Half Day Excursions

Half Day Excursions

You might be surprised at how much you can see of Torres del Paine National Park in just three or four hours. Whether by foot, horse or vehicle, our half-day excursions are packed with adventure and interesting information about the park’s flora, fauna, geology and human history. Let our experienced and knowledgeable guides take you to places like Salto Grande waterfall, gorgeous Laguna Azul, the wildlife-rich Lenga Forest or bizarre Lake Sarmiento. Lunch is served at Hotel Las Torres either before your afternoon excursion or after your morning tour.

Half Day Excursions

Sarmiento Lake

Geology and flora are the themes of this 2,5 hour trek around a large lake in the park's southeast corner. The lake is named for Spanish explorer and author Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa (1532–1592), who wrote a famous book called The History of the Incas, which has passed down into the 21st century as one of the most detailed descriptions of Inca history, culture and religion. Furthermore, Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa made the first attempt of colonization in the Magallanes region, in a place that is called “Hunger Port” nowadays and which is one of the most tragic histories in Patagonia.

The excursion starts with a 40- minute drive from the hotel to a trailhead, where we set off hiking down a steep valley with small bushes that flower in summer. Once we reach the lakeshore, we stop to examine the lake's famous calcium carbonate formations. Called thrombolites, the coral-like formations are basically ancient fossils, formed as long as 7.000 years ago by bacteria growing in the saline lake. Thrombolites are ancient forms of microbial communities and for the first time in history, made photosynthesis (transforming carbone dioxide into oxygen) possible on earth. Lago Sarmiento is one of only six places in the world where thrombolites are found today. The hike also includes a chance to see and photograph various aquatic birds and grazing guanaco, as well as incredible views of the Paine Massif to the north. A 40-minute drive takes us back to Hotel Las Torres.

Salto Grande

The park's most spectacular waterfall and an astonishing viewpoint are highlights of this relatively easy half-day excursion. The adventure starts with a 45-minute drive to Pudeto in the heart of the park's lake district. From there it's a short walk to Salto Grande, a raging aquamarine cascade that channels water between lakes Nordenskjöld and Pehoé. Continuing the trail from the waterfall, it leads us through a portion of the park impacted by the great forest fire of 2011-12.

Between the remains of the fire-ravaged trees, new life is already sprouting from the rich Patagonian soul. The path continues to Sendero Mirador Cuernos. Possibly the park's most spectacular viewpoint, the panorama features the “Horns” (Los Cuernos), Mount Paine Grande, the French Valley and the French Glacier rising straight up from the north shore of Lago Nordenskjöld, a breathtaking spectacle of rock and water. The roundtrip hike from car park to viewpoint takes about two hours. Given the open terrain, high winds are possible during this trek. Those who don't want to undertake the complete hike can opt for a shorter version that features just the brief hike to Salto Grande waterfall.

Blue Lagoon 

This half-day excursion — the best option for those who want to observe and photograph the Torres towers without all the walking — also offers a small but significant historical footnote. The adventure starts with a 30-minute drive through the rugged terrain of the national's park's far eastern region Laguna Amarga where we can observe cianobacteria with stromatolites and sometime flamingos before continuing our journey to the Blue Lagoon. From the parking spot we strike off on a short (half hour) walk that blends wildlife and views of the Paine Massif.

Animals are abundant in this part of the park, especially guanaco and birds. The avian community around Laguna Azul includes water birds, as well as condors and raptors. Gazing from the east, the perspective of Torres towers is much different than elsewhere in the park, and in some respects even more awe-inspiring. Laguna Azul is also the spot where Lady Florence Dixie, the intrepid Victorian-era British traveler and author, first spotted the Torres del Paine mountains. She is considered to be the first tourist of Patagonia. In her 1880 book Across Patagonia she called the three towers "Cleopatra's Needles" because the stone monoliths resembled the obelisks of ancient Egypt. During this 4 hour roundtrip we also visit the spectacular Paine waterfall, the first of three waterfalls of Paine river.

 

Patagón 

The ancient Aónikenk people of Patagonia and the park's iconic animal species are the main attractions of this ramble along the trail in the park's southeast corner. The excursion starts with a 25-minute drive close to the Laguna Amarga ranger station. From there, the trail leads south through an area that local guides and rangers have dubbed the "puma restaurant" because the big cats make so many kills there.

You're chances of seeing them in the daytime are fairly slim. But the skeletons of their many guanaco kills are clearly evident along the trail. Herds of guanaco often graze along both sides of the trail, and there's also a chance to spot foxes, condors and flightless rheas. About halfway along there is a large rock formation with overhangs where the Aónikenk people rendered pictographs (rock paintings). Residents of the region for around 7,000 years, the Aónikenk were called Patagones (Big Feet) by the early Spanish, who mistakenly thought they were giants. The lofty rock also offers a perch for gazing at the mountains and the surrounding terrain. After crossing through a marshy area, the trail continues to the pick-up point at Sarmiento Lake ranger station. From there it is a 40-minute drive back to the hotel.

Nordenskjöld Lake

This celebrated lake at the foot of the Paine Massif is named after Otto Nordenskjöld (1869-1928), a Finnish-Swedish explorer who probed much of the Antarctic, Greenland, Chile and Peru in the early 20th century.

Starting out from the hotel, the excursion follows part of the famous "W" Trail that stretches between the lake's gorgeous north shore and Monte Almirante Nieto, the glacier and snow-covered mountain the anchors the southeastern extreme of the Paine Massif. Although the routes are slightly different for horse and hikers, the scenery and terrain are very similar. The equestrian version includes numerous stream and river crossings. In addition to the flora and fauna, the excursion offers a chance to learn more about Patagonian gauchos and horses, and hone your own expertise on the saddle.

 

 

Lenga Forest


Designed for those interested in learning more about Patagonia's famous lenga forests, the horseback ride or hike follows part of the Paine Circuit trail around the eastern edge of the massif. The final destination is the old-growth lenga forest.

One of Patagonia's iconic trees, Nothofagus pumilio thrives in areas with low temperatures and heavy snow. Lenga woodland provides a habitat for many animals, and during this excursion there is a good chance to spot Magellanic woodpeckers, Austral parakeets, Chilean flickers and other forest small birds. Also be on the lookout for pumas, the so-called “Andean Lion” and member of the cat family, who roam this forest. Last but certainly not least, the trail features great views of Laguna Azul and Cerro Paine on the eastern side of the massif. This excursion is great on windy days because the trees block out most of the bluster. This excursion is exclusive for guests of Hotel Las Torres.

 

Inges Lagoon

Flora and feathered fauna are the focus of this easy hike from the hotel to nearby Inges Lake. Like several of the other excursions, this one starts off along a portion of the "W" Trail before veering off to the south. Along the way, guides help identify and locate an array of birds, flowers and shrubs that inhabit this region.

A brief sojourn along the shore of Laguna Inge affords plenty of time to admire Monte Almirante Nieto rising in the north and Lake Nordenksjöld to the south. This excursion is perfect for those craving a short walk but nothing too strenuous. While the normal round trip time is around two hours, those with more energy can request a longer return via another trail. The entire hike falls within the boundary of the Hotel Las Torres estancia (ranch). 

Cerro Paine

Striking out from the hotel, this horseback ride or hike follows a steep trail climbing up the western slope of Cerro Paine which has a altitud of 1,500-meter (5,000-foot).

Climbing through lenga foress where you should look out for birds, the route breaches the treeline to reach the lofty Mirador D´Agostini and its views back across the valley to granite towers, glaciers and alpine lakes. This trek affords one of the best chances to appreciate the majesty of Torres del Paine National Park. This excursion is exclusive for guests of Hotel Las Torres.

Baqueano of Patagonia

Learn the Patagonian cowboy way by spending a morning or afternoon with the baqueanos who lead the Hotel Las Torres horseback treks and look after the horses and stables of the Estancia Cerro Paine. During your time with these local vaqueros — the descendants of horsemen who came to work ranches in this remote region more than a century ago — you will learn about their special clothing, their saddles and other horse tack, and get a chance to share mate (an herbal tea made from yerba mate leaves).

Also, you can enjoy a typical breakfast made of “sopaipillas” (type of bread) with “pebre” (Chilean condiment). The baqueanos also demonstrate how to properly saddle a horse, nail a horseshoe and of course how to horsebackride. By the end of this cowboy adventure, you'll have a much better understanding of what it was like to live and work in this remote corner of South American before the arrival of tourism.

Horseback Riding (per hour)

For people who haven't spent much time in the saddle, this is a great way to become more familiar with horses and learn the basic skills of riding them. Starting in our own corral and stables,

Hotel Las Torres gauchos and guides demonstrate how to ride correctly before undertaking rides or horseback excursions on the estancia lands surrounding the hotel. This is an especially good way for children to learn how to ride.