Torres del Paine - the most spectacular national park in Chile and probably its best known - is a few hours drive from Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales in the far south of this long thin country. Torres del Paine National Park is famed for its impressive and iconic granite pillars but will also take your breath away with its awe-inspiring glaciers, pristine vividly coloured lakes and magnificent rugged wide plains, perfect for hikers and horse-riders alike. If you prefer something a little less challenging but still want to immerse yourself in the beautiful landscapes, you can take a scenic boat trip on Last Hope Sound or Lago Grey.
Punta Arenas & the fjords
Punta Arenas is Chile's most southerly city and the arrival gateway by air for a tour of Torres del Paine. It is also home to the port from where you can take an expedition cruise through the fjords to Cape Horn and on to Ushuaia in Argentina. An Australis cruise is the ideal way to explore the wild and beautiful Patagonian fjords. Cruises operate from September to April between Punta Arenas and Ushuaia for either
three or four nights. You sail through the Straits of Magellan, the Beagle Channel and around Cape Horn on a journey past fjords, glaciers and islands.
A highlight, weather permitting, is landing at Cape Horn and walking to
the monument at the southernmost tip of the continent. Zodiacs (motorised inflatable boats) take you to uninhabited islands that provide sanctuary for penguins, elephant seals and an amazing array of birdlife. Look for colonies of sea lion and whales.
For those who would like to combine Torres del Paine with a trip by air to the Antarctic Peninsula with Antarctica XXI, this unique fly/cruise Antarctica expedition starts and ends in Punta Arenas, with your first night staying at the Hotel Jose Nogueira.
Puerto Natales & Puerto Montt
Between Punta Arenas and the Torres del Paine National Park, lies the small town of Puerto Natales on the shores of Last Hope Sound. The Skorpios cruises explore the southern ice fields around Chile's southern coast depart from the pier in town, as does the weekly Navimag ferry service from Puerto Montt which provides basic cabins for the 3-night voyage. You can also take boat trips on the Sound to see glaciers and even arrive at the national park entrance by zodiac via the Serrano River.
Glaciers National Park - Argentina
As Torres del Paine is also very close to the Argentine border, you could also combine your stay in the park with a few days in El Calafate. It takes around six hours to travel by road to Argentina's Glaciers National Park, where you can see the spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier.
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