After spending a night in Santiago, it was time to wake up early and fly to our next exciting destination: Patagonia! Bennett and I have always dreamed of visiting, mostly due to our love of the clothing brand – Patagonia haha. We love adventures and the outdoors so this seemed like the perfect place to go!
Flight 4: Santiago to Puerto Natales. This flight was approximately 4 hours long, with one 30 minute stop halfway through in a small town called Puerto Montt. We luckily did not need to leave the aircraft, and the stop was a nice way to break up a 4 hour flight. We flew again with JetSmart and arrived in Puerto Natales at 9:30am.
Puerto Natales is a small town with an airport located closest to Torres del Paine. There is one other airport further South, called Punta Arenas, but the drive to our hotel would have been 5 hours vs the 1.5 hour drive from Puerto Natales. We had booked a shuttle through our hotel, however since we arrived so early it would not be picking us up until noon. We took a taxi into town with our luggage (it was fairly cheap as town is only a 10 minute drive away) and explored. There aren’t many stores, especially ones that are open so early in the morning, but we managed to find a breakfast spot that made amazing paninis and waffles. We took some food to go, and got a taxi back to the airport in time to meet our shuttle.
The Rio Serrano Hotel and Spa is located in a very remote area along the Rio Serrano (Serrano River). It is one of just a few hotels and hostels in the area, and is also located only a 10-15 minute drive from the entrance to Torres del Paine National Park. Since we were staying away from a town or city, we decided to take advantage of Rio’s all inclusive package. I would highly suggest this as the prices of food and drinks are quite high, and if you plan on spending a lot of time at the hotel, it only makes sense. When you book all-day excursions, the hotel will also include a lunch for you whether you are, or are not part of the all-inclusive package. The hotel is absolute perfection, with views of the mountain range, horses roaming free, and lovely lounge areas to relax. There is a restaurant and a bar where you can find something to eat, a spa, as well as The Massif, which is where you can book your excursions if you didn’t do so in advance. Things fill up quickly, so I would suggest planning and booking all excursions the moment you arrive – or doing so via email ahead of your stay.
The Massif is a company independent from the Rio hotel, however they have an office inside the reception area where you can go to book excursions, inquire about what they offer, and go for your briefings. Every night at 8pm there was a briefing where you went to hear about your excursion and were told where you’d be going, what you’d be doing, and what to wear. It was very informative and helpful. You could also choose your sandwich for your packed lunch during the briefing as well, and there are many options to pick from.
French Valley – This was our first hike the day after we arrived. Start time is usually 7:30am and we met our guide in the Massif office. It was about an hour drive to reach the ferry, which took you across the lake for 30 minutes to the trailhead. The ride is beautiful and our guide Juan was so accommodating. We only had one other couple on this hike with us, which was pleasant because we felt like we could go at our own pace. At the trailhead there is a Refugio and campsite, where you can use the washroom and purchase drinks and snacks. This was the easiest trek of the 3, as it was fairly flat. It was also one of the most beautiful hikes because the entire day was filled with 360 degree views of lakes, mountains, fields, and forests. Once you were almost to the end of the trail, there is another Refugio with washrooms and picnic tables. Just 1.5 kms past that is a lookout and waterfall. We went the full way to the waterfall, filled up our water bottles with cold water, and then trekked back down to have lunch at the Refugio. When catching the ferry back, you have to be mindful of the time because the last one departs at 6:30pm and if you are not in line by 5:45pm, you may not make it on the boat. This day we got back just in time to miss the 5:30pm ferry, so we had a drink and waited for the 6:30pm boat. We headed back to our hotel, had a quick shower and something to eat, before heading to bed to do it all again.
Sendero Grey – Again, we met our guide at 7:30am, drove to the ferry, and took the ferry across to the trailhead. This hike is the longest portion of the W Trek and boy did we feel that. Luckily it was partially cloudy during the day, otherwise direct heat would have made this much harder to accomplish. The hike starts out with a gradual uphill portion, before arriving at a lookout point over a lake with some small glaciers. Continuing on, you will reach one more lookout point where you can see the full Grey Glacier, and then it gets TOUGH. There is a steep downhill portion with running water, so it is slippery and hard to maneuver. Once down, there is another flat portion and you reach the Refugio. This Refugio has wifi for purchase, a little convenient store, and washrooms. We stopped here for lunch before continuing about another km to the glacier lookout. The way back was just as difficult because that steep downhill, became a steep uphill. It was long, painful, and challenging, but we made it back to line up for the ferry at 5:45pm. Even though we arrived this early, they had actually cut off the line and stopped passengers from boarding the ferry 4 people in front of us. We thought we were doomed, but they did a headcount and allowed more passengers on, including us!! We headed back to the hotel for one more early night before our last trek.
Base Torres – Always the hardest for last. This trek didn’t involve the ferry to reach, however the drive to the trailhead was just under 2 hours long. This hike begins with a flat portion that turns into quite the uphill, after which you arrive to the windy pass, then weave your way through a forest, and finally climb a super tough, steep, rocky uphill to the final point. For this trek, we had 2 guides who were both absolutely fantastic and motivating. There are 2 Refugios along the way, however know that in order to use the washroom at the first, you must pay $1000 CLP. Once at the top, the view is magnificent. There is a beautiful, blue lake with the iconic 3 towers behind. It was quite cold at the top and even rained a little while we had our lunch. We felt so accomplished after this, knowing we had just completed all of the 3 treks. Getting down was another challenge, and for all of these treks I would recommend hiking poles. They seriously save your knees and help prevent you from falling. Once back in the parking lot, we had a lovely snack and some drinks before heading back to the hotel.
Horseback Riding – Rio Serrano has many horses on the property and offer horseback riding tours twice a day. We opted for the afternoon because we were exhausted from the previous 3 days, so we began at 4pm. You are fitted to a horse and ride through their property and along the river for about 2 hours. The horses are very calm and well-behaved and know the trail like the back of their hooves. It was easy, relaxing, and offered a great view of the river.
The Spa – due to the strenuous activities we partook in, we signed up for some massages at the spa in the Rio. One day Bennett and I did the Tired Legs Massage, which was wonderful after our hikes. Another day, we decided to do the Rio Serrano Massage – a mixture of a clay rub, followed by an hour long relaxing massage. I would absolutely recommend spending some time at the spa. It is relaxing, convenient, and there’s a large pool and sauna room with a great view.
As we were all-inclusive, we ate only at the hotel. We enjoyed most of our meals at the Bar, as we never made it back in time for dinner at the restaurant. However, we did book dinner at the restaurant twice (they require reservations every night if you wish to eat at the restaurant). I would, however, suggest the Bar as we enjoyed the food better there than the restaurant. The portions were smaller (in a good way) and the food was more simple and easy. After hiking so much we realized our appetite wasn’t all that large.
* Although there are washrooms along trails etc, always BYOTP (bring your own toilet paper!). Many places do not have toilet paper, or if they do, it’s at the front of the washroom when you walk in and you may not realize you’re supposed to grab some.
* There are plenty of spots along all the trails to fill up your water bottles, so don’t over carry water with the expectation there’s nowhere to refill
* Bring hiking poles! They’ll be your best friend
* The Chilean Patagonia side is much more expensive than the Argentinian side, but absolutely worth experiencing and staying right near the National Park
* Glacier views are better on the Argentinian side, so if you want to cut out Sendero Grey, we won’t tell. We would also suggest doing a boat tour if you want to see the glacier without hiking the 24kms
Our Next Destination
Our next destination was in Argentina and we left our travel arrangements to be booked while at the Rio. We assumed we could find a cheaper alternative to the VERY expensive shuttle our hotel offered, by talking with some locals. The options to cross the border were limited, and the drive to our destination was about 6 hours. Since we were so secluded, many taxis and buses would not pick you up at the hotel, rather in Puerto Natales 1.5 hrs away. Our hotel had also informed us there were no shuttles leaving on the day we wanted to leave. Luckily we met 2 lovely couples at the hotel from Texas, who mentioned they were going to the same place and had room in their van. Normally we wouldn’t travel with strangers but our options became limited and we were running out of time. We took them up on their offer and departed with them to Argentina. Phew!
One thought on “Honeymoon Part 2 – Torres del Paine”
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