It’s always hard when someone asks you to put together a list of the best destinations for a trekking travel adventure – after all, there are so many places in the world where strapping on your hiking boots is pretty much mandatory.
That said, Torres del Paine in the Chilean part of Patagonia is likely to feature in most top tens and with good reason. If you’re curious, find out why the national park should be on every hiker’s bucket list.
There are definitely lots of destinations around the globe where you’ll discover fantastic scenery while trekking – but there are certainly far fewer locations where you can look forward to seeing towering mountains, vast lakes, massive glaciers, gushing waterfalls, sprawling ice fields, stretches of Andean desert and large tracts of forest – oh yes, there is also a wide range of wildlife that lives in the region.
That certainly ticks off a few boxes and there are several routes you can follow during your break to see the best of Torres del Paine, which leads nicely on to the next point …
While hikers love getting off the beaten track and exploring, it can be hard going if you don’t have proper paths to follow for the majority of your trip. There are two particularly popular routes in Torres del Paine – the W and the O trails.
If you only have a few days to spend in Patagonia, pick the W tour, which covers a little over 76 km in four days. You’ll enjoy some amazing mountain views along the way, as well as visiting the Frances and Grey glaciers. Keep your eyes peeled on the sky and you may even catch a glimpse of one of the world’s most impressive and rarest birds, the condor.
Should you have longer to spend exploring Torres del Paine, which is definitely advisable, tackle the O trail. The circuit usually takes around seven days to complete and runs for 93.2 km. You’ll have the same starting point as with the W route, but you’ll walk around the Paine massif, as well as getting a stunning view over the southern ice field.
Lots of wildlife
Patagonia is home to a vast array of flora and fauna, some of which you’ll be able to see as you wander. The condor is certainly impressive, but that’s not the only bird you should look out for, with eagles, woodpeckers and even flamingos among the other winged creatures that live in the national park.
If you’re lucky, you could catch a glimpse of a puma, while there are several species of fox that inhabit the region, as well as skunk, guanaco (a close relative of the llama) and the south Andean deer. You’ll find operators that run dedicated wildlife spotting tours, so it might be worth considering one of these if you’re particularly desperate to see some of these creatures.
A final reason why Torres del Paine is one of the world’s ultimate trekking destinations is that you can visit at any time of year. The national park doesn’t have a season when it shuts down, so you can pick when you want to travel and go for it.
The summer is the most popular time for trekking, due to the warmer weather and you’ll get around 16 hours of light every day thanks to its southerly position. One thing to remember – spring/summer here is between October and April, as Patagonia is firmly in the southern hemisphere.
Winter is colder and, of course, snowier, but you can still get out and about as long as you’re prepared. You might not be able to access all the park’s trails, but at least you’ll have the ones you do walk along all to yourself!
Written on behalf of Explore for itravelnet.com.