia, specifically within the Torres del Paine National Park.
Located 150 kilometers from the city of Puerto Natales and 400 km north of Punta Arenas, Torres del Paine National Park, is one of the favorite destinations of tourists traveling to Chile. It was recently named the Eighth Wonder of the World and chosen as the fifth most beautiful place on earth.
Puerto Natales, on the other hand, is the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park. It is located east of the Señoret Canal, on the east slope of the Andes mountain range , and this area is called Patagonian Andes. It has a cold climate and constant winds, which can reach high speeds. Another attraction is the Cueva del Milodon Natural Monument, home of an ancient prehistoric mammal, herbivore, with a size that was over 3 feet tall.
The city of Puerto Natales is located 247 miles north of Puerto Natales, between the Gulf Almirante Montt and Seno (Fiordo) de Última Esperanza, former home of the kawéskar and aonikenk tribes. This last one was discovered by navigator Juan Ladrillero in 1557, looking for an alternative route to the Strait of Magallanes. However, their efforts were interrupted by the Fiordo Obstrucción, without being able to reach the Strait of Magallanes.
It was not until three centuries later, in 1870, that new adventurers became interested in these remote lands and ended up discovering the lakes of Paine. Later settlers came attracted by the sheep and cattle, the main economic activity in the region.
Puerto Natales was officially incorporated as a city in 1911. The most important place in the area at the time was Puerto Bories, where a Frigorífico that provided many job opportunities was installed, which also increased the population of the territory. Currently, Puerto Bories is a National Monument of Chile, because of its importance in the economic development of Puerto Natales and the entire Southern Patagonia.
The Torres del Paine National Park was created in 1959 and is one of the largest parks in Chile, with about more than 242,000 acres. At its northern edge it borders Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina.
It counts with a huge variety of natural environments, highlighting the structures Cerro Paine, Torres del Paine and los Cuernos del Paine, rivers such as the Rio Paine, a great number of lakes such as Grey, Pehoé, Nordenskjold and Sarmiento as well as the glaciers Grey, Pingo, Geikie and Tydall, which are part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.
It was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978.
Where to go
It is the gateway to the Torres del Paine National Park, the Cueva del Milodón National Monument, the Bernardo O'Higgins National Park and Campos de Hielo Sur (Southern Ice Fields), among many other attractions. It has excellent services and tourist infrastructure. It has shops, historic buildings, craft fairs, a waterfront along the Señoret Canal, and many other interesting places to visit such as Plaza Arturo Prat, the Museo Histórico Municipal (Historic Municipal Museum) and the Muelle de Pescadores Artesanales (Fishermen's Wharf), located south of the waterfront.
Costanera de Puerto Natales: (Waterfron of Puerto Natales)
This strip along the Señoret Channel allows you to observe a beautiful landscape where we find the Ballena, Mocho, Tenerife and Mocho hills among others. It is also the habitat of various types of waterfowl.
Pueblo Artesanal EtherAike:
It is on the corner of streets Phillipi and Angamos. It brings together many local artisans that exhibit and sell their handmade works such as jewelry, carvings, textiles and other types of souvenirs of the area.
Monumento Natural Cueva del Milodón: (Cueva de Milodon National Monument)
It consists of three caves where remains of milodones, herbivorous animals believed to be extinct in the Pleistocene period were found. The largest cave is 150 meters and is 30 meters high and 200 meters deep.
At the entrance of the monument we find the Silla del Diablo (Devil's Chair), a rock formation caused by erosion in the Laguna Sofia (Sofia Lagoon). It is 35 meters high and is a natural view point offering a panoramic overview of the area.
The Milodon Cave is located 24 kilometers away from Puerto Natales.
Laguna Sofía: (Sofia Lagoon)
It is 30 kilometers away from Puerto Natales and during the months it is a busy resort where water activities like fishing and kayaking are performed. It is surrounded by an amphitheater of hills. It has camping areas as well.
Parque Nacional Bernardo O’Higgins: (Bernardo O’Higgins National Park)
It is located within the Campos de Hielo Sur (Southern Ice Fields). Its path is through the Fiordo de Última Esperanza, 260 nautical miles. Among its attractions are Puerto Eden, the enormous Pius XI glacier and native wildlife such as otters, eagles, cormorants, wolves and the huemul, which is currently in danger of extinction.
Parque Nacional Torres del Paine: (Torres del Paine National Park)
The Eighth Wonder of the World and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO is a paradise for lovers of ecotourism. From stunning granite mountains such as the Torres del Paine, to beautiful valleys surrounded by untouched nature, lakes and rivers. It has more than 181,000 acres, has roads for cars and hiking trails. It can be visited throughout the year, but summer is the ideal time to go and enjoy all its attractions, to do more activities and to access all services of the park.
This is one of the most attractive Torres del Paine National Park tours. It consists of 55 kilometers seeing various locations within the park which can be done in 4 days walking. You should carry a light backpack, warm clothes and water for hydration. At night there are shelters that are shared with visitors from around the world to enjoy the replenishing local cuisine and a night's rest before continuing your journey.
The first day begins at Refugio Las Torres and reaches the Base de las Torres (base of the towers), crossing dense forests. The road is on an incline so you must be physically fit to do so. The second part of the tour takes visitors to Refugio Cuernos del Paine, allowing to observe places like Nordenskjold lake and views of glaciers.
The third day takes us to the Valle del Francés (French Valley), a wonderful place that is in the midst of the Circuito W. It has a view point that allows you to view the Frances glacier and the beauty of the surrounding landscape.
On the fourth day, the tour takes you to the Grey Lake. While there you can take a boat that allows you to see the Grey Glacier.
Valle del Francés: (French Valley)
It is the central point of Circuito W that allows you to tour the biggest attractions of the Torres del Paine National Park. It has a view point offering wonderful scenery such as granite mountains, hanging glaciers, native forests and lakes. You can get there by crossing the path that crosses Lake Pehoé.
Lago Pehoé: (Pehoé Lake)
It is located in the center of the Torres del Paine National Park. It has beautiful turquoise waters and is powered by the Paine River. In the surrounding area there are comfortable accommodations and a camping area. This is one of the best places to see the Cuernos de Paine, providing the beautiful reflection of the mountains in its waters.
Río Paine: (Paine River)
This river virtually connects all water bodies within the Torres del Paine National Park. It surges in Lake Dickson, from which extends to the Paine Lake and then to Lake Nordernskjold. From there it becomes the Salto Grande, a waterfall of 12,000 meters high, which gives life to Lake Pehoé. Before finalizing in Lake Toro,it creates another waterfall, Salto Chico, which is 5 meters high.
Lago Nordenskjold: (Lake Nordenskjold)
This lake has beautiful blue-green waters, because of the high concentration of minerals from rocks found in it. It was formed by a melted glacier and has 200 feet of deepness where you can practice water sports.
It has a beautiful view point offering a beautiful view of Valle del Francés (French Valley), the Macizo del Paine Grande and los Cuernos del Paine (Horns of Paine).
Lago Grey: (Grey Lake)
This lake is of glacial origin and has an area of 3250 acres. It is located in the west of the Torres del Paine National Park. Its waters are turbid by the presence of glaciers and it also has islands, most bordered by the Grey Glacier.
Its waters are drained in the Grey River.
Glaciar Grey: (Grey Glacier)
The Grey Glacier is part of the Campos de Hielo Sur (Southern Ice Fields). It is 6 kilometers wide and 30 meters high. It has a distinctive blue color and some gray areas. One of the most amazing shows is to observe its huge falling ice blocks.
Glaciar Tyndall: (Tyndall Glacier)
The Tyndall or Geikie glacier is one of the largest located in the Campos de Hielo Sur (Southern Ice Fields). It is located in the Geikie Lake and it neighbors the Grey Glacier.
Lago Sarmiento de Gamboa: (Sarmiento de Gamboa Lake)
It is the largest lake within the Torres del Paine National Park, with 22 km of extension. It is characterized by thermal activity and calcium minerals, as those found in hot springs. From here you can see the Macizo Paine at its best.
Las Torres o Macizo del Paine:
They are found within the Torres del Paine National Park and have an area of 400 square kilometers. Its highest peak is Cerro Paine Grande, at an elevation of 2750 meters above sea level.
Its main attraction is the "Torres del Paine" huge granite formations shaped by glacial ice for thousands of years. The highest is the Torre Sur di Agostini, with over 2500 meters in height. The Torre Central has 2460 meters of altitude and the Torre Norte Monzino has 2260 meters of altitude.
Other high points are the Cuerno Principal, 2100 meters of altitude and Cerro Paine Chico with 2650 meters above sea level.
Cuernos del Paine: (Horns of Paine)
They are part of the Macizo del Paine and are located between the Valle del Francés (French Valley) to the west, and Valle Bader to the east.
Their representative peaks have heights ranging between 2200 to 2600 meters above sea level. The Cuerno Principal (Principal Horn) is the central mountains of these hills. It has a unique pyramid shape with 3 sides and its base reaches the Nordernskjold Lake.
In this area we can find untouched nature in the Torres del Paine National Park. It provides a beautiful amphitheater show of granite mountains that surround it. The land is difficult to access, with extensive moraines that provide access to the Bader Glacier.
Puerto Natales is the starting point of this adventure. From touring the city with its attractive and colorful shops offering clothing and equipment for outdoor activities, bike rentals and souvenirs, to strolling along the waterfront together with the Señoret Channel, there are many places to visit around the city.
24 kilometers away is the Cueva del Milodón National Monument, an impressive cave that was the habitat of the milodón which was an impressive herbivorous animal that became extinct more than 10,000 years ago.
Navigating in the Fjord of Nueva Esperanza, 260 nautical miles from Puerto Natales you can find the Bernardo O'Higgins National Park as well, which has beautiful natural landscapes such as the Serrano and Balmaceda. From here and navigating through the Serrano River, you can reach the Torres del Paine National Park.
The best way to see a panoramic view from the heights of Puerto Natales is to climb the Cerro Dorotea, with 800 meters. From its summit you can see the entire city, the fjord Nueva Esperanza , the Patagonian mountain ranges and the territory that extends to Argentina.
112 kilometers north of the city we arrive to the Torres del Paine National Park. To get here you must take Route CH-19, paved, which is open throughout the year, but it is recommended to travel with chains during the cold months.
Now in the Torres del Paine National Park hiking circuits are found that allow you to tour most of the attractions such as forests, lakes, valleys, hills and stunning scenery of the Southern Patagonia.
The best time to tour around is during the summer, offering 17 hours of light allowing you can see all its corners. The sunrise and sunset are an incredible spectacle, especially when looking at the mountain range of the Cuernos del Paine.
This park has 97 miles of trails to tour, whether walking, riding on horse or car. Besides this, it offers many accommodations to suit all tastes, from luxury hotels, nice camping areas and shelters that can be shared with other visitors and get to know people from around the world.
We recommend visiting the Torres del Paine Park for at least 3 days to see the main attractions and enjoy the spectacular view of the Torres and Cuernos del Paine with a clear day. Because of its unpredictable weather, even in summer it is recommended to bring warm clothes and dress in layers, especially because of the winds that exist in all seasons. You must always wear sun glasses and sun block.
In the Torres del Paine National Park, all types of outdoor activities may be performed: hiking for beginners and professional, rock climbing, sailing through the rivers, sport fishing, observation and photography of flora and fauna, and much more in this natural paradise of the Chilean Patagonia.
In Puerto Natales can find money exchange houses and banks to change money. There are also ATMs.
Within the Torres del Paine National Park there are no exchange offices or ATMs, so it is recommended to carry cash in advance and cancel the booking accommodations inside.
In Puerto Natales there are three lines of taxis to get around within the city. Another option is to rent a car which allows you to travel the highways and byways of the Torres del Paine Park.
In addition, Puerto Natales features buses that move from province to province and arrive at Punta Arenas, Porvenir and Villa Tehuelches.
Inside the Torres del Paine Park bus services exist that allow you to visit the most famous tours inside, plus special tours that have a length of one day. You can also take a boat to tour the Pehoé and Grey Lake.
The telephone code of Puerto Natales is 61. To call from abroad, dial the area code of Chile 56, the country code for Puerto Natales which is 61, and then the telephone number.
Because of the unpredictability of the weather, it is recommended in winter and summer to wear several layers of clothing to protect you from the wind that especially exists in the area throughout the year. Some recommended options are as follows:
- Wool or polar hat.
- A neck scarf or buff.
- UV protection glasses.
- High factor sun block (at least 45)
- Quick dry T-shirts.
- Fleece of polar jackets, which keeps you warm and protects you from the wind.
- Water repellent jacket, Gore-Tex or similar material.
- Two pairs of polar gloves.
- Quick drying fiber tights .
- Water repellent pants, Gore-Tex or similar material.
- Polar pants for warmth.
- Polar socks.
- High top hiking shoes that protect you from a twisted ankle.
- Resting shoes for the night.
- Shorts for hot days.
For camping, try to carry a sleeping bag and synthetic fiber mat, very important to insulate the body from cold and soil moisture.
Where and what to eat
Puerto Natales is known for its Patagonian gastronomy, with preparations including seafood, especially crab, which occupies a leading place in different dishes.
Preparing meats, like lamb Magallanico that is consumed roasted over an open fire, and accompanied by fresh vegetables from the area. The salmon Magallanico, fresh pastas and pizzas are another must in Puerto Natales.
On the waterfront opposite the Señoret Channel you can find many restaurants for all tastes, with traditional and international cuisine, cafes, bars and sweets shops, and even vegetarian food.
The artisanal beer and wine can accompany any delicious food to enjoy.
Within the Torres del Paine National Park, you can eat inside in the hostels or shelters, where traditional and energetic dishes are prepared, to refuel and continue the journey through forests and trails.