3 very civilised days in Torres del Paine National Park

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
10
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
1
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
7
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
4
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
5
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
9
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
75 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
South America
country
Chile
Length of time
3-4 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 1,500
Time of year visited
January
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
76th/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 30% SUMMARY RATING: Superb

Summary

To experience Torres del Paine, you have the classic choice of the famous “W” trek over 5 days, the even more ambitious “O” trek of 10 days, or for a bit more civilised (. . . easier!) tour.  We were a bit pressed for time, and maybe just a little lazy, so chose the tour and glad we did because we had just the most fantastic time

Your 3 days should include a hike up to the famous Base of the Towers, a night staying in the wonderful Hotel Lago Grey, a day checking out the Grey Glacier from the small ferry, staying at the Hosteria Pehoe (a hotel which, although quite low quality, must be in the running for world’s most stunning hotel setting), and a day for general wandering through the park with a guide.  The price also includes a night either side staying at the domes in Puerto Natales which are fun

The hiking was balanced out by relaxing in the hotels with their outstanding views.  Far more civilised than staying in tents!

highlights

#1 Seeing the stunning mountains of the Paine range that are the focal point of the Torres del Paine National Park

#2 Having a pisco sour looking out from Hotel Lago Grey over the mountains and the Grey Glacier after finishing a day of hiking - heaven!

#3 Seeing the guanacos play king of the castles

#4 Bracing the wind to take the ferry up Lake Grey to see the Grey Glacier in its glory

#5 Taking a walk through the central of the park to see the lakes and breathe it all in

#6 Staying in two hotels, each with out of this world views

#7 Taking a breather in one of the drives across the park and just taking it all in

#8 If staying in Puerto Natales, staying in the domes was a fun experience

#9 Hiking up to the base of the famous Towers

Rough itinerary

  • Arrival day – arrive in Puerto Natales and stay in the domes
  • Day 1 – transfer into Torres del Paine National Park.  Trek to Base Torres (18km, ~8 hours, 35,000 steps) with your guide.  Spend the evening at Hotel Lago Grey
  • Day 2 – Grey glacier boat tour and transfer to Hosteria Pehoe to spend the day gawping at the views and the evening in the Hotel
  • Day 3 – full day light trekking through the park.  Transfer back to the domes in Puerto Natales
  • Departure Day

Travel Tips

  • Tour company – we didn’t really have time for the “W” hike, so relied more on a tour company to plan the days for us.  Highly recommend the Garden Domes for the accommodation and organising the days in the park.  Expensive but very much worth it
  • Hotel Lago Grey – you must toast your day of hiking up the the base of the Towers by having a drink in the stunning lounge of Hotel Lago Grey.  The view across the glacier, lake and mountains behind is magnificent
  • Hosteria Pehoe – nothing special as a hotel, but stunning views around from the centre of the park more than make up for it
  • The Base of the Towers – these are the famous sight of the National Park.  The hike to the base of the Towers is busy so be prepared for crowds and for an 8 hour / 18km / 35,000 steps round trip
  • Towers vs rest of the park – if pressed for time, I’d actually prioritise the glacier and the general view of the park ahead of the base of the Towers hike.  Yes they are stunning, but its a there-and-back hike and it really is busy
  • Guanacos – ask your driver / guide to keep an eye out for the guanacos.  There are heaps of them around and the locals are so used to them that they may not appreciate just how much you may appreciate them!
  • Just a thought (and one of the reasons this experience didn’t rate higher) – there looked to be many places on the way to Torres del Paine from both El Calafate and Puerto Natales that looked stunning, but without the fame and therefore tourists of Torres del Paine.  Maybe worth a bit of investigating to see if could have one of these world class experiences to yourself
  • Parrilla and mate tea – make sure you try to a local parrilla (grill) and get a local or guide to let you try some mate (tea).  But do make sure you ask them to tell you the right etiquette first!
  • Books
    • I couldn’t more highly recommend This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson, one of my favourite books.  This charts, in historical fiction-style, the true story of Captain Fitzoy’s journey to chart the Tierra del Fuego, meeting the native Fuegians and bringing the young Charles Darwin with him
    • In Patagonia.  Bruce Chatwin’s account of his journey through Patagonia to see the windswept landscapes, descendants of Welsh immigrants, forgotten legends and a feeling of adventure in seeing “the uttermost part of the earth”

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Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone