In response to information from the health authority regarding the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the National Forest Corporation (Conaf) has decided to temporarily close all national parks, national reserves and natural monuments until the health alert is lifted by health authorities.
Leave the airport and head to Punta Arenas, capital of the Magallanes Region, located 14 miles south. There, you’ll find a wide variety of lodging, restaurants, and tourist excursions.
We recommend spending the afternoon getting to know the city, whether walking the road along the waterfront to admire the Strait of Magellan, visiting some of the museums––among them del Recuerdo, Salesianos, Braun-Menéndez, and Nao Victoria––or exploring the Municipal Cemetery and the Magallanes National Reserve. Stay the night in Punta Arenas.
Take Route 9 north until you arrive at Puerto Natales, passing through Villa Tehuelches along the way. After 2.5 hours on the paved road, you’ll be in Puerto Natales, where you’ll find various options for lodging, food, and tourist excursions. To stretch your legs, we recommend taking a walk along the shore, where––on clear days––you can get a view of the Paine massif. Stay the night in Puerto Natales.
Today you can take advantage of what is likely one of the region’s best-kept secrets and sail to the Montañas Channel, a trip that takes you to the heart of Kawésqar National Park, which was long traveled in canoe by the Kawésqar people and is still surrounded by stunningly beautiful, pristine landscapes.
There are various local guides offering different trips to these remote areas. You can do a full-day trip, leaving from Puerto Natales very early in the morning, or choose a longer itinerary and spend a night aboard a boat designed for these expeditions.
During this same day of your trip, you can also see the mountains that are part of the Grupo de La Paz, known as the «False Torres,» given their impressive shapes and the glaciers that descend from the Sarmiento Range down into the fjords. If weather permits, you can stop for short hikes to further explore these virgin landscapes. You can also spot Sea Lion colonies, in addition to various species of birds, before finally docking in Puerto Natales in the afternoon.
Get ready to see the Eighth Wonder of the World and one of the most beautiful mountains on the planet in Torres del Paine National Park. We suggest taking Route Y-290 to the park and stopping at the Milodón Cave Natural Monument before continuing toward the park’s southern entrance (Serrano). The total route is 50 miles.
We recommend taking this day to explore the southwestern section of the park, visiting natural marvels like the Grey Glacier, the River Pingo forest, and the view from the Ferrier lookout point. You can also make a stop at the visitor’s center, located on the north shore of Lake Toro. The visitor’s center has a lookout point designed for birdwatching. You can stay in the park (there are various hotels and campgrounds, which should be reserved in advance), or return to Puerto Natales in the evening.
Set aside a whole day for continuing to explore Torres del Paine National Park. We suggest using this day for exploring the northeastern side of the park, visiting the Grande and Chico waterfalls and hiking one of the trails that offer views of the beautiful colors of the Paine River, Lake Pehoé, and Lake Nordenskjöld, like the Mirador Cóndor or Mirador Cuernos trail. If you’d like to take some time to try to spot wild fauna, you can also hike the Portería Laguna Sarmiento–Laguna Amarga trail and visit Lake Sarmiento. Along Lake Sarmiento’s shore, you can find strange, primitive calcium carbonate formations––very similar to coral––called thrombolites, which are linked to the first expressions of life on our planet.
If you’re interested in longer hikes, we suggest Base de Las Torres (12 miles), Valle Francés (10 miles), or Glacier Grey (15 miles). For the latter two, you’ll need to coordinate a boat trip and make a reservation in advance for crossing Lake Pehoé: (http://www.hipsur.com/web/).
Stay in the park for the night (remember to make your reservations in advance) or return to Puerto Natales.
Head to Punta Arenas, passing through the town of Cerro Castillo along the way. If you leave the park at dawn, you can see the Torres del Paine reflected in the Laguna Amarga or Laguna Azul––a gorgeous spectacle.
You can tank gas in Puerto Natales, then continue along Route 9 toward the airport for around 2.5 hours.
If you stay an extra night in Punta Arenas, you can visit the Isla Magdalena Natural Monument, where an estimated 60,000 pair of Magellanic Penguins make their homes. The island is located 22 miles north of the city and can be reached by sailing in the Strait of Magellan. You can coordinate a day trip with various local tourism companies.
You can also visit Kawésqar National Park from Punta Arenas, in a trip of approximately 93 miles (one way). Take Route 9 north toward Puerto Natales, and after around 30 miles, merge left onto Route Y-50. At mile 25 (kilometer 40), you’ll arrive at Villa Ponsomby, the only town along the road. There, you can take a ferry that leaves from the Río Verde Municipality and crosses the Fitz Roy Channel, docking at Isla Riesco. Continue along the northern border of the island, taking Route Y-500.
Torres del Paine has various trekking circuits that take between 5 and 8 days (the “W” and the “O”). One option is to extend your stay in the park in order to complete one of the circuits and explore the areas around the Paine Massif.
Various airlines offer daily flights to Punta Arenas. Dap Airlines flies twice a week between Balmaceda and Punta Arenas. The direct flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas takes 3.5 hours.
Head north from Punta Arenas on Route 9 for around 153 miles until you arrive at Puerto Natales. You can also reach Puerto Natales by sea from Puerto Yungay or Puerto Montt.
Cerro Castillo is located 39 miles north of Puerto Natales along Route 9 and 217 miles from Calafate, Argentina, via the Don Guillermo pass.
There are gas stations in Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales.
A few of the tourist companies that offer trips in the Montañas Fjord––either for the day or staying overnight in one of their specialized watercraft––are https://www.fiordoschile.com/ and http://www.patagonianfjords.com/.
The Kauyeken Foundation created a virtual route to explore the 93 miles from Punta Arenas to the Isla Riesco entrance of Kawésqar National Park. Find out more at: http://www.miparquealsur.cl/index.php/recorrido-virtual-2/.
The entry fee to Torres del Paine National Park costs $11,000 CLP for Chileans and $21,000 CLP for foreigners. You can buy it online at: http://www.parquetorresdelpaine.cl/es/tarifas-de-ingreso.
The campsites and mountain cabins along the trekking circuits in Torres del Paine must be reserved in advance. You can make reservations up to 6 months in advance (the system does not allow for reservations more than 180 days in advance).
The reservation system at www.parquetorresdelpaine.cl is only for the free campsites managed by Conaf (the park rangers). At www.verticepatagonia.cl and www.fantasticosur.com, you can find out more about the campsites managed by private companies.
The road between Puerto Natales and Cerro Castillo (near the Río Don Guillermo border crossing) is paved.
The road between Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas is paved.
Kawésqar National Park is one of the largest parks in the world and the second-largest in Chile.
Declared the Eighth Wonder of the World and Unesco Biosphere Reserve, the Paine massif is known as one of the most beautiful areas on the planet.
Cerro Castillo National Park and Laguna San Rafael National Park
Cerro Castillo - Laguna San Rafael - Patagonia - Bernardo O'Higgins
Cerro Castillo National Park, Patagonia National Park, Bernardo O’Higgins National Park, Kawésqar National Park, Torres del Paine National Park
Pali Aike - Bernardo O'Higgins - Torres del Paine
Pali Aike - Yendegaia
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