The name Patagonia brings to our minds remoteness, adventure, mystery and somehow magic.
It is the land where just a couple of centuries ago pirates and corsairs coexisted with the aboriginal people. The place where hundreds of adventurous expeditionaries went looking for new domains. The place that thousands of immigrants from all over Europe chose as a land of promises to start all over again.
The history in Patagonia is one that could have been taken from a novel more than from reality but this mythical land also concerns nature. Its stunning landscape contrasting mountains carved by receding ice, endless flat pampas and the deep blue of hundreds of glaciers.
Our trip to Patagonia will take you through a diversity of experiences. You will be challenged at several levels: physically, emotionally and mentally. Powerful hikes and stunning views where wildlife plays an important role and the impressive geology of the Massif of Paine will make you wonder and reflect.
Our trip will take us to the heart of Chilean Patagonia, to the National Park Torres del Paine, located in the southern most region of this narrow and long country: Chile.
After a 6 hours driving with some photo stops we will arrive to our Camp to start the adventure in this area of the world called after the Patagon, Spanish word for Big Foot, the aboriginal people that inhabited the region for 12.000 years.
We are going to circumnavigate the Massif of Paine hiking for 7 days doing what is called the ‘Big Circuit’. The Massif of Paine is an impressive range of mountains that form a loop and that has its charm in the shape of its peaks more than in the altitude of them. The National Park is 242.240 hectares (about 600.000 acres) and contains a variety of wildlife, flora, cascades, forests, lakes, glaciers and the Massif itself.
During these 7 days we are going to be hiking an average of 6 hours a day with the chance of overlooking magnificent backgrounds while trekking. Once the Big Circuit is complete we are going to exchange the yet comfortable last campsite for a 4 star hotel: Hotel Rio Serrano still within the area of the National Park Torres de Paine.
This is a fascinating hike that captures all your senses. The weather is definitely an issue and part of the adventure. We just ask you not to count on it to enjoy Patagonia. Its unpredictability is an important ingredient in this remote area and although strong winds blow very often and the rain may come at any moment, the sun can shine all day and it can be warm, just don’t count on it- In a land of explorers become an explorer yourself.
Trek: Moderate - A reasonable amount of fitness is required. We recommend: 2 hours of hill walking in the Irish hills a day.The hike around the circuit is of low to medium difficulty with moraines and steep sections. You are going to be walking an average of 6 hours a day being 10 hours the longest.There will be no technical hiking or climbing.
Flights to and from Santiago de Chile as well as to and from Punta Arenas
All land transportation in Chile
Excursions according to programme
Entrance fee to the National Park.
7 nights camping in dome tents (North Face Mountain 25- 1 person and VE 25 -2 persons)
Therm-a-Rest ProLite 4TM sleeping matresses
All meals specified in the programme during the 10 days in the National Park
1 night in a 4 star hotel in the National Park
1 night in a 4 star hotel in Punta Arenas
Entrance fee to the Milodon Cave
Local English speaking trekking guide
Optional personal porter for personal gear
Optional Ice Hiking Tour
Optional tips to your guide
Eventual medical or rescues expenses
EcoCamp Located in the heart of Torres del Paine, the EcoCamp consists of tented igloo-type domes built to minimize the environmental impact while providing a comfortable setting and maximum exposure to nature. There is electricity available for charging just camera batteries (voltage: 220 Volts at 50 Hertz, two round pins plug). Food at the EcoCamp has the same quality as the one you will have on a family dinner at your home, this means it is plenty and delicious!
Standard Domes at EcoCamp For our trekking programs the accommodations at the standard domes are in a sharing basis only. There is not single accommodation availability unless a "forced" single accommodation is needed due to different gender single travelers not willing to share. Bathrooms are located in a single facility divided by gender and are shared by all the guests; they have showers with hot water.
Refugios These are typical mountain huts, open to the public that visits Torres del Paine. It has rooms for 4-6 people. The beds are single, bunk type and we will provide you with a sleeping bag and a polar fleece liner (you don't need to bring a sleeping bag!). The bathrooms are also shared and they have hot water. The refugios are heated and have a very comfortable dining area. Food at the refugios could sometimes don’t match your expectative, it is simple food prepared for mountain people with low emphasis in flavor and presentation.
Transport In Torres del Paine and throughout Patagonia transport is in minivans that normally seat from 8 to 14 persons. When we have only 2 to 4 persons we use smaller vehicles, usually 4x4, driven by the tour guide. On the regular departure trips you will share the vehicle with other EcoCamp guests joining other tours. On the private departure, the vehicle will be of your use exclusively although limited to the given itinerary and time schedules; additionally arrival and departure transfers for private groups might be shared with other passengers following our environmental policy which impel our operations to keep the ecological impact as low as possible and thus avoiding to drive the same way at the same time with two half-empty vehicles.
Day 1: Leave Ireland
Day 2: Arrival in Santiago. Overnight
Day 3: Flight to Punta Arenas After a 4 hour flight, you will meet your trekking guide at the airport. Then a private van is going to take you straight to Torres del Paine National Park. The drive takes about 6 hours. During the trip already some wildlife will be seen: rheas, guanacos, flamingos, foxes and wide variety of birds, including probably the majestic Andean condor. Also along the road is not rare to see a typical gaucho, a very traditional character of the Pampas, herding thousands of sheep. That evening we will stay at our Eco camp and enjoy a nice welcome dinner in the dinning tent prepared by our chef Luis. Hot showers are available at this camp site. (S, D)
Day 4: The Base of Las Torres After a good breakfast, we start the trek to the base of the Torres: 3 granite spires after which the park has been named. It is a 4 hour hike before you reach the viewpoint at 720 meters above sea level (2,400 feet). You will experience different kind of terrain. There is some steepness at the beginning and then it becomes a medium difficulty hike through beech tree forests ending with 45 minutes on a steep moraine. The reward is to stand right in front of these impressive towers that go 2,000 meters (6,700 feet) above a glacial lake. Then we have to go same way back to our camp site at the foot of the Massif, where again a delicious hot meal will be waiting (B, L, D)
Day 5: Las Torres Camp to Camp Seron The next step of the Paine circuit is probably the easiest one of the trip, lasting just 4 hours. It takes you through mature forests and open grass land sprinkled with wild flowers. You will observe a wide diversity of birds. Tonight we are going to camp at Seron campsite (B, L, D)
Day 6: Camp Seron – Lake Dickson During this walk we cross a low but steep path and then continue east beside the river to Lake Paine walking along the northern slopes of the Massif. In the evening we can spend some leisure time at the shore of the lake from where it is possible to see Dickson Glacier in the distance. Total walking time will be 6 hours. We will overnight at Dickson camping site. (B, L, D)
Day 7: Lake Dickson – Los Perros Campsite Today we will walk along Los Perros River through a thick southern beech forest, to reach the campsite of the same name after 5 hours trekking. Once in the campsite you may choose to rest in preparation for the next day or join us in an optional hike to Punta Puma Glacier (total of 2 hours). The campsite is in the middle of an old growth forest. (B, L, D)
Day 8: Los Perros Campsite – Lake Grey This is likely to be the most demanding trekking day of the whole circuit, but certainly the reward make up for the effort. We climb 716 meters (2,350 feet) in altitude to reach the John Garner Path after a 3 hour hike. Then you have in front of you one of the most spectacular vistas in the Park: a big part of the southern Patagonian Ice Cap, the third largest water reserve in the world after Antarctica and Greenland. Weather permitting many unclimbed peaks will be seen in the distance. Then we start descending towards Grey Glacier and continue in rolling terrain to Grey campsite. Total walking time: 10 hours approximately. Hot showers are available. (B, L, D)
Day 9: Lake Grey - Lake Pehoe You can take an optional hike to explore Grey Glacier from up close and try Ice Trekking yourself. This 3 to 4 hour trek makes for one of the most fantastic adventures within the park. In the afternoon we continue doing the last part of the Big Circuit overlooking a panorama of Grey Lake and the floating icebergs on it. The chances of seeing the Patagonian mountain lion, the puma, are higher in this part of the circuit, so keep your eyes open not to miss the chance of taking a photo as they are quite shy and would run away very quick. After about 4 hours, we reach Pehoe campsite on the shore of the aquamarine coloured Lake Pehoe. Here we will spend the night in our own comfortable Camp, where our chef is going to treat us with one of his splendid specialities for dinner. Hot showers are available. (B, L, D)
Day 10: French Valley and French Glacier We take off for another superb experience and hike into the French Valley. This is a low difficulty 3 hour walk with again a fantastic view. Today we are going to be looking at Paine Grande Mountain which holds the highest peak in the Massif (3,050 meters or 10,004 feet) and the Cuernos of Paine (The Horns) the other group of 3 peaks that standout in every photo bearing the name Patagonia, unique because of their dark top of sedimentary rock. Meadow larks, terns, sierra finches, cinnamon harriers and a large variety of species can be observed along the hike. Avalanches on Paine Grande are quite common to hear and see at a safe distance. We then arrive at what is called the Italian Camp from where you can see the French Glacier, a reconstituted glacier formed from the debris of hanging glaciers, coming down almost to meet the French river. Now we will give you 2 options: we can either hike back to our base camp at Lake Pehoe ( 5 to 6 hours round trip ) or keep going further up the valley for about one more hour to get more incredible vistas of the surrounding mountains. Weather permitting this extension offers one of the most spectacular sceneries in the National Park. We overnight at our campsite by Lake Pehoe. (B, L, D)
Day 11: Crossing of Lake Pehoe – Rio Serrano Hotel Today we cross the lake on a Catamaran. A private van is going to be waiting on the other side and after a very short drive of approximately 10 minutes we are going to visit Salto Grande a waterfall that is a highlight in the Park. Next we drive to Rio Serrano Hotel, a 4 star hotel that is right outside the limits of the Park and has a privileged vista of the complete Paine Massif. This drive will take one hour approximately (B, L, D)
Day 12: National Park Torres del Paine – Punta Arenas We go out from the Park through a different route from the one we came, now on the west side. The first stop after one hour drive will be The Milodon Cave, an archaeological site where bones and pieces of skin of an ancient sloth were found at the end of the 19th Century. After this visit we head to Puerto Natales. This small picturesque town situated by the Last Hope Sound will be our stop for lunch. Here we can choose among a variety of restaurants from trendy, cosy, hip to a typical Patagonian “Parrillada” ( barbecue) starring the famous Magellan lamb. The vistas of the Patagonian Andes are spectacular and certainly this little town has a privileged location by the fjord that is home to hundreds of black neck swans and king cormorants. After lunch we drive to Punta Arenas, the capital of the region, 250 kilometres south. This will take about 2.5 hours. The southern most city in the American continent, Punta Arenas is located by the Straits of Magellan and its population is 120.000 inhabitants that are a mixture of cultures due to the immigrants that establish here by the end of the 19th century. This fusion of backgrounds can be appreciated in the architecture and style of the city.Here you are staying in a nice four stars hotel and again you can chose among a wide variety of good restaurants. All of them will include Magellan King Crab and fresh Patagonian lamb in their menus.
Day 13: Flight Punta Arenas – Santiago - Ireland
Passport: You will need a valid full passport, please ensure it has at least six months before Expiry Date
Visa (Tourist Visa) No visa is required for Irish Citizen to enter Chile
Health Precautions Immunization: Contact your GP for up to date guidelines or visit www.travelhealth.ie First aid kit: Small personal first aid kit with some stomach tablets
Baggage: Please make sure that your baggage is clearly marked with your name, inside as well as outside, in case the labels get detached. Our weight limit on ticket is 25 kilos for flight, we usually have no problem leaving with more then this from Ireland but sometimes the Nepalese look for tips if over or a hefty fine on excess weight.
Whilst on trek, I recommend you to pack your clothes in plastic bags to ensure they remain dry. Your entire trek luggage (including your sleeping bag) should, if at all possible, be packed into one kitbag or rucksack. Extra baggage may be left in the hotel in Kathmandu while you are trekking.
Pre Expedition Meet/ Training Our Pre-expedition meetings are designed as part of the preparation process. All team members are invited to partake; it is a good idea to have these meeting once you have made up your mind to take on an expedition. The meetings include a thorough briefing on all aspects of the trip and provide an ideal opportunity to clear up any final questions you may have. A Date will be confirmed for Meet with your Tour Leader. Additional Training Courses available- See out School of Mountaineering for details
Some other important Tips: From Camp Torres (Day 5) to Camp Paine Grande (Day 9), you will carry your own personal belongings, including sleeping bag, clothing etc. Local porters assist us with group camping equipment. Porters do not carry personal gear, so we recommend you take only necessities. In case you want to hire your own personal porter for your personal gear this will have an extra cost of US$250approx and he will carry up to 15 kilos. For meals during camping we provide all kitchen gear and meals are going to be prepared by our own staff. Lunch during trekking days will be Pack Lunches.
Weather The vast unbroken stretch of ocean to the west and south of the South American continent leaves the Patagonian Andes very exposed to the saturated winds that circle the Antarctic landmass. Also, both the strong marine and the South Patagonic Ice field influence make the weather hard to predict. In spring or early summer fine weather may deteriorate almost without warning, bringing rains and eventually snow. Even in summer (December to march) you should come prepared to find cold- strong winds (up to 130 km/hr) and rainfalls. The summer’s average temperature is 11ºC/52ºF (24ºCmax, 2ºC min).
General wear on Trek: Cotton pants, T-shirts and Light Thermals
* One pair of trekking boots for trek. These boots can be used for good wear also (Recommended Ecco Trekker). If you have a hillwalking pair of boots you can also bring them. If you like comfort we recommend boots with extra insulation in sole around 150euro with vibram or similar sole
* Four pair of warm trekking stockings (Thorlo or similar)
* Adjustable ski poles: these take a lot of pressure off the body and makes walking less tiring. Some use two spring loaded ones as it takes 36 ton of pressure off you knees per day as well as allowing you to have a crutch to lean on when you are tired
* Thermal under-wear heavy gauge: 2 Tops and 2 bottoms (Dryflo etc)
* 1 fleece or pile jacket. Windproof is good
* Wind and water proofs (Gortex or similar): Top jacket and bottoms
* Sleeping bag range to - 15/20 degrees make sure it packs small
* Also for sleeping it is important to bring an insulating sleeping mat. (Can be supplied locally)
* 1 Water bottles with wide neck and one with narrow neck (Nalgene or similar) or one Platypus container, the platypus is ideal for trekking as you can stay hydrated by drinking from a tube as you walk
* Gloves: 1pair of thermal and 1 pair over gloves or mitts, no harm in bringing spare sets
* Headtorch, Petzl with spare batteries and bulbs. I cannot stress the importance of this to have in good working order (New LED versions are also lighter and smaller)
* Peak hat for the lower regions to protect your head from the sun (bandana or neck gaiter also)
* For traveling, 70-100 liters rucksack or strong gear bag- this will also do to carry your general gear
* Optional for night up high for cold, a light down top or extra fleece
* Personal first aid and medicine kit (All our guides will have these for emergencies only)
* UV sunglasses – Cat. 3 or Cat. 4 recommeded if there is a lot of time in or near snow
* 2 x Earplugs pairs – If you have an inside pocket in sleeping bag, leave one there fulltime
Sun-block (very important and use it!!)
Backpacking towel and general toiletries
Extra Clothes for travelling and/or socialising