The Complete Guide to Hiking Torres del Paine

UPDATE 2018: A lot has changed since we visited Torres del Paine in 2015. Trekkers doing the O and Q circuit can only hike counterclockwise, and all campsites and refugios need to be booked in advance including the free CONAF campsites. Note that Campamento Torres will be closed during the 2017/2018 season due to maintenance. Read on for more details.

After several months of indulging in amazing luxury experiences in Peru and Argentina, Tony and I were craving a good challenge and decided to hike the O circuit around the Torres del Paine Massif. It had been way too long since we did a multi-day trek on our own, so hiking Patagonia without a guide was just what the doctor ordered. It was time to hit the trails and test our physical limits. This time, no organized lodges, no guides or porters, no prepared meals. We wanted a real adventure to rediscover our sense of independence. Just a tent, food, and enough time to explore 130 km of wilderness. We know this is not for everyone, so in our Torres del Paine itinerary below, we are also including options for guided tours.

Torres del Paine National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is a household name among serious trekkers. Even if you have never heard the name, you’ve certainly seen the world-famous park in advertisements. Its epic, low-altitude landscapes represent everything that makes Continue…

Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

Many tourist brochures would have you believe that trekking options in the Cuzco region begin and end with the famous (perhaps overly famous) Inca Trail. Nothing could be further from the truth. Four-month waiting lists and packed campgrounds have left more spontaneous visitors to the Cuzco region searching for trekking alternatives which they can easily combine with a visit to Machu Picchu.

The rising star among these alternatives is the beautiful Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, a unique option which takes trekkers on a world-class journey across Mt. Salkantay and the high-altitude Salkantay Pass and descends into the cloud forests surrounding Machu Picchu. Along the Salkantay trail, trekkers experience an extraordinary range of Andean mountain environments as well as remote Incan trade trails and rare views of the western side of Machu Picchu from the Llactapata Continue…

The Ultimate Guide to the Perito Moreno Glacier & Los Glaciares National Park South

 Los Glaciares National Park: View over the Perito Moreno Glacier

After our adventure tours of the world’s greatest ice flows in Antarctica and Tierra del Fuego, our latest destination is the superstar of Patagonian ice, the spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier. Located in the southern reaches of Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park, the Perito Moreno Glacier is famous for its very active calving; and even better, visitors can get up-close and personal with all the action. And while the Perito Moreno Glacier might steal the spotlight, there are several other up-and-coming starlet glaciers that will literally take your breath away. Continue…

Hiking in Los Glaciares National Park North

Hiking in Los Glaciares National Park North: Tony backed by Mt. Fitz Roy

The sun filtering through the half-drawn curtains of our bus was a good omen. More than ever, Tony and I needed the weather gods to be on our side. We had traveled hundreds of kilometers just to go hiking in Los Glaciares National Park North and catch a view of Argentina’s most famous and picturesque granite peaks, Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. As we drove along Viedma Lake toward the tiny town of El Chaltén, the fluffy clouds above started drifting apart revealing circular patches of blue sky and, to our excitement, bits and pieces of the Fitz Roy Mountain Range ahead. Continue…

Ausangate Trek – Lodge to Lodge along the Camino del Apu Ausangate

Our Ausangate trek started with a picture, a mind-blowing image circulated on Facebook of a surreal rainbow mountain, which I assumed had been photoshopped beyond belief. (Could something really be that beautiful?) When I saw the image, I initially thought it was the Zhangye Danxia mountains in China, but something about the shape of the hill looked slightly different. Dragging the picture into Google image search revealed that I was looking at formations near Ausangate mountain just a few hours from Cusco, Peru. Yay!

The Ausangate circuit is featured on many lists of the world’s best high-altitude treks. One of the holiest mountains in Incan mythology, Ausangate features windswept valleys, snow-covered peaks, glaciers, panoramic views… everything a serious trekker could want. But much to our surprise, we discovered that that rainbow mountain was not on the well-known camping circuit. Further digging revealed that the Camino del Apu Ausangate, an alternative lodge-based Ausangate trek run by Andean Lodges, combines the stunning mountain scenery and high-altitude passes of Ausangate with the little known technicolor landscapes around Vinicunca Continue…

The Faces of Ausangate

Andean Lodges: Roberto, our horseman, shows off one of his many trekking hats

As you can see from the Ausangate lodge trek post and video, our trek along the Camino del Apu Ausangate was full of natural and cultural highs. For many people, the spectacular landscapes and isolated Andean villages are reason enough to do the trek. But we also wanted to stop and reflect a bit on the unique relationship between Andean Lodges and the communities of Chillca and Osefina which greatly benefit from these treks. Continue…

Day-Tripping in Huaraz

TnT at Lake 69

Huaraz is the trekking capital of the central Peruvian Andes; it’s the perfect base for day trips and multi-day treks into the surrounding Cordillera Blanca, including Peru’s highest mountain, Huascarán (6,768 m / 22,205 ft). Best time to hike is May to September when skies are crystal-blue and days are dry and warm. However, hiking can still be good during the fringe-season, just before May and into November.

We came to Huaraz in November to independently hike the world-famous Santa Cruz trek. Yes, we knew we were pushing our luck with the weather this late in the season, but we were already in Peru, so we thought we would give it a try. To make this story a little shorter, we failed… or rather, high-altitude drizzle with zero visibility made us return to Huaraz on day one of our trek.

Yes, travel does not always go as planned. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. So was Huaraz a total bust? Not at all. We turned that failure into a major victory by Continue…

Skylodge Peru – The Edgiest Hotel in the World

We had some pretty incredible experiences during our six months in Peru; it felt like we were bouncing from one awesome adventure to another. But our outing to the Skylodge Adventure Suites with was taking those adventures to new heights… literally.

The Skylodge Adventure Suites just might be the world’s “edgiest” hotel as you literally sleep hanging off a twelve-hundred-foot cliff overlooking Peru’s famous Sacred Valley. It’s seriously cool, but sorry jet-set crowd, there’s no pulling up to this hotel in a taxi. The Skylodge Adventure Suites was built by adventurers for adventurers. If you want to sleep suspended on a sheer Andean wall, you have to earn it. Continue…

Spring Hiking in Gozo

The Azure Window, Gozo’s famous natural bridge shown below, collapsed on March 8, 2017. Read on for more info.

Tony and Thomas near the Gozo Azure Window (collapsed in March 2017).

While many might scream hysterically at the concept of visiting any Mediterranean island before temperatures make swimming comfortable, we beg to disagree. Spring brings waves of colorful flowers to many of the arid islands, and cooler temperatures are perfect for long coastal hikes. Gozo, Malta’s smaller neighbor, is a perfect example. Continue…

Kasbah du Toubkal – Luxury Trekking in the High Atlas

As we sit sipping sweet mint tea gazing out the sculpted slopes of the Imlil Valley, the call to prayer echoes up from the Berber villages below. I adjust the cushy pillows around me and lean out to take in the mountain panorama that surrounds the Kasbah du Toubkal. Behind our hill-top refuge rises the barren, rocky peak of Mt. Toubkal, which at 4,167 m (13,670 ft) ranks as the highest mountain in North Africa. Opposite us, a wondrous waterfall pours into an oasis of walnut, apple, and – most importantly – cherry trees. It’s literally raining cherries in the valley below.

When trekkers talk dream destinations, the conversations often turn to distant lands such as Nepal, northern India, Tibet or Peru. Scanning our archives will prove that these reputations are well deserved. But trekkers-in-the-know keep a few dazzling finds to themselves, off-the-beaten-track treasures where the hiking enthusiast can walk the trails without the crowds. One of the best kept secrets Continue…