Such beauty .... almost heaven on earth!

Torres Del Paine Travel Blog

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Interesting cap clouds seen over the Patagonian steppe while on the way from El Calafate to Torres del Paine National Park

Flying all the way to Patagonia, a visit to the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile is a must! Named as the hiking mecca of Patagonia, unforgettable scenery at every turn, spectacular views of towering granite mountains, awe-inspiring glaciers, emerald-coloured lakes, breathtaking skies at sunrise and sunsets as well as unique wildlife are promised. We made our way from El Calafate to Torres del Paine after having spent some wonderful days of trekking in the beautiful Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina.

Breakfast at the bar ..... that was the early start to our day at 5am. With the pickup being arranged at 5.30am and the breakfast at Hotel Lar Aike starting only at 6am, they specially arranged our breakfast at the bar with excellent Cappuccino from the coffee machine.

Without any colour enhancement on the computer .... the water in this Lake Sarmiento is that blue!
A mini bus from Always Glacier arrived punctually and after picking up a few other tourists, we were transferred to a comfortable double deckle coach near El Calafate Airport. Thereafter, we began the long three hour journey through the Patagonian steppe to Torres del Paine National Park. 

Instead of taking the usual route to the national park via Puerto Natales, we chose the Torres del Paine day tour offered by El Chalten Travel that would take us directly from El Calafate into the national park with a return pickup on another day. It was a more costly option but direct and faster. Not only that, the tour also provided us with a panoramic and grand view of the National Park from a distance on the other side of Lago Nordenskjold and Lago Pehoe, which we would otherwise not have seen from that perspective on the W trek.

Guanacos roaming in the wild. They are cousins of the Llamas and live in the lower altitudes

Except for the occasional interesting cap clouds up in the sky, the view on the way through the Patagonian steppe was nothing really special. For the first two hours of the journey, most of us were napping in the coach. Then the snow-capped mountains came slowly into view on the far horizon and we could slowly make out the famous peaks of Torres del Paine National Park as we drove towards it.

We finally reached the Argentinean border at about 9.30am where we had to get an exit stamp from the border control. We drove another 2km to finally reach the Chilean border village Cerro Castillo. All bags had to be removed from the coach and X-rayed. We had some leftover salamis and apples which were not allowed into the country and were thrown into the furnace immediately.

A close-up shot of the hanging glacier on Monte Almirante Nieto and the three Las Torres Towers

After clearing the immigration, we had a quick stop at the coffee and souvenir shop next door where we were met by the local guide. We were transferred from the big and comfortable coach to a mini-van before being driven towards the park. From here, it was another 57km through the Patagonian steppe before reaching the entrance of the park at Guarderia Laguana Amarga.

The guide explained the unique formation of the Paine Massif which was once an underground magma chamber beneath a layer of softer darker sedimentary rock, basalt. Solidified, up-thrusted, sliced up by glaciers and then shaped and sharpened by the Patagonian legendary winds, it is now the array of interesting peaks and granite spikes.

The views from here onwards of the mountains and lakes were just terrific.

Los Cuernos del Paine (The Horns). From left: Cuerno Norte (2400m), Cuerno Principal (2600m) and Cuerno Este (2200m) seen from Mirador Cuernos. Interesting formation of granite with basalt on the top
We arrived at Lago Sarmiento where we disembarked and the cameras went crazy. Unlike other lakes, the waters of Lago Sarmiento have glacial origin which explains the vivid blue colour and the white edges were caused by the accumulation of calcium carbonate. These elements made this lake one of the most attractive places in the park.  This is also one of the viewpoints where the Cordillera Paine in all its magnitude could be observed!

We continued on the journey and the next stop was on the steppe where there was a group of Guanacos. They are the cousins of the Llamas, are less furry and live in lower altitudes. The Torres del Paine National Park is about 150m above sea level. As explained by the guide, they are rather shy animals. Hence we approached cautiously to have a closer look at them.

Cerro Paine Grande in the background
Apparently, they are wild life and do not belong to the park. They are widely spread out on the steppe during summer but would gather together as two or three huge herds during the winters.

We continued on the journey and the mini-van suddenly stopped with the guide telling us to look to the left where there were three Caranchos feasting on a carcass, which I assumed was a dead Guanaco. These vultures certainly looked mean. Coincidentally, we saw the bony remains of a Guanaco during the last stop.

Laguna Amarga was the next lake that we reached. The only saltwater lake in the region, this lake is alkaline and has a pH level of 9.1. Pure water has a pH of 7.0 while soap has a pH of between 9-10. Hence it was interesting to know and not to assume that water could be drank from any lakes in this beautiful region.

Not only the mountains are interesting and beautiful, the clouds too

After entering the park at Laguna Amarga and paying the park fee of approx. €24, we continued to drive towards along beautiful blue lake, Lago Nordenskjold, where we had a grand view of the Cordillera Paine from Mirador del Nordenskjold. At Guarderia Pudeto, we started the 4km easy hike to Mirador Cuernos. Gosh, the winds were crazy that day and blew so strongly that we were walking sideward at some points. We had excellent views of the Cuernos del Paine (Horns) with its magnificent granite walls and basalt tops from the Mirador.

Thereafter, we proceeded to Salto Grande which is recognized as one of the most beautiful waterfalls on the planet, thanks to the fresh clear air and uniqueness of the colour. Although it’s height of 15m or so is not so overwhelming, it exhibits tremendous powers as it drains the Lago Nordenskjold and feed Lago Pehoe.

Looking across Lago Nordenskjold to Los Cuernos del Paine, Monte Almirante Nieto and the Bader Valley in between
The volume of water going over the falls is an indication of how much glacial melt would typically occur. With the winds howling around us at about 100km/hr and the roars of the waterfall on top, we could hardly enjoy the beauty and the superb view of the Glacier Paine Grande and Los Cuernos del Paine.

We then drove along Lago Pehoe towards another viewpoint near to Hosteria Pehoe where we had equally excellent views of the mountain ranges. Proceeding to Area de Acampar Lago Pehoe after that, it was a short coffee break before the return trip. On the way back, we were dropped off at Guarderia Pudeto where we would take the Catamaran across Lago Pehoe to Refugio Paine Grande. It was a long two hours wait for us as we had to huddle at one side of the building to get out of strong winds.

Dinner with a grand view at Refugio Paine Grande

The staff of the Catamaran arrived at 10mins to 6pm and we were only allowed to board the boat at 6pm. It was a comfortable and spacious boat and coffee and biscuits were served shortly after we left the port. Almost after tea and coffee was served and drank, almost everyone went above to enjoy the terrific views despite the strong winds.

Half an hour later, we arrived at Refugio Paine Grande. After checking into the room with clean sheets, towels and pillows, we headed off for dinner. This is the only Refugio on the W trek that offers sheets, towels and pillows while the others refugios provide only the beds.

It was a dinner with a grand view of the Los Cuernos del Paine!

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mountaingirl says:
The views should be equally beautiful when starting in the opposite direction :) I am sure the weather will be fantastic in Feb as that is still within the best timing for trekking!
Posted on: Jul 15, 2016
skippyed says:
We are starting in the opposite direction!
Posted on: Jul 14, 2016
MonteinSB says:
Awesome description.. :)
Posted on: Dec 01, 2012
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Interesting cap clouds seen over t…
Interesting cap clouds seen over …
Without any colour enhancement on …
Without any colour enhancement on…
Guanacos roaming in the wild. They…
Guanacos roaming in the wild. The…
A close-up shot of the hanging gla…
A close-up shot of the hanging gl…
Los Cuernos del Paine (The Horns).…
Los Cuernos del Paine (The Horns)…
Cerro Paine Grande in the backgrou…
Cerro Paine Grande in the backgro…
Not only the mountains are interes…
Not only the mountains are intere…
Looking across Lago Nordenskjold t…
Looking across Lago Nordenskjold …
Dinner with a grand view at Refugi…
Dinner with a grand view at Refug…
The mountains in Torres del Paine …
The mountains in Torres del Paine…
Always Glacier - The direct transf…
Always Glacier - The direct trans…
Crossing the border to Chile at Ce…
Crossing the border to Chile at C…
The incredible turquoise Lake Sarm…
The incredible turquoise Lake Sar…
Mr Guanaco trying to do something …
Mr Guanaco trying to do something…
The savage food chain ... Carancho…
The savage food chain ... Caranch…
The remains of a carcass lying aro…
The remains of a carcass lying ar…
Yet another lake ... Lake Amarga w…
Yet another lake ... Lake Amarga …
Cerro Paine Grande and Los Cuernos…
Cerro Paine Grande and Los Cuerno…
Grand views of the Cordillera Pain…
Grand views of the Cordillera Pai…
Magnificent setting of Hotel Explo…
Magnificent setting of Hotel Expl…
My gosh, the winds ... the winds a…
My gosh, the winds ... the winds …
The magnificent Los Cuernos del Pa…
The magnificent Los Cuernos del P…
A close up of the thorny Mother-in…
A close up of the thorny Mother-i…
Yet another beautiful lake .... La…
Yet another beautiful lake .... L…
The Salto Grande Waterfall. This p…
The Salto Grande Waterfall. This …
Hosteria Pehoe with the grand views
Hosteria Pehoe with the grand views
A grand background and sky
A grand background and sky
Looking across Lago Nordenskjold t…
Looking across Lago Nordenskjold …
A camping slot with shelter from t…
A camping slot with shelter from …
The catamaran that goes across Lag…
The catamaran that goes across La…
Inside the catamaran ... so many r…
Inside the catamaran ... so many …
Up on the deck even though the win…
Up on the deck even though the wi…
The most luxurious Refugio Paine…
The most "luxurious" Refugio Pain…
The UFO looking Eco-Domes at Refug…
The UFO looking Eco-Domes at Refu…
They even gave us a Torres Del Pai…
They even gave us a Torres Del Pa…
Torres Del Paine
photo by: Vlindeke