Places to Visit near Argentina:
Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine National Park is located in nearby Chile, 5 hours drive from El Calafate. Torres del Paine is a spectacular park internationally renowned as one of the most beautiful, unspoiled, and remote places on earth. The park is comparable to the US Yellowstone or Yosemite Parks. The 450,000 acre park is an amazing biosphere recognized as a World Heritage site in 1978 by UNESCO.
The wildlife of the park is lead by the unique Guanacos and Rheas. Guanacos are beautiful South American animals somewhat similar to llamas and Rheas are ostrich-like birds. There are also various species of birds and even beautiful puma have been sighted in the distance.
Hiking is the most popular activity in the park and there are hiking trails in many areas along with lodges, campgrounds, and transportation. Trails are safe and relatively easy to follow, made for the average trekker. People seeking a greater challenge can choose from trails of advanced difficulty along with other activities such as horseback riding, climbing, kayaking, rafting and glacier crossing.
Torres del Paine can be explored through various activities and ways. The type of exploration is highly dependent on the kinds of lodgings the traveler chooses to stay in. Whatever your choice, keep in mind that all lodgings, except campsites, are very limitted and fill up quickly. It is recommended to book your lodgings far in advance.
There is a hand full of decent hotels in the Torres del Paine National Park.
The hotels offer comfortable rooms, full dining rooms, and certain conveniences like telephones (a luxury in these parts). The hotels are designed for people that want to take day hikes or other excursions to various sections of the park. The prices of hotels run from about a $100 to $250 USD for a fairly regular 4-star room, to the ultra luxurious Explora Lodge for about a $1000 USD per night.
Regugios, or so called "refugee houses", are the next most "luxurious" lodging option in Torres del Paine. Refugios offer heated lodgings with a dining room and bathrooms with hot water. There is the inconvenience of sleeping in a rather costly bunk-bed($30 USD per bed) with five other people. Sleeping bags can be rented and full meals are also offered in refigios.
Campgrounds are third way of lodging in Torres del Paine. Camp can only be set up in designated part of the park, but campgrounds are conveniently available every few hours of the way. Many campgrounds are right next to refugios, in which case campers can use all the facilities available in the refugio.
The Torres del Paine Mountains:
Three large pillars, the towers from which the park gets it's name, stand in one part of the National Park.
The mountains are called Torre Central(2800m), Torre Sur(2850m), and Torre Norte(2600m). The Mirador del Torres(The Torres Viewpoint, also referred to as Torres Base) is the best place to view these magnificent mountains.
The "W" Route:
The so-called "W" Route, is the most popular route that hikers take to see the park. Cleverly, the shape of the route looks like the letter "W", so hence the name. The main sights of the park can be seen from the route including the Torres del Paine Mountains, Lago Grey(Lake Grey), Lago Nordenskjold, and the amazing Cuernos Mountains. The whole "W" Route can be done by staying in either hotels, refugios, or campgrounds. The route takes roughly 5 trekking days to complete and usually starts at Laguna Amagra, or just to the right of Hosteria los Torres on the map below.
The "Macizo Paine" Route:
The route circles the outside of the "W" Route and takes 7 days of trekking to complete. There are five campsites and one additional refugio on this route. This route is not reachable from hotels and thus is done by far fewer visitors.
Glacier and Lago Grey:
Glacier Grey and Lago Grey are true highlights of Torres del Paine. There is even a boat that does a lovely 3 hour tour around the lake and takes you right next to glacier.
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