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Torres del Paine National Park

This National Park is one of the top attractions in Patagonia and in our country as a whole. It was created in 1959 and declared a Biosphere Reserve by the Unesco in 1978.

It covers a surface area of 242,242 hectares at altitudes that go from 200 masl up to 3,050 masl (the Paine Massif). It has four accesses: the Gateways of Sarmiento, Laguna Amarga, Laguna Azul and Río Serrano (where the Administration Sector is).

From Puerto Natales, access is gained along two roads: the Cerro Castillo route that is 154 kms long, of which 60 are paved. The remaining stretch is a gravel road that is kept in good condition throughout the year and which is reached by means of the gateways of Amarga Lagoon or Sarmiento.

The other route, called the “new road” is totally graveled and passes by the Mylodon Cave. It is 80 kms long and is accessed through the River Serrano gateway.

As both routes enter and leave through different gateways, they provide an interesting way to get to know the extent of the Park, with fabulous views of the Paine Massif always in sight.

After leaving Puerto Natales, the road winds around the Señoret Canal where black-necked swans abound. There are also seagulls of different sorts as well as cormorants, coots and wild ducks. To the right is the Sierra Dorotea and behind it, on the other side of the border with Argentina, is the coal mining area of the River Turbio. After a trip of 20 kms, the visitor arrives at the Mylodon cave, an unmissable spot.

Then, the aerodrome of Teniente Gallardo comes into sight as well as the sectors called Dos Lagunas, Tres Pasos, Laguna Figueroa and finally Villa Cerro Castillo. Cerro Castillo is the capital of the municipality of Torres del Paine.

The route then leads straight to Torres del Paine National Park crossing a landscape with an abundance of fauna, especially birdlife. Before reaching the Park itself, the majestic peaks of the Massif come into view together with one its most spectacular lakes: the Sarmiento.

Entry to the Park is through Amarga Lagoon, Lake Sarmiento or Laguna Azul and by car a large part of the Park can be crossed in order to get to know its main attractions more intimately.

It is recommended to return to Puerto Natales along the new road called Sector Serrano which gives visitors a chance to stop for a while to admire another perspective of this beautiful environment, with spectacular views of the Paine Massif, the Patagonian Southern Ice Fields and Lake Toro.
Torres del Paine is unique inasmuch that it encompasses very different ecosystems in the one same place, resulting in an extremely high biodiversity. Thanks to its long geological history, the topography and the climate we find in this Park are very special and so it is an ideal niche for the existence of a large wealth of different groups of wild fauna and flora.

166 species have been identified in the Park, of which 25 are mammals, 126 birds, 6 are fish, 6 reptiles and 3 are amphibians.

The Park can be crossed by car to its main attractions, some of which are not to be missed, such as:

The Paine Massif, with its majestic peaks that have become the most characteristic and beautiful icon of the Park. The most attractive of these peaks are Paine Grande, Cuernos del Paine, Almirante Nieto, Paine Chico and the famed Towers themselves. Around them wind the trekking routes called “O” and “W”.

Lake Pehoé. This beautiful lake is the best visual field in which to observe the Cuernos del Paine, and the environment around it is a landscape of unmatched beauty, with the backdrop of its green-coloured waters. At times, the mountains are reflected in the lake creating a spectacle of breathtaking allure.

Lake Grey and its glacier. With the Paine Massif as the backdrop, the lake becomes a spectacle in itself. Its waters come from the Southern Ice Fields together with enormous icebergs that break off from the Grey glacier. Manyoftheseicebergsreachthebeachwheretouristscanbe photographed standing beside these giants of ice. The waters of the glacier are grey in color due to a large amount of sediment and the lake can be crossed by boat as far as the glacier itself.

Salto Grande is located in the area around Pehoé , only 2 kms from the main road. After reaching the parking lot, visitors have to continue on foot for 5 minutes as far as the viewpoint. From there, it is only a short walk to the banks of the Nordenskjöld Lake which then leads to the vantage point of the Cuernos del Paine, one of the best views in the Park.

River Paine Waterfall. This spectacular cataract is in the River Paine itself in the sector of Laguna Amarga alongside the road leading to the Azul lagoon. From this point, the Paine Massif can be seen, consisting of three prominent peaks formed by granite rocks in the shape of needles thatgivetheParkitsname. Mountaineersfromallovertheworldcome to the Park each year to try and summit them up their vertical walls withvaryingdegreesofdifficulty. TheirnamesareD’Agostini(south), Central and Monzino (north).

Lake Azul. The trip to this attraction arouses a lot of interest due to the scenery along the way, the mountainous terrain, the steppe vegetation and the large amount of fauna, especially guanacos and Chilean ostriches. This charming lagoon with its pristine waters allows visitors one of the best views of the Paine Massif without the need to trek any nearer to them. If one is lucky and there is no wind, these incredible granite formations are reflected in the lagoon. Ideal for perfect photos. Another singularity is that it has its own micro-climate where temperatures of up to 25o Celsius stand in summer. It is reached from the sector of the Amarga Lagoon going in a northerly direction.

Furthermore, in the Park there are several trekking routes and excursions that have become well known all over the world as one of the best places for trekking. The Paine Circuit, known as the “O” is the longest of all with 93.2 kms twisting around the massif itself, enabling trekkers to admire the beauties of the Park and enjoy the different climates and ecosystems it has to offer.

The so-called “W” route begins spontaneously as a variant so that trekkers can follow a similar route and admire the same landmarks, but in a shorter number of days. Its 76.1 kms have made it the best-known trail in Chile.
 
Mapa Torres del Paine 2012