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  • Writer's pictureDanae Bianco

Torres del Paine photographic expedition - Chilean Patagonia

Updated: Mar 3

If, like me, you've always dreamed of visiting the most iconic park in Chilean Patagonia, take this opportunity to dive into this post and jot down all the tips!

In fact, it was two travel dreams fulfilled at once: visiting Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia and participating in a photographic expedition through one of the most beautiful regions on our planet.


Mulher fotografando paisagem no Mirante Condor, Parque Nacional de Torres del Paine, Chile
Picture: Marcello Cavalcanti

At the beginning of autumn, we embarked on an 8-day expedition, starting from El Calafate (Argentina) - home to the Perito Moreno Glacier is located - and heading to Torres del Paine National Park (Chile), with a group of 10 amazing photographers led by the master of lenses, Marcello Cavalcanti.


It was an unforgettable experience: a close-knit group with the goal of making the most of the spectacular landscapes that only Patagonia can offer, having fun, and returning with all our memory cards bursting with photos. I'll give you a spoiler: all our goals were achieved! 😉


Grupo de 11 pessoas em frente a placa que diz Bemcindo ao Parque Nacional de Torres del Paine
Our group at the entrance of Torres del Paine National Park

If the idea of taking a photographic tour in the region is also on your travel wishlist, or if you simply want to go there to experience the incredible landscapes, or if you've already booked your tickets and want to know how to make the most of the area, then keep reading, as I will share everything we did in Torres del Paine.


Make sure to also check out the post where I talk about El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier.


Lago Pehoe e picos com montanhas nevadas ao fundo, Torres del Paine, Chile
This is NOT a sponsored post. All expenses for the trip were covered by me.

How to get to Torres del Paine, Chilean Patagonia


Torres del Paine National Park is located in the southern part of Chilean Patagonia, near the town of Puerto Natales. The nearest airport on Chilean soil is in Punta Arenas, which is connected to the country's capital, Santiago, and Puerto Montt, also in the southern region of Chile


We were in El Calafate, Argentina - which also has an airport with connectios to Buenos Aires and other cities in Argentina - and we drove towards Chile. It's approximately a 2.5 to 3-hour drive (about 200 km) to the border at Passo Don Guillermo, where you go through the exit procedures for Argentina and entry for Chile.


From the border, it's about a 50-minute drive to the entrance of Torres del Paine National Park.


Here's the official Torres del Paine National Park website, which has lots of useful information for your visit.

We did everything I describe below with a van from the company that organized the tour, but you can easily do it with your own car (a 4x4 is not necessary, at least not in the summer - make sure to check road conditions for other seasons).






Where to stay in Torres del Paine


We stayed at the Hotel Estancia El Ovejero Patagonico, very close to the Chile-Argentina border, in a place called Cerro Castillo. It's a great inn with comfortable rooms and good service. There's a restaurant on-site that was essential for the success of our expedition because we would return exhausted in the evening, with no energy to go anywhere else (especially since there aren't many options nearby), so we would have dinner right at the inn.


The town of Puerto Natales is about 75 km from the nearest entrance to the Park. You can stay there; there are accomodation options with great value for your money. However, getting to the park takes a considerable amount of time, and doing it for several days can be quite tiring.


To fully experience everything the park has to offer, it's ideal to stay in the hotels, inns, and campsites within the park itself.


Hotel Explora is my dream choice, but there are other options like the Hotel Lago Grey (where we had lunch one day), the Hotel Las Torres Patagonia (where we also stopped for lunch), and the EcoCamp Patagonia, in the best glamping style.


Check availability and rates right here:



Autumn weather in Patagonia


We took this trip at the end of March to early April, right at the beginning of autumn.


We had excellent weather. I would say it was perfect for visiting and photographing Patagonia. It was cold, very cold (as you can see from the photos), but we didn't encounter snow or temperatures below zero - perhaps on a few days, before dawn, the temperature dropped to a few degrees below freezing, but we can't say for sure ;-)


Most days were generally sunny and allowed us to do all the activities we had planned. Some photos we had planned to take didn't work out because a cloud rolled in at the last minute to spoil the shot, or the cinematic sunset we were hoping for didn't happen, but that's all part of landscape photography. In fact, that's part of the Patagonian weather.


They say that in Patagonia, you experience all four seasons in a single day. It's absolutely true. It's winter at dawn, spring in the morning, summer in the afternoon, and autumn in the evening, all mixed together. Rain, wind, sun, breeze, heavy clouds, blue sky, gusts of wind, and calm, all in the same day. So, even if you see blue skies, sunshine, and pleasant warmth at dawn, make sure to bring all your layers of clothing because you'll likely need them.


I've been to Patagonia in early spring (back in 2008), and the weather I experienced during this autumn trip was much better: more stable and clear, even though the temperatures were quite similar. But it might have just been just bad luck on my spring trip in 2008.


Pessoas no mirante Lago Nordenskjöld, Torres del Paine, Chile


The Photographic Expedition in Torres del Paine, Patagonia


Day 1


The first day of our expedition was a warm-up for the unforgettable days that would follow.


We left El Calafate in our van before dawn to photograph the sunrise along the way.


After a brief stop by the roadside for these shots, there were a few more, as it's impossible to travel these beautiful roads with incredible landscapes on all sides without feeling tempted to stop every minute and capture everything.


Estrada de pista simples na Patagônia, ao fundo montanhas com picos nevados

After going through the procedures at the Argentina-Chile border at Paso Don Guillermo, we arrived at our hotel. It was a quick stop just for check-in and to drop off our bags. Then, we headed towards Puerto Natales, the Chilean town commonly used as a base for visiting Torres del Paine National Park.


Puerto Natales is the capital of Ultima Esperanza Province, in the Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica Region. It's a town with just under 20,000 inhabitants, located at sea level, along the Señoret Canal.


After having lunch at El Asador Patagonico, we took a stroll around the town and went to the waterfront to take some photos at the old pier - Muelle Viejo - and at the Monumento al Viento.


Another attraction close to the town is the Monumento Nacional Cueva del Milodón (Mylodon Cave Natural Monument), a cave with a height of 30 meters and a depth of about 200 meters. Over 100 years ago, a fossil of a Milodon (or ground sloth) was discovered there. Resembling a giant sloth, this mammal lived exclusively in Patagonia approximately 12,000 years ago, turning the area into an important center for paleontological and archaeological studies.


Speaking of Milodon, I strongly recommend reading "In Patagonia" by Bruce Chatwin. In this book, the author recounts various stories and adventures from his travels in the Patagonian region in the 1970s, combining unique personal experiences, tales from previous travelers, local legends, and anecdotes about the eccentric individual who once inhabited the area - including bandits, madmen, and opportunists of all kinds. Chatwin's journey was, intriguingly, sparked by a fragment of Milodon fur.


Day 2


It was still dark when we headed to our first sunrise location in Chile: Laguna Amarga. The photo speaks for itself; I'll spare you from an avalanche of adjectives.


Nascer do sol na Laguna Amarga, Torres del Paine, Chile

After a brief stop at the park entrance booth, we proceeded to the Nordenskjold Lake viewpoint, one of the most impressive spots in Torres del Paine National Park.


The peaks in the photo, from left to right, are Paine Grande (3,050m), Cuernos del Paine (three peaks at 2,600m, 2,400m, and 2,200m), and Almirante Nieto (2,640m, partially visible in the photo).


Lagos e montanhas com picos nevados vistos no Mirante do Lago Nordenskjold, Torres del Paine, Chile

Our next stop was by the shores of Pehoe Lake, where we had lunch at the Pehoe camping site's restaurant. The restaurant itself is quite simple, and the dishes are sufficient to satisfy your hunger, but the view is the most spectacular of any restaurant we visited.



From there, we hiked to the Condor Viewpoint, a trail that's not too difficult but consistently uphill. It takes about 45 minutes each way, not including stops for photos and to let the guanacos 🦙 pass.


At the top, the view is incredible and resulted in some of the best group photos of the trip.



In the late afternoon, the unpredictable Patagonian weather thwarted our plans for a sunset shoot. We had to abandon the previously chosen location. Instead, we followed a tip our guide received from other park guides: pumas had just been spotted in the area!


When we arrived, we were greeted by not one, but four pumas, with one of them indulging in a recently captured guanaco. It was a thrilling sight, a true glimpse of vibrant wildlife. We stepped out of the vehicle with utmost care and hushed footsteps to avoid startling these magnificent creatures. We positioned ourselves at a safe distance from them, ensuring the safety of everyone involved – both humans and pumas.



At that moment, I wished I had a more powerful photographic setup. My largest lens, a 300mm, wasn't of the best quality, and the photos fell short of capturing the true essence of the moment. However, they do give a taste of the excitement we experienced.


Back at the hotel, the focus was on making the most of the few hours left for sleep and recharging – quite literally – our batteries for the next day of the expedition.


Day 3


nascer do sol na trilha ao Mirante Cuernos, Torres del Paine, Chile

Before dawn, we were already on our way to the location for the second sunrise in Torres del Paine, the Cuernos Viewpoint.


It's a 1km flat trail leading to the viewpoint. We stopped mid-way, in an area where dead trees resulting from a fire that devastated a good part of the park some years ago allow for fascinating compositions with the mountains that lend their name to the park in the background.


Unfortunately, due to the rain from the previous days, the region had turned into a swamp, and my shoes couldn't withstand it. With my feet on the verge of getting seriously soaked, I thought it wise to seek a composition from the dry part of the trail.


Lago azul turquesa, arco-iris e montanhas com picos nevados ao fundo. Torres del Paine, Chile.
Cuernos Viewpoint - one of the most beautiful moments of the trip!

At the end of the trail, a rainbow greeted us at the Cuernos Viewpoint, situated on the shores of Lake Nordenskjold, amidst 80km/h winds that posed a challenge in stabilizing the tripod


Despite the cloudy weather and the climatic hurdles, some of my cherished captures emerged from this spot, showcasing the beauty of cloudy weather photography.


On the way back along the trail, we stopped at the viewpoint for the classic photos of Salto Grande Waterfall.



From there, we headed to the Lago Grey region, which is said to be filled with icebergs detached from the glacier of the same name (located at the opposite end of the lake), but unfortunately, they didn't make an appearance for us.


We had lunch at the Lago Grey Hotel and took a short hike through a forest that was already starting to display autumnal hues, reaching the lake's shoreline. There, too, the wind showed no mercy.



The sunset took place at one of the most beautiful and renowned viewpoints in the park, next to the Hotel Explora. It's one of the most classic photos of Torres del Paine. Access to the viewpoint is via a wooden walkway with several steps, but it's quite easy and peaceful. Do not miss it.


Afterward, we returned to the hotel because the following day promised even more!


Por do sol em paisagem com lago e picos nevados, Torres del Paine, Chile


Day 4


We woke up incredibly early on our last day in Torres del Paine. The expedition was nearing its end, and the group's vibe was to make the most of the little time we had left there.


The plan: to photograph the moon setting over Cuernos del Paine.

Reality: dense clouds shrouding those very mountains gave us zero visibility 😞


But that's how it goes – in landscape photography, we're at the mercy of weather conditions, especially in a place like Patagonia, where the weather changes incredibly fast.


So, what to do? Recalculate the route, of course. The result: we went straight to the next location to catch the sunrise. Paine Waterfall.


The result: 👇


Nasce do sol na Cascata Paine, Parque Nacional Torres del Paine

I don't need to say anything, right?


This sunrise, which might look heavily photoshopped, is real, with no filter, captured by yours truly with my Canon and my phone. The same clouds that had frustrated us moments earlier were now essential for the most incredible sunrise we witnessed.



We continued our expedition through the park, with stops at every turn: guanacos, condors, eagles, scenic roads, rainbows, lagoons, snowy peaks, abandoned bridges.


If there's one thing that never lacked at any moment, it was a natural spectacle to be captured, both through the lens and in our memories.


guanacos em um morro em Torres del Paine, Chile.

Dia 5


Some of my fellow travelers were up early on this day to capture the village where our hotel was located, but I really needed those few extra minutes of sleep because there was still more to come.


We returned to Argentina, following the same route we had taken days before, but now seeing it with different eyes.


Upon arriving in El Calafate, at the same hotel, that feeling of coming home washed over me, that delightful place that was already familiar, yet with so much more to be discovered.


dez pessoas, com roupas de frio, em paisagem com montanhas e gelerias. Glaciar Perito Moreno, Argentina
The best group of photographers at Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina


EL CALAFATE


Last day of our trip. While some members of the group stayed at the hotel working on photo editing, another part couldn't bear to stay indoors for even a single day with such stunning nature all around.



So, we set out to explore another part of Los Glaciares National Park, this time with the Mayo Spirit Trek tour, which I detail in this post about El Calafate and Perito Moreno Glacier.





To learn more about the work of the photographers who joined me on this expedition:


DETAILED ITINERARY & MAP


Here's the Google MyMaps map with the main locations we explored in Chilean territory.


In this post, I explain how to plan a trip using Google MyMaps – it's a great resource worth checking out!



This is NOT a sponsored post. All expenses for the trip were covered by me.


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And now, after all these fantastic tips, save these pins to your Pinterest account, so you can easily find this post about the photographic expedition in Torres del Paine, Patagonia, whenever you need it!


Pin it! Photographic tour, Chilean Patagonia - www.danae-explore.com/en


Pin it! Photographic tour, Chilean Patagonia - www.danae-explore.com/en



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