Base de las Torres
Base Las Torres in the Torres del Paine National Park in the far south Patagonia was one of the most awaited places by us in the entire year of travelling. A few months before we were marveling at the majestic peaks of Tre Cime in Italian Dolomites, but back then we did not know that we would make it all the way to Patagonia in the very same year! Visually both of these places have some things in common.
In Italy we had a sneak peak of Patagonia. When we made it to the famous lagoon with the glorious three, granite towers in Chile we felt that we had seen this place before. The world is so diverse and yet some places look surprisingly similar.
Torres del Paine National Park
You can easily spend many days in Torres del Paine walking countless kilometers of trails. The most famous multiday treks are the W-Trek and the O-Trek. There is quite some planning and logistics to do if you wish to finish them. You need to book camping sites well in advance and take all the equipment, food and water with you. We were not so eager for such an effort. Previously we hiked the 5-day Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu, so we knew what almost 100 km of walking in the mountains would feel like. What is more, back then the supplies and the extra luggage were carried by the horses and all the meals were cooked by a chef who was assigned to our group. In addition, the fees for the camping sites in Torres are really high (80 USD for a night in a tent per person).
One-day trek to Base de las Torres
After some reaserch and brainstorm it turned out that we can make it to the most famous viewpoint in just one day. It is an 18-km roundtrip hike. We decided to set a base in Puerto Natales and explore the park during the one-day trips.
Entrance fee to the Torres del Paine National Park
For everyone who is not chilean, the entry ticket is 21.000 pesos which is around 35 USD. It is quite expensive and the locals pay only one third of the price. Luckily for us, on the day of our visit there was a strike! Park rangers are unhappy with the politics, because the park is used as a way to make money and not as a mean to protect the nature. We were pleasantly suprised that we didn’t have to pay the entry fee.
Trekking in Patagonia
The trail to the lagoon is 9-km long which sums up to 18 km roundtrip. It starts easy and flat. You need to pass Hotel de Torres and start your ascent. Next part is uphill and takes about 40 minutes. After a while, you can enjoy the panoramic views of the valley and the lakes behind your back. The half-way point is a shelter and campsite situated on the riverbank. From there, the trail runs through a thick forest. It is a very pleasant part where you need to cross the stream a few times using the wooden bridges.
The most difficult part of the trek
After another 40 minutes, when the forest ends the hardest part of the trail starts. There is 300 meters of elevation ahead and the trail runs steep uphill and you need to make your way across the rocks, loose stones, gravel and water creeks. It is the most challenging part of the trail, but after 40 minutes – 1 hour, you can already see the incredible view of the granite towers and the lake. It is the famous Mirador de las Torres!
Getting to the National Park
If you are planning to visit Torres del Paine you need to catch a bus from Puerto Natales, which takes 2 hours and 15 minutes. There is a number of agencies in the bus terminal. We decided to leave on a first bus at 7:30 am. It cost 12.000 pesos per person for a round trip, which is around 20 USD. The last bus back from the park departues at 7:45 pm, so we had enough time to hike up, back down and spend 2 leisure hours at the top.
When we made it to the top, the towers were hidding in the clouds. The weather in Patagonia changes rapidly thought so it cleared up a bit later, fortunately.
The bus took us to the park entrance and than we had to take a minivan further to the Hotel de Torres. It was extra 3000 pesos per person, one way and it took 15 minutes. From there, we could easily walk to the trailhead which was well marked.
The cost of the one-day trip
To sum up, the cost per person to get to the park by bus and then the minivan, roundtrip was 12.000 + 6.000 = 18.000 pesos, so around 30 USD. In addition, the entry ticket fee to the National Park, valid for 3 days, is another 35 USD (November 2017). We only regret that on the way towards the Park, we couldn’t stop to take pictures. The views behind the windows were breathtaking and there were wild guanacos everywhere.
The weather in Patagonia
The trail to the Mirador de las Torres is a great way to see the magnificent Patagonia, up close. The landscapes are fantastic, mountains incredible and the lakes extraordinary with a deep emerald green colour. We were there in late November which was just before the high season (December & January). It was summer, but we were wearing winter jackets, scarfs and beanies. The winds are ferocious. Nevertheless, you can be lucky because sunny days do happen, even if the morning looks miserable. The weather can change every 15 minutes. It is one of the best places on the planet to do some trekking. We recommend hiking to the Base de las Torres and seeing Patagonia with your own eyes!