In the far south of Chile is the region known as Patagonia. The whole region of Patagonia encompasses a large area of both Chile and Argentina, with the landscapes on the Chilean side of the border being particularly spectacular.
Chilean Patagonia extends from the shores of the Pacific Ocean to the stunning peaks in the southern Andes. Chilean Patagonia is itself composed of two sub-regions; the northern Aisen and, to its south, Magallanes. It is in the more rugged region of Magallanes that exists the overwhelmingly attractive Torres del Paine National Park.
The park is located between Cordillera de Los Andes and the Patagonian Steppe, and covers an area of 181,414 hectares. Torres del Paine is named after three enormous, spear-like rock towers which soar upwards to the sky. It is an area which attracts hikers and climbers. Care should always be taken when visiting the park as its extreme southerly location guarantees that weather is generally cold and always unpredictable.
The park is riddled with extraordinary scenery, be it soaring, snow-covered mountains, impressive glaciers or cold, glacier-fed lakes. Fortunately, the region is so rugged that is still well preserved and is an ideal place to see wildlife in its natural environment.
Apart from the Torres del Paine mountain range with its inspiring spikey peaks other attractions include the Cuernos del Paine Mountain, which reaches a height of 6,300 feet. Another is the powerful Salto Grande waterfall which is created by the force of the outflow from Lake Nordenskjöld that is funnelled into a narrow chute which creates a raging torrent which feeds Lake Pehoe.
There are a number of hiking trails throughout the park, which range in duration from a couple of hours to several days. Although you need to be well prepared when attempting these hikes, particularly as the weather is so changeable, there are a number of lodges scattered throughout the park in which hikers can seek shelter or overnight.
Torres del Paine National Park is remote. The nearest town to the park is Puerto Natales, which is 147 kilometres south. Transport to the park can be arranged from Puerto Natales. The most practical way to the park from Santiago is to fly to Punta Arenas, and bus it from there.
Fortunately, there are a number of accommodation options within the park which range from camping and simple lodges and hostels to some very upmarket hotels. A number of tour companies operate organised tours to the region, but independent travellers are also welcome.