Last Wednesday, two friends and I took an 8:30 pm flight to Punta Arenas to start our five day adventure in Chilean Patagonia. It was incredible and I’m still having a hard time putting into words all of the amazing things we saw.
The main focus of our trip was to go to Torres del Paine, one of the largest and most visited national parks in Chile. Tourists come from all over the world to hike and camp in the park and we met hikers from Russia, Italy, Germany, France, the US, Australia, England, Chile, and China in the hostels and on the trails. It’s starting to get really cold at night and the weather in the park is unpredictable at best, so instead of camping, we opted for doing day hikes and then returning to our hostel at night.
After classes on Wednesday, we flew into a small airport in Punta Arenas and stayed at a hostel for the night. Punta Arenas is one of the southernmost towns in South America and is located on the Strait of Magellan. Thursday morning, we explored the city a bit and searched for food. The Punta Arenas cemetery is said to be one of the most beautiful in the world, and you should definitely check it out if you’re ever in the city. We had lunch in a cafe and took a bus to Puerto Natales, which is the closest city to Torres del Paine and is where most travelers stay when visiting the park. During the bus ride, we were graced by beautiful sunsets and sights of flamingos, guanacos (similar to llamas), and lots and lots of sheep. We arrived at our hostel and prepared for the next day, our first day in Torres del Paine.
We had to be up early the next day to catch a bus to Torres del Paine but fortunately, our hostel served a great breakfast. We took a 2-hour bus ride to Torres and arrived as the sun was rising. Our hike took about 9 hours to get to el Mirador las Torres and back, and let me tell you, it was difficult. The towers and lagoon are at the top of an 875 meter mountain and the last hour is spent almost rock climbing to the top. There isn’t a trail, just a gigantic pile of rocks that you somehow have to climb. It is extremely difficult, but really rewarding once you get to the top. The rest of the hike is diverse and beautiful. We walked on a winding trail along the side of a mountain with a river in the valley below, through a forest where very little sunlight shone through the trees, and across bridges with turquoise water below. We were so sore after this hike that we could hardly move for the next few days.
The next day we opted for a bus tour of Torres so that we could see more of the park in our short amount of time there. We spent the day taking short hikes to see mountains, lagoons, lakes, and glaciers. The park is colored in blues, purples, greens, and grays and everything is so serene.
We went back to Punta Arenas that night and slept for most of the next morning. Almost the entire town is closed on Sundays so it was a struggle to find somewhere to eat. It ended up being a chill rainy day where we caught up on rest and made a pasta dinner at our hostel.
For our last day in Punta Arenas, we took a day tour of Pali Aike National Park, which is a desolate landscape full of volcanic craters. It was like walking on a different planet. The wind was wild, making it hard to walk, and everywhere we looked, there were dark lava rocks, giant craters, and hidden caves. There was no human life, or really any life at all, and it was unlike anything I’ve experienced before.
It was a great week, but definitely exhausting. We visited sights that I had no idea existed before I came to Chile and we met some really great people in each place we went. During our two days in Torres, we got to see many different parts of the park but I can’t imagine how much is left unexplored. The nature here is pure, protected, and preserved. Most of it is untouched by humans and the parts that are, are carefully regulated and controlled. It’s a place unlike any other and I am grateful to have been able to experience it. Spending time in Patagonia has made me appreciate national parks and now I can’t wait to explore more in Chile and in the United States when I return home. Patagonia is one place that should be one everyone’s bucket list, and I didn’t realize that it should be on mine until I visited.