The dramatic mountains, brilliant glacial lakes and mystical ever-changing skies of Torres del Paine (meaning “Blue Towers”) National Park in Patagonia, Chile and its surrounding parks are a revelation. It’s impossible to comprehend the vastness and majesty of this magical place until you have seen it for yourself. It’s also impossible to take a bad picture! I’d read dozens of websites, seen hundreds of images and scoured numerous maps over the years, but nothing prepared me for the unabashed joy of experiencing it.
We arrived in Puerto Natales (where a new airport soon will open) and then at our Puerto Bories hotel, the unique and engaging Singular Patagonia, late in the afternoon after a 2-hour scenic ride from Punta Arenas Airport. We had a brief tour around the hotel grounds before settling down to enjoy a sumptuous dinner and a good night’s rest. The next morning, we embarked on a small boat for our first experience in Nature with a capital Na. We crossed Grey Lake, arriving at a destination with the unlikely name of Bernardo O’Higgins National Park.
We disembarked and trundled down a wide path, stopping for a bit to have a look at the glacial inlet. Then we started up the trail, a ragged conga line of intrepid world travelers, bundled up against the spring chill and looking to be impressed. We didn’t need to wait long. After a relatively easy hike, we reached our destination. Gleeful yelps sprang from each of us in turn as we rounded a corner and caught first sight of the magnificent Grey Glacier—a rushing waterfall frozen in place—and its hundreds of floating offspring in Grey Lake below.
It was a stunning sight: a seemingly endless expanse of sky, dramatic mountain peaks, the imposing ice colossus, the blue-grey lake and the clouds—now parting, now joining to frame the peaks, from dense deep gray to sheer puffy white. It was the first of many such awe-inspiring sights. So many in fact, the gasps eventually gave way to shared nods and knowing joyful grins.
The next day, we attacked Torres del Paine National Park itself. Its three famous “blue tower” mountain peaks loomed above as we approached in our comfortable van. We stopped in the park’s information center for an orientation, then were off again.
The park can be explored by hiking, trekking, horseback riding, boating, mountain climbing and camping. The only way that doesn’t work in an armchair, although at the end of the day, that too is welcome, along with a nice Pisco Sour.