Patagonia and Torres del Paine
If awe-inspiring scenery is your thing, then Chilean Patagonia certainly hits the mark. It is a vast and remote wilderness, home to Torres del Paine National Park and brimming with dramatic landscapes that fall away into a dazzling explosion of ancient forests, glaciers, icebergs and towering peaks.
Venturing down to the southern tip of the South American continent you’ll find the untameable and unpredictable Patagonia. Spanning across both Argentina and Chile, over 50% of Patagonia is a protected area allowing you to explore nature at its wildest.
The magnificent and ever popular Torres del Paine National Park can be accessed either by road from El Calafate in Argentina or by flight into Punta Arenas, the most southerly town in Chile. From there, it’s a long drive to the town of Puerto Natales, a lively tourist hub offering day trips to the imposing Serrano and Balmaceda glaciers and the gateway to the national park. Dotted within and on the edge of Torres del Paine National Park, we have paired up with a number of boutique and characterful lodges that ensure you get the most out of your Patagonia experience. From trekking in the day, to fine dining and warm comforts by night, they perfectly combine luxury and adventure - the ideal scenario for the retired backpacker.
In the north of Chilean Patagonia, lies the Aysen region, less travelled than the South and the least populated region in Chile, it is home to an of array pristine and epic landscapes. From verdant Alpine forest, to its majestic lakes, pristine waterfalls and dramatic Patagonian ice caps, it is an ideal destination for hiking, climbing, kayaking, rafting and observing a plethora of flora and fauna. For the more adventurous, hiring a car and travelling along the 1,240km long Carretera Austral (southern highway) is the best way to explore this little-visited area of Chile - get off the beaten track and really immerse yourself in the magnificent surrounds. Starting in the town of Puerto Montt in Chile’s Lake District and travelling down to the picturesque Villa O’Higgins where the southern highway ends, allows you to explore the pure remoteness of Patagonia.
Southern Patagonia is home to the awe-inspiring Torres del Paine National Park, which was designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 1978 for its beauty and diversity. It is undoubtedly the most iconic national park in Chile and well-known for its world-class trekking and hiking. Bursting with jagged mountains, emerald forests, snow-capped peaks and blue glaciers, it’s all things dramatic, raw and vibrant. With such rugged terrain, it is fertile ground for outdoor adventures and offers an endless array of activities on foot, by horse, jeep or boat. From navigating through glaciers on Lago Grey, horse-riding with a local gaucho across the wild pampas and soaking up stunning views of the Torres del Paine, there is plenty of opportunity to get under the skin of this untouched wilderness. As well as outdoor adventure, the area is also home to an abundance of flora and flora such as the Andean condor, guanaco, ostrich-like rhea, flamingos and the elusive puma.
There is an old saying in Patagonia, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute”, and it’s no huge exaggeration to say that you can experience all four seasons in one day. Experiencing this pocket of Chile is erratic and exciting and so if we can give one tip, it is to always allow for more time than you think you will need.