It was with much excitement that we headed off on our annual holiday to Patagonia in November. It’s not our first visit to the area. We were there in 1999 when we were lucky enough to spend 5 months in South America. This time we had a month and decided to concentrate on two of Patagonia’s iconic national parks – Torres del Paine in Chile and Los Glaciares in Argentina.
Our first impression on returning to Patagonia was how much busier everywhere seemed to be. Tourism has really taken off. Small towns had grown into large towns, airports and bus terminals had been built and there were tourism outfits aplenty to cope with the number of people visiting the area.
Torres del Paine, Chile
Torres del Paine has long been on Helen’s wish list. It’s a bit strange to visit somewhere that you feel you know. Coffee table books on Patagonia, framed photos in the hostel lounge, guidebooks and Torres del Paine calendars have long inspired us. Sometimes that can lead to disappointment, but not here. The scenery was every bit as impressive as the pictures we’d seen.
We spent 10 days hiking in Torres del Paine National Park amongst the mountains, glaciers, rivers and lakes. Scotland has plenty of mountains but none that look quite like Los Cuernos. Their rock bands (granite and sedimentary for the geologists out there) make them resemble cup cakes with a large dollop of icing on top. They’re pretty much the centrepiece of the park as you get to see them from so many angles on the trails. There are no glaciers at home so, for us, Glaciar Grey was a real highlight. The colour of the glacier and the icebergs that calved from it were so much bluer than we’d imagined, particularly against the steel grey colour of the lake. The spring flowers were also beautiful, some delicate, some big and bold, orange, red, purple, yellow and white.
There’s no doubt it’s a very popular and bustling place. We were seldom hiking alone and the refuges and campsites were mostly full even at the start of the season. But, on reflection, it was a price worth paying to see such a beautiful place.
Los Glaciares, Argentina
We had already been to Los Glaciares National Park back in 1999. We were keen to return, particularly to see Cerro Torre which had eluded us in bad weather! This time we were luckier. Our reward for getting up at 4am and hiking for 45 minutes in the dark with our head torches was a spectacular sunrise over Cerro Torre. The alpen glow you can see in our postcard picture was definitely worth it. And we had it to ourselves, unless you count the fox which was trotting about on its daily rounds! Not that the park wasn’t busy. It was, but the crowds tended to be day trippers who headed back to town rather than camping.
We also enjoyed seeing Cerro Fitzroy (the highest peak in Los Glaciares National Park) and its neighbouring granite towers again. They are the park’s main attraction and you get so many opportunities to see them, weather permitting, from near and far.
If you’re interested in our trip you can see a selection of our photos in our Gallery. Look out for the 2017 – Patagonia collection.
Now we’re back home and in the midst of a cold snap, our thoughts are turning to next year’s adventure!