After our amazing day near Antarctica, we took the Busbud from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales. We arrived there in the evening around 8 o’clock, but it was fine because the sun went down only after 10 pm.
The central bus station in Puerto Natales is about 20 minutes walk from the center. So we decided to walk, however on the way back (two days after) we took a cab. In this tiny village, there was no Uber.
Booking our trips to Torres del Paine
During our whole South America journey this was one of the most complicated trip booking. We definitely wanted to do it in advance, because we only had two days, and we arrived to Puerto Natales quite late, so we didn’t want to depend on the luck if there are still gonna be spots for the tours for the following days.
We found the company: Patagonia Adventure, which offered both tours that we wanted to book:
The full-day Torres del Paine tour ~37 EUR/person
And the Base of the Towers day hike ~ 42 EUR/person
We were happy with their offer, so we decided to book. However, they didn’t accept either online payment, nor Debit card payment, nor bank transfer, nor cash payment, only Credit card payment. But in the end, we managed to book it with some help from home.
1st day: Full day Torres del Paine tour
The Torres del Paine National Park is about 2 hours drive from Puerto Natales and it is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. There is the possibility to sleep in a hotel in the National Park but is incredibly expensive. So we decided to book accommodation in Puerto Natales and go to TdP with the Patagonia Adventure tour, who takes care of the transportation with minivans.
So the first day they picked us up at our accommodation (which was actually a container house) at around 7.30 am, which means that we arrived at the Park at about half-past nine. We had to buy an entrance ticket to the national park, which was not included in the price of the tour, and cost an extra ~26 EUR/person. We had to say that we are also going to come back to the park the next day, so we had to ask for a stamp on it immediately after purchase.
Everything went smoothly and finally, not only our tour guide could help us, but everybody around, because in Patagonia most of the people speak English.
After checking out the “local weather forecast” :) we started the tour in the national park.
The first experience was that we saw a big group of guanacos. They were tame, so we could go quite close to them. This animal is really similar to the llama, but this is the one which is native in Patagonia.
The next stop was Lago Sarmiento, the largest lake in the park, we had a nice view from there, however, we could not see the towers because it was cloudy near the peaks.
We stopped at other nice viewpoints and lakes and then headed to Salto Grande waterfall. Here we had a cloudy view of the mountains as well, and also learned about how they grew and evolved with volcanic magma.
Then came the best part of the day, the Lago Grey, there we had our late lunch and then the adventure began. It was ~ 1,5-hour tour.
We had to go through a suspension bridge (on which only 6 people could be at the same time. Then there was a nice walk in the forest, and then we arrived at the lake.
Once we were on the lakeshore, it was extremely windy. Far in the distance, we could see the Grey Glacier, and near the shore, there were big ice formations swimming on the water, (which fell off the glacier previously. We even managed to catch a piece of small ice from the lake, which was actually crystal clear.
Then we climbed up a cliff, from where we had a great view on the glacier in the far and the ice nearby.
We were already enjoying this glacier experience, however we knew that our glacier hike on the Perito Moreno Glacier in a few days on the Argentinian side of Patagonia will be even more amazing.
On our way back to Puerto Natales we stopped at the Milodon Cave Natural Monument, where we learned about the huge extinct animal the Milodon, and also about the process of how the glaciers formed the cave and the rocks in the surroundings.
2nd day: Base of the Towers hike
This was a tour that we definitely wanted to do during our Patagonia visit. This hike counts as a moderate-high difficult trek with a total trekking distance of 23 km. On average the tour can be done in 8 hours, plus of course, the 4-hour drive (2-2 to and from the National Park) has also be taken into consideration.
There is public transport, however, if something happens, or if the hike takes a bit longer, then the bus doesn’t wait, so that is why we definitely wanted to go with a tour, because the transportation with the minivan was the safe side, and it is for sure, that they won’t leave anybody from the group, even if the person is not managing to finish the hike in 8 hours.
The other advantage of the organized tour was that we had a professional hiking guide, who always made sure, that everybody is fine in the group. So on the way up, the group always stayed together.
Another advantage was that we got hiking poles. In the beginning, I was a bit skeptical about them, but later during the hike, they were really a huge help.
It took the group around 4,5-5 hours to reach the top. Sometimes we were hiking next to a valley, sometimes in the forest, and sometimes next to a river.
We found it really interesting that next to the walking paths, there were sometimes separate paths for horses, because on halfway up there is a rest area - Refugio Chileno, and food and drinks are carried up to the rest area by horses.
Before reaching the top there was a part, where we had to hike through rocks, and the hiking poles were helping a lot.
In the morning they said, that the weather is gonna be nice at the towers, however unfortunately by the time we arrived there, it was very very cloudy, and it was even snowing a bit. When we reached the top we saw the lake, but we didn’t see the towers at all.
It was quite disappointing that after almost a 5-hour hike we didn’t see anything. We had around 20 minutes up there, and then we should have started to go down, but we decided that we won’t go yet because we knew, that there were some very slow people in the group, so we said the tour guide, that we would rather stay 20 more minutes at the lake and wait for a miracle, than waiting for the slower people every 40 meters on the way down. So after discussing it with him, some people from the group stayed, and the rest started to go down without seeing anything.
A bit later we saw that the clouds might move a bit, we were super optimistic, and really wanted to see the towers. We were waiting for another 15 minutes, and we saw that there was hope. I started to sing a song, which everybody learns in the kindergarten in Hungary, ~“Let the Sun shine” and the miracle happened. The clouds started to clear up a bit.
It was not 100% clear, but at least we could see the towers. We were super happy about it, and after taking hundreds of photos, we started our hike back down. After ~20 minutes we caught up with our group.
The way down was also tiring even though it was downhill, however the view was beautiful.
We returned along the same path to Hosteria Las Torres where the bus awaited us. We finished the hike around 7 pm and then we still had our 2-hour drive back to Puerto Natales.
On the way back almost everybody fell asleep. It was a super tiring day, but an amazing experience, especially this way, that despite the clouds and the snow, in the end, we still managed to see the towers.
That was our two-day Patagonian adventure on the Chilean side, and the next morning we traveled further to the Argentinian side of Patagonia, which, at least for me, was an even bigger experience. So stay tuned, details about it are coming soon.
Have a nice day,