South America had been on the bucket list since forever, though Patagonia itself only popped up over the last few years. Even with lots of travel research and inspiration from other travellers via Instagram nothing can prepare you for the unspoilt beauty of Torres del Paine National Park in this southern Chilean region. We travelled at the end of their tourist season and it felt even more spectacular as there were not many guests sharing the hidden Patagonia Camp and the treks within the National Park. I found my other version of heaven and almost felt the icy chills coming up from Antarctica.
Surprisingly there are quite a few luxurious lodgings in this remote part of the world, in or surrounding Torres del Paine. Without any hesitation we picked Patagonia Camp as glamping was on the agenda to feel like being part of the wilderness without fully rugging it. Picked up from our Puntas Arenas accommodation by the Patagonia Camp luxe Ford van with the distinctive Paw print logo on the side, we travelled via Puerto Natales four and a half hours with the last hour a bit bumpy on a gravel road. For the long drive, a Patagonia Camp signature water bottle was given as a souvenir and some sweet treats of homely shortbread and poppy seed cake to snack. Besides continuous rain falling, our journey was still relatively quiet as we had a Spanish speaking driver.
YURT | The Yurts are traditional in Mongolian design yet fitted with contemporary luxuries of heating and hot, hot water for this chilly area. A king bed that has a clear dome overhead is the centrepiece to watch the rain drops or gaze at the stars before falling asleep. You can spend the afternoons staring at Torres del Paine from afar from the comfort of indoor camping chairs at the natural cut timber desk. Let’s just say there is no time or need for a TV when surrounded by nature. The ensuite extension makes the Yurts generously spacious and the slate and timber fit out keeps with the eco-friendliness of the camp. A kind note near Patagonia Camp’s own environmentally friendly amenities encourage you not to use certain beauty products during your stay to help reduce the impacts on the pure glacial water.
EAT | We upgraded from just Bed & Breakfast to the Regular All Inclusive Program so we didn’t need to think too much about breakfast, lunch (even on treks), afternoon tea, snacks, dinners and drinks and only about the times we should be at the restaurant. The water bottle we were given at the beginning of our stay contributes to the Camp’s vision by allowing us to refill them in the Yurts with the glacial water which reduces the plastic environmental impact.
Breakfast is a sweet and savoury buffet of cereals, fresh fruits and juices, homemade bread, pastries and jams, cheese, cold meats and a small selection of hot dishes. Being so far south, it is usually dark when wandering to the restaurant so you can catch the sun rise over breakfast. Dinner is three courses with a choice of two options for both entrée and main that is ended with a varied dessert each evening. The hardest choices we made during our five night stay was what to order with cuisine like conger, ceviche and salmon on the menu. We were lucky to be at the camp long enough to twice taste the succulent local Magellan lamb, a highlight of the buffet dinner nights. Pedro is the head waiter and was always professional and courteous, I loved whenever we said ‘gracias’ he replied with a sincere ‘de nada’ (‘you’re welcome’ in Spanish). Please try the Calafate Sour that was suggested to us, it is a local twist on the classic Pisco Sour.
TO DO | Staying at the gateway to Torres del Paine there is a variety of half day and full day excursions at different levels you can opt for. Each drive to the National Park will take about 20 mins in the Camp’s van. Day trips and park fees are additional if you did not choose one of the All Inclusive Programs. Grey Glacier Navigation allows you to get up close to remarkable floating icebergs and the glacier that is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. The navigation is one of the five extra excursions available at an additional cost that we recommended to another guest, which he ended up booking at the last minute!
The guides briefed us on the possible excursions each night for the ever changing weather forecast. Whilst at the camp we ventured on three inclusive treks. On the second morning we took the leisurely Los Cuernos Hike that went past the loud and misty Salto Grande. I didn’t have many expectations for the hike though I had plenty of peaceful moments given there weren’t many hikers on our path. The low clouds gave the impressive unspoilt landscape a moody ambiance. Quiet was sometimes interrupted as we stopped to take in a few avalanches. It is surreal to see streams of ice fall from the mountain range and hear the grumblings of a total of nine avalanches at unpredictable parts of our hike.
In the afternoon a smaller group took a drive to Cueva del Milodón in the opposite direction to Torres del Paine. These cuevas (caves) were created by erosion from waves from a lake, to leave behind a vast cavity formation rather than the underground type caves I’ve explored in Australia. The first two cuevas are not lit and felt eerily baron and musky from skunks hidden from our tourist eyes. Panthers were the occupiers for the Chica (small) cueva and evidence shows the first humans of Patagonia took refuge in the del Medio (medium) cueva. The Grande cueva that housed megafauna had an incredible opening but the depth would also quickly lead to darkness if not for the dimly lit walking track.
On our final full day we were incredibly blessed with a high in the weather for the ‘demanding’ and famed trek to the base of the Towers. Planning the trip, only my partner was going to attempt the 18km return trek as I didn’t think I would be able to take on a difficult level. I got the ‘ok’ from Jorge, one of the Camp’s wonderfully considerate guides who took us out a day earlier on a kayak in the crystal clear yet chilly Lago Toro.
The Torres Base Trek was intense at the beginning and right before you reach the view point having to ascend metres and metres. Sections of the track are very narrow right alongside mountain drop offs so you wouldn’t hope for a windy day. Overflowing creeks caused from heavy rainfall in the earlier part of our stay had to be leapt over or carefully navigated. We could refill water bottles directly from these creeks being reassured this is some of the purest water you’ll ever drink. Climbing over what seemed like endless boulders in the last section of the trek, the three granite massifs then towered unobstructed right before my eyes. It was literally breathtaking after that last ascent from 600 to 870masl in 45 mins. The group sat on boulders sipping hot tomato soup our guide carried in a flask as we admired this pristine sight. Two Condors even put on a little show by circling above us to complete the intrepid moment.
IN SUMMARY | What you need to know….
– YURT – Number 5 of 18 in total for an intimate stay
– VIEW – Lago Toro and Torres del Paine. Yurts 9, 12 and 13 are close to the lake with uninterrupted views but take many stairs to get down to from the main area
– BED – King size
– BATHROOM – Double vanity, fluffy white robes, hair dryer, makeup mirror and rain shower/bath with hot, hot water
– BATH AMENITIES – Environmentally friendly Patagonia Camp amenities complete with lip balm for the weather elements
– BREAKFAST – Homely buffet brekky
– MINI BAR – No in room snacks. Complimentary chocolates at Turn down
– ROOM SERVICE – No room service
– WI FI – Complimentary in the main areas, we managed some weak access in our Yurt as it is close to the main part of the camp
– SPA – No
– OTHER – Small Gift shop where you can purchase local items and trinkets
– PRICE TAG – Luxe
– SPECIAL THANKS TO – Jorge one of our guides, Pedro the head waiter and Claudia who assisted with our accommodation and extra excursion booking
– SHE LOVED – Hidden location with views towards Torres del Paine, the Yurt and environmentally friendly amenities
– HE LOVED – The cuisine, the nature, the views and remoteness of the camp
BOOK | Patagonia Camp
Originally booked just Bed & Breakfast but decided to upgrade to the Regular All Inclusive
Our 5 night program included return transfers from Punta Arenas, full board (buffet brekky, lunch, 3 course or buffet dinner), open bar (house wines, standard liquors, drinks on excursions), daily standard shared excursions to Torres del Paine inc Entrance fees, Spanish/English guides and a free night at the Grand Hyatt Hotel Santiago
Camino Milodón – Porteño Km 74, Torres del Paine, Chile South America
FLY | Qantas Premium Economy to Santiago (SCL) and LAN from SCL to Punta Arenas (PUQ)
TRANSFERS | Transfers are included in the Regular All Inclusive Program from Punta Arenas (or other select locations) to Patagonia Camp return or can be organised separately for an additional cost
Photos by Mel McLeod ©