Patagonia in the southern part of Chile was one of the more difficult places to get to, especially from Asia. I flew from the States to Santiago and connected to Punta Arenas and then it was another 5 hour drive into Torres del Paine national park where my hotel, Explora, is located. It is an all inclusive hotel taking you on 2 half-day or 1 full-day excursion each day. There are 50 guided explorations on foot and horseback to the remotest areas inside Torres del Paine to choose from.
View from my room at the Explora lodge
The weather in Patagonia is very fickle and can change from sun to rain without much notice. Torres del Paine is well known for its strong winds because there isn’t any other landmass at this latitude, so basically there is nothing out there to slow down the wind as it blows around the globe. The summer season when we visited is the high season and the wind gusts can reach up to 200 km per hour at the higher altitudes. When I did my hike to the Mirador Condor on the first day, the wind was so strong I could barely stand up straight as I ascended the mountain. I was so glad I had both of my trekking poles which I pounded into the dirt to prevent being blown away!
Sunrise at Torres del Paine.
Fellow hotel guest setting up to capture the beautiful sunrise.
The famous hike to do in Torres del Paine is the W circuit consisting of Grey Glacier, French Valley, and Base of the Towers. Since I will be visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier later, the guide suggested that I skip the Grey Glacier hike. Instead, I went to Sarmiento Lake and Pingo los Salomes.
Guanacos grazing near the lodge.
On the way to Pingo los Salomes.
Local work horses are of a smaller size.
Along the hike to Sarmiento Lake, we saw skeletons of guanacos.
There are calcium carbonate deposits along the rims of the lake giving it a white sand beach look from a distance.
The strong wind causes constant waves at the lake.
I though the 15 km roundtrip hike to French Valley was not too hard. We had to pass through much of the forest that was burned by the fires in 2012. The white trees that remain have an eery but also magical feel like the setting of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. We arrived at the lookout a little above the Italian Camp where we had our picnic while watching a series of mini avalanches.
Mini avalanches happening constantly.
The following day I did the 18 km roundtrip hike to the Base of the Towers which is what the national park is named after. Most of the first section was uphill with the hardest being the last hour or so where it was almost vertical climb over very rocky terrain consisting of large boulders. But the view of the granite towers and the turquoise glacial lake made it all worth it.
This view of the towers was worth the hard hike up!
The glacial water is way too cold to swim in, although some people attempted it.
Time for some champagne and the hot tub back at the lodge after the long hike :)
Path leading back up to the lodge.
Take a swim in the lap pool.
Alternatively, swim in the lake.