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Torres del Paine National Park: Four Secret Ways to Beat the Crowds

Taking a hiking tour of Torres del Paine National Park is highpoint of many people’s trip to Patagonia. The isolation, the tranquility, the complete departure from the rat race. With such unique wildness and spectacular natural attractions, it’s no wonder that Patagonia is an increasingly popular travel destination, with 150,000 visitors a year to Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park alone. Patagonia remains a wild frontier at the end of the world, so it’s never going to be heaving with people, but some crave that extra feeling of adventure that comes with a deeper kind of solitude. If you want to maximise your chances of being all alone with the whistling winds, check out the insider hints below:

 

Los Cuernos in WinterPlay the Travel Market Game

The savvy traveller should learn the language of the tour operators in order to get the best out of their trip to Torres del Paine. In this case, knowing the meaning of the ‘shoulder season’ could be your ticket to the peaceful hike you crave. In travel industry speak, the shoulder season is the period in between the low season - which in Patagonia is best left to the hardcore winter sports experts - and the high season, when most people choose to visit. Visiting Torres del Paine in the early spring between September and late October may mean that the temperatures are a little lower, and a few of the larger trails are not yet open, but for many people this is well worth the added thrill of being one of very few hikers in the park. You may also see it as an opportunity to discover less well-travelled trekking trails or to consider an activity that you might never have thought of otherwise, such as a Patagonian Wildlife Safari. And as if that weren’t enough, you’ll probably also pay less and have more choice when it comes to accommodation and transport, it’s win-win!
 

EcoCamp PatagoniaBe the Early Bird

There’s no way to sugar the pill, dragging yourself out of your cosy sleeping bag whilst it’s still dark outside and hitting the trail before most people have even woken up can be really hard work. But at least you know that the harder it is to do, the less likely it is that anyone else will be doing it. Early risers in Torres del Paine will be treated to the spellbinding spectacle of the sun rising over craggy spires of the Paine Massif, giving you an entirely different perspective to what you’ll see during the day. If you’re really a morning person, pack some food and tackle the Towers base trek to arrive just before dawn; you’ll be in for a breakfast you’ll never forget. A good option for anyone looking for a head start is to stay in a hotel or lodge within the park itself, such as EcoCamp Patagonia which is right at the heart of Torres del Paine. Aside from the restful night and spectacular scenery, you’ll wake up in a prime position to get straight underway with your hike. Sunrise in Torres del Paine in early November is around 6:00am, but it's worth checking out exactly what time the sun will rise during the dates of your trip before you leave, or using an app such as Sunrise for iPhone.
 

cycling in patagoniaThink Outside the Box

Hiking in Torres del Paine National Park is a no-brainer since some of the world’s most incredible hiking trails, such as the popular W Trek (best attempted from October to April) and the legendary Paine Circuit (usually open from November to March), are found here. You probably won't want to leave this trekker Mecca without tackling at least one of these routes, but if you do want to get away from the hot spots, there are other options that you should consider. You may not have ever thought of exploring Torres del Paine by bike, for example, but it is a quirky alternative that is now available to visitors to the park. The cycle trails will take you along different routes and for much greater distances when compared with a hike, meaning you’re more likely to break away from the pack. Another great choice for anyone looking for their own quiet corner of Patagonia is to go riding on horseback far across the open grass plains with the Baqueanos, the strong and silent local cowboys.
 

Shadows in the Patagon SunMake Hay While the Sun Shines... And When It Doesn’t!

When planning a trip to Patagonia, no matter what the time of year, everyone crosses their fingers for good weather. Whilst you can always hope for a week of pristine blue skies and warm sunshine, a little bit of rough weather might actually be a blessing in disguise. If the weather isn’t promising some people may choose to curtail their trek, take an alternative route, or just wait out the rain and the wind from the relative comfort of their tent. But if you’re properly prepared there’s no reason why the odd cloudburst should put a damper on your plans. There are times when you’ll have to put safety first - being blown off the John Gardner pass is probably not the unique adventure you’re looking for - but if it’s just the odd rain shower, dressing for the weather and bringing the right kit means you won't have to take cover when everyone else does. It may even be worth heading out when the weather is cloudy and you’re worried you won't see the fantastic views; the weather in Patagonia is very changeable and, even if it looks very unlikely, the sun may well come out once you’re on your way, when you’ll already have a head start over your fellow trekkers.