Did you miss Part One? Read it here.
I recently visited Hotel Las Torres in southern Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park. This is the second installment of my trip report.
With Hotel Las Torres as my base camp, I struck out each day for adventures and explorations on the hacienda and Torres del Paine National Park. These are some of the activities I highly recommend for anyone who goes there:
Baqueano For a Day — An exclusive excursion offered only by Hotel las Torres. Our alarms went off early, but if was definitely worth it. In the stables we were joined by head baqueano Mario. As he shared his daily routine with us, we drank maté tea, a staple of Patagonian cowboy life. The drink is made from the yerba maté plant and contains enough caffeine to put some hair on your chest. Here’s how the ritual works: Someone is always in charge of making the maté — i.e refilling the dried gourd with more maté and hot water after each person has quaffed their share. When you have finished the cup, you pass it back to the “maté maker” and he then replenishes the cup and hands it to the next person in the circle. Saying “thank you” (gracias) signifies that you have had your fill. Another staple is sopapilla fried bread, made fresh for us while Mario continued to tell us about baqueano life. Later we were taught how to saddle our horses and what each saddle is used for before venturing out for a half-day excursion to Lake Nordenskjöld.
Full Paine Hike — A long day but popular excursion. This guided hike includes history and information about Torres del Paine that you would not normally get on other excursions. Not only do you get a full introduction to the park, but you really get an idea of how large it is and how the scenery can change in an instant. Your guide (in our case Viviana) provides fascinating details about the devastating fires, the flora and fauna and how the park came to be on this informative excursion. I highly recommend this excursion as it was a favorite for all of us. We even had a film crew from “the Oprah show of Chile” on our hike. For an extra charge, a boat trip to Grey Glacier can be added.
Base of the Towers Hike — It doesn’t get much better than walking out of your hotel and starting your trek up to the Base of the Towers. No transfers or long car rides. And to make the excursion even better, you can take one of our 300+ horses half way up — an exclusive to Hotel Las Torres. Your legs will thank you later. We all chose to take the horses halfway and boy were we happy we did! Instead of staring at your feet the whole time, you see a whole new side of the park on horseback. There’s a horse for everyone, from beginners to the most experienced riders. And they are very well trained. The view of the famous Towers from the boulder-strewn Base is your reward. The hike is a must and I highly recommend the horses.
Lake Nordenskjöld — This half-day morning excursion is also done via horseback, perfect for days on which you would like to have the afternoon for relaxing. You can also do this excursion before taking the late transfer to the Punta Arenas airport. Named after Otto Nordenskiöld, the Swedish geologist and explorer who discovered it, the colors of the lake are truly mind blowing. The turquoise, in particular, just doesn’t seem real.
Fantastico Sur’s Refugio Chileno — We were only able to visit one of the FS properties, the Refugio El Chileno. Maria Jose showed us around this lovely mountain camp, which can sleep 50 trekkers across 22 beds and 25 double platforms with tents. The camp’s common area is a great place to warm-up and meet travelers from all over the world. We were all pleasantly surprised by the hot meal served after returning from the hike to the Base. While we were there, construction of an outdoor store was in the works where hikers will be able to pick up a snack or water for the rest their trek.