After a slightly tricky border crossing to Chile which involved several buses and then hitching a lift in a private car organised by some friendly (and very kind!) Brazilian girls, we made it to Puerto Natales. Hooray!
A formerly modest fishing port on Seno Ùltima Esperanza (Last Hope Fjord), Puerto Natales has become yet another ‘Gore-Tex mecca’ for those wishing to trek in the nearby Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. In the summer months huge numbers of tourists flock here to complete the multi -day treks in the park, with apparently around 2000 people a day completing the most famous of the day treks (with people literally queuing to reach the key viewpoints!) Fortunately we were visiting out of season and virtually had the place to ourselves, unfortunately this meant the multi-day treks were pretty much out of the question, as all the refugios and key means of transport were not operating.
We only had a short stay here before venturing further south so we prioritised a day tour in the park, which seemed to be the best way to see the most of the landscape.
First it was time to explore the town itself….
And then for the main event – the Torres Del Paine National Park (meaning ‘Towers of Blue’ national park in the local indigenous language).
Most people visit the park for its main event – the ‘Torres’ themselves – however the park is huge and has an amazing amount to offer as we were to find out. Part of UNESCO since 1978, the park is home to flocks of ostrich-like ‘rhea’, condor, flamingo, puma and of course the iconic guanacos (in the llama / alpaca family). It has a stunning range of mountains, including the towers themselves, many azure lakes and a huge glacier.
First on our tour though was to visit the ‘Milodon cave’, where the prehistoric remains were found.
Then into the park itself, visiting many key spots and enjoying a picnic by one of the beautiful lakes, accompanied by a range of local birdlife!
The final part of the trip involved visiting ‘glacier grey’ at the far end of a stunning lake, full of icebergs and edged by an epic pebble beach.
We were sad not to be doing any of the longer treks in the area, but we can always return and battle the crowds another time!
Next we had an easy bus journey to our final stop in Patagonia – the capital of Chilean Patagonia, Punta Arenas.