Photographs by Michael George
A journey through the wilds of Torres del Paine National Park is no small feat. To fully experience this rugged and beautiful landscape, it requires driving, hiking, horseback riding, and boating in unpredictable conditions. But the rewards are unparalleled: sunsets on the lagoon, hikes to the edges of glaciers, and sweeping views that will get your heart racing.
When to Go: Torres del Paine National Park enjoys its warmest weather from October into April, though temperatures rarely rise above 20°C. Be prepared for changeable and very windy conditions.
What to Know: Puerto Natales is the closest big town; buses travel the four-hour route to and from the park (quicker if by car). Accommodations range from design-forward upscale lodges to campsites and dormlike refugio rooms. Torres del Paine National Park charges an entrance fee: for adults in high season, 18,000 Chilean pesos ($28); low season, 10,000 CLP ($16).
Go With Nat Geo: National Geographic Expeditions offers several trips to this Chilean national park, from the 13-day “Patagonia Hiking Adventure” to a 20-day small-ship cruise, “Rounding the Cape: Chilean Patagonia & Argentina’s Staten Island.” Or stay put at the architecturally striking Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World.
Chilean cowboys known as baqueanos "demonstrate a deep connection to nature," says George, "and they treat their horses with a parental tenderness."
Likely eaten by a puma, the bones of a baby guanaco, or chulengo, lie in the grass.
Hues of blue light up Grey Glacier, which is thinning at double the rate it did one decade ago.
A lamb that is being smoked is painted with coriander and water to prevent it from drying out.
A tour guide walks with a horse named Zapata in Torres del Paine.
French Glacier on Paine Grande mountain was named after a French climber's expedition.
Visitors are normally not allowed to get near the French Glacier because as it melts, large rocks fall from above, which could be fatal. Zenzele Ojore, a student from the Rhode Island School of Design, hugs the glacier after a long hike through the French Valley.
The towers as seen from Mirador Torres at early morning as first sunlight shines on the three peaks.
PHOTOGRAPH BY PIRIYA PHOTOGRAPHY/GETTY IMAGES
A man climbs out over Laguna Azul, meaning Blue Lagoon.
Header Image: An early visitor to Chile's Torres del Paine called it "one of the most...spectacular sights that human imagination can conceive." Photographer Michael George travelled there to find out why. Photographs by Michael George