The Localist

Torres del Paine – the 8th Wonder of the World

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One of my last encounters with the amazing nature of my country, Chile, happened just a few months ago. I had the opportunity to visit the recently declared 8th Wonder of the World: Torres del Paine National Park for the first time of my life. And I am almost 30.

This is the first, and probably the only wonder of the world located in Chile, even though I could tell you about many other wondrous places. The odd thing is, most of the yearly visitors to Torres del Paine are foreigners. Why is this so? I would say that distance, time and money contribute to this phenomenon. A lot of Chileans can’t afford, or don’t have the time to travel there. Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that my opportunity to visit Torres del Paine came when I returned to Chile for a holiday while living and working overseas. So let me introduce you to this wonder.

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The Torres del Paine National Park covers an area of approximately 242,242 hectares. It is composed of mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers, and is located in the far south Chile, in Patagonia, the area that we share with our Argentinean neighbours, in the Magallanes region of Chile. The closest city to stay in is Puerto Natales, and the closest airport is 250km away in Punta Arenas. Just as a reference, the distance from Santiago, my home town and the capital of Chile, to Puerto Natales is around 3,000km. So yes, distances, money and time are issues that must be taken into consideration when deciding to go. Is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY.

There are lots of walking trails to choose from, depending on how much time you have. We only had 3 days to visit the area, so we did the ‘Full Day Torres’. We rose early, at around 6, and drove from Puerto Natales to the entrance of the park (2 hours), and then trekked 4 hours up hill to get to the “Mirador Torres”. This is a spectacular and beautiful view of the three torres, or towers. The round trip is almost 10km. I found that only the last half an hour was hard, and mainly because you will have to start walking along a rocky path. This really does not matter though, because the view is BREATHTAKING. Just make sure you don’t go on a cloudy day.

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My journey to Torres del Paine got me thinking a lot about tourism. I think is important to promote your country amongst others, however it should also be a main goal of the tourism industry to give locals the opportunity to experience their own country. Raising prices just because foreigners can afford it means that locals are denied experiences and travel opportunities in their own country. In my travels, I have come across countries that have different prices for foreigners and locals. I am not totally sure if this is the best practice, but it makes me wonder about the issue.

A couple of recommendations:
  • For a nice, cozy and homey place to stay I totally recommend Kau Lodge. It also serves the best coffee in Puerto Natales. 
  • Be prepared, the necessary equipment is needed. Make sure you wear proper hiking shoes, and bring a jacket for the cold. The maximum temperature in summer – around January –  is 16C. 
 CHILE_SaraJoiko_M
MEET THE LOCAL: SARA JOIKO
Images. Photo 1 by Growlandia. Photos 2 and 3 by Sara’s husband.

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