Visit the rugged heartland of Chilean Patagonia, a region of cattle farmers, condors and sweeping glacial plains beneath ice-capped mountains.
With a spectacular landscape of mountains, glaciers, forests, rivers and lakes, the district of Torres Del Paine is an outdoor lover's dream. Hike through a mountainous wilderness, kayak across high altitude lakes and lagoons and then explore the communities in this part of the southern Chilean Patagonia.
Much of the region is dominated by the Torres del Paine National Park. Among the most popular ways to experience the natural scenery here are mountain climbing, hiking, horse riding, kayaking and fishing.
For many visitors, the stopping off point for trips into the national park is Puerto Natales. In addition to being a base for thrilling outdoor expeditions, the city has several popular attractions. Go shopping in the downtown area, enjoy a coastal walk and visit the nearby Mylodon Cave. This is a large cave complex where remains of an ancient giant sloth, known as a mylodon, were found.
Between Puerto Natales and the entrance to the national park is Villa Cerro Castillo, the municipality’s capital and administrative center. Go to its small museum to learn about the first colonizers who settled the region. Then travel about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) out of town to see their final resting places at the Cerro Castillo Colonizer Cemetery.
If you are here in December, watch thousands of sheep being shorn. In the Villa Cerro Castillo Shearing Shed, around 1,500 sheep have their fleeces shaved off each day. Catch the farmers’ party in January, in which Chilean cowboys display their skills breaking colts and training sheep dogs.
Go on a horse riding tour of the local area and see a condor nesting ground and a cave featuring an image of Saint Teresita de los Andes. Before visiting, you must seek permission from the ranch owners on whose lands the attractions are located.
To reach Torres Del Paine, fly into the airport at Punta Arenas. From there, drive or take a bus to cover the 140 miles (226 kilometers) to Puerto Natales. With gorgeous scenery, active pursuits and fascinating cultural attractions, excitement is guaranteed at Torres Del Paine.