My name is Ignacia, Trekking & Adventure Travel Specialist at Cascada Expediciones.
Nacha to my friends and colleagues. Last year, I visited Patagonia and joined a WildlIfe Safari in Torres del Paine NP (Chile), and I loved it! Here’s a little story of #MyTrip to #TorresdelPaine
The good thing about the Wildlife Safari is …you can start any day of the week! (From September through beginning of May). This unique trip takes you through Torres del Paine’s highlights and let you enjoy the best of the park’s flora and fauna on nature walks, treks and cycling excursions with your local expert guide. Each night, you can pick the excursion for the next day.
I stayed 1 night in a Suite dome, and the rest in our Standard domes. EcoCamp Patagonia’s domes, immersed in the park’s wilderness, provide cozy accommodation, and each night, after dinner and wine you share with fellow travellers in EcoCamp Community Domes and at our Ecobar.
Day 1. Wednesday
Places: Santiago – Punta Arenas – Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine
I flew from Santiago to Punta Arenas very early in the morning, my flight departed at 5:45am!! We arrived approx at 9:00 am. (if it’s a direct flight, it takes approx 3.5 hours).
At our arrival, Cascada/Ecocamp staff members where waiting for us at the airport. And took us to Punta Arenas to pick up the rest of Ecocamp guests.
Then we began our journey to Puerto Natales (approx 4 hours). We stopped at Ecocamp´s office to check-in and wait for some other travellers who where coming from El Calafate, and went to have a delicious lunch.
After lunch and dessert, we drove to the Milodon Cave (only possible if we take the AM transfer).
Our guide explained and showed us the flora & fauna, the geological formation of the cave and the history of this area. (sloth remains were found there).
Finally, we started our journey to EcoCamp! The funniest and amazing thing of all, is that I felt that I had experienced a wildlife Safari even before arriving! We saw lots of animals on the way, and I do not have words to describe the landscape. Some of the animals we saw were: chingüe (skank), guanacos, condor, armadillo, ducks, birds, cows, lambs. So beautiful!!
Approx at 7:45pm we finally arrived at Ecocamp, where we were welcomed, and left our luggage in our Suite Dome.
It was a long day, and a long ride, so the Welcome cocktail and some snacks were perfect in this case!! While we enjoyed a handmade Pisco Sour, our Wildlife Safari guide gave us a briefing about the activities for the next day.
And once we picked it, we went to have a lovely dinner, with a great vino!!
Day 2. Wednesday
Places: The base of the towers!
We would meet at 8:00am. So we were having breakfast approx at 7:30am, in order to be ready on time.
After breakfast, we prepared our Box lunch for a 22km adventure, and started the big challenge (fruits, nuts, and a variety of ingredients are available).
It was a bit cloudy, but temperature was perfect for a full day hike.
Personally, I am not a fan of trekking poles, but I took a pair just in case, because we highly recommend to bring them.
I also packed 3 different layers, and wore all of them along the trail…
If you want more info, here is a list of what to bring on a hike in Patagonia.
After a hearty breakfast we set off from Ecocamp towards Hostería Las Torres and join the uphill path to Ascencio Valley on the Tower’s eastern face. Dry mountain spots, beech forests and small rivers line the scenic walk towards the valley. Our big challenge comes as we climb the steep moraine, a mass of boulders leading us towards one of the world’s most famous views overlooking the Towers. The famous Torres del Paine (2,900 m/ 9,400 ft) consist of three gigantic granite monoliths, the remains of a great cirque sheared away by the forces of glacial ice.
After an uphill slog, the Towers eventually come into full view, rising majestically before us, with the glacial lake visible below. Is there any better place in the world to have lunch? After feasting on the view and our picnic, we backtrack along the same trail through Ascencio Valley and return to EcoCamp, for a hot shower, briefing of the activities for the next day, and dinner with our new friends. (from all over the world!)
Day 3. Friday
Places: Grey Glacier
I must say, weather in Patagonia is crazy! After breakfast, we board our van and started driving across the park. On this ride, you’ll be amazed by the views of Paine Grande and its snowy peaks, Los Cuernos and the whole Patagonian scene. We made a few stops on the way, at some beautiful viewpoints and took some pictures of the mountains and lakes. Sometimes you were able to see some guanacos playing around, beautiful flowers and birds.
It was a really windy day, and you can see it on the water of Pehoe Lake, where we drove past by… We kept driving towards Grey Lake, and we had the bad news that the navigation was cancelled. But, instead, we went to visit beautiful Grey Beach, so we had the chance to see the glacier far far away, but.. on the shores of the lake, I saw gigantic pieces of ice, real icebergs on glacial water. What a beauty! After this walk, we went for a coffee, as it was really chilly out there, and waited for our van to take us back to Ecocamp
(*During Shoulder Season (September, October, April and May) the boat trip to Glacier Grey may be cancelled as the boat requires a minimum of 8 passengers to sail, which might not be reached in some cases. If this is the case we will plan an alternative excursion in the Park.)
It was good at some point, as I was a little tired of the hike to the towers, and I was really excited about the next day… I wanted to hike up the French Valley (the favourite place of a lot of our travel specialists here at Cascada)…
Day 4. Saturday
Places: Navigation on Pehoe Lake and French Valley
We departed after breakfast, around 8:00am. All set, and ready to hike 21km / 13 miles on a medium (low) difficulty trail. All this at approx 200m / 660 ft over the sea level.. (no altitude sickness on this trip, at all!).
We started driving to Pudeto dock, at the shores of beautiful Pehoe Lake. We arrived a bit early, so I had a coffee while I waited (that’s why we suggest to bring a little cash on you.. just in case)…
Once we boarded the catamaran, I couldn’t help it and went on the deck. It was a little windy and cold, but the view was totally over that feeling. The clouds disappeared while we were navigating, and from there we could see the horns. After approx 1 hour and 20´ we arrived. And began to hike towards the French Valley, along a semi steep trail that leads us to the very heart of the Paine Massif.
It was sad, at the beginning, because the huge fire that affected us a few years ago, was still present… All those trees looked a little creepy but at the same time, the whole scene was so beautiful, the nature was doing its thing, regenerating as fast as it can.
Our group was splitted into 2, as we were walking a little faster, and the rest of the trekkers wanted to take and take pictures. We had to be back before the catamaran set sail the dock, so we hiked a bit faster in order to get to Camp Italiano.
On the way up, you will see some lakes, forests, a river that grows while you hike (as you are getting closer to the French glacier). Once we got hungry, we stopped in a beautiful spot over the lake, and had a sandwich (a veggie lunch for me). It was a brief stop, as we wanted to hike as far as we could. And… once I arrived to the hanging bridge over the French river, I couldn’t believe it!
The huge French Glacier right in front of me. That moment was perfect. We I turned around, I could see almost all the km’s I have hiked so far, all the lakes behind me, unbelievable!
This bridge is located at the foot of the south east face of the Massif, and has fantastic views of the valley (here I realized what my colleagues were talking about when they said this was their favourite spot).
You’ll be marveled at the extensive mass of the valley’s geological formations: Hoja (Blade), Máscara (Mask), Espada (Sword), Catedral (Cathedral), Aleta de Tiburón (Shark’s Fin) and the magnificent Fortaleza (Fortress).
Here we stopped for a bit at the camp Italiano, went to the bathroom, got hydrated a bit and sat over some rocks to admire this incredible place. Then, we began to descend through the same trail, an undulating terrain of mixed grassland and light forest which will take us to Refugio Paine Grande, located on the peaceful shores of Lake Pehoe.
We got on time for a deserved cold beer, while we waited for the catamaran that departed at 6:00pm to Pudeto dock.
Once we got there, our driver was waiting for us and took us back to our EcoCamp.
**N.B. An optional trek to Mirador Britanico is also available. (depending on the time available, daylight and weather conditions).
**The excursion to French Valley varies throughout the season depending on the catamaran connecting Pudeto and Refugio Pehoe:
During September, October, April and May (shoulder season) the catamaran service will be out of operation. Therefore, the excursion will be replaced by a journey from Estancia Lazo to Weber Bridge. Read more about Lazo Weber Excursion
From 1st to 15th of November: Hiking is limited and restricted past Camp Italiano.
From 16th of November till 15th of March: excursion operates on a regular basis.
From 16th of March till 31st of March: Hiking is limited and restricted past Camp Italiano.
It was our last night in Patagonia. ☹
We took a hot shower in our shared bathrooms, (separated by gender, of course). Had a delicious dinner, dessert and red wine. And we had the chance to go and see a glacial presentation from one of our most experienced trekking guides. He explained all the formations of this incredible remote location, it was very very interesting.
After this, we stayed at our EcoBar, sharing the experiences with our new friends from all over the world. Tried the local beer, and then went back to the dome. Buenas noches!
Day 5. Sunday
Places: Torres del Paine – Puerto Natales – Punta Arenas – Santiago
We woke up early to watch the sunrise and then went to have breakfast. We had everything already packed to leave this beautiful place. After some coffees, fruit, and granola, we boarded the van and started driving towards Puerto Natales. We arrived around noon.
We grabbed a box lunch and kept driving towards Punta Arenas. The flight departed at 7:45pm. We arrived around 2.. so… we asked the driver to drop us off in Punta Arenas’s downtown. Just to explore around. What a windy city!
Here, we hiked up Cerro La Cruz, took some pics of the city and the Magellain Strait, then grabbed a coffee and took a taxi to the airport, that’s located approx 20 minutes from the “Plaza”. (cost approx US10). We checked in, and flew back to Santiago.
Some of my new friends had more time to explore, and that morning, these travellers took the bus to El Calafate (regular transportation is included in our programs, semi private transportation upgrade available too).
Extra notes of #MyTrip
- I must go back there, and get a better camera!
- The length of this trip can be from 3 days and 2 nights, up to 7 days and 6 nights! We recommend a 6 days and 5 nights program, as you’re on the road on day 1 and the last day.
- We do have more adventurous hikes in EcoCamp. check out our 5 and 7 day W Trek, and our 9 day Torres del Paine Circuit! (MultiSport programs available too)
- We also have some program extensions to take the best memories of Patagonia with you. From 2 days, up to 6, or even a customized itinerary through El Calafate and/or El Chaltén, also known as a trekking great spot. Check out some of our Extensions here Destination: El Calafate
- All citizens of the U.S., Canada and Australia must pay their reciprocity fee online before crossing into Argentina Reciprocity fee procedure