To get to South American from Sydney Australia you can get a direct flight that only takes around 12 hr. 45 mins – to be honest I was not overly impressed by the city but it does have some beautiful landmarks and view points. The city scape is beautiful as it is locked in a valley surrounded by the Andes Mountains. One thing you HAVE to do whilst in Santiago is have dinner at Borago – this traditional yet inventive new age restaurant would be in the top two meals I have ever had. It is very deserving of its 32 world place ranking according to Forbes 2015 top restaurants.
We also had the chance to eat at trip advisors top ranked restaurant called Peumayen this was also beautiful food that’s concept derives from the ancestral Chilean people. Will do a separate post with the food photos!
Other places not to miss if you fancy a bit of walking are San Lucio hill, Cerro San Pool and the interactive zoo (to see the toucans!).
Torres del Paine
After a lot of research of where to stay in Torres Del Paine I finally chose Hotel Las Torres for a number of reasons. Primarily because it was actually the cheapest ‘hotel’ option that was located inside the park. Other options such as the Explora hotel and Tierra were also close choices but were very pricey – especially considering you want to be out exploring the park all day and not in your hotel room. Hotel las Torres is in a beautiful location set under the Neito mountain of the massif (huge rock formation) in the park. It also had a brilliant view of the three towers (one of the iconic rock formations that is so beautiful to look at).
Another reason for choosing this hotel is that it is located on the only privately owned land in the national park - as such it is allowed to keep horses on their property. I love riding and thought it would be a shame to miss out on riding around such a stunning landscape. We took the all-inclusive package that made everything so easy. It included all guides for the treks – all the options (I think from memory there are 24 possible excursions to choose from) and all food and drink including alcohol. They even pack you a lunch box to take on your full day trekks.
Day two we took the excursion called Full Paine – luckily this was not as strenuous as the previous days trekking and was more of a photographic opportunity tour stopping at the most beautiful view points in the park that are accessible. We were lucky enough to see a huge Condor (second largest bird in the world) whilst stopped at the top of a cliff looking back at the massif. The condor didn’t fly as we approached but we kept our distance as they need gusts of wind to be able to fly – it cant just jump of the cliff and start flapping its wings so we didn’t want to make it feel threatened.
We saw Salto Grande (one of the three waterfalls in the park) and then made it out to Lago grey to catch a boat out to the grey glacier. The marina to the boat was usually a 2km walk from drop off point. However due to the extreme weather conditions a rock actually fell on the original marina that the boat would dock into…. so instead it was another 1.5 kms across a rocky sandy bank on lago grey that once again had super strong winds. (See photos below) We were actually lucky to be able to visit the Grey Glacier as speaking to many other guests at Hotel Las Torres the tour is often cancelled due to extreme weather conditions.
Don’t forget to pack beanies gloves and lots of layers!! It gets pretty chilly in Chile. ( pun intended)
On our last full day of the park we decided to take two half-day tours. In the morning we did the Lago Nordenskjold excursion but on horseback – this was extremely beautiful and the horses were so gorgeous – you can tell they are well looked after. In fact, after each working day they are unsaddled and released into the national park to roam free until the morning when they are rounded up again. It was impressive watching the horse masters ride the wild horses up mountains and down cliffs.
For the second half of the day we did the Laguna Azul excursion (translation blue lagoon) – Unfortunately the weather had clouded over (for the first time on the trip) and as such we didn’t get a clear view of the towers nor was the water as blue as we were told it could be but never the less it was a beautiful location to visit.
Throughout the park there is so much wildlife – the most prominent is the Guanacos – to me they look like they have the face of a kangaroo but actually they are related to the camel and alpaca family. We even spotted the famous one eared one and he posed for many photos. Other animals we saw were pink flamingos, condors, ostriches, foxes, eagles and many more. Unfortunately even after many solo expeditions I led to find a puma I was unsuccessful. Maybe next time!