Life after the W Circuit

A few of the people who contact Swoop have visited Patagonia before and are looking to go back and explore it further. After all, a region that spans 1,000 miles North to South and 1 million square kilometres, with landscapes ranging from glacial to volcanic, to rainforest and desert, probably deserves more than a fortnight of our attention!

So, we thought we’d share some ideas for things to do if the W Circuit has whetted your appetite for Patagonia and now you’re looking for more. First of all, within Torres del Paine National Park what are your options after the W Circuit?

1. Surprisingly just 5% of visitors to Torres del Paine trek the Full Circuit of the park. Yes, it takes around 8 days and the hikes between the Refugios are significant, and, yes, Paso John Garner is very windy and yes it’s a steep descent down to the Grey Glacier. But the rewards are so great. 8 days of spectacular hiking in such varied terrain; nights of camping in sites that are so much quieter and less developed than those of Grey, Campamento Italiano or the Paine Grande Lodge; the incredible views out to the South Patagonian IceCap from Paso John Garner, and experiencing the unbelievable force of the Patagonian wind; the wonderful descent down to and along the Grey Glacier. If you have the time and the stamina don’t miss the Full Circuit.

2. If you want to get off the beaten track, the Pingo Valley provides some wonderful hiking in a quiet part of the park. The valley is certainly not on the same scale as Frances or Ascensio and is probably more appropriate as a warm-up or preface to your main hike, but it’s stunning nevertheless: up the valley through steep canyon walls, dense forest, and past the immense power of Cascada Pingo, and up to a wonderful campsite on the shores of the river, where there are no facilities and minimal signs that anyone has been there before. This acts as a base for two hikes: one to the Pingo Glacier itself (subject to you being able to cross the river), and up to the Zapata viewpoint (sadly the Zapata Glacier has receded significantly, but the viewpoint remains very impressive). If you are lucky, you may also catch a glimpse of the rare Huemul.

 

3. Hike from Lago del Toro to Paine Grande Lodge (Lago Pehoe). This is gentle hike in the southern part of the park with no major ascents but walking predominantly north you walk with the Cuernos and the Towers ahead of you for most of the way. Starting out from the Administration Centre we saw Condor on the early part of our hike, and the final kilometres along the shores of Lago Pehoe are beautiful. You can also cover most of this route on horseback.

4. The Rio Serrano makes for a wonderful exit from Torres del Paine National Park. Starting out from Camping or Pueblito Serrano you can either kayak or go via zodiac boat, following the river all the way down to Puerto Toro, which sits at the junction of the Serrano River and the Last Hope Sound (Ultima Esperanza Fjord), and alongside the Serrano glacier with its steep descent into a lagoon. If you kayak downstream, you can camp on the shores of the river, and possibly do a day’s extension to the Geike glacier.

5. On the W Circuit you will have walked along the northern shore of Lago Nordenskjold at the foot of the Cuernos and the Towers. However, you can also hike on the southern shore, where your perspective of the peak is enhanced and you are more likely to come across some of Patagonia’s fauna – guanaco, condor, huemul.

If you have further ideas or questions for us then please let us know.