Travel

The wild beauty of Chile

Lake Dickson in Torres del Paine National Park in Southern Chile.
Lake Dickson in Torres del Paine National Park in Southern Chile. John McCutcheon

SQUEEZED between the Andean Cordillera and the Pacific Ocean lies the South American country of Chile.

The country, 4000km long and an average of only 175km wide, is at the end of the world.

Her isolation, challenging geography and schizophrenic weather may have conspired to thwart explorers and early settlers, but it also has preserved a wilderness of unimaginable beauty.

A seemingly fragile sliver of land, the deep southern province of Patagonia is home to Torres del Paine – The Towers of Pain, a world famous National Park.

Last summer, 120,000 people were drawn to walk its trails and marvel at the kaleidoscope of landscapes.

You can trek short distances to iconic views and return to a cosy bar with a roaring fire or max out and circumnavigate the Paine massif and be late for the party by a week or so.

Tackling the full circuit requires moderate fitness and is akin to a full-length feature film.

On the western perimeter of the circuit is Glacier Grey, a 26km long mass of ice with iridescent blue crevasses that could swallow peak-hour traffic.

It covers 270sq km over the Patagonian ice field and its source lies hidden from view in the heart of the Andes that stretches like a sea of white west towards Argentina.

But the end of the glacier cleaves giant chunks of ice into a vast turquoise lake right next to the trail – a place where many have sat and hoped to witness such an event.

Most see only the debris of fallen ice scattered over the cold lake.

Along the way, you can stay in huts with food and sleeping facilities or opt for greater flexibility and carry a tent. Both options are well catered for.

The northern trail disappears for hours into a verdant forest of beech and coigue trees where moss, hardy ferns and the thick canopy create a light of cool, dense green.

As the track winds up the valley towards the John Garner Pass, it crosses many fresh water streams, the smaller ones ideal for refilling water bottles.

The larger ones, spanned by rickety suspension bridges, fill the air with a gentle drone.

You eventually rise above the tree line on to bare rock with a clear view of the trail ahead as it follows the steps of John Garner up through a keyhole pass discovered and named after him.

At 1241m, it is the highest point of the circuit and howling, icy winds are not uncommon.

The southern part of the circuit is the most popular.

Most visitors to the park want to see the triple granite 2600m high towers that stand like sentinels at the centre of the massif.

But they really hope for a clear dawn when the towers are transformed into intense orange giants as the rising sun plays with the different layers of sediment in the rock.

It is these towers that give the national park its name and fame.

Hiking to the lookout involves about a 10km walk.

Summer is the best time to visit, with March being ideal as the local holidays have finished, the trails are not overcrowded and the temperature is mild.

The surrounding area is not limited to walking trails. There is a separate network of horse trails, there are rafting adventures, fly-fishing tours, bubbling hot springs or catamaran rides on the network of lakes that adjoin the southern boundary.

The nearby town of Puerto Natales is sufficiently stocked with outdoor adventure stores, lodgings, bars and superb restaurants with menus stacked with the national delicacy – seafood.

Everything from sea urchins to eels and smoked abalone to fresh salmon can be washed down with world-renowned Chilean wines.

Patagonia may be the farthest place to which man walked from his place of origin, but today it is readily accessible and with treasures such as the Torres del Paine lying in wait, a trip to Chile just might blow you away.


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Facing up to the music

SOUR NOTE: Scott Cooper at The Mecca.

Lismore Music Festival organisers apologise for event cancellation

NORPA founder brings us Opera Australia

FOR KIDS: James Payne as Troll and Ruth Strutt as Ferdinand in El Kid, Opera Australia's production for primary schools.

El Kid comes to Albert Park Public School

Women's Expo to open the festival

Lismore's Women's Festival.

A day long event for the wellbeing of women in Lismore

Local Partners

Tony Abbott: Coalition in danger of becoming ‘Labor lite’

Tony Abbott has penned a highly critical analysis of the Turnbull Government, highlighting voter “despair” and concerns “the Coalition has become Labor lite.”

REVIEW: Under the Gun doco looks at right to bear arms

ARMED: A still from the 2016 documentary film Under the Gun by Stephanie Soechtig.

An in-depth look into America's gun culture.

Messing with your head

MIND BLOWN: What could be weirder than the realisation that we have another completely separate brain and nervous system than the one originating in our heads?

Fascinating connection between your gut and your brain

Sir Elton John coming to Mackay: What you need to know

Sir Elton will come to Mackay and Cairns in September.

Tickets to the concert go on sale on March 14

Un-American tale makes Lion weakest link in Oscars line-up

PSYCHOLOGY researchers find US films and actors most likely to win accolades at the Oscars.

Can rightful winner Midnight take out golden Gosling in Oscars?

Can Lion pip La La Land at the post in this year's Oscars? Sunny Pawar (pictured) helped bring a powerful film to the big screen.

WILL Aussie film Lion triumph or will popular La La Land prevail?

Living End, Grinspoon stars hit stage for American Idiot

Chris Cheney of The Living End stars in the Australian production of Green Days musical American Idiot at Brisbane's QPAC Theatre.

TAKE a look behind the scenes of Green Day's American Idiot musical

Samuel L Jackson dismisses La La Land ahead of Oscars

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in a scene from the movie La La Land.

Hollywood actor and Oscars voter says Denzel should win top gong

Former Family Matters stare accused of child abuse

Reginald VelJohnson, left, and Darius McCrary arrive at the TV Land Awards on Sunday, April 19, 2009 in Universal City, Calif.

Darius McCrary has been accused of child abuse

Bindi Irwin's birthday tribute to her dad

Bindi Irwin

Bindi Irwin has paid tribute to her dad on his 55th birthday

The trick homeowners are using to buy more properties

Chantelle Subritzky leaves her home each week for Airbnb guests.

Queenslanders are going down this path to help pay their mortgages

Stunning home blends South Pacific beauty with Orient style

Immaculate residence with two outdoor living areas

$140k damage: landlord says property trashed, contaminated

He had what he calls "the tenants from hell"

Submarine, buses and 3000 tyres removed in $100K clean up

The list of things removed from this property is beyond astonishing

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!