Isla Magdalena and Torres del Paine
25.02.2019 - 28.02.2019
We spent two nights in Punta Arenas, the largest city in the South of Chile. The day after arriving from Tierra del Fuego, we went straight back out into the Strait of Magellan on a tour to Isla Magdalena. The uninhabited island is a protected nature reserve, nesting ground for countless birds and home to around 100’000 Magellanic penguins. Of course the penguins is what we came for. What made this visit stand out from our other penguin sightings is that we could walk among the penguins here and get within arms length of the small creatures.
From Punta Arenas, we drove North to one of South Americas most famous national parks, Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. Since the weather forecast showed great weather for the next morning, we chose to start hiking already in the afternoon and spend the night at Refugio Chileno on the way to the Torres del Paine peaks. Reserving accommodations in this national park is a difficult process and often has to be done months in advance. Luckily, we managed to reserve a fully equipped 2-person tent for us just two days before going there.
We started hiking at 6 in the morning, about one and a half hours before sunrise, hoping to arrive to the Torres del Paine peaks before the crowds. However, as we got closer to our destination, lots of hikers were already coming back down. It seems we had underestimated the other hikers and many actually went even earlier to watch the sunrise from the top. Ironically, when we arrived there about 45 minutes after sunrise, we were almost alone. We had found the sweet spot between the crowds who went there for sunrise and the crowds who took it slow and enjoyed breakfast before starting the day. We spent around half an hour at the top, savoring the almost surreal view of the three granite peaks and the perfect mirror surface of Lago Torres.
Since accommodations in and near the park are extremely expensive, we drove two hours to Puerto Natales to spend the night after returning from our long hike. The next morning we returned for a third day in the national park. The first half of the day we spent hiking to a lookout for another iconic mountain view. Los Cuernos are a group of mountains that show three very distinctly colored layers.
The second half of the day we did a boat tour on Lago Grey to the Grey Glacier. Many icebergs that have fallen off the glacier could be seen on the way there. The huge mass of ice is an impressive sight from close up. The glacier is almost 30 meters tall where it meets the lake and it has a deep blue hue.
There are no roads in Chile that connect the North and the South of Patagonia, since the area in between consists mainly of large fjords and glaciers. The only connection is by ferries from Puerto Natales that take three to four days and you need to book it months in advance. For us, it was time to return to Argentina, where the area east of Parque Nacional Torres del Paine offers plenty to see too.