As I go through the photos from the breathtaking Torres del Paine National Park, I almost forget how stressful it was to plan the whole trip. So I though I would put down few tips that I wish I have known before.
1) March is the best month to head out to Patagonia - the weather is still warm and mostly sunny, and you will avoid all the peak season crowds. So, if you are a spring semester student - lucky you!
2) Book everything as soon as you can! You can get good deals on flights from Santiago to Punta Arenas (US $145 in my case) with low cost Chilean airline. As for accommodation, you might want to look it up and book it even before you head out for your semester in Chile. There are several options ranging from free camping in camps of the National Park, to many private companies charging you between $18 per tent up to $100+ for camping with full board, simple bed, or a hotel room. I'm sure you would be down to do the camping to save money, but with limited number of spots at each camp and "refugio", you might be left with the expensive options. So, book early, book early, book early!
3) Make sure you dedicate at least 4 days for this trip! The weather can go through whole four seasons in one day, so if you arrive at the Park's most majestic sites at the wrong time, you won't see a thing.
4) You will meet tons of other hikers on the way and if they try to tell you that it's not worth walking the whole trek to each mirrador, don't trust them! The Park Rangers know why they created the treks the way they did. I personally made it to the end of each of them within the W circuit, and there was certainly no spot before the final mirrador where you could get as beautiful view as the one at the very end. Trust me.
5) I know that sometimes the most famous places might seem overrated, but this is not the case. Even though I pay for my travels out of my own pocket, I don't regret a single cent I have spent on this amazing trip. So please, go through the suffering of figuring out the trekking paths and booking of the accommodation, the reward will be so worth it:
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<p>My name is Misha and I am a third year international student at Grinnell College in Iowa. I am an enthusiastic traveler, foodie, and outdoors lover. I take my camera wherever I go and I’ll do my best to give you a taste of what studying in Santiago is like. This will be my third time in Latin America and I already cannot wait for all the adventures ahead. Hope you will enjoy the journey just as I will!</p>