Leave the airport and head toward Punta Arenas, capital of the Magallanes Region, located 14 miles to the south, which features a wide variety of lodging, food, and tourist excursions.
We recommend spending the afternoon getting to know the city, whether walking the road along the waterfront to admire the beauty and history of 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.
Today, we invite you to discover Pali Aike National Park, located 122 miles from Punta Arenas, very close to the border with Argentina. Take International Route CH-255, which leads to the Monte Aymond border crossing. At mile 104 (kilometer 168), merge onto the gravel road that leads to the park.
Low-lying volcanic cones, caves, various types of craters, basalt walls, and lava scoria tell the story of recent volcanic eruptions in this paradise for geologists, volcanologists, and anthropologists. Eleven thousand years ago, native people traveled by foot across the plateau, which never reaches an altitude of more than 660 feet. Today, the Magellanic steppe is home to diverse wildlife, including Guanacos, Foxes, and Ñandús.
The Tehuelche people called this area «the desolate place where the devil dwells,» perhaps a nod to its strange, moon-like beauty. You can explore the park on various trails, including Morada del Diablo or Cueva Pali Aike. Return to Punta Arenas via the same road.
Take Route 9 north until you arrive at Puerto Natales, passing through Villa Tehuelches. These pampas were long territory of the Aonikenk and Tehuelche people, nomads and expert hunters who inhabited the Patagonia. They hunted Guanacos and Ostriches using bow and arrow and spears. When horses were introduced to the area during the eighteenth century, they began to travel farther along the southern steppe and incorporated new weapons and tools into their hunting regimens, such as boleadoras, a throwing weapon made of weights attached to cords.
After 2.5 hours along the paved highway, you’ll arrive at Puerto Natales, where you can find a wide range of lodging, food, and tourist excursions. To stretch your legs, we recommend walking along the beautiful coastline, where––on clear days––you can see the Paine massif. Stay for the night in Puerto Natales.
Today, you’ll visit Bernardo O’Higgins National Park, setting out in one of the boats sailing early from Puerto Bories. You’ll sail through the Última Esperanza (Last Hope) Fjord and see the beautiful covered waterfalls and the steep cliffs as you arrive at the Balmaceda Glacier and then dock at Puerto Toro. You’ll hike for around one hour to see the Serrano Glacier and the lagoon dotted by chunks of ice that dislodge themselves from it.
The day trips include lunch at nearby ranches. Depending on the weather, they return to Puerto Natales at around 5:30. You can stay in Puerto Natales for the night.
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––at least––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 Glaciar 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 for around 2.5 hours toward the Punta Arenas airport.
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.
If you’d like to extend your stay in the area, you can also visit Kawésqar National Park by hiring a boat from Puerto Natales to explore the Montañas Channel or visiting Isla Riesco from Punta Arenas. The road from the city to the Isla Riesco entrance to the park is approximately 93 miles (one way).
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.
The entry fee to Pali Aike National Park is $1,500 CLP for Chileans and $3,000 CLP for foreigners. Bring cash.
The companies Turismo 21 de Mayo (https://www.turismo21demayo.com/excursiones/navegacion-balmaceda-y-serrano/fotos/5/) and Agunsa Patagonia (http://agunsapatagonia.cl) offer daily trips to the Balmaceda and Serrano glaciers, leaving from Puerto Natales.
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.
The prolific bird life found in this park includes carancho, kestrel, queltehue, caiquén, ibis, eaglet, black eagle with nest, peregrine falcon and ñandú.
The largest national park in Chile and one of the largest in the world, with 26% of the park in the Aysén region and the remaining 74% in the region of Magallanes.
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 - Yendegaia
Kawésqar - Torres del Paine
Copyright 2018 Ruta de los Parques de la Patagonia
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