The 5 best day walks in Torres del Paine

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For good, for bad, Torres del Paine has become enormously popular to visit. But with its movie star good looks, who can blame people for wanting to come here. Yet still, it is perfectly possible to get away from people and enjoy being in big nature whilst in the park. For us, these are the five best walks to enjoy in Torres del Paine.

1- Base de las Torres. Approx 18km, 8 hours.

At the heart of the Paine massif are these three spires, slightly hidden in the heart of the massif, waiting to appear from the clouds, or not.

This is the obvious one, the famous one. But there's a reason for that, it's an amazing thing to see the Torres in their full glory. From the lake to the peak of the middle tower is something like 1,500 vertical metres.

The walk is timed from the Hotel Las Torres and back again though you can stay up in the Refugio Chileno which is approximately half way along. There are also a couple of campsites. The closest, Campamento Torres being right at the bottom of the moraine.

The walk starts easily enough with a flat stroll across the open grassland from the Hotel Las Torres, following signs for Mirador las Torres. A couple of hanging bridges later, after about 1km, the path splits and it's uphill you go into the Valle Ascencio. There follows a 3km steady, occasionally steep, occasionally steeper, uphill slog. Just when you are losing the will to keep going, the path heads down. Steadily at first, then steeply and then steeper still until you come to the forested surroundings of the Refugio Chileno.

Of course, it's cruel to be going downhill so steeply when you know that you actually want to be going uphill. But that's Patagonia for you. The stretch after Refugio Chileno is the very definition of 'Patagonia flat' - no discernable elevation gain overall but constant short sharp bursts up and downhill as the path leads through the beautiful Patagonian forests alongside the river.

It is really only the last section, approximately 1.5km, where all pretence of flat, Patagonian or otherwise, is lost. This bit is quite simply very steep uphill. After the 8km or so leading up to it, the legs can be a bit wobbly at this point but do persevere the Torres await.

Of course, sometimes they don't. If it's cloudy, which it often is, then you might want to save yourself the last stretch. If it's not cloudy then just take it steady and you'll get there. It is worth it, and if you don't believe me, read my piece on Sunrises over the Torres.

Further reading: Chile's Route of the Parks in 10 images

2- Las Cornisas. Approx 8km, 3 hours.

This one isn't actually inside the park but rather sits inside the vast estate of the Estancia Cerro Guido. These are the large uplifted crags you see off in the distance as you leave the park from its eastern entrance at Laguna Amarga.

The walk itself is nothing of particular note. Usually being dropped at one end of the crags, you walk steadily up until you come to the ridge, which you follow until you drop steeply down to meet your vehicle again at the far end.

The terrain is of dry grassland, very, very different to the far wetter ecosystems to the west of the park. The open pampa is perfect Puma territory, the sheer crags perfect for condors.

What makes this walk so special are the views of the Paine massif. You are essentially on a high platform with clear, uninterrupted views over to the gorgeous mountains of Torres del Paine.

So whilst this isn't a day walk that everyone will be able to enjoy, it still deserves to be in the list of the top five.

3- Mirador Ferrier & iceberg beach. Approx 9km, 4 hours.

Out to the west of the park wide open grasslands meet glacial lakes, all in the shadow of the highest mountains in the national park. It makes for a particularly dramatic walk.

This walk is something of a cheat, a hybrid of two circular walks but they start from the same place so it works, like a figure 8. Probably the best place to start is by heading uphill to the viewpoint of Mirador Ferrier. It's a short sharp shock of an uphill, approximately 500m height gain, which takes approximately 1.5 hours. Just before the top, you walk through a section of forest before coming out to exposed rocks and beautiful views. It's exposed up here so make sure you are wrapped up warm. Enjoy glorious views over the southern Patagonian icefield, almost all of the lakes in the park as well as the stunning peaks of the Paine massif.

Head back downhill to the parking area and pick up the trail to the 'Mirador Lago Grey'. Once across the hanging bridge, you pick up a very neat and wide path through mature beech forest. These are some of the few 'real' sized trees in the park (most are dwarf), you should hear the chatter of the ever-incongruous Austral Parrot overhead.

The path is so well tended because it's along here that passengers walk to take the boat ride to the face of Glacier Grey (well worth it by the way). The path reaches the dark sand beach at its very western edge so you just bear off to your right to reach the water's edge. The further along the beach you go, the more of a view you will have of the distant glacier face (it's around 8km from the beach to the ice). However, there are often large icebergs floating near the beach as they are blown down the lake. In some years these icebergs are so numerous that you can walk out onto them straight from the shore.

Loop back along the same path to the start of the walk.

Further reading: Pura's 10 minute guide to Torres del Paine

4- Laguna Azul to Laguna Cebolla and back, approx 16km, 4 hours.

It's a mostly gentle walk this one but with fantastic views - a great way to get away from the crowds and enjoy incredible landscapes without it being too strenuous at all. Laguna Azul is the only place in the park where you see the Torres in their entirety, without having to hike for hours.

Laguna Azul is remarkably, wonderfully off the beaten track. It sits high up on the eastern edge of the park, well north of the road which cuts east/west through the park. It's in this part of the park that you get the best birdlife as well as grazing herds of guanaco. You are also treated to great views of the Torres, this time beautifully reflected in the rich blue waters of Laguna Azul.

The walk itself skirts around the edge of the lake before cutting across the hills to Laguna Cebolla, a much smaller but pretty lake looking out over the valley of the Rio Paine.

Further reading: Pura's 10 minute guide to the Carretera Austral

5- Guardaria Laguna Verde to Mirador Lago Toro. Approx 10km, 4 hours.

This one is in the central south of the park which means you get lovely views of the central Paine massif, most obviously the dramatic black topped Cuernos.

It's not easy to get to Laguna Verde but it's worth it for this beautiful, fairly gentle walk. On a still day Laguna Verde arguably wins the prize for the best reflection in the park.

These hilly grasslands are cut through with streams and ponds home to large herds of guanacos. It is also great territory for puma so whilst you are unlikely to actually see one, you may well see prints or even a guanaco carcass.

As treat at the end of the walk as you walk downhill, are the views over Lago Toro which are quite simply spectacular.

If you want a deeper dive into the accommodation options from Pura co-founder and Torres del Paine veteran Thomas Power then sign up for our 5-part Chile Expert Guide.

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The Pothole is Pura Aventura's popular monthly email. We share what we love, what interests us and what we find challenging. And we don't Photoshop out the bits everyone else does. We like to think our considered opinions provide food for thought, and will sometimes put a smile on your face. They've even been known to make people cry. You can click here to subscribe and, naturally, unsubscribe at any time.

The Pothole is Pura Aventura's popular monthly email. We share what we love, what interests us and what we find challenging. And we don't Photoshop out the bits everyone else does. We like to think our considered opinions provide food for thought, and will sometimes put a smile on your face. They've even been known to make people cry. You can click here to subscribe and, naturally, unsubscribe at any time.

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