Paine circuit: Trekking for 100 miles in Patagonia



This year get ready to discover the most famous trekking routes of Patagonia that is the most celebrated national park of Chile. Here, the Torres del Paine circuit is very much famous in the world as great trekking destination of Chile due to its panoramic vista, diverse ecosystems, and exotic wildlife. Accessible from Santiago after traveling for 2500 km, Torres del Paine is a Biosphere Reserve as well as a World Heritage site. As the meaning of the word Paine means blue, Torres del Paine literally stands for ‘Blue Towers’.

The stunning park is the home of many ecosystems such as snowy mountains, calving glaciers, cascading waterfalls, meandering rivers, lush meadows, arid Pampas, and mirror-like alpine lakes. Also, one can see birds such as the Pink Flamingos, Andean Condor, Cara Cara’s, American Ostrich, and Rhea’s along with some mammals such as the purnas, gray foxes, and guanaco. Take up the Paine circuit for trekking, which is also known as the ‘W’ circuit as it makes you experience the excellent trip of Torres del Paine. In this area, you are free to hike until day 10.

On my trip, the weather was just ideal with cloudless blue skies because of which I could spot all the famous peaks – Paine Grande in left, Torres del Paine in middle, the famous three towers, Los Cuernos at right, and Ice Cap far in the right. As you go inside the park, try spotting the shimmering light brown guanacos. Once we reached our campsite, we began trekking to a popular vista sight in Torres del Paine. It was hiking along Rio Ascencio via the beech forests up to a lookout point from where we enjoyed a clean vista of the three towers with their glacial lake below. Day 3 made us to reach Lago Paine, the most commendable campsite that was completely lonely with no one around and where the tents lied at the rear of a hill for some protection against the wind. This was real Patagonia – wild, rough, isolated, but still wonderful.

The next day morning was quite windy to wake up. But, I got up and went far away behind to enjoy the wonderful vistas adorned with many colors – blue sky, turquoise lake, green grass, White Mountains, and wildflowers in white, yellow, red, and pink. Taking the benefit of packhorses, we hiked via the jungle up to a Zodiac under the Indian Head Peak. It was not possible to see the peak very well as it was the evening time that was quite misty. Therefore, we enjoyed chatting in the airy dining tent.

Just like most people, we hiked in the Torres del Paine National Park via the Paine circuit or the W loop to spot the three most awaited views – Glaciar Grey, Torres del Paine, and Los Cuernos along with the bonus of the fourth one called the Glaciar de Los Perros with the lake. But, we could not spot it due to very strong winds making it tough for us to even breathe.

On the other day, we took up the longest trek and at 6:00 a.m., we started to reach the Paine Pass at 4,000’ via a bog. Therefore, we were in gaiters. After this, a vertical climb on a stony trail that was hardly seen was taken up for being atop the pass. From here, we were rewarded with the vistas of the Patagonia Ice Cap along with the Glaciar Grey that is 25 miles long.

Many of us took up the optional hike on the magnificent Glaciar Grey the next morning. I also took the same and enjoyed rushing up a few rocks, strapped on crampons, and playing with ice and snow on one of the most stunning glaciers on the planet. Thanks to the guide who instructed us on each step of the do’s and don’ts. I must admit that Patagonia is infamous for its erratic weather. However, we could enjoy most of the views. On the second last day, under clear sky, we undertook a long hike that also involved a trek of 5 hours to the lookout point of Valle del Francés – the most unbelievable view in Chile. On our trail, we were blessed to enjoy the endless vistas of Lago Pehoe as well as Glaciar del Francés. At Valle del Francés, weather suddenly changed and it began to rain with the clouds covering each peak. It took us eight days to complete the 100-mile Paine circuit.

Quick facts

  • Stay:
    Camping and teahouse
  • Duration:
    7 to 14 days
  • Highest Point:
    3000 to 4000 m
  • Difficulty:
    Medium
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