Southern Patagonia – Torres del Paine, Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre und Perito Moreno Glacier
Southern Patagonia is not only a childhood dream which makes lonely Gaucho’s riding through the windswept lanscape. The word itself finds its way through our subconscious in search of a buried longing. Deep inside each of us slumbers this urge for adventure and the thought of Patagonia finally makes it blossom again. I only have to think about how the drizzle cooled my face, how the condor swung into the air barely 10 meters away from us, about the hummingbird that strayed into my tent and it starts all over again. Again we are planning our next tour to South Patagonia.
For travellers with a lot of time or on a booked tour, the journey via the fantastic Carretera Austral is ideal. The area can be reached by plane via Tierra del Fuego, Calafate or Punta Arenas. Those who like to travel by ship can take the ferry from Puerto Montt to Pto Natales. If you want to do more day hikes, it is worth renting a car. Those who mainly go on longer trekking tours anyway prefer to save the money and drive with public buses. This time we arrived via Punta Arenas.
The location of the town on the Strait of Magellan is already ingenious, even though the local people are the only ones to enjoy the bathing fun at the temperatures. With good visibility, one sees up to the opposite Tierra del Fuego. Punta Arenas is an ideal starting point for the visit of the island, we already reported in another blog post about the most beautiful walks on Tierra del Fuego. At Punta Arenas there are three possibilities to see the cute penguins. A day trip to the king penguins south of Porvenir, Magellan penguins at Seno Otway on the way to Puerto Natales or the boat trip to Isla Magdalena. The boat trip can be a bit of a stomach ache but the number of penguins was unbelievable. South of Punta Arenas a trekking tour leads to the most southern point of the continent, the Cabo Froward. A barely done route that requires a lot of experience. Although the city also has some museums and smaller attractions to offer, it is only visited as a starting point for the visit of the National Park Torres del Paine. Most of the travellers already take the bus shuttle from the airport to Puerto Natales.
The town is beautifully situated by the Ultima Esperanza Fjord. A variety of accommodations, restaurants and local organizers characterize the tourist town. In recent years, however, more and more “all-inclusive” luxury accommodations have opened up which visitors like to keep to themselves. For backpackers, the destination is becoming increasingly unaffordable. There are great day trips starting from Puerto Natales. To the well-known trips like the boat tour along the Ultima Esperanza Fjordes, the visit of an Estancia, the museum in Puerto Bories or the Milodon Cave there is also a beautiful and hardly known hiking area at the Laguna Sofia. 2018 appeared the first hiking map with different daily hikes. An excellent opportunity to observe condors at close range.
Torres del Paine
Now it is within reach, Chile’s most prosperous national park. One of the great wonders that Patagonia has in store for eyes and ears. The national park authority CONAF is struggling with the unbelievable rush. So it becomes more and more difficult to visit the park every year. Accommodation prices, food, limited camping facilities and compulsory reservations can really get on your nerves. But it’s still worth it. What did Paul Theroux say? “Patagonia promises a different climate, a change of mood and the complete freedom of hiking. “On day trips the small round to the Grey Glacier should not be missed. Even the most beautiful stages of the W-hike can be hiked on single days. This hut trekking changed from a destination to a longing destination for many hiking friends. Chilean fire bushes, rhubarb-like Nalca plants and bony Lenga southern beeches line the gentle hills. The path leads up to Laguna Torres with its bizarre granite towers. Past the two-coloured Cuernos peaks, the W hike ends at the deceptively quiet Grey Glacier with its insane blue. With the ferry we reach civilization again. Looking for more activity? Then the circular hike around the complete mountain massif is exactly the right thing. If the weather plays along and you get a short view of the inland ice from the John Garner Pass you will understand how the Torres came to its glory.
Los Glaciares National Park and Perito Moreno Glacier
There are places you have to see if you don’t want to miss this wonderful picture in your soul. The Perito Moreno Glacier is definitely one of them. Touristically, there is of course a crazy rush. But it is not only the enormous dimensions of the 60 m high glacier tongue, but also the fact that the ice mass reaches the opposite shore of Lago Argentino. Thereby, the water accumulates until the pressure blows up the ice plug and flows off with a huge spectacle. The best starting point for visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier is Calafate, which can also be easily reached by flight from Buenos Aires. Buses run between Calafate in Argentina and the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. To the north the most beautiful hikes of Southern Patagonia are waiting for us. Several day tours lead from the small village of Chalten to the almost mythically transfigured rock needles Fitz Roy and the Cerro Torre. For us the easiest way was to take the bus back to Punta Arenas, where we took the flight to Santiago.