On Day 6 we took a local bus from El Calafate to cross the border into Chile to Puerto Natales – a super cute little coastal town where we rented any gear we might need for our upcoming hikes in Torres del Paine (read: preparing for all 4 seasons in a day). We were briefed by our guide the night before setting off to our first hike on the famous “W” Circuit.
Once we arrived in Las Torres we geared up for our first hike to Mirador Torres del Paine – an 8 hour out and back totalling approx. 20 kms.This hike makes up the right side of the famous “W,” with the towers at the very top.
This hike was a little flatter than the hike to Fitz Roy as we were traversing through the valleys along the river bank, until we reached the moraine which was similar in steepness and difficulty as Fitz Roy, with the exception that this time we were were battling real Patagonian winds on the way up. Otherwise, this route would have been perfect for a trail run.
Because Patagonia never disappoints…
That night, we stayed at the G Adventures private campsite and treated to a beautiful dinner (that included vegetables, HOORAY!) and wine before settling into our tents to the sound of the whipping Patagonian winds which threatened to take our tent away several times in the night.
The next morning we set out and crossed Lake Peggie by ferry and arrived at our campsite in the French valley. We quickly prepared for our hike to the lookout point across Torres del Paine. This trek took us through beautiful green forest, and also a small piece of the haunting forest remnants of a fire from 2011 started by a tourist. A sad yet beautiful reminder of the impact of human carelessness.
We crossed a rickety old bridge before starting the climb to the view point looking up to one of the peaks with a glacier. The hike was again about 8 hours, for a total of about 18km.
The next morning we only had a half day hike around Grey Lake to a view point overlooking Grey Glacier (creative names for sure). I haven’t mentioned this yet, but our group had been having incredible luck in terms of weather and overall logistics so far, and was becoming a bit of a joke amongst us.
In keeping true to form, we had a stunning rainbow meet us at Grey Lake and frame our view of the glacier as we arrived at the view point.
Once we arrived back to the campsite, we travelled by ferry and bus back to Punta Natales. We went out for dinner at a local hole in the wall and had some delish seafood (King crab is the specialty – YUM) before heading out to a local karaoke bar where we had a few beers and played giant Jenga. After a particularly haunting rendition of Ice, Ice Baby by our guide Fede, followed by a slightly off key duet of Closer by The Chainsmokers by Fede and I, we called it a night.
After a stop in Punta Arenas, and some long travel days (I tried to start video diarizing, but I’ll save you from those terrible attempts) we made it to Ushuaia – the southernmost town in the world! After 10 hours of travelling the day before, I woke up early for an early morning run along the water, where a local dog joined me for most of my run along the path.
Our last day in Patagonia, we arranged for a 7 hour horseback ride along the channel with a local stable. I used to ride a lot, and so make it a point to try go whenever we are on vacation (as long as the horses look healthy), as it’s an amazing way to see countryside you otherwise might not. Lucky for me, Alex is starting to really get into it. We were greeted at the barn by a beautiful border collie mix, and then another, and another, until there were 17 dogs around us. Between the horses and the dogs, and Alex about to ride a horse, I don’t think I could have been happier.
We rode through the countryside, with ALL the dogs, including a little beagle who looked a little out of place. Turns out he was our guide’s daughter’s apartment dog from Buenos Aires, and was on vacation too.
On our ride back to the stable, the dogs took off and started chasing a herd of wild horses that was coming over the crest of one of the hills. Seriously, Patagonia is magic.
The next morning, with heavy hearts, we packed our bags for Buenos Aires.
A few last minute thoughts on our trip:
- I was really apprehensive about taking the tour. I was worried about being stuck with terrible people, feeling too touristy, and not getting any time on my own. We had a great time, and definitely would not have seen everything we did on such a tight timeline if we hadn’t gone with a group. Thank you Fede for being the absolute BEST.
- Layers are your friend: I ended up wearing all my layers almost everyday, and was in a constant state of taking things on and off. I loved my thermal base layer ( a Uniqlo snag), lightweight down vest, Patagonia fleece and shell. I ended up renting rain pants for the W circuit and not needing them, but we had really, really good weather ( I stress REALLY good). I wore hiking boots every day and loved having my teva’s for post-hike, even though Alex was mortified every time I velcro’ed them on.
- If you don’t want to eat ham and cheese sandwiches for breakfast and meat at every meal, bring bars and protein shakes from home. I wish I had brought about a dozen more (also my spirulina tabs because Patagonia doesn’t believe in vegetables). I was DYING for a salad by about Day 2 of our trip.
- I love, love, love this corner of the world and would go back in an instant. Invite me if you go, ok?
Any questions, feel free to ask away in the comments!