10. Torres del Paine, Chile
The 'W' walk is one of the best known walks in Chile and takes you through some of Patagonia’s finest wilderness areas. The trek is 58 km long and makes the Patagonian wilderness accessible to the average walker. The scenery: icebergs, glaciers, towering mountains and the famous Torres del Paine (Towers of Paine) make this a wonderful walking holiday. Aficionados agree that the unique physical formations of the Paine complex with its glacier lakes, profusion of animals and well-defined paths offers some of the best wilderness walking in the world. The uncommon sensation of being in one of the world’s most remote and untouched areas is an experience to be savoured. Although it can be cold and wet, memories of this Great Walk will last long after your clothes have dried out.
The 58km trail follows the shores of gorgeous lakes except when darting up the valleys and into the heart of the mountains to view glacial lakes at the base of towering fingers of stone. The path is well marked, but the Patagonian weather is unpredictable and needs to be catered for. The number of days required depends on how fit and how quickly or leisurely you want your walking holiday to be. Work out the average number of kilometres you are prepared to do in a day, taking into account the landscape and the refugio in which you will end your day. The average is four days.
This is in refugios and must be booked in advance. There is the option for camping as well. Bring your own tents. A luggage transfer service is available for guided walkers and can be organized through a number of tour operators on the ‘guided’ itineraries. Independent walkers need to carry their own gear.
Grey Glacier, the refugios, the Cuernos (mountains), Vallee Frances with its snow covered mountainsides, the Chileno Valley and the Torres del Paine.
Rudolf Abraham has written a Cicerone guidebook ‘Torres del Paine – Trekking in Chile’s Premier Park’, which is a useful illustrated book, with line-drawings, detailed maps and route directions.
WHEN TO GO
There is a short summer season - December to February.
For a list of products that will help you survive the trek, check our gear list.