It’s spring in Patagonia, the snow is slowly starting to melt, the trails drying out, the wildlife tending their newborns, and both Hotel Las Torres and Fantástico Sur are gearing up for the hectic summer of adventure in Torres del Paine National Park.
Many people have already made plans for visiting the park during the November-February high season. While others are busy planning for the end of next year. But don’t forget that Torres del Paine is open year-round and the off-season between March and October (fall, winter and spring in the southern hemisphere) offers distinct advantages.
Here are the five reasons why we think it’s better to visit in the off season:
1. Better Weather:
Sure it’s warmer in the summer. But the winds are also stronger between November and February, a factor that often makes for less-than-pleasant trekking conditions. The park’s average high temperature during July is actually 41ºF (5ºC) — not bad for long-distance hiking.
2. Lower Prices:
Both Hotel Las Torres and Fantástico Sur offer discounts during the off season. For instance, rates at the lodge can be as much as 15% lower during the autumn shoulder season than during the summer peak. Same with those who trek the “W” with Fantástico Sur — a premium camping platform for three people at Refugio Torre Central costs US$105 during the summer and just $75 over the winter months.
3. Fewer People:
Imagine having the legendary “W” Trail all to yourself. That can never happen in summer. But during the off-season (especially winter) there’s a good chance you’ll be the only group you’ll come across along the more remote parts of the circuit. Not only that, but the refugios, campsites and hotels are also less crowded.
4. Better Wildlife Viewing:
If you’ve ever been to Yellowstone in the winter, you know it’s much easier to pick out large animals against a snowy white background than the multicolored vegetation of summer. Same is true at Torres del Paine — critters find it harder to hide.
5. More Creative Photography:
This is a highly personal thing, but for me winter in the park makes for more dramatic photos and a much more intimate creative experience. Anybody can capture a great photo of the towers in summer (assuming the sun is out). But nothing beats that soft winter light reflecting off the lakes, glaciers and granite.