Our trip to Patagonia was incredible. Many people we met during our time in Puerto Natales were gearing up for the famous “W Trek”, a 5-day hike around Torres del Paine, or even longer adventures like the “O” or the “Q Trek”. As much as we would have liked to trek out into the woods and camp, we were not prepared for the excursion. If you are like us and want to see the beauty of Patagonia but aren’t ready to commit to a multi-day backpacking trip, here are 7 different day trips you can take from Puerto Natales.
1. Bus Tour of Torres del Paine Park
The first sight of Torres del Paine park took my breath away. It is seriously one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Since we wouldn’t be able to hike most of it, I decided to book a day tour with Patagonia Adventure. We were picked up at our hostel at 8:30 am along with 12 other travelers. On our way, we stopped at a cozy roadside café serving coffee and breakfast as well as selling local goods like knitwear, lapis lazuli jewelry, and stuffed animals. We arrived at the park around 10:30 am stopping at several lookout points to take in the views and snap photos. Throughout the day, we did a few short hikes to more lookout points and stopped for lunch. With our tour came a gourmet boxed lunch with scones, fruit, and a bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese. Our day tour was a great way to get a first impression of Torres del Paine and understand the lay of the land.
2. Perito Moreno Glacier
El Calafate, Argentina and Perito Moreno Glacier is only 4 hours by car from Puerto Natales. Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the world’s largest glaciers and the third largest reserve of glacial fresh water. The glacier is one of Patagonia’s top destination’s due to its impressive size, reaching over 3 miles long and a height of over 197 feet above the water. Once at the glacier, walk out to the large viewing platform or take a boat ride to see the fracture of ice blocks of different sizes at a short distance, hear the roaring they produce, and then watch them turn into wonderful floating icebergs. If you have more time and money, you can book an all-day hike onto the glacier.
3. Biking or Kayaking to Estancia Puerto Consuelo
Just 20 minutes outside of Puerto Natales is Estancia Puerto Consuelo, a local historical cattle ranch, founded in 1893. Estancia Puerto Consuelo can be reached by car, bike or by kayaking up the fjord. Once on the farm, you can hike or ride horses around the property for beautiful views of the landscape and local wildlife. Afterwards, enjoy a BBQ lunch of lamb, fish and other classic Chilean dishes.
4. Hike to Base of Torres del Paine
This is one of the few day hikes in Torres del Paine. Though you can do this hike as a group tour, we decided to do this on our own. We arrived at the train station early in order to catch the 7:45 am bus to Torres del Paine park. Our round trip costs $15,000 CLP pp ($22 USD). Once we arrived at the park, we had to catch another shuttle ($3,000 CLP pp each way) to the trail head. We started our hike at 9:45 am and had until 7:00 pm when the shuttle returned. Though I am not much of a hiker, I would consider this hike to be moderate to difficult. The first and the last quarter of the hike were the steepest parts but we were rewarded with a once in a lifetime memory. When we reached the towers at around 2:00 pm, we relaxed, had lunch, and took photos of the incredible view. We started heading back around 2:45 pm. I thought the remaining hike would be a breeze, but it was actually more painful. Going down was tough on my ankles, feet, and knees. We made it back to the shuttle around 6:30 pm, hiking for a full 8 hours and more than 20 miles. The next few days, we could hardly walk up down steps without our legs wanting to give-out, but overall it was an incredible experience and would immediately do it again!
5. Milodon Cave
Milodon Cave is a vast cavern created millions of years ago. The cave once housed the remains of nomads, milodons, saber tooth tigers, and other ancient animals. The Milodon Cave was rediscovered in 1895 by Hermann Eberhard, a famous German explorer of Patagonia. Today the cave is a popular tourist destination because of the size and the life size replica of the milodon. The ancient milodon is a relative of the modern-day sloth and was bigger is size than a polar bear. The milodon cave tour was included in our tour to Torres del Paine. There is still much left undiscovered in the cave due to the difficulty of excavation and precision needed for archaeologists.
6. Day Hikes
Both the Condor’s Nest and Mirador Cerro Dorotea are short easy hikes near Puerta Natales. The Condor Nest hike, in Torres del Paine park, offers great viewing of the Andean Condors and theirs nests. Stunning views of Lake Pehoe with Torres del Paine (Chile) mountains behind. The slab-like Cerro Dorotea gives scenic views of the Puerta Natales and whole Seno Ultima Esperanza. Both hikes can be very windy so dress appropriately.
7. Glacier Grey
Located in Torres del Paine, Glacier Grey is famous for its size and stunning blue floating ice. Glacier Grey is a part of the Southern Patagonia Ice field, the second largest connecting ice field outside of the poles. Depending on your activity level and budget options, there are several day trip possibilities to Glacier Grey including hiking, kayaking or cruising.
What is your favorite national park?
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