Our daughter has been teaching English in Santiago, Chile, since the beginning of the year,
so we jumped on the chance to not only visit her, but make the extra jump south to visit one of the most beautiful places in the world: Patagonia!
We flew down Christmas day (this was our present to ourselves) and spent a couple days in the city, and then flew to the remote town of Punta Arenas at the southern tip of Chile, then drove four hours to their famous national park, Torres Del Paine. It’s like our Yosemite, in that it has a concentration of stunning mountains and wildlife. Up until recent years, you had to explore this part of the world with a backpack, but now they have small hotels and cabins so you can investigate its wonder through day hikes and other excursions.
This is a view of the waterways next to Puerto Natalie, which is three hours from the park. It’s very popular to ride ferries through the gorgeous fjords.
These are the famous peaks in Torres Del Paine, and backpackers access them through the famous “W” trail.
We made it up to one side of the trail during a 7-hour day hike to an incredible view. Yes, all the lakes and rivers in the park are this unbelievable teal/aqua color, the result of silt from the glaciers.
One day we took a daylong river tour along the Serrano river that winds through the park. We were able to walk up to this massive glacier, and spotted Chilean Condors soaring overhead. We visited during their summer (high season is in December and January) and the weather was almost perfect—around 55 to 60 degrees. The weather is known to shift suddenly, and the winds are notorious. We got lucky.
The blue of the glaciers was almost hard to fathom.
The park is loaded with critters and amazing flora and fauna. Small herds of these antelope-like creatures were everywhere. They are called guanacos. They support the local puma (mountain lions.)
The rhea, or ostrich-type birds, were also ubiquitous.
As a wanna-be birder, I went gaga over the Magellan Oystercatchers (the black and white bird with bright orange/red beak in foreground) and Black-Necked Swans and their babies. I won’t bore you with all my “lifers,” but the birds were outrageous (flocks of Black-faced Ibis, all sorts of hawks and I even found a Common Snipe!)
One day, another tourist caught this giant salmon on a fishing line right outside our cabin on the Serrano river. It was over four feet long! (We stayed at the Hosteria Lago Tyndall, and highly recommend their simple cabins!)
On our way back to Santiago, we took a two-hour ferry to the Isle of Magellan (yes, in the actually Magellan Straits!!) to visit the giant penguin colony there.
We learned how these guys arrive in September and either dig their small burrows, or if they already have one, return to the same hole—lay two eggs, and raise their babies.
They mate for life and the dads apparently do a lot of the childcare. (Those are the two babies on the left.)
On our last day in the park, we drove about an hour to another lake just outside the north end of the park, Lago Amargo, just to see these Chilean Flamingoes. We had no idea we would find these tropical birds here.
Here’s my son, Caden, and daughter, Cassidy. Caden took all these amazing photos and let me share them here. And Cassidy was a great host and provided many insights to the Chilean culture. If you can swing the steep plane ticket, I highly recommend a visit to Chile, and especially the magnificent and pristine Patagonia!