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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 …
Much like the Grand Canyon’s El Tovar hotel or the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, Hotel Las Torres is situated in the heart of a beautiful park ecosystem, in this case Torres del Paine National Park. As such, it offers a unique opportunity to see the region while providing most expected creature comforts.
Founder Antonio Kusanovic Senkovic was the son of Croatian immigrants and became a successful cattle farmer. In 1979 he bought the Cerro Paine ranch, located at the foot of “Torres del Paine” mountain range. On this 8 thousand acre ranch, he began his cattle breeding business. In the early 90´s Mr. Kusanovic built 9 rooms with a small restaurant to welcome the many tourists arriving from all …
It’s hard for many people from the “Old World” to envision the vast people-less places of the Americas, especially the closer one travels to the poles. It’s equally empty in northern North America (Alaska, the Yukon and Northwest Territories) as it is in southern South America (Patagonia).
There are stretches of road in these remote areas regions where you might not encounter a petro station for hundreds of kilometers (don’t worry, signs will warn you in advance so you’d need to be a fool to run out of gas). No towns, often not even a rancher, to be found as far as the eye can see.
When visiting Patagonia, we made a rather long drive from Argentinian Patagonia to Chilean Patagonia. A …
I’d the impression guanacos were not that common an animal in South America. Yes, they were there, but like the Andean Condor you’d have to be lucky to see one. After visiting Argentina and Chile I learned this impression was totally wrong. They’re as common as corn in the fields of Iowa on a summer day, As common as mosquitoes on the Canadian tundra after the spring thaw. They’re everywhere! These guanacos were standing beside the road and didn’t move when our tour van stopped for these photos, unconcerned about our presence.
Guanacos are related to camels and between 1 and 1.2 meters (3 – 4 ft) tall at the shoulder, weighing a surprising 90 kg (200 lb). Their color is very bland compared to their cousins, …
La Leona Rest Area and Countryside Hotel is 110 kilometers from El Calafate, on famous Patagonia Route 40, about half way between El Calafate and El Chaltén. It’s an isolated place in an isolated region — the Patagonian steppe. La Leona consists of a small collection of buildings sandwiched between the La Leona River and Route 40, and is close to Lake Viedma. The main building was constructed in 1894 by the Jensens, a family of Danish immigrants.
It was at this spot that Francisco P. Moreno (Argentinian scientist, explorer and namesake of the famous glacier) had previously been attacked and wounded by a female cougar (known locally as a “lioness”). Because of this incident the river that flows beside the …
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 …