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The Torres del Paine are three distinctive towering granite peaks of the Paines Massif (see above photo). Extending up to 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) above sea level, these towers dominate much of the landscape of the park, as does the horned part of the mountain known as the Cuernos del Paine. The Patagonian steppe abuts the mountains.
We arrived in Torres del Paine in the afternoon and had only a few hours to spare that day for a hike. I had hoped to hike to the base of the towers, for there is a lovely glacier and lake there, but did not have the time. Among the feasible options, we decided to hike along the hilly steppe and take in the views …
We approached Torres del Paine National Park from the east, entering Chile from Argentina. Many people drive down the Chilean coast and enter the park from the west, so their perspective would be a little different than ours.
Our trip took us through large stretches of hilly and uninhabited grasslands (the pampas). The first views of the National Park are among the most memorable of any mountain region I’ve ever visited (and I’ve seen many in my days). Torres is a popular tourist destination, with good reason. Among its most iconic sites are the 3 granite towers from which Torres del Paine derives its name.
Situated close to the small Argentinean town of El Chalten is Lake Viedma, a large glacial lake. You can take a boat tour to visit the largest glacier in the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, the Viedma Glacier, from a dock on the northwestern shore of the lake, near El Chalten (which you can reach by bus from town).
The following overview photo, courtesy of NASA, will help orient you a little better. Viedma Lake is obvious, as is the Patagonian Icefield. The Viedma Glacier is at 12 o’clock in this photo (actually direction is west). The boat launch is in the little thumb at the top right of the lake at about one o’clock. El Chalten is in a non-snow …
Our next stop in Patagonia is the small town of El Chaltén in Argentina. This town rests in the rain shadow of the massive spires of the Patagonian Andes and is a dry, windy and cool place.
The region around El Chaltén is part of Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is very remote. It is usually reached by taking the bus or driving from El Calafate some 220 km to the south, El Calafate itself a remote town which we’ve previously discussed here.
The town resides in a glaciated valley adjoining the Rio de las Vueltas. The most dramatic aspect of El Chaltén is the beautiful mountains that frame it to the west, including the amazingly steep and narrow spire …
For many years I’d wanted to see one of the most famous peaks in the world with my own eyes, namely the Fitz Roy Massif (aka Mount Fitz Roy or Cerro Fitz Roy). In fact, seeing the mountains of Patagonia was my greatest motivation for visiting the southern reaches of South America.
This mountain is very near that small Argentinian town of El Chaltén, which abuts the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. The Massif is situated around the poorly defined (and often disputed) border between Argentina and Chile, although the Argentinians claim it as theirs. The mountain was named in honor of the famous captain by Argentine explorer, Francisco Moreno, in 1877. Captain Fitz Roy and his ship, the HMS Beagle, traveled extensively around and …
The small town of Aspen is a beautiful if somewhat unusual place to visit. The gorgeous mountain setting is something you’d never tire of, but the town is quirky. It’s a blend of hippy, cowboy, the frontier, and recently a lot of Hollywood (I don’t believe I’ve ever driven by an airport with more private jets parked in it than Aspen airport). Aspen’s transformed itself from being a rather simple mountain town to an upscale trendy resort.
The town is well know for it’s great winter skiing and in the summer has become a popular family vacation destination. It’s got excellent restaurants, all types of shops, and lots of outdoor activities. For me it’s a fun day-trip destination.
Since I’ve started collecting …
Our adventure in Patagonia is just beginning! We’re going to start visiting and exploring those places people travel thousands of miles to see. El Calafate may be a pretty little town but no one comes to Patagonia just to see it. They come here to experience the magnificent landscapes of the Andes, the extensive Patagonian ice-fields, and the vast barren steppe. The main Patagonian attraction close to El Calafate is the Perito Merino Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Glaciares National Park entrance is about an hour’s drive west of El Calafate . You’ll drive mostly near the shore of Lago Argentino, the majestic Andes coming ever nearer. …
One of the most scenic road trips anywhere in the world is on the Oregon side of the Gorge, on the Columbia River Highway (I-84), between Portland and the Dalles. Besides a smooth drive on the freeway, an excellent diversion here is to head up the old Historic Columbia River Highway, a narrow road that twists its way through the mountains and cliffs, past dozens of waterfalls, including the beautiful 620-foot (190 m) Multnomah Falls.
The Columbia River is one of North America’s longest, at 1200 miles (1930 km) long, starting in southeastern British Columbia, Canada. The Columbia River Gorge was carved by glacial floods (especially the Missoula Flood) thousands of years ago and is the only sea-level passage through the Cascade Mountain range. …