The sprawling comuna of Torres del Paine has only 739 inhabitants by the 2002 census; more than half reside in the hamlet of Cerro Castillo, 60 kilometers north of Puerto Natales, alongside the Río Don Guillermo border crossing. Called Cancha Carrera on the Argentine side, this is the most direct route from Parque Nacional Torres del Paine to El Calafate (Argentina) and Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. It is now open all year.
Formerly an estancia of the powerful Sociedad Explotadora de Tierra del Fuego, Cerro Castillo has an assortment of services, including a dismal museum at the municipal Departamento de Turismo (Av. Bernardo O’Higgins s/n, tel. 061/691932) and the only gas station north of Puerto Natales (fuel may be cheaper on the Argentine side).
En route to and at Cerro Castillo, there are several accommodations options. The most southerly, Hostería Patagonia Inn (Km 26 Norte, Sector Dos Lagunas, tel. 061/228117 or 061/415153, www.patagoniainn.com, US$42/55 s/d) is a former Braun-Menéndez property, and its own museum holds some of the record books of the estancia. For the price, its 15 rooms with private baths, central heating, and TV offer good value; it also has a restaurant.
On the site of an older namesake that burned to the ground, Hotel Tres Pasos (Km 38 Norte, tel. 02/1969630 or 02/1969631, www.hotel3pasos.cl, US$80/119 s/d) is a contemporary roadside inn that’s above average for the area. Lunch or dinner costs US$17.
At Cerro Castillo itself, there are basic accommodations at Residencial Loreto Belén (tel. 061/691932, ext. 728, US$19 pp) and more elaborate lodgings at Hostería El Pionero (tel. 061/413953, tel./fax 061/412911, baqueanoz [at] terra [dot] cl, US$69/83–123/146 s/d); the cheaper rooms belong to an annex. Open September–April, it serves meals to nonguests and also rents horses.
On Estancia Cerro Guido, a working sheep ranch about midway between Cerro Castillo and Torres del Paine, Lodge Cerro Guido (tel. 02/1964807, lodge [at] cerroguido [dot] cl, US$180/200–200/220 s/d) has rehabbed and modernized its historic casco and another structure into attractive guesthouses with 10 total rooms. About 12 kilometers north of the road that leads to the park’s Laguna Amarga entrance, Cerro Guido gets far less traffic than Paine’s accommodations, but its facilities equal or better most of them; there’s also a restaurant/bar whose wines come from the ownership’s Matetic family vineyards near Valparaíso. Rates include breakfast, while lunch or dinner costs US$30 extra. Excursions include horseback riding (multiday rides are possible), hiking, and farm activities such as summer shearing.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition