1) Trek to the Towers of Paine
One of the highlights of any trip to Torres del Paine national park, is a hike to see the towers that give the park it's name. Like Cleopatras needles, these towers raise sharply into the air. At the base of the towers, a turquoise lake sits prominently. Many hikers make the trek early in the morning. At dawn, the towers are the first illuminated by a blaze of orange, giving the appearance that they are burning against the deep blue back drop of the sky.
2) Spot puma and guanaco
There are over 26 different mammal species in Torres del Paine, but probably the two most famous are the guanaco and puma. Guanaco are a camelid species that at one point were very close to becoming extent. Now they flourish in and around Torres del Paine. The guanaco can be easily seen on your transfer into the park, however they are less common on trekking routes. Puma, on the other hand, are especially difficult to see and generally you will need to find a specialist guide to track them down.
3) Trek to the Mirador in Valley Frances to hear the sound of avalanches
Valley Frances is located in the middle of the W trek, sandwiched between the trail to Lago Grey in the West and the hike to the towers in the east. It is the middle stroke of the "W" if you will. To reach the mirador, you will hike about an hour's distance north of Campamento Italiano, a free camping site located at the base of the valley. If you are lugging your backpack along, you can drop it off at Italiano and pick it up on the way back. Once you reach the mirador, stop and listen for the sound of mini avalanches. You'll probably have heard a few on the way up - the noise is louder than you would expect. The problem is, they usually occur when you are not paying attention, so trying to spot the the tell-tale snow that cascades down the cliffs of the nearby mountain range like a snowy waterfall is not always easy. A few hundred feet before the mirador is a good place to stop and take a lunch break on one of the huge boulders scattered along the valley. With some patience, you should be able to spot the avalanches.
4) Kayak on the Azur waters of the park
Kayaking in Torres del Paine can be a truly serene adventure - getting a chance to see the deep blue of the icebergs on Lago Grey is a rare and humbling experience. There are a few places that kayaking is possible, including Lago Grey, Rio grey and Rio Serrano. There are multiple formats for kayaking here as well, from a two hour quick paddle to a multi day trip. For example, it's possible to start off at the south end of Lago Grey, kayak down Grey River and then follow the Serrano River to the glacier with the same name. Epic and isolated.
photo by Simenon
5) Ice Hike on Glacier Grey
Another experience that will make you feel cut off from civilization, is ice hiking on Glacier Grey. Many people know it's possible to ice hike on the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina, but far fewer know it's possible on Glacier Grey as well. And it may just offer a superior experience. Unlike Perito Moreno, there is only one operator allowed to take tours on Glacier Grey, which means your group is totally alone on the glacier. It's possible for complete beginners to make the ice hike, however you must be at least 15 years old.
6) Go Horseback riding with Gauchos
Torres del Paine is located in the frontier area of Chile. The sprawling pampas around the park have been used for sheep grazing since the 19th century. There are several "estancias" or sheep farms, located near Torres del Paine, where gauchos still work daily. A gaucho is the South American equivalent of a cowboy and takes great pride in his equestrian skills. It is possible to take a ride for a few hours with a gaucho around Torres del Paine, or explore the park and the surrounding pampas on multi day journeys. Often, a traditional lamb bbq is included on such multi-day itineraries. Depending on the route, day trips are suitable for riders of all levels, even beginners. If you want to go on a multi-day adventure, you will need to have some riding experience in order to fully enjoy the trip.
Photo by Vera and Jean-Christophe
7) Go Fly Fishing
Fly fishing in Torres del Paine is one of those activities that flies under the radar. Most people come for the hikes and the views, but it's also possible to catch some healthy browns here and sometimes salmon and carp. There are numerous lakes that are great for fishing between Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine, but if you want to string one up with the amazing Paine Massif in the background, your best bet is along Rio Serrano. Remota lodge organizes day trips into the park for fly fishing with expert guides.
Photo by Remota
8) Go Biking
Again, this is an activity that most travellers to Torres del Paine don't even think of. Still, there is some rather good single track here, especially around the East side of the park. There are also flat sections, great for those that wish to take a more leisured ride. It's a great way to get away from the crowds and cover more distance than hiking.
Photo by Vera and Jean-Christophe