Day 1: Visit Magellanic Penguins and transfer to Park. Late morning collection from airport or hotel. Drive to see the cute burrowing Magellanic Penguins at their colony in Otway Sound. There will be plenty of time to observe and photograph these fascinating creatures before continuing on across the Patagonian Steppe where you will have your first opportunity to see some of the unusual plant and animal life that exists in this area. After a short stop in Puerto Natales, the capital of the Ultima Esperanza region of southern Chile, we will continue on towards the mountain peaks ahead of us.
Our route takes us west for a spectacular drive alongside the turquoise waters of Sarmiento Lake before eventually arriving at our base for the night, the beautifully situated hosteria Mirador del Payne. This very comfortable converted Estancia has, we feel, one of the most beautiful settings of any of the Park hotels. Its position beside the aptly named Green Lake with its incredible mountain views is truly inspirational. In addition, its more remote location ensures a more tranquil feel compared to some of the other park accommodations. The lakeshore is a great place to stroll in the evening spotting the wild geese and ducks bobbing in the water. Dinner will be in the restaurant offering an excellent variety of local foods and wine. Dinner included (drinks available at extra cost).
Day 2: Hike Sierra del Toro and on to Serrano River. After a filling breakfast we will be starting our hiking along the shores of Laguna Verde through some ancient southern beech forests and through grassy valleys towards the Sierra del Toro. This is a great introductory hike with fairly flat terrain, soft grassy trails and incredible mountain and lake views. After a few hours hiking we will reach the Mirador del Toro where we will witness the southern landscape from above. Crammed with more than its fair share of fast flowing rivers, snow capped granite peaks and iceberg-choked lakes it is a sight to behold.
After some time spent here, we will start the steep descent of this scree slope to the pampas below. Lunch will be taken in the valley before a visit to the national park headquarters and visitors centre where your guide will further explain the park's history and show you the relief maps that illustrate the following days hiking. From here it is a short distance to our accommodation in the comfortable Hotel Rio Serrano situated close to the Serrano River with views of the Paine Massif. This hotel is fairly new offering comfortable accommodation, a large living/dining area with log fires and a comfortable bar and good restaurant. The nearby river is an excellent place for fishing and there are good walks in the vicinity of the hotel.
For early risers amongst you, this area offers some of the most spectacular sunrises in all of Patagonia. Option to upgrade to Patagonia Camp, luxury yurts occupying a private and stunning location beside Lago Toro. Comfortable and independent tents with spectacular views of the Paine Massif each yurt has its own private bathroom and terrace and is fully equipped. Includes: (B), (L), (D) (drinks with dinner available at extra cost)
Day 3: Boat to Glacier face. Afternoon hike or fishing. After breakfast, we will transfer across the pampas for the short walk to the amazing Grey Lake. After crossing the small footbridge, we will walk through an ancient forest and down onto the shores of these grey waters. The sight of the toothpaste blue iceberg chunks floating in the comparitively dull grey waters of the lake is surreal. The huge mass of white behind the icebergs is Grey Glacier, the largest in the park. After our walk we will board the new Grey 2 launch and set off into the iceberg choked lake towards the walls of this spectacular Glacier. The short boat trip will give us up close and personal views of this spectacle as well as stunning views of Paine Grande and surrounding mountains. After our return to the dock those still with energy can opt for a hike up to a stunning viewpoint of the entire western side of the park or take the van back to our accommodation at either the Hotel Rio Serrano or Patagonia Camp. Includes: (B), (L), (D) (drinks available at extra cost).
Day 4: Hike across the heart of the Park. After breakfast we will pack our lunches and take the short drive to the start of our 'up and over' route across the heart of the park. This is a beautiful walk that sees very few hikers. It cuts through some incredibly diverse scenery including verdant green valleys, ancient beech forests, azure lakes, cascading waterfalls and wide open plains. Condors hover above the nearby mountain peaks while herds of guanaco scatter as we approach.
Our views are constantly dominated by the granite peaks of the Paine Massif to our left. After a full day's hiking, we will be reunited with our van and driver for the short transfer to the comfortable Estancia Tercera which will be our base for the next two nights. Situated on the eastern perimeters of the Park this authentic estancia property has some of the most spectacular views in the Park. Country-style accommodation in the pretty, wooden guest house with all the comforts of home including hot baths, comfortable sofas and fireside relaxation. Includes: (B), (L), (D) (drinks available at extra cost).
Day 5: Hike to the base of the Towers. Today we will rise early for our transfer to today's trailhead (45 minutes approx). This is our most challenging hike to the base of the Towers themselves. We start off by walking through a flat valley and crossing some streams before an ascent of the first steep hill. Once at the top the scenery starts to change as we skirt mountains, cross fast flowing rivers and pass through pretty southern beech forests.
Our last effort takes us on a hop over glacial moraine to the top and the scenic rewards are truly spectacular. Lunch (for those who make it to the top) can be enjoyed in the shadow of these enormous granite peaks whilst watching the icebergs drift across a glacial pool of water. A memorable lunch spot and a highlight of every visitor's itinerary. After our descent we can pop into the nearby hotel bar for a well deserved pisco sour before joining our driver for the transfer back to our comfortable accommodation at Estancia Tercera Barranca. Includes: (B), (L), (D) (drinks available at extra cost).
Day 6: Transfer to Punta Arenas. Transfer to Punta Arenas to meet onward flights. Breakfast only.
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