We left El Calafate at 7:30AM and headed towards Puerto Natales. It was a very ugly day, 8˚C, rainy and windy, but we kept our hopes up that as the day went on it would get better…it didn’t but we still pressed on. We arrived at the border of Argentina and Chile at 10:30AM and it took about an hour between the two controls. We came in from Cancha Carrera because it was closer to Torres del Paine. At the Chilean border you can get a small pamphlet with a circuit of Torres del Paine that gives you locations of places to sleep but we used it as a rough map until we got to the park for more information.
We started driving and came across a sign that said “Mirador del Paine” and from our Patagonian experience I thought “Oh it must be a great viewpoint to see the park,” The sign said it was about 30 minutes in so I expected it to be this great lookout of the park and so we ventured in. We took this pretty road that went around Lago Sarmiento and around a very nice rock beach. So after about 30 minutes of driving and building up excitement for what this mirador will look like we arrived at the end of the road with nothing but a few estancias. Turns out “Mirador del Paine” was actually a hotel and not a lookout. We were truly disappointed. So we turned around and went back the way we came. We decided to stop at the rock beach on Lago Sarmiento for some sandwiches and chips and it was really beautiful and quiet.
Afterwards, we went back to the main road and headed towards the park. There are a few signs on this unpaved road so we kind of just hoped for the best that we ended up where we wanted to go. We saw many, many guanacos and nandus (small emu-like birds), thousands of sheep, and even a few condors. We finally arrived to the entrance of the park only to find out that there was an entrance fee even if you just want to drive around for an hour (because that’s all we had time for). That fee is a hefty CLP$18000 for foreign adults. It is a very pricey place, from what I’ve heard, and is not worth the payment unless you stay there for a few days. We tried to talk to the park rangers but they denied us any discount so we just got in the car and went to Puerto Natales. We found out later that Torres del Paine in general is very expensive even after you enter inside. So we just decided to come back another time for a few days to truly do a trek through one of the most incredible parks in the world.
We decided to stop at Cueva del Milodon, which is about 10km before Puerto Natales. We thought it would be another “Cave of Hands,” like all the others we’d passed in Patagonia but this cave was really cool. It only cost CLP$4000 for non-Chileans and there was enough to do there for a few hours if you want. The main attraction was the “Cueva Grande” which told the story of the humans and fauna that lived in that area 11,000 years ago and how the cave was formed. The cave is named after a large bear-like animal called the Milodon of which its remains were found during an excavation. There is a small self-guided tour around the cave that takes about 10 minutes but it’s truly a sight to see. Afterwards, you can trek to two smaller caves that are a bit farther, about 2km or hike up to the mirador above the main cave which is about 600m. We chose to do the mirador because we were short on time and the views were amazing, even though it was very overcast. You can see the valley and river of Patagonia and even see Puerto Natales!
After the cave, we went to the city to try and find a hostel because we didn’t book one. We tried to stay at a pretty famous one called Erratic Rock (CLP$10,000/night) but they were booked so they recommended us to a hostel nearby that was CLP$8000/night and luckily they had vacancies! It was a small hostel but the atmosphere was great! We met so many different people from all over the world and talked for hours with them over dinner. It was one of the best conversations we’ve had at a hostel because it was so diverse with many opinions. We had a great night and a warm bed!
- Left El Calafate @ 7:30AM
- AR$140 = Hostel
- Arrived @ Chilean border @ 10:30AM
- CLP$8000 = Cueva del Milodon (CLP$4000/person)
- CLP$3600 = Market
- CLP$16000 = Hostel
- CLP$33000 = Gas [CLP$843/L]
- Total = AR$140 / CLP$60,517