The magnificent Torres del Paine National Park is a hiker’s paradise.
Coloradans are used to stunning mountain vistas, but even for the well-traveled among you, the drive into Torres del Paine National Park in the Patagonia region of Chile is eye-poppingly beautiful, with the three cloud-topping granite spires of the famed Torres del Paine magically appearing out of a swirl of mist. As if that view weren’t enough to stir the spirit, wind further into the park and above a green valley dotted with grazing guanacos you just might catch sight of Andean condors, their 10- foot wingspan spread wide as they soar on thermals against a vivid blue sky. This region, near the tip of South America and one of the most visited parks in the country, is an otherworldly realm including glaciers in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, icebergs floating atop lakes like dollops of whipped cream, jagged mountains, and far-reaching grassy pampas.
Where to stay
Torres del Paine National Park has limited choices for accommodations, restaurants, and food shopping, and distances between spots can be wide, so an all-inclusive property is a smart choice to help you maximize your time and provide local guides. Here are two of the best eco-adventure hotel and spas in the region, providing an all-inclusive luxury experience that includes locally sourced Patagonian cuisine and Chilean wines.
EXPLORA Patagonia, set near a small waterfall and lake inside the park, has exquisite views of the Towers from both the lobby and guest rooms. Primed with a Pisco Sour, you may never leave the building—the vistas are that good. But you will, because the lakefront hot tubs have the same views and make for a perfect perch for soaking sore muscles and raising a sunset champagne toast après hike or horseback ride.
TIERRA Patagonia, located in a remote location overlooking Lake Sarmiento just outside the park entrance, is a former estancia (ranch) transformed into an award-winning sustainable property fully committed to conservation and eco operations. Embraced by mountains and the vast pampas, the hotel’s design harmonizes so well with the environment that you may not even notice it until you are within a hundred or so feet of the structure. The long elegant lines of the wooden building span out across the lean landscape and appear to be as much a part of the natural environment as the ground they are set upon. Spacious guest rooms and the open plan of the library, lounge, and restaurant echo the careful design.
What to do
Multi-day hikes: The park includes two of the most popular multi-day treks in South America: the challenging W Trek, which takes at least five days and covers Grey Glacier, French Valley, and the base of the Towers, as well as the more comprehensive Paine Circuit, an even more difficult hike that circles the great trio of towers. Each eco-resort offers versions of these iconic treks, or you can book separately through Walk Patagonia.
Shorter hikes: Explora Patagonia offers more than 25 half- or full-day excursions that take visitors on shorter hikes to some of the most beautiful spots in the park. Tierra Patagonia offers birdwatching excursions, fishing expeditions, geological treks, and hikes that explore the remnants of the native Aonikenk culture.
Horseback riding: Explora Patagonia has developed its own horse breed expertly trained for exploring a variety of terrain and conditions in the wilderness. Travelers from all parts of the world visit Explora just to take part in their guided horse program. Guachos and Explora guides lead small groups out on blissful romps across the pampas to estancia picnics or on iceberg hunts to glacier-fed lakes.
Mountain biking: Tierra Patagonia has a stable of steel steeds available for intermediate to advanced mountain bikers who want to explore the pampas, valleys, and mountains of the park. Guided excursions are offered where watchful riders may well come across local animals and birds in forested hills and could turn a corner on a trail only to capture scenic views of the Paine Massif.
Veg out: Enjoy amazing views of the Paine Massif (and often of wildlife) at Tierra Patagonia’s glass-enclosed Uma Spa, which includes a heated, indoor pool with hydro-massage and a steam room. There’s also a yoga room and treatments including massages, facials, body wraps, and more.