Park accommodations range from free trailside campgrounds to first-rate luxury hotels with just about everything in between. In summer, reservations are almost obligatory at hotels and advisable at campgrounds and refugios (shelters).
Camping in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine
At Estancia Cerro Paine, Camping Las Torres (US$11 pp, US$59 pp with full board) draws hikers heading up the Río Ascencio Valley to the Paine overlook and west on the “W” route to Lago Pehoé, or hikers finishing up the circuit here. Formerly insufficient shower and toilet facilities have improved.
On a bluff above Refugio Las Torres, the Cascada EcoCamp is a geodesic dome-tent facility designed for minimum-impact accommodations. It’s generally available through package deals only but, on rare occasions, can be rented on a nightly basis. On raised platforms, each tent is five meters wide, with wooden floors and two single beds with towels and bedding, including down comforters. Two larger domes contain a common living area, dining rooms, and kitchen. The separate bathrooms have hot showers and composting toilets (from some domes, it’s a long walk for middle-of-the-night toilet visits).
Electricity comes from solar collectors, windmills, and a small hydroelectric turbine. Cascada’s organized tour clients have priority, but its half-dozen luxury “Dome Suites” (with woodstoves, king-size beds, private baths and showers, and exterior decks with views of the Torres) are available to private parties on a space-available basis. Contact them through the website or, alternatively, through their Puerto Natales office (Barros Arana 166, tel. 061/2414442).
On the small peninsula on its namesake lake’s eastern shore, just west of the road to the Administración, sites at concessionaire-run Camping Lago Pehoé (tel. 02/1960377, US$15 pp) hold up to six people. Fees include firewood and hot showers. About six kilometers south of park headquarters, Camping Río Serrano (no phone, US$9 pp) has undertaken considerable improvements, including cooking shelters at each site.
Hosterías and Hotels
Reachable by road along Lago Sarmiento’s south shore or by foot or horseback from the Río Paine, well-regarded Hostería Mirador del Payne (tel. 061/2410498, US$174 s, US$212 d) lies in the isolated southeastern Laguna Verde sector. Its decor, particularly the garish bedspreads, could use an update.
Where Lago Grey becomes the Río Grey, the 30-room Hostería Lago Grey (US$261 s, US$308 d with breakfast) hosts visitors to the park’s lesser-visited western sector; its restaurant is open to the public. For reservations, contact the hotel through Turismo Lago Grey (tel. 061/712100).
The park’s oldest hotel, on a five-hectare island linked to the mainland by a footbridge, the 25-room Hostería Pehoé (US$223 s, US$239 d) has improved since the operator began to reinvest in what had been a run-down facility, with substandard service, in an undeniably spectacular setting. For reservations, contact Turismo Pehoé (José Menéndez 918, Punta Arenas, tel. 061/241373).
At Estancia Cerro Paine, seven kilometers west of Guardería Laguna Amarga, the sprawling but well-run Hostería Las Torres (Sarmiento 846, Punta Arenas, tel. 061/360360, US$252 s, US$290 d) is a gem for its setting beneath Monte Almirante Nieto, its professionalism, the recent addition of a spa offering saunas and massages, and even WiFi access (expensive because of a costly satellite link). While it’s an elite option that’s leaning toward all-inclusive packages, it’s conscientiously ecofriendly in terms of waste disposal, and management is constantly seeking feedback. Off-season hotel rates are about half. Open to both guests and nonguests, the restaurant prepares quality food in cruise-ship quantities.
Open for packages only, Hotel Salto Chico (from US$3,800 s, US$5,640 d for four nights in the least expensive room; US$11,440 s, US$15,480 d for eight nights in the costliest suite) is a mega-luxury resort that, somehow, manages to blend inconspicuously into the landscape while providing some of the grandest views on the globe. Rates include transfer to and from Punta Arenas and unlimited excursions. Low-season rates are about 20 percent cheaper. For details and reservations, contact Explora Hotels (Américo Vespucio Sur 80, 5th Fl., Las Condes, Santiago, tel. 02/22066060).
At the east end of Lago Sarmiento, with panoramic views of the towers near the park’s Laguna Amarga entrance, Tierra Patagonia (tel. 02/2207-8861 in Santiago, tel. 0800/829-3325 in the U.S., from US$2,790 s, US$4,100 d for three nights) is an all-inclusive spa resort with extensive excursions, including hiking and horseback riding, with transfers.
Just beyond the park’s eastern boundary, Awasi Patagonia (Tercera Barranca, Torres del Paine, tel. 02/2233-9641 in Santiago, tel. 0800/880-3219 in the U.S., from US$4,455 s, US$5,940 d for three nights) is an all-inclusive resort modeled on the company’s predecessor in San Pedro de Atacama (though its architecture differs greatly). Packages include full board and all excursions with individualized guide service for three nights in its hillside lodge and villas, all of which have views of the Torres and Lago Sarmiento.
Just beyond park boundaries, reached by launch over the Río Serrano, the stylish Hotel Lago Tyndall (tel. 061/2614682, US$148 s, US$161 d) enjoys peace, quiet, and magnificent views. Nearby is the rather less stylish Hotel Cabañas del Paine (tel. 061/2210179 in Punta Arenas, US$264 s, US$275 d).
Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Patagonia.