If you are planning to travel patagonia and visit Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, you will inevitably arrive to Puerto Natales. Lying next to the cloudy turquoise glacier shores of Seno Ultima Esperanza, extreme wind conditions are common. It’s a small town with most buildings only a single story with the main street clearly more developed and groomed than the less traveled side streets. Like many of the towns visited in Patagonia, they have become entirely dependent on tourism, from the backpacker to tour groups of retirees. Towns centered on tourism mean you will typically find a modern super market, plenty of adventure rental equipment, touristy restaurants and unlimited lodging.
If you are looking for traditions and off the beaten path villages, you won’t find it here, however Puerto Natales has a relaxing charm, with German influence, that suits the Patagonia landscape well. And most importantly, Germans make good beer.
Most streets are lined with hostels and tour agencies. If you plan to hike Torres del Paine on your own, you may only need to rent equipment, visit the super market and purchase a bus ride to the park’s entrance. With new businesses opening often in Puerto Natales, it is best to ask others in your hostel where they rented equipment. Doite is the most common brand of outdoor equipment offered by outfitters in town. In comparison to Cusco, Peru, Patagonia outfitters offer much higher quality equipment. Several hostels offer equipment rental, but be sure to shop around first, prices will vary.
Puerto Natales offers more than a visit or trek to the three towers. Ice climbing, mountain biking, kayaking and fly fishing are all popular activities that can be booked in town.
After a long trek in Torres del Paine, be sure to spoil yourself with some cheer and wonderful food from the many choices of restaurants. We preferred the Austral Calafate Ale, a berry (Calafate) flavored brew and a delicious seafood bowl for dinner.
Read about Hiking Torres del Paine
Budget Travel Tips
Save money by seeking out dorm hostels for $5,000 pesos a night. We scored this rate by visiting Nancy’s Hostel and staying in their adjacent building with no sign. The hostel had a warm shower and kitchen, but no refrigerator. They will still allow you to visit the main hostel, Nancy’s, for wifi, cooking and to keep your food cool. It is also possible to hitch hike your ride to the park’s entrance, saving $10,000 pesos.