March 2014 • Canon 60D camera
Glorious sunshine filled the morning sky as we woke up at the campsite. The Torres del Paine towers that was hidden under the clouds yesterday was now visible from the campsite below. The plan today was to drive around the National Park, visiting some waterfalls and to hike to some viewpoints around the park. We had a private mini van and driver that met us at the Hotel Las Torres Patagonia to start our journey.
As we drove to our first destination I was amazed at the scenery outside. The dominating set of mountains, the Cordeilleria Paine, is the center of attention at the National Park. We stopped briefly by a lake to get a postcard-perfect shot of one side of the mountains with the reflection on the lake. We then headed to our first stop, the Cascada del Rio Paine.
It was a short walk from the parking lot to the waterfalls. The Paine river runs down from the north to these set of waterfalls and into Lago Nordenskjöld. Fairly noisy as one might expect from a lively set of waterfalls it was nice to view these natural cascades. Not as impressive as the set of waterfalls in Mexico, but it was worth the visit.
The waterfalls was against the backdrop of the mountains where the Torres del Paine towers can be seen clearly. We shook our heads at the irony. Yesterday we could not see the towers. This morning everywhere we went there they are.
Back on the mini bus we drove to our next stop. The scenery was spectacular through the National Park. The mighty Almirante Nieto mountain with and Torres del Paine towers filled the horizon. The weather was great today but the winds were still very strong.
At this viewpoint you had a close view of Almirante Nieto and the Cuernos del Paine mountains. The monolithic mountains had clouds hovering just below the snow cap top against the blue skies. Crystal turquoise blue lakes were in front. I felt very, very small standing here. Like an ant.
It was the first time we got the glimpse of the famous horns of Cuernos del Paine. They truly looked spectacular carved in that way. From here we would go to another view point, the Mirador Cuernos. We would then hike to see the horns of Cuernos del paine and the Paine Grande from another angle. You can read more about this hike here as it deserved its own article.
The Cordeilleria Paine is officially part of the Andes, South America's longest mountain range. The Cordeilleria Paine was formed around 12 million years ago. It has sedimentary layers of the earth that were lifted up and were slowly worn down through glacial erosion. Only the hard resistant granite rock is now visibly left.
On the way to Mirador Cuernos, the bus driver briefly stopped by a side of a hill. He said that if we climbed up a few minutes we would get a view of the Cordillera Paine that not many people would see, as it was not an official viewpoint.
Sure enough as we reached the top of the hill we had an awesome, epic, majestic view of the mountain range. With the dramatic sunlight on the mountain and the swirling clouds the scene was breathtaking.
After having lunch at the campsite Pehoé, we had a long drive to our final destination of the day, Lago Grey at the ranger station entrance. When we got off the hot sunny weather had disappeared under thick clouds. The winds were also quite strong as we walked an hour or so to view the glacier grey. Walking on a wooden rope bridge over a river we headed into a small forest. Out of the forest we arrived at a pebbly beach, much like Brighton in the UK. Because we were in an open space the winds really blew at us. I was expecting to see something like Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina, but disappointed to find out we were miles away from the glacier. In the distance between two mountains you could barely see the glacier. Walking along the shore, bits of the glacier stood motionless. I was surprised how crystal clear the ice was as I examined one that was near the shore edge.
We then climbed up a small hill cliff to a viewpoint. The winds was so ridiculously strong, a few of us wondered if we should go further. Reaching the viewpoint was a bit of an anticlimax as we were miles away from the glacier. But the surrounding scenery was as usual breathtaking. The sun was beginning to set, and the blistering winds swirled the clouds around the sky creating a dramatic scene. It was actually difficult to stand straight in front of the lake with the wind blowing towards you. After some quick photos we all decided it was time to go. There was a few drops of rain and so we rushed back to the mini bus and back to the campsite.
It was an awesome day, witnessing some spectacular sights. The weather was bright and sunny for the majority of the day. There is so much to see and do in the national park it feels a shame that we would not be spending more time here. I would have like to hiked more around the park and go around the whole of the Cordillera Paine range. We had one more day tomorrow and then we were heading out of the park.
If you only have a short time like we did, then I recommend getting a private mini van for the day visiting several viewpoints. If you are lucky enough to camp for a couple of days and hike around then you will have a great time. Nothing in my travels so far have a seen a mountain range as majestic as the Cordillera Paine.
Short hike for a closer look at the horns of Cuernos del Paine
Wildlife hike through open plains to see some ancient cave paintings
A hike up through a valley to see the famous Torres del Paine towers
Trekking to the summit of knúkur, the highest mountain on Mykines
Flying over Iceland and landing on a glacier and geothermal area