After the balmy climes and big city vibe of Santiago, arriving in Punta Arenas by air and continuing by road to Torres del Paine National Park can be a surprise, even if you have glimpsed the remote ice-throttled peaks and glaciers from the air. Milky blue and gem-sharp emerald lakes, sinuous rivers, glaciers and wind-scoured steppes have forged a unique environment. Torres del Paine is the natural habitat of over 150 species of birds (flamingos, condors, eagles and ostriches) and 25 species of mammal (including guanacos, armadillos, silver foxes and pumas). Come prepared for elemental drama: the dictates of the weather prevail but this national park is well worth the journey south, whether slashed by rain or bathed in sunshine.
The single road carves a lonely path across flat, ferociously wind-buffeted grasslands where you might spot a little hardy wildlife, but gradually the monotony of the landscape is overcome as the huge granite massif of Torres del Paine, with its icy spires, looms up on the horizon. You enter an area of blue green lagoons, waterfalls and tufty hillocks, where guanacos graze and water-birds shelter.
Your stunning, state-of-the-art Relais & Chateaux-listed lodge is set on a private reserve featuring some of Patagonia’s most primeval landscapes: iceberg-dotted lakes, snow-jacketed mountains, scrawny forests and vast expanses of open steppe.