Note from Tim: Torres del Paine is one of my dream hiking destinations, up there with Nepal, New Zealand, and Norway. Seriously, who doesn’t want to hike there?! Anyway, I’m really excited to share this post with you. Zara, from Backpack ME, was generous enough to share her experience exploring the area. So, if you’re looking for some great travel information check out Backpack ME.
Just a quick mention, AS is over 1-year old and this is post #100!
“…looking at snow capped mountains and glaciers when it’s actually snowing is picture perfect!” – Zara
Torres del Paine in Winter
Torres del Paine in Southern Chile is a dream destination for hikers around the world. The landscapes protected inside this national park leave no one indifferent to its beauty: clear lakes, imposing mountains of granite, trails surrounded by stunning scenery and plenty of wildlife on both land and skies.
As this is a place where travelers commonly come to hike for several days, it’s obvious that you would need to do so in the dry season, when the trails are in good shape to be walked on. As we happened to be in Chile during the complete off-season to visit Torres del Paine, we did a lot of reading on what we could expect if we’d go to the park during snowy days. Most of the information we came across said that there is no point in going to Torres del Paine during winter, but after making our way there anyway, I couldn’t disagree more. If you want to hike, plan for a better time of the year indeed, but if you’d simply like to immerse yourself in the beauty of this place, Winter is a great time to do so too!
During Winter, the entire region gets dressed in white, as it snows every other day. The mountains look pristine and the atmosphere is like out of a Christmas card. I understand that during spring Torres del Paine gets into a flowery mode (and I do plan to come back one day to appreciate the differences), but during winter the skies will gift you presents in the shape of rain and snow. As picturesque as this might be on some given days, some other times the snow will make it impossible to access the park. Most people travel by bus (or mini-van on day tours) from Puerto Natales, and the roads that lead towards the entrance of the park might get blocked when the snow is too intense. When we were there during the month of July, the snow was up to 2 meters in some areas, inside the park and around.
Once you can’t really trek during the winter (unless you are a hardcore trekker with snow experience) we visited Torres del Paine on a one day tour that included stops at Cave of the Milodon (where this type of giant sloth used to inhabit before it got extinct) and different view points inside the park, mainly by the big lakes.
The day ended with a small trek to Lake Grey, where Glacier Grey dominates the scenery. As it was not a clear day due to rain and occasional snow, we couldn’t actually see the glacier from the opposite side of the lake and the boats that do go closer to it were not running either – I guess off-season would have to have some cons. Still, by Grey Lake, we did observe massive chunks of intense blue ice that have set themselves free from the mother glacier and are now floating in the lake by themselves, slowly melting away.
We only visited for the day but, even during Winter, it is possible to stay overnight inside the park and, this way, venture yourself out for some smaller treks around the lodge you might be staying in. Most lodges close down during off-season but there are still some options available and prices are more affordable than during peak season. You can camp outside if you have the guts for it, but keep in mind that temperatures drop under 0°C, while winds are insane all year long.
Winter is not a bad time to visit Torres del Paine. It is simply an alternative to the most touristic time of the year. If it’s true that weather conditions might make your trip unpredictable (we waited 3 days in Puerto Natales until the roads were OK to be transited with a vehicle) it is also a fact that looking at snow capped mountains and glaciers when it’s actually snowing is picture perfect!