From Santiago to EcoCamp Patagonia

Must Dos in Torres del Paine National Park

The soft blue glow of twilight faintly illuminated the interior of our geodesic suite dome. There was only one window directly at the front, and from the comfort of our kingsize bed, I could begin to make out the Paine Massif mountain range in the distance, stretching high into the Chilean sky. I slipped out from beneath the sheets. I could feel the cold temperatures of spring start to fill our room. The fire that was once ablaze was now a recent memory, whittled down to coals and ash, but the embers were still hot. I tossed in another log and blew firmly. Flames began to lick the wood. Small at first, but with every blow, they grew in size. Soon enough the warmth of the wood-stove began to battle the encroaching cold.

From the thermos we had filled the night before, I poured two cups of green tea. I took a sip. Still hot. Wrapped in a thick blanket, Kim had already claimed her spot beside the window, gazing out into the morning. I handed her the mug and sat in the chair beside her. Together we watched as twilight intermixed with dawn, en route for sunrise. There were no clouds, no wind, no sound. The only disturbance to the otherwise perfectly still morning was the occasional slurping on our pipping hot tea. The stark mountain of Almirante Nieto, still stood in the background, the varying shades of volcanic rock and granite stone dusted with snow. We bundled ourselves from head to toe and stepped out into the rather cold spring morning, ecstatic for our next Patagonian adventure in the southern tip of Chile.

EcoCamp Patagonia, Torres El Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile, South America | Bare Escape

How to get to EcoCamp Patagonia

Getting to the famed geodesic domes of EcoCamp Patagonia is a long and arduous journey. The day before, we awoke at 2 am to catch an early morning flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas. From there, we were collected at the airport by the camp staff and after a quick stop in the city of Punta Arenas, we embarked on the long 4.5-hour voyage north to the Torres del Paine National Park. To check-in at the EcoCamp, we stopped at their main office in Puerto Natales, the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park, a port city around 2 hours from the EcoCamp itself. After our check-in, a delicious meal in good company and meeting our guides, we were back on the road for the final leg of our expedition. With filled tummies and tired eyes, we dozed off, only to catch an occasional glimpse of the muted green landscape beyond. Then, the van pulled off the road for the first viewpoint. In the distance, we could make out the Paine Massif mountain range of Torres del Paine National Park. At that moment our tired eyes turned wide as if we were back to being kids in a candy shop. Around every bend the park came closer and closer, becoming more and more magical with its austere beauty, beckoning us to explore. With a few hours left before sunset, we arrived at EcoCamp Patagonia with ample time to check into our suite dome to relax, before heading out to explore the grounds during the golden hour. The camp is comprised of a total of 33 guest domes, a reception dome, a yoga shala, a massage space, and a multi-dome communal dining area. Speckled throughout the property and connected by a trail of elevated wooden planks, their saturated green shells complemented the surrounding rust-colored shrubs.

As the sun disappeared behind the famous Towers of Torres del Paine, the cold came quickly, creeping deep into our bones. We took one last long look at the incredible sunset coloring the surrounding landscape and then retreated into the cozy communal dining area. Before we sat down for dinner, we were whisked into a room and served a virgin maracuja mojito, whipped up by the in-house bartender. Beside a blazing fireplace, our guides went through the list of activities for the following day. We had the choice between easy, medium and hard in difficulty level. Feeling rather tired and lethargic from our long trip down, we opted for the easiest activity — the Grey Glacier boat ride experience. After devouring warm bread with hot & creamy pea soup, followed by a tasty vegetarian pasta, it was time to retire for the night. On our way out the door, we filled up our thermos with hot water and grabbed two green tea bags for our first morning. As we arrived out of the cold, dark night and into our Suite Dome, we were greeted by a wave of warmth. The crackling fire of the wood-stove invited us deeper into the dome. First a nice warm shower, then off to bed we went. Our eyelids drooped closed but our minds ran wild with excitement for our first adventure amongst Torres del Paine.

EcoCamp Patagonia, Torres El Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile, South America | Bare Escape
EcoCamp Patagonia, Torres El Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile, South America | Bare Escape

A Boat Tour to Grey Glacier

The Grey Glacier is a part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the second largest ice field in the world. Leaving after a scrumptious buffet-style breakfast, it took us about an hour and a half to reach Hotel Lago Grey, the starting point of our excursion. After a 25 minute walk across the pebble beach and alongside the lake, we reached the boat. It was a cold day. The calm, blue skies of morning had turned quickly to overcast, windy, but plenty of visibility. We boarded the boat and pushed back from the shore. As we chugged across the lake, blue icebergs, chunks of the Grey Glacier, slowly floated by. Los Cuernos, the horns of the Paine Massif mountain range, towered above us in the distance. The boat ride lasted about three hours. For the first hour, we chatted with our fellow passengers, sipped on pisco sours poured over ice, sourced directly from the glacier and enjoyed the slow, smooth ride. As we approached the glacier, we threw on our life-jackets, grabbed our cameras and headed to the outside deck.

The wind was fierce beyond the comfort of the enclosed area of the boat. Whipping from all angles we slowly clamored our way to the front. There it was. A massive face of bluish-grey ice shooting a hundred feet high into the air and tumbling right into the serene Lago Grey. As we drew closer, the outside temperature dropped within minutes and I could feel the chill of the glacier on my exposed skin. For the next hour, we drove slowly alongside the blue-grey wall getting within a few hundred feet of its ice-cold complexion. After snapping a few photos and staring out in complete awe of this natural wonder, the boat turned and headed back towards shore. It was time to return back to the camp. Back to our cozy dome. Back to a delicious dinner. Just like the day before we had a briefing with our guides prior to dinner to discuss what the plan was for the next day. We already had our minds made up. We were now officially rested to take on the strenuous hike up to the base of the towers, one of the main reasons for us to travel to Chile and visit the Torres Del Paine National Park.

The Base of the Towers Trek

We left EcoCamp at 8 am. Though it was mid-spring, the air was still bone-chilling. Fitted with our warm hiking boots and bundled from top to bottom, we began the 15 mile roundtrip adventure up to the base of the towers. The sun was out and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. In the distance, we could clearly see our final destination, three small granite spires peeking out from behind the ridge. EcoCamp is the perfect location to visit the base of the towers. There is no need to drive to the trailhead, you leave on foot right after breakfast. We were a group of 7, including two guides. The first leg started flat, easing us into what was to come. Then the path slowly started to ascended before leading us back down into a valley where we took a break at the Refugio Torre Central. Many hikers spend the night here and get up with the sun or even before to witness the sunrise at the lake below the towers. The journey took us along the Río Ascencio, through the forest of Lengas and up the steep moraine. We trudged through streams & mud, over boulders and through the last remaining snow of winter. After four hours we arrived at the snow-covered lookout. Before us, the stark granite towers we had seen earlier that day, jutted straight out of the earth and high into the sky. The glacial-fed lake in front was still slightly frozen, but the vibrant aquamarine water beneath peered through like a hidden gem waiting to be uncovered by summer.

The sun still shone bright above us as we peeled off a few layers of clothing and unpacked our lunch we had prepped during breakfast that morning. It felt good to sit and nourish the body and rest our tired feet. Besides the occasional indistinct chatter coming from nearby groups, we sat in peace and quiet. After a good hour and a half of soaking up the sun and the views, Pablo, one of our guides, rallied up the group to prepare for the decent. It was time to make our way back home before the sun set. As always, the way down felt a lot longer and as we reach the final stretch, we couldn’t wait to be back. Our feet were tired, our tummies were hungry and we were ready to spend our last night in our cozy geodesic dome at Eco Camp Patagonia. Handcraft your escape today…

Best hotels near Torres Del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile:

Hotel Lago Grey is just like EcoCamp located within the Torres Del Paine National Park. The hotel has a total of 30 superior rooms with stunning views of Grey Lake and provides easy access to the famous Grey Glacier which is part of the Southern Ice Fields - the third largest freshwater source in the world. Explora Patagonia is an all-inclusive Hotel located within the Torres Del Paine National Park. All programs include accommodation, transfers from and to the airport, meals and beverages, and a menu of more than 40 activities designed to take in all that the National Park has to offer. Patagonia Camp is an all-inclusive luxury retreat offering decadent yurts with mesmerzing views over the El Toro Lake just outside of the famous Torres Del Paine National Park.For more hotels near Torres Del Paine National Park click here. Hotel La Yegua Loca, is a 15-room boutique hotel located in Punta Arenas. This small boutique hotel is the perfect place to lay your head before continuing your journey to the famous Torres Del Paine National Park.For more hotels in Punta Arenas click here.

How to get to Torres Del Paine National Park:

... from Santiago?International flights will arrive at the Santiago International Airport. To find the cheapest international flights we recommend to use Momondo.Book your connection flights with local airlines such as Sky or Latam.Santiago - Punta Arenas (3.5 h flight duration). Most flights from Santiago to Punta Arenas leave as early as 7:00 am, so we recommend to spend at least one or two nights in Santiago. That way you can explore all this metropole has to offer. For the boutique hotel lovers Hotel Bidasoa is a must, the hotel's restaurant alone should not be missed. The closest hotel to the airport would be the Holiday Inn. There is no direct bus from Punta Arenas to Torres Del Paine National Park. If you are not getting directly picked up at the Punta Arenas Airport from your hotel then you can catch a bus to Puerto Natales.Bus- Sur runs regularly during high season and takes around 3.5 hours. We recommend spending a night at Hotel La Yegua Loca before continuing your journey.If you are traveling between the months of October - March you might want to include a day trip to the Magdalena Island to disembark on an hour guided tour through the natural habitat of the Magellanic Penguins, the largest colony in South America via Solo Expediciones. To get from Puerto Natales - Torres Del Paine National Park you have to catch another bus. Bus Gomez runs from Puerto Natales bus station, try to catch the 7.00 am bus so you reach the Laguna Amarga entrance at 9.00 am and the Pudeto entrance at 10.00 am.

Hotel AWA, Puerto Varas, Chile, South America | Bare Escape

Hotel AWA

EcoCamp Patagonia

Hotel La Yegua Loca, Punta Arenas, Chile, South America | Bare Escape

Hotel La Yegua Loca