It has been our dream for years to go to Patagonia to hike the Torres del Paine National Park, but it is so physically demanding and logistically complicated that I didn't know how to do it ourselves. This year we finally did it with the help of ChileTour Patagonia who has a 'Torres del Paine W Trek - Classic' tour that fits our needs.
Day 0: Fly out in the afternoon.
Day 1: Arrive Santiago, Chile in the morning. Santiago sightseeing.
Day 2: Day trip to Valparaíso.
Day 3: Santiago sightseeing.
Day 4: Fly to Punta Arenas. Punta Arenas sightseeing.
Day 5: Torres del Paine W Trek - Classic day 1: Bus transfer to Puerto Natales. W Trek briefing and welcome dinner.
Day 6: Torres del Paine W Trek - Classic day 2: Private transfer to Torres del Paine National Park. Trek to Base Torres with a guide. Stay at Torre Central.
Day 7: Torres del Paine W Trek - Classic day 3: Trek alongside Lake Nordenskjold to Los Cuernos (The Horns) and Frances Area. Stay at Domos Frances.
Day 8: Torres del Paine W Trek - Classic day 4: Trek through the French Valley to Britanico Lookout and then to Paine Grande. Stay at Paine Grande Lodge.
Day 9: Torres del Paine W Trek - Classic day 5: Trek from Paine Grande to Grey Glacier Area. Optional trekking in the afternoon to the Hanging Bridges. Stay at Grey Lodge.
Day 10: Torres del Paine W Trek - Classic day 6: Trek back to Paine Grande from Grey Glacier Area. Take the catamaran across Lake Pehoe to reach bus transfer back to Puerto Natales.
Day 11: Torres del Paine W Trek - Classic day 7: tour ends. We arranged bus transfer to El Calafate, Argentina ourselves.
Day 12: Day trip to Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina.
Day 13: Day trip to El Chaltén, Argentina.
Day 14: Bus Transfer to Puerto Natales, Chile (6 hrs.), and then to Punta Arenas (3+ hrs.).
Day 15/16: Fly to Santiago, and then home.
A few notes about this trip:
1. When I was planning for this trip, I wanted to fly into Santiago, and fly out of Buenos Aires. But airfare from El Calafate to Buenos Aires was really expensive (hundreds of dollars for a one-way ticket), so I opted to back track to Santiago by bus and air which is a lot cheaper but very boring and time consuming. Should have fly from El Calafate to Buenos Aires instead.
2. Many business (including hotels and restaurants) in Chile and Argentina are cash only. So always carry some cash.
3. Getting cash in South America always seems to involve a hefty fee. Back in 2016 when we went to Peru, we had to pay 18 Soles fee to withdrew 400 Soles (maximum allowed per withdrew at the machine) at Lima airport which is 4.5%. At Santiago airport this time, the ATM allowed a maximum of 200,000 Chilean Pesos for 5,000 pesos fee, so that is 2.5%. In El Calafate, Argentina it is the worst ever. The first bank I went to, its ATM only allowed me to withdraw 1,000 Argentine pesos for a really high fee (200 - 300 range) so I cancelled. A bank employee there could speak some English. She told me to go down the street to Argentina National Bank. They allowed higher withdraw amount for international card. So I went there and tried to withdraw 6,000 and 5,000 Argentine pesos, both failed. I ended up withdrawing 4,000 pesos for 240 pesos fee which is still 6%! What a rip off!
(To be continued)