Travel

The wild beauty of Chile

Lake Dickson in Torres del Paine National Park in Southern Chile.
Lake Dickson in Torres del Paine National Park in Southern Chile. John McCutcheon

SQUEEZED between the Andean Cordillera and the Pacific Ocean lies the South American country of Chile.

The country, 4000km long and an average of only 175km wide, is at the end of the world.

Her isolation, challenging geography and schizophrenic weather may have conspired to thwart explorers and early settlers, but it also has preserved a wilderness of unimaginable beauty.

A seemingly fragile sliver of land, the deep southern province of Patagonia is home to Torres del Paine – The Towers of Pain, a world famous National Park.

Last summer, 120,000 people were drawn to walk its trails and marvel at the kaleidoscope of landscapes.

You can trek short distances to iconic views and return to a cosy bar with a roaring fire or max out and circumnavigate the Paine massif and be late for the party by a week or so.

Tackling the full circuit requires moderate fitness and is akin to a full-length feature film.

On the western perimeter of the circuit is Glacier Grey, a 26km long mass of ice with iridescent blue crevasses that could swallow peak-hour traffic.

It covers 270sq km over the Patagonian ice field and its source lies hidden from view in the heart of the Andes that stretches like a sea of white west towards Argentina.

But the end of the glacier cleaves giant chunks of ice into a vast turquoise lake right next to the trail – a place where many have sat and hoped to witness such an event.

Most see only the debris of fallen ice scattered over the cold lake.

Along the way, you can stay in huts with food and sleeping facilities or opt for greater flexibility and carry a tent. Both options are well catered for.

The northern trail disappears for hours into a verdant forest of beech and coigue trees where moss, hardy ferns and the thick canopy create a light of cool, dense green.

As the track winds up the valley towards the John Garner Pass, it crosses many fresh water streams, the smaller ones ideal for refilling water bottles.

The larger ones, spanned by rickety suspension bridges, fill the air with a gentle drone.

You eventually rise above the tree line on to bare rock with a clear view of the trail ahead as it follows the steps of John Garner up through a keyhole pass discovered and named after him.

At 1241m, it is the highest point of the circuit and howling, icy winds are not uncommon.

The southern part of the circuit is the most popular.

Most visitors to the park want to see the triple granite 2600m high towers that stand like sentinels at the centre of the massif.

But they really hope for a clear dawn when the towers are transformed into intense orange giants as the rising sun plays with the different layers of sediment in the rock.

It is these towers that give the national park its name and fame.

Hiking to the lookout involves about a 10km walk.

Summer is the best time to visit, with March being ideal as the local holidays have finished, the trails are not overcrowded and the temperature is mild.

The surrounding area is not limited to walking trails. There is a separate network of horse trails, there are rafting adventures, fly-fishing tours, bubbling hot springs or catamaran rides on the network of lakes that adjoin the southern boundary.

The nearby town of Puerto Natales is sufficiently stocked with outdoor adventure stores, lodgings, bars and superb restaurants with menus stacked with the national delicacy – seafood.

Everything from sea urchins to eels and smoked abalone to fresh salmon can be washed down with world-renowned Chilean wines.

Patagonia may be the farthest place to which man walked from his place of origin, but today it is readily accessible and with treasures such as the Torres del Paine lying in wait, a trip to Chile just might blow you away.


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Missing children from Emerald

Blue Holden Barina.

POLICE is seeking public assistance to two Emerald children missing.

Clermont: A town laid to ruin

EERIE REMINDER: The piano in the tree in Capricorn St is an eerie reminder of the height and ravaging force of the floodwaters. Although it's a replica today, there were  three pianos found in trees after the 1916 flood.

Isaac council commemorating centenary of the 1916 Clermont flood.

Auto students revved about donation

MOTORING AHEAD: CQUni Emerald students Caleb McDonald and Alex Funnell work on an abandoned vehicle.

Auto students getting hands-on experience at CQUniversity Emerald.

Latest deals and offers

New aquatic centre taking shape

Construction on the Blackwater Aquatic Centre is now in the deep end as excavation of the 50m pool continues.

Missing children from Emerald

Blue Holden Barina.

POLICE is seeking public assistance to two Emerald children missing.

Clermont: A town laid to ruin

EERIE REMINDER: The piano in the tree in Capricorn St is an eerie reminder of the height and ravaging force of the floodwaters. Although it's a replica today, there were  three pianos found in trees after the 1916 flood.

Isaac council commemorating centenary of the 1916 Clermont flood.

Auto students revved about donation

MOTORING AHEAD: CQUni Emerald students Caleb McDonald and Alex Funnell work on an abandoned vehicle.

Auto students getting hands-on experience at CQUniversity Emerald.

Heartfelt donation to hospital

CAMERA DONATION: CQ Angel Mums co-founder Ruth Poletto, senior midwife Geri Storey, nurse unit manager Annie Grombek, CQ Angel Mums co-founder Andrea Cislowski and CQ Angel Mums member Christie Dornbusch.

CQ Angel Mums donates a Heartfelt camera to Emerald Hospital.

Die-hard fan's 34 magic Gympie Muster years

STICK AROUND FOR A BEER: Mal Williams has been at every Gympie Muster for 34 years.

Mal Williams has only missed one Muster in 35 years - the first one

Kooza takes circus-goers back to Cirque Du Soleil's roots

The high wire act as featured in Cirque Du Soleil's Kooza.

NEW show puts the skills of the performers front and centre.

Branson "amazed" he's still alive after cycling crash

Branson saw "his life flash before my eyes" during a bike crash

Reality TV show "turned our special day into a joke"

UNHAPPY: Maryborough couple Emma and Steven Dilliway who star on Australia's Cheapest Wedding and are not happy with the outcome.

Reality television helped turn this wedding into an internet joke

John Krasinski has better sex now he's in good shape

John Krasinski says there's at least one good reason to get jacked

Kanye West gets 'free reign' at VMAs

Kanye West has been let off the leash for the VMAs

Robbie Williams sings at manager's funeral

Robbie Williams and Lamar sang at the funeral of their manager

REVEALED: Pat Rafter's $18m Coast house on the market

Check out the photos of the Coast's most expensive property for sale

The "correction we had to have" in Gladstone's rentals

UPWARD MARCH: The rental vacancy rate in Gladstone has improved for the first time in more than a year, providing a confidence boost in the market.

Vacancy rates improve with signs that things are getting betterF

ISLAND FOR SALE: Cheap Fraser Coast island drops price again

Suna Island in the Great Sandy Strait will be auctioned by Ray White Hervey Bay on Saturday morning.

This is the cheapest island you will find for sale in Australia

How a family home can fit on a 250sq m block

This is what you can build on 250m2.

Here's the floor plan of a home built on 250sq m

$100m plan for Curtis Island 'world class' luxury resort

$100 million resort: Top views at Turtle Street at Curtis Island.

"At the moment we think it meets all the town planning approvals.”

Noosa mayor on "red alert" over planning court decision

Mayor Tony Wellington hands down his first budget.

Mayor upset at lack of say about look and feel of Noosa