Torres del Paine Circuit, Chile
With some trademark jagged pink-granite rock thrusts reaching up to 10,000 feet, glaciers and their accompanying bright blue lakes, Torres del Paine National Park is going to compel you to stop often on its 52-mile loop for a photo or just a gasp. Hike all of it in ten days, take five days to trek what’s called the ‘W,’ or just head into the park for day trips to hit the highlights. The highest point in this UNESCO Biosphere is 4,000 feet so altitude sickness won’t be an issue. But you still get up close to glaciers and can even camp lakeside where the ice is crashing into the water. You’ll find plenty of wildlife, especially birds, guanacos (like llamas), nandu (ostrich lite), and if you’re lucky, a puma. This is Patagonia at its most awesome.
When to go: If you like more hiking time in a day, best to go during December-January when the sunset isn’t until 10 p.m. During that time and through March is the warmest season with low chance of rain.
Difficulty: The trail covers all skill levels. Some paths may be strenuous but generally unintimidating. You don’t necessarily need a guide either.
Things to know: You can check in at a local hostel near the park entrance or just pitch a tent. If you’ve got the money, one of the adventure lodges, such as La Remota with upscale pampering and daily expert guides, is a nice way to go too.
(Photo by Kevin Revolinski)