Reach for the Sky: Hiking in Torres del Paine
Straddling Argentina and Chile, Patagonia has one of the most striking landscapes in the world. The sublime Torres del Paine National Park is probably the most famous area in the region and after some painstaking research, we can let you in on some of our favourite hikes.
The Classic: Base of the Torres
Although it’s neither a short nor an easy trek – the decent can be tough on the knees – hikers will be rewarded with incredible views of the three granite towers.
Start by hiking up along the Rio Ascensio for an hour. You’ll walk through the forest before hitting the toughest section of the hike with a terrain of loose pebbles making the going a little harder, but when you get to the lookout, you’ll be met with the classic view of Torres del Paine. There’s no need to rush on, so you can enjoy lunch here and soak up the view.
After lunch, take the same route down to the starting point.
HIKING TIME: 7 to 9 hours
DISTANCE: 18 km
The Grey Glacier
This hike has a special resonance for me as it was on this hike that I decided to return to London and plan trips to South America for a living.
The first part of this hike is actually a 30-minute boat ride across Lake Pehoé. Disembarking, you will start to follow the trail through rocky outcrops and lenga forest. Eventually, you’ll reach the viewpoint from which you can take in the south Patagonian ice field and Grey Lake with its scattering of ice bergs.
HIKING TIME: 5 hours
DISTANCE: 10 km
The French Valley
After a half-hour boat ride across Lake Pehoé, you’ll start to hike up a windy path that climbs the slopes of Paine Grande and along the shores of Lago Skottsberg, enjoying the fabulous views of Cuernos del Paine as you walk.
After crossing the French River, you hike up the valley until you reach the viewpoint directly beneath the famous French Glacier. Hike back the same way.
HIKING TIME: 8 hours
DISTANCE: 17 km
This hike showcases the scenery for which Patagonia is famed: mirror-like lakes reflect the striking lenticular cloud formations that look like they’ve been painted onto the sky; ragged snow-capped peaks; and the sun-bleached, yellow-gold grassy hills.
You can start this hike from one of our favourite lodges in Patagonia: Awasi. The trek leads around the ‘back’ of the park and takes a quiet route, not yet popular with other tourists. When Jacada’s Alex went on this hike in high season, he saw just two other people.
It’s quite a tough hike, with a steep climb required to reach the final lookout, but active types will be thrilled they took it on, with staggering views waiting at every vantage point.
HIKING TIME: 4 hours
DISTANCE: 14 km
Get off the beaten track…
Step off the beaten track and discover the quieter side to this sensational national park by forging a new trail with an experienced guide who knows the park like the back of his hand. We won’t give any details away – or else everyone will be there.
Layering is key (and very this season). Make sure you dress in worn-in hiking boots, a waterproof jacket and a fleece, plus a hat and gloves, with light hiking trousers. Bring a backpack, so you can easily strip off layers as and when you need.
Here are some of our Patagonia trip ideas: