St. Mary's Church towers over Krakow's main square
St. Mary's Church towers over Krakow's main square

One of the biggest attractions in southern Chile is Torres del Paine National Park.  Most visitors to the park complete multi-day treks such as “the W” and “the circuit” but, being short on time and perhaps toughness, we opted for a simple day tour ($40 per person) of the park’s highlights.  After a hearty breakfast at the Yaganhouse hostel in Puerto Natales a bus picked us up at the dark hour of 7:30am.  We were the first ones to board and, consequently, were able to snag the two front seats.

The huge mouth of the cavern.  Amy pictured at center.
The huge mouth of the cavern. Amy pictured at center.

On the drive north to the park, we made a very short stop at Milodón Cave.  The milodón is an extinct giant ground sloth and apparently the remains of quite a few of them were found in this cave.  We believe it is Puerto Natales’ claim to fame as its silhouette is depicted on all the town’s street signs.  Oh, and there is also a giant metal statue along the road into town.  The cave was nice enough (it is impressively large) but perhaps not worth the 6 USD entry fee since we were only there for 30 minutes.

Laguna Amarga (Bitter Lagoon) has extremely high mineral and salt content.
Laguna Amarga (Bitter Lagoon) has extremely high mineral and salt content.

Before we reached the park we started to see large herds of guanaco, a few ñandu and we managed to catch our first glimpses of the spectacular mountains.  Before reaching the guardhouse we stopped at Laguna Amarga (Bitter Lagoon) a stunning turquoise-colored lake tinted by the heavy mineral content.  Unlike most of the other lakes in the park, this one is “closed” meaning it has no outflows of water.  The continuous evaporation makes the water six times saltier than sea water and the banks are crusted with white salt.

We paid our entrance fee (30 USD for non-residents) and drove onward to Lago Nordenskjold.  Before unloading at the mirador, our guide warned us numerous times about the strong winds.  Sure enough, we jumped off the bus and before I knew it Amy was chasing her glasses which had been ripped from her face.  The winds that day were in excess of 100kph and we heard later that some climbers had been blown off one of the peaks.

Hosteria Pehoé
Hosteria Pehoé

A couple of stops later we checked out the very scenic location for Hosteria Pehoé in the middle of Lago Pehoé.  We took a lunch break at a small tourist village outside the park.  Some of the people on the tour had their meals included, however, we budget-sensitive travelers had packed our own food.  They still let us eat in the restaurant and enjoy the spectacular views.

Lago Grey
Lago Grey

Our final scheduled stop was at Lago Grey on the western end of the park.  Lago Grey has a wide stony beach and, on a clear day, a view of the Gray Glacier some 10+ km away.  Unfortunately, the high winds that day were kicking up so much mist from the water that we could scarcely make out the glacier.  We were able to spot some electric blue icebergs.  One upside to the mist was that it produced a very nice rainbow over the beach.

A rainbow over Lago Grey.  Made possible by the mist being kicked up by the ferocious winds.
A rainbow over Lago Grey. Made possible by the mist being kicked up by the ferocious winds.

On the way home, as a final treat, we managed to spot an Andean Condor.  These birds have the largest wingspan of any land bird at 10.5 ft.  They aren’t all that rare, however, it is pretty uncommon to see one up close and I was very happy that we had those front bus seats so that I could hop out and snap a photo.

Andean Condor
Andean Condor
Torres del Paine National Park
The sloth (milodón) cavern
The sloth (milodón) cavern
The huge mouth of the cavern.  Amy pictured at center.
The huge mouth of the cavern. Amy pictured at center.
A to-scale milodón
A to-scale milodón
Many farms surround Torres del Paine
Many farms surround Torres del Paine
We had the best seats on the bus.
We had the best seats on the bus.
The torres (towers) from afar.
The torres (towers) from afar.
Guanacos
Guanacos
Laguna Amarga (Bitter Lagoon) has extremely high mineral and salt content.
Laguna Amarga (Bitter Lagoon) has extremely high mineral and salt content.
Amy enjoying the wind-free comfort of the inside of our bus.
Amy enjoying the wind-free comfort of the inside of our bus.
Amy trying not to be blown away by the 100+ kph gusts
Amy trying not to be blown away by the 100+ kph gusts
Salto Grande
Salto Grande
Hosteria Pehoé
Hosteria Pehoé
Short gnarly trees are everwhere in the park
Short gnarly trees are everwhere in the park
A rainbow over Lago Grey.  Made possible by the mist being kicked up by the ferocious winds.
A rainbow over Lago Grey. Made possible by the mist being kicked up by the ferocious winds.
Lago Grey
Lago Grey
Andean Condor
Andean Condor
Andean Condor
Andean Condor
Andean Condor
Andean Condor
Andean Condor
Andean Condor

5 Responses to “Torres del Paine National Park”

  1. Amazing trip and what a great blog. Before you went I was wondering why you were lugging a DSLR and laptop with you, but these pictures are professional quality and so is the site. I look forward to keeping up with your travels.

    Back at work we’ve invented cold fusion and are all receiving the nobel prize along with Lincoln’s annual technical excellence award and a gift card for $50. Bet you didn’t see that one coming and thought we’d just be one year closer to developing a satellite that would ultimately get cancelled.

    • Navid,
      Great to hear from you. I am glad you are enjoying the blog and that the cold fusion project is going well! Enjoy the photos and let me know if there is anything else you would like to see on the sight. I have an “engineering nightmares” post in the works that no doubt will be popular there at work. :)

      Cheers,
      Ryan

      PS: I will let you in on a deep dark secret. A few weeks back in the midst of some arduous travels I was very hungry. The hunger pains were annoyingly strong and there was no suitable food in sight. At that very moment I actually longed for some Lincoln A-Cafe food. Sad I know, but that is traveling for you. I am sure you have been in those shoes before.

  2. Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for sharing your travel stories and photos. You take really amazing pictures! I don’t have the same patience to look for the perfect photo moment. I just take a gazillion pics and delete all the crappy ones later.

    I just came back from visiting Angkor Wat. It was truly amazing to find a quiet corner and admire the place (and imagine some Indiana Jones action sequences). I’ve been quite lucky to beat the hordes most of the time, but during the afternoon it is more packed than Disney World! I also had an interesting experience at a local clinic where my friend got an IV injection of Chinese medicine. I guess we’ve both left about 2.5 months ago? It certainly felt like I’ve been away for a long time, yet it doesn’t seem like I have nearly enough time to see all that I wanted to see. Originally I had plans to also visit Hanoi and Vientiane but I can’t fit it in. The looming proposal defense doesn’t help.

    Anyway, I think I’ll incorporate your blog into my rotation of procrastination websites during work and give you some Singaporean web traffic!

    Best,
    Leo

    • Hi Leo,

      I have to admit that I do the same. Take a whole bunch of photos and hope that I get lucky on one or two! My camera sure is getting a good workout these days.

      Glad that you are enjoying SE Asia. It is truly a wonderful corner of the world. We will be going there later in the trip so that we can see some of the harder-to-reach corners that we have missed on previous trips. Cambodia and Laos will certainly be on the itinerary.

      Enjoy the rest of your time in Singapore!

      Ryan

  3. Ryan, that’s a damn incredible pic of the condor, but for the rest of the trip please refrain from snagging front seats on a bus. There’s really no statistically safer area on an aircraft, but I’ve seen so many grisly bus crash photos, and the ones sitting near the front are almost always doomed. You’re heading to some crazy places, so just sayin’ … ;)

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