Torres del Paine National Park is a five-to-six hour drive from Punta Arenas, which is a three hour flight from Santiago, Chile. The park, established in 1959, is 935 square miles and hosts 150,000 visitors a year, 60% of which are foreign tourists. The park is known for its stunning mountains, glaciers, rivers, and lakes. The most distinctive feature of the park is the three granite peaks of the Paine Masstif, known as the “torres” or towers. (“Paine” means blue in the indigenous language).
During our visit to Torres del Paine, we stayed at Hotel Las Torres in a beautiful mountain setting inside the park.
We hiked the trails around the hotel, enjoying the surroundings.
We did a few guided excursions and got to see the highlights of the park.
The first stop on the excursions was this old bridge with a great view of the towers.
We visited Laguna Amarga, a lake in the park with high pH levels and high salinity.
We went to Laguna Azul, which provided beautiful views even though it was too cloudy to see the towers.
We visited “Salto Grande” (“big waterfall”) in a particularly windy area of the park.
The water from that waterfall flows into Lago Pehoe which has an amazing turquoise color.
The view from Lago Sarmiento included both the towers and the horns.
We stopped at a small waterfall.
The views in the French Valley were particularly breathtaking.
We visited Lago Grey, a lake so thick with sediment (mostly dirt and rocks dragged into the lake by the slowly melting Grey Glacier) that the sun can’t penetrate the water so there’s no photosynthesis and no known plants or fish in the lake. The lake, which has an impressive glacier at one end, is 10 miles long, and at its deepest (where the glacier meets the water) is 820 feet.
It started pouring rain as we waited to board a boat to visit the glacier.
We passed large pieces of ice floating in the water.
The scenery was beautiful and Grey Glacier was stunning.
We had pisco sours with glacier ice as we enjoyed the gorgeous surroundings.
On the drive back to the hotel, it didn’t seem as late as it was. Since we were so far south it doesn’t get dark until 11pm (and the sun rises just after 5am). From looking at the sky, it seems like it should be late afternoon, but it was 8pm, hours from sunset!
This is a truly amazing national park and I highly recommend a visit!