Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile
The three Towers of Paine (Spanish: Torres del Paine) in southern Chile are gigantic granite monoliths shaped by the forces of glacial ice. They are located in Patagonia, 400 km (244 miles) north of Punta Arenas, and about 2,500 km south of the capital Santiago.
The Central Tower of Paine (about 3,400 m or 11,000 feet) is the highest of the three. It was first climbed in 1963 by Chris Bonington and Don Whillans.
The North Tower of Paine was first climbed by Guido Monzino and the South Tower of Paine by Armando Aste.
The Torres del Paine National Park, declared Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO in 1978, is located there.
The national park (with an area of 2,400 km2) is a popular hiking destination. There are clearly marked paths and many refugios which provide shelter and basic services. Views are breathtaking. Hikers can opt for a day trip to see the towers, walk the popular “W” route in about five days, or trek the full circle in 8-9 days. It is a national park and thus hikers are not allowed to stray from the paths. Camping is only allowed at specified campsites, and wood fires are prohibited in the whole park.
Puerto Natales, Patagonia Chile
To the south of Chile we find Puerto Natales town, a must stop before getting to the Torres del Paine. The amiable towns people make sure everybody is treated with warmth.
The town called Puerto Natales is 2500 kilometers south from Santigo, Chile. The Torres del Paine national park is located here. This park is known worldwide as one of the most beautiful in America.
Its worth you’re while to stay in a hotel in Torres del Paine but staying in the town of Puerto Natales also adds other attractions. The warmth of its people, the tastes of fresh seafood in restaurants make of this town a very comfortable choice.
You can also take boat trips to the Serrano and the Balmaceda going thru the Mountains Channel as floating blocks of ice simply float by. Another trip worth taking is the one that visits the glaciers and lakes in “Parque Nacional Bernardo O’Higgins y el Campo de Hielo Sur”.
The Cueva de Milodon (24km north of town) is the cave where the remainings of a 10383 year old animal where found. One century ago was when Hermann Eberhard found pieces of dry skin measuring 1.5 meters long and 90 centimeters wide.
In 1951 was when the skin was analyzed. Conclusions where that it belonged to a Milodon (a prehistoric animal that weighted around 3 tons)
Punta Arenas is the most prominent settlement on the Strait of Magellan and the capital of the Magallanes y la Antártica Chilena Region, Chile. Due to its location and size it is sometimes considered the southernmost city in the world.
The Punta Arenas harbour, although exposed to storms, was considered one of the most important in Chile before the construction of the Panama Canal, because it was used as a coaling station by the steamships transiting between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Today it is mostly used by tourism cruises and scientific expeditions. The city is often a jumping-off point for Antarctic expeditions, although Ushuaia (Argentina) and Christchurch (New Zealand) are also common starting points.
Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile
The Torres del Paine National Park – an area of 2,400 km² – was declared a Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO in 1978 and is a popular hiking destination. There are clearly marked and well maintained paths and many refugios which provide shelter and basic services. Views are breathtaking.
Hikers can opt for a day trip to see the towers, walk the popular “W” route in about five days, or trek the full circle in 8-9 days.
The “W” route is by far the most popular, and is named for the shape of the route. Hikers start and finish at either of the base points of the “W”, performing each of the three shoots as a day trip. The five points of the W, from west to east, are:
Glacier Grey, a large glacier calving into the lake of the same name. Camping is available next to Refugio Grey.
Refugio Pehoe, situated on Lago Pehoe. This site offers good views of the “horns” of Torres del Paine.
Valle del Francés (“Frenchman’s Valley”), often rated as the best scenery in the whole park. The path leads up into a snowy dead-end, where several small glaciers are visible.
Hosteria las Torres, a large hotel at the base of the mountain range.
The Torres del Paine themselves, large rock formations over a small lake, high in the mountains.
The longer “circuit” walk includes all the sights of the “W”, but avoids most backtracking, by connecting Glacier Grey and the Torres del Paine around the back of the mountain range.
Boats and buses provide transport between Hosteria las Torres, Refugio Pehoe, and the park entrance at Laguna Amarga.
It is a national park and thus hikers are not allowed to stray from the paths. Camping is only allowed at specified campsites, and wood fires are prohibited in the whole park.
In 2005, a Czech backpacker camping in the park used a gas stove and caused a fire that destroyed 160 km² of the park. Replanting, with assistance from the Czech Republic, was set to begin in September 2005.