In December 1990 / January 1991 I went to South
America for the first time, doing a 24 day trip
with Wilderness Expeditions in Patagonia. After
flying to Buenos Aires our group spent two days at
Bariloche in the Argentinian lakes district, then
did a four day trek in the mountains behind
Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, followed by a week in
Torres del Paine National Park trekking in the
Lago Pingo area, a visit to the Moreno Glacier and
two days at Iguassu Falls further north.
Bariloche nestles alongside Lago
Nahuel Huapi at the eastern side of the Andes and
is a two hour flight from Buenos Aires. To the
east is a dry and barren landscape, to the west is
a landscape of snow capped peaks, volcanoes,
forests and lakes.
After spending a
day looking around Bariloche, we did a day walk to
the top of nearby Cerro Lopez. From the top there
were views of Mt Tronador, Mt Osorno, Lago Nahuel
Huapi and Bariloche.
Ushuaia harbour - Tierra del Fuego. Looking across
the Beagle Channel towards Hoste Island in Chile.
Ushuaia is the southern most city in the world,
only about 60 miles from Cape Horn.
Our trek took us over passes, onto snow plateaus,
through beech forest and past beaver damaged
forests. The mountains are mostly around 4000'
high in this area.
Typical campsite in the forests of Tierra del
Fuego. The vegetation consisted mostly of beech
forest. Many trees had been gnawed and felled by
introduced beavers, which have caused a lot of
environmental damage in this area.
We climbed up onto a snow plateau and
then up to a pass, from where we could look north
into the interior of Tierra del Fuego or south to
the Beagle Channel and the Chilean islands beyond.
The views were fantastic.
Rainbow on the Patagonian plains. After leaving
Tierra del Fuego, we flew to Rio Gallegos then
drove across to Puerto Natales in Chile. This
photograph was taken about 11 pm in the evening.
The daylight is very long during summer.
The Serrano Glacier, near the head of Ultima
Esperanza Sound in the southern Chilean fiords. A
full day return boat trip from Puerto Natales. Mt
Balmaceda and Torres del Paine National Park are
close by. This glacier tumbles a few thousand feet
down a mountain to a small lake which goes into
Driving through Torres del Paine National Park.
From Puerto Natales we drove north for two hours
to reach the national park. Most of the journey
was through flat farmland but once we reached the
park we entered a region of amazing peaks and
beautiful lakes. We also saw many guanaco herds
once we entered the park.
Campsite in Torres del Paine National Park, near
Lago Pingo. We started our walk at the bottom of
Lago Grey and headed north into a less visited
area close to the Patagonian ice cap. The
surrounding landscape contained spectacular peaks,
lakes, glaciers, forests, flowers, icebergs, and
condors flying overhead.
View from the summit of Cerro Zapata looking
towards the Zapata and Grey Glaciers 4000' below.
This peak is in the north western part of Torres
del Paine National Park and overlooks the
Patagonian icecap. It was a four hour climb from
Lago Pingo to the top. We had a lucky spell of
good weather to do this climb, but the fine
weather only lasted for a day.
Looking northwest from the summit of Cerro Zapata
to the Patagonian Ice cap. This is a place of bad
weather but we were fortunate to see the ice cap
on this day. This ice cap is the largest region of
ice outside the polar regions and goes north from
here for a few hundred kilometres.
Cuernos del Paine - Torres del Paine National
Park. A very spectacular mountain range. These
sharp peaks rise about 9000' above the surrounding
plains. Photograph was taken as we drove out of
the park back to Puerto Natales.
Moreno Glacier - southern Argentina. The most
accessible of many huge glaciers in Los Glaciares
National Park, not far from Calafate. The glacier
is a few kilometres across and its face is about
80m high. While we were there large chunks of ice
fell into the lake causing loud rumbles and
Flying over Iguassu Falls. After our time in
Patagonia we flew north to visit Iguassu falls for
two days. Most of the falls are on the Argentine
side of the border, however the better views are
from the Brazilian side. We spent time walking
along the trails through the rain forest to
various waterfalls, walked out along the walkway
to the Devil's Throat, and visited the nearby
Itaipu Dam on the Brazil-Paraguay border.
This page has photos of all of the above.
Patagonia, located on the southern tip of South
America, is usually assumed to extend from
latitude 39 down to latitude 55 but there is not
an exact delimitation of it. On the map you see
the argentinian portion of Patagonia, but the
corresponding part of Chile is also assumed to be part of Patagonia. Its area is approximately 900000 sq. km. (slightly larger than that of France and Germany together and slightly smaller than the states of Texas and Colorado together)
Old map showing Patagonia
In the regions bordering the Andean Cordillera the forests abound, as the amount of precipitation is rather high. But as one moves eastwards the decrease in precipitation leads to a consequent decrease in vegetation. In the steppes that extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Andes shrub grassland is almost the only vegetation to be found. The dryness of the region is exacerbated by the combination of high evaporation and persistent westerly winds. The most typical animals of Patagonia are the guanaco and the nandu. Its indigenous population was composed by three groups: the "canoe people" (Yamana and Kaweskar or Alacalufe) who depended basically on marine resources and lived on the Fuegian archipelagos, the "foot people" (Selk'nam and Haush) who were terrestrial hunters in the mainland of Tierra Del Fuego and the Tehuelches , also terrestrial and nomadic hunters, divided in southern Tehuelches (Aonikenk) who lived in southeast patagonia, and the northern tehuelches (Gununa'kena) who lived in northeast Patagonia. Before the coming of the Europeans, the calculated populations of these tribus were: Tehuelches: 2500-3000, Foot people: 3000-4000, Canoe People: 6000+. Now all that is left is a handful of Tehuelches.
Lola Kiepja, the last fuegian aborigin, died in
Ushuahia in 1975
The first Europeans to sail along the Patagonian coasts were Ferdinand of Magallanes and his crew
in 1520. Their first meeting with the aborigines (Tehuelches) was recorded by Antonio Pigafetta,
the chronicler of the expedition, in a by now famous passage:
"One day, when no one was expecting it, we saw a giant, completely naked, by the sea. He danced and
jumped and, singing, spread sand and dust over his head...He was so tall that the tallest among us
reached only to his waist. He was truly well built ...The captain named these kind of people
Pataghoni. They have no houses but huts, like the Egyptians. They live on raw meat and eat a kind of
sweet root which they call capac. The two giants we had on board ship ate their way through a large
basket of biscuits, and ate rats without skinning them. They used to drink a half bucket of water at
The long lasting legend of the Patagonian Giants was born.
The "giants" depicted in the tip of South America on a map of 1562
It is a common belief that the name Patagons aluded to the
apparently outstanding foot size of the Tehuelches (who were in fact rather tall: 1.8 m.on average), but it is more likely that it be related to the name of a giant in a Spanish chivalric romance fashionable at that time, Primaleon. Later meetings between Europeans and Indians are said to have been rather bloody, as those involving the crews of Francis Drake in 1578 and of Oliver van Noort (the first European to sail across cap Horn) in 1599. John Narborough, at the command of a scientific expedition in 1670, is one of the first to have made peaceful contactswith the Indians. This kind of effort was pursuedto various degrees by french navigators in later years. Bougainville remarked that the Tehuelches were not giants but "what seemed gigantic to me was their great built." Other recorded contacts with the Patagonic Indians were made by the Nodal brothers in 1610 and by James Cook in 1769.
Old map marked "Patagones" which means big feet in
Torres del Paine National Park in
The Untouched Paradise
Go way down south, to the city at the end of the world, Punta Arenas, Chile. Punta Arenas is the jumping off place to explore the many wonders of southern Chile. Further south -- Penguin colonies, fields of gorgeous blue ice where huge blocks break from the shores to seed icebergs into the straits of Magellan, everywhere rare and unusual wildlife, fantastic trout and salmon fishing, and to the north, the World Heritage Site the Torres del Paine National Park.
The Torres del Paine National Park, declared a Biosphere reserve in 1978, lies three hours drive from Puerto Natales along a common dirt road. On the ride we stop to watch guanacos stroll across the road. These animals seem similar to llamas but their disposition is more aggressive, killing rivals with a swing of their long graceful neck.
Warned, we do not approach too close for our photos.
The park's massive rock formations, rushing blue-green waters, lakes with icebergs, ancient, gnarled trees, and long sweeps of walking and/or hiking trails as difficult or easy as one can handle. The easy part seems important for this old gal. Windswept and hanging on while crossing a rickety old bridge, I do manage a five-hour hike away from our lodge in the middle of this gorgeous wild place. The wind blows constantly. In December, Patagonia's summer, the sun shines and the wind blows and blows. We hike along a quiet stream because I'm not strong enough to handle the steeper climbs.
The untouched wilderness of the park inspires hikers, rock climbers, and bird watchers from around the world. Trees and bushes dot the trail up the mountain to the famous Torres (towers) del Paine . From the flats, we see five separate avalanches. The ominous roar suggests the power the cascade releases. The guide, who lives in the park, says this is the first time he has seen an actual avalanche. This excites all of us.
Talk about excitement! Full of animals, guanacos, emus, flamingos and condors, the park would thrill any naturalist. We stayed in the middle of the park at the Posade Rio Serrano ranch, the last piece of privately held property. These wonderful accommodations are both comfortable and beautiful.
Each window opens onto vistas of mist-shrouded mountains, birds in apple green scrub bushes, high-flying condors, or people heading out on horseback to explore the nearby terrain.
We reluctantly leave this remote wilderness area to return to our hotel in Puerto Natales to take a daylong boat ride out to the Balmaceda Glacier.
Boats of tourists leave most mornings for the all-day trip. As we near the area of glaciers, the boat glides past rocky outcrops covered with seabirds. Massive blue-white flows of ice edge the mountain ridges, and waterfalls rage down nearby cliffs as the vessel pulls closer to our destination.
The boat docks and the tourists are invited to carefully hike closer in order to touch the glacier. I pass on this invitation but my husband
takes the bait. The hike proves a little more adventurous than safe for me. He tells of gravel and rocks that slip underfoot, which could lead to a slip into water, I would prefer not to experience.
We return to tropical Chile with a stop in Valparaiso and Vina del Mar on the way home. The change in climate stuns us. Now in a beach city with pretty girls in bikinis, interesting shopping and wonderful seaside fish restaurants, we take our last tour to view the Valparaiso harbor.
There's a lot more to Chile than Santiago, and remember, get up and go someplace!
Trekking in Torres del Paine
The Torres del Paine circuit around the famous craggy mountains that crown the Park is one of the world´s classic trekking routes. Breathtaking views together with glaciers, rivers, lakes, forests and abundant wildlife provides the trip with constantly changing scenaries and experiences.
The full circuit, rated moderate, is normally done in seven to nine days, depending on the itinerary, and covers a distance of approx. 80 kms. The trek is best done in an anticlockwise direction that saves the hardest sections until later and prevent the walkers from being stopped by strong wind currents. During summer (Dec-Mar) there are 18 hours of daylight which gives the explorers plenty
of time for the walking journey.
Additional information: Appropriate for persons in normal physical conditions.
This national park is the major tourist attraction in the region. It covers 181,000 hectares on the Seno de Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope Inlet). The park was created in 1959 and declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978. The name "Paine" comes from a Tehuelche indian word meaning "blue".
There are many hikings paths that cross widely differing types of terrain, such as pampas and thick Magellanic forests, and run along lakes with huge glaciers and icebergs.
The park is surrounded by huge, craggy mountains, including the famous "Cuernos del Paine" (Paine Horns). The park is located 150 kms. from Puerto Natales and 400 kms. from Punta Arenas.
At the entrance, informative park guards can help plan hikes using a detailed map of the park. The
park has many roads and hiking trails to choose.
Camping is available, as is lodging such as the Posada Serrano, Hosteria Estancia Las Torres, Hotel Explora, Hosteria Lago Grey, Hosteria Estancia Lazo and others located on the way from Puerto Natales and the park.
The Paine Massif is almost completely encircled by the Rio Paine (Paine River). The river begins at Lago Dickson (Dickson Lake), then crosses through the Paine, Nordenskjold and Pehoe lakes and empties into the Lago del Toro (Lake of the Bull).
The intense colors of the parks's lakesand rivers waters are caused by pulverized rock from the glaciers' retreat.
The accumulation of this sediment in the river basins leading from lake to lake causes some of the lakes to have a milky grey or ocher color.
Other lakes have intense colors of blue because they contain blue algae.
One of the more interesting excursions is to wlak along Lago Grey to the Glaciar Grey. Along the way huge icebergs that have broken off of the glacier can be seen floating in the lake, pushed by the wind.
There are many other hikes in the park, with the most famous being the week-long circuit around the Paine Massif. On this circuit it is necessary to camp or stay in the various refugios (shelters) along the way.
Type of Tour: Private
Frecuency of Tour: Daily
Minimum number of people: 2
Lenght of Tour:3 days, 2 nights
Required equipment:Appropriate clothing for changeable weather
(windbreaker or parka), hiking boots. Sleeping bag, mat and backpack.
Tent and all meals provided.
The boat departs from Puerto Natales, then travels through the Seno de
Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope Inlet). You will disembark on the eastern
side of the mouth of the Rio Serrano (Serrano River). In the afternoon,
you can walk to the vista point one hour from camp, from which you will
get a wonderful view of Monte Balmaceda (Mount Balmaceda) and its
Glaciar Serrano (Serrano Glacier). You will also be able to admire the
abundant plant and wildlife along the way. Lodge at the camp.
Walk along the banks of the Rio Serrano for five hours, taking in views
of the ice field, until you reach the area of Lago Brunch (Brunch
Walk to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine.
Additional information: Appropriate for persons in
normal physical conditions.
This national park is the major tourist attraction in
the region. It covers 181,000 hectares on the Seno de Ultima Esperanza
(Last Hope Inlet). The park was created in 1959 and declared a
Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978. The name "Paine" comes from a
Tehuelche indian word meaning "blue".
There are many hikings paths that cross widely
differing types of terrain, such as pampas and thick Magellanic
forests, and run along lakes with huge glaciers and icebergs.
The park is surrounded by huge, craggy mountains,
including the famous "Cuernos del Paine" (Paine Horns). The park is
located 150 kms. from Puerto Natales and 400 kms. from Punta Arenas.
At the entrance, informative park guards can help
plan hikes using a detailed map of the park. The park has many roads
and hiking trails to choose. Camping is available, as is lodging such
as the Posada Serrano, Hosteria Estancia Las Torres, Hotel Explora,
Hosteria Lago Grey, Hosteria Estancia Lazo and others located on the
way from Puerto Natales and the park.
The Paine Massif is almost completely encircled by
the Rio Paine (Paine River). The river begins at Lago Dickson (Dickson
Lake), then crosses through the Paine, Nordenskjold and Pehoe lakes and
empties into the Lago del Toro (Lake of the Bull). The intense colors
of the parks's lakesand rivers waters are caused by pulverized rock
from the glaciers' retreat. The accumulation of this sediment in the
river basins leading from lake to lake causes some of the lakes to have
a milky grey or ocher color. Other lakes have intense colors of blue
because they contain blue algae.
One of the more interesting excursions is to wlak
along Lago Grey to the Glaciar Grey. Along the way huge icebergs that
have broken off of the glacier can be seen floating in the lake, pushed
by the wind.
There are many other hikes in the park, with the most
famous being the week-long circuit around the Paine Massif. On this
circuit it is necessary to camp or stay in the various refugios
(shelters) along the way.
Map of Torres Del Paine
More photos of Torres Del Paine.
Photos of our vacation to Torres Del Paine
Beautiful photos of Torres Del Paine by one of our clients
GPA - Geographic Press Agency on Torres del Paine
The speech paralyzes and the senses concentratecompletely before such amazing discovery. An imposing granite mountain that seems to have emerged from down the earth, to meet everyone who comes with an ingenious and invasive appearance.
It was 12.000.000 years ago, when a kind of plutonic rock, emerged over the surface, to form this almost undisturbed towers located at the inner part of the Ascencio Canyon.
This massif is not only a big, outlined piece of rock set in a prodigious place. A strange and mystic feeling invades its atmosphere and it is unavoidable to become paralyzed before such amazing finding.
This wonderful place can be found in the Chilean Patagonia, at the Southern end of the American Continent, exactly located, in the ranch and tourist complex of the Kusanovic Family.
In a primitive atmosphere you will be to feel the sharp wind, whistling through the canyons. Many of the tourists, who travel thousands of kilometers to visit this wonderful place, feel completely astonished when they finally arrive. Time seems to stop in this landscape, surrounded by the engraved mountains of the Paine Cordillera.
Mr. Antonio Kusanovic was not wrong when he said, reflexively, that this is: "A landscape painted by God himself, where the silence can be heard".
GPA is an international press agency and documentation, specialized in the performance and elaboration of photo journalistic reports. A team of journalists with high level of skill, coordinated with scientists of various universities, covers and investigates thoroughly
themes of documentary feature, related exclusively with nature and the development of wildlife.
A seven day Itinerary for Torres del Paine
transportation from Punta Arenas airport and arrival and stay in Hotel Plaza in Punta Arenas
Day 2: Breakfast & visit of museums of Punta Arenas. 2:00 PM Travel to Puerto Natales and stay at the Francis Drake
Day 3: Breakfast and free to visit Puerto Natales while waiting for the bus to Torres Del Paine at 1:00 PM. Arrival
at Armaga lake for transportation and stay in Hotel Las Torres.
Day 4: Breakfast and 4 hour round trip excursion by horse to the base of the torres. 3:45 PM check out and trip to Amarga
lake, visiting the lookout at Lake Nordenskjold, salto grande (big waterfall), lake Pehoe, park administration, arriving at Lake Tyndall Hotel at 6:50 PM , overnight stay.
Day 5: Breakfast. 8:30AM leave on boat to go down the river Serrano, visiting waterfalls and the Tyndall & Serrano glaciers. arrival at hotel Mount Balmaceda at 11:45 AM.
Lunch Afternoon free to enjoy the beauty of the nature in the area and the Flora museum, walking. Dinner and overnight
Day 6 Breakfast and lunch. 2:30 PM return to Puerto Natales arriving at 5:30 PM. Overnight at Francis Drake hotel.
Day 7: Breakfast. 9:00 AM Bus from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas airport.
End of services
Victory Adventure Travel can help you with youir Torres Del Paine excursion.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
See some Patagonian Wild life
The Guanaco A relative of the now-domesticated llama, the guanaco -- Patagonia's largest land vertebrate -- roams the plains of Torres del Paine. Guanacos live in groups, usually a single dominant male accompanied by up to 10 females and their young. Though elegantly formed creatures, guanacos exhibit a number of seemingly incongruous habits. When they greet, for example, the animals exchange a turkey-like gobble and then, on occasion, vomit a wad of semi-masticated grasses.
Female guanacos give birth every other year, mating in August and September. They bear only a single offspring, called a chulengo, which learns to walk within minutes of being born. Male chulengos are driven from the herd after a year, when they are no longer reliant on their mothers.
These young males form a separate pack, and challenge the older males for the privilege of leading familial herds.
Conservation Efforts Though at one time guanacos were significant resources for Patagonian Indians, food and hide hunters decimated the guanaco population from the late 19th century onward.
Moreover, the fences of ranches and competing sheep the ranches contained displaced many guanaco herds from their natural habitats. Once numbering in the millions, only about 100,000 guanaco survive today in all of South America.
* Guanacos and llamas are descendants of a jackrabbit-size animal that originated in North America more than 40 million years ago.
* The guanaco can run nearly 35 miles per hour -- faster than any other Patagonian animal except the puma.
* Surprisingly, guanacos can swim, and swim rather well.
The Puma All cats may have more than one life, but only the puma can be called the cat of many names.
Depending on where you are, the puma -- which ranges more widely than any other animal in the Americas -- also goes by panther, painter, catamount, cougar, and mountain lion. The Patagonian puma, one of the now recognized 27 puma subspecies, is the southern-most dweller of all its relatives, and one of the largest.
Pumas take full advantage of Torres del Paine's varied terrain. Males and females stake out overlapping home ranges that can include up to 40 square miles, sometimes stretching from deep within forests to caves at the feet of mountains.
Within these ranges, the puma takes its rightful place as Patagonia's largest predator, feeding on small mammals and its favorite prey, the guanaco.
Conservation Efforts Sheep were first introduced to Patagonia in the late 19th century, and were easy prey for pumas. Ranchers hired lion hunters to kill the pumas, but in 1980, the Chilean government made hunting pumas a crime. With the protection of Torres del Paine, puma numbers have risen to unendangered numbers.
* Among nature's most dexterous animals, the puma can traverse 10 miles of rocky countryside in a matter of hours.
* While they prefer forests and caves, pumas have been known to live in almost any habitat, even swamps.
* Pumas sometimes wander out of Torres del Paine and dine on the sheep of local ranchers.
The Patagonian Gray Fox
Patagonia's gray fox is truly an animal all its own. Separated evolutionarily from wolves six to seven million years ago, the two foot tall, six to 10 pound gray fox prefers to feed on hares and other rodents. But when prey is scarce, the gray will opt for berries, bird eggs, and insects.
Living up to its proverbial namesake, the fox is also opportunistic, feeding on the leftovers of puma kills.
One of the more notable characteristics of the species is the cooperative way in which it eats.
Females without litters of their own will often bring food to families of pups. This behavior has played a major role in the fox's survival, and continues to help the species compete against its rivals.
* The ancestor of the Patagonian gray fox migrated across the Panamanian Isthmus into South America, where over time, it became a distinct species.
* Hares, the gray fox's favorite food, actually were brought to South America in the late 19th century as stowaways on European merchant ships.
The Andean Condor Ascending from their clifftop nests high above Torres del Paine, Andean condors rule the skies of Patagonia. Interestingly enough, the condor's domain is not one of distance, but of altitude. It is an updraft rider, buoyed aloft by strong currents that flow from the steep mountain slopes and coastal cliffs that comprise the bird's home terrain. Sensitive "fingers," delicate feathers at the tips of the wings, feel the air and allow the condor to adjust its flight accordingly.
Males, with their fleshy red or black crests and light brown eyes, are larger than their red eyes consorts, but both males and females are black with white collars and wing patches. Young condors are brown feathered, gaining their white highlights first and then, by eight years, their black feathers.
* Andean condors can fly as high as 15,000 feet at speeds of nearly 35 miles per hour.
* Condors only flap their wings during flight to gain or maintain speed or altitude. More often than not, they glide.
* A condor would rather walk than fly one hundred yards to a clifftop, where it can get airborne without effort.
A five to 7 day backpacking itinerary without guide could consist of
the following (costs approx. in dollars):
Entrance to the park $10
Transport by bus from Pta Arenas to Pto Natales Round Trip $ 8
Transport from Pto Natales to Paine Round Trip $15
Refugios Las Torres , Chileno, Los Cuernos $16 (includes transport from
lake Amarga to the Torres)
Refugios Dickson, Grey, Pehoé $12
Cross lake in Catamarán One Way $13
Go down the serrano river in Zodiac, to Balmaceda & continue in
to Natales $85
Transport from Pudeto to Serrano $5 por pax
Walk over the ice of glacier Grey $60
Guided tours available on request including,
transportation,Contact Hotels and or Hostals.
Contact Captain Ben Below.
photos of our Patagonian Vacation in Februry 2004