Torres del Paine National Park is one of the most incredible places on earth. I came here several years ago, fell in love with the region and decided to move to Patagonia permanently. This is my story of how I fell in with Patagonia – its rugged landscapes, lovely people and unique way of life.
I was born in Siberia. When I was young my family moved to Moscow. Reading books and watching films about foreign places, remote countries and other cultures sparked my desire to chase the unknown. At the age of 16, I met well-travelled people who worked in film and photography.
At that stage, I was completely lost and didn’t know what to do with my life. I guess this is a typical problem for teenagers! I began watching my friends who worked in the film/video industry practice their art. I learnt how to edit videos all by myself and this set me off in a different direction in life.
That is how I first made money. I was able to buy a laptop and a one-way ticket to Indonesia in 2006. My life began to change and nothing was the same after this trip. The desire to pick up a camera and start filming came a little later. But first, I wanted to use the time to get to know myself better.
Moving to Torres del Paine, Chile
In 2015, I first came to Chile knowing only three words in Spanish. It wasn’t easy because not many people in the country spoke English. Nevertheless, my ability to make videos opened up many opportunities for me. I couldn’t speak the language but the camera was my way of communicating!
The first project I secured was for North Face making a video for professional climbers. An amazing family of rock climbers appeared in my life that year and they ended up teaching me Spanish. I began to get involved in the rock climbing scene and explored more of Patagonia.
I began to fall in love with Patagonia. After a couple of journeys across the country – including working as a filmmaker on the local TV program “Maravillas del Mundo” – I was invited to accompany a group of Russians from National Geographic to Torres del Paine and the glaciers of Ruta Kaweskar on a ship for six days as a photographer and Spanish translator.
I remember that day, two years ago, when I arrived at Torres del Paine for the first time. It was the same exact place where I live now – village Rio Serrano. I went horse riding with a gaucho and we enjoyed incredible views of the mountain range. Torres del Paine instantly stole my heart.
After a couple of months my life changed 180 degrees. I quit my job in TV, broke up with my boyfriend, lost everything and started to live in a village and work at a place called Rio Serrano Hotel. My job was as the resident filmmaker and engagement manager. I have never looked back since!
Remarkable Energy of Patagonia
Patagonia is such a wild place where people still depend on nature. From the rugged mountain peaks, to the powerful rivers, shimmering glaciers and crazy wind – this region of South America packs a massive punch.
It’s an amazing place to see wildlife too – with the epic landscapes in the background. I find it hard to describe the energy of Patagonia. For me, the incredible nature, culture and traditions mean this land has no limits.
I live in a village by Serrano River. This place gives me a sense of peace where I can go horse riding overlooking the river and Paine Massif, and enter the forest which is like “Lord of the Rings” with moss covered trees!
At Torres del Paine, each viewpoint has something special to offer. One of my favourite places that I love to visit to take photos or just enjoy the view is Mirador Cuernos. On the way, you will see the Salto Grande waterfall which marks the point where the Nordenskjold Lake meets the Paine River.
Then you will have an incredible landscape overlooking the towering cliffs where you can look at the texture of the Cuernos. The snow-capped peaks and glaciers of Cerro Paine Grande will also be in view. Walking along the path, a series of burnt trees from the fire in 2012 (a sad sight) gives off an incredible mysticism and composition for photographers.
Another couple of amazing spots are Mirador Nordenskjold and Laguna Azul with stunning views of the towers. I love the energy of these places in Patagonia. The breathtaking views in combination with the gauchos and pumas (see them if you are lucky) make for a remarkable image.
If you are about to walk the W Trek (including the Grey Glacier, French Valley and Tower Base), well you will be amazed by the awe-inspiring views of the mountains, deep blue glaciers and hauntingly beautiful forests.
Best Hikes of Torres del Paine
These hikes take days to complete and can be difficult for even the most experienced hikers. It’s also important to know that these hikes are available to trek from November to March. On the other hand, there are many day hikes which might suit the more casual adventurer.
Distances of the day hikes can vary between 5- 20 kilometers. My favourite one is (once again) Mirador Cuernos. Also, Condor Viewpoint and Ferrier Lookout are definitely worth doing as well. Lastly, hiking to the Grey Glacier is a fantastic experience which takes you west of the Cordillera del Paine.
A Culture Immersed in Nature
There is something special about the culture that has me attracted to Patagonia. It stands for simplicity and honesty. To observe gauchos working with horses and how they tame these majestic animals with such passion is amazing. They live in a peaceful accordance with nature.
Their skin is scarred and burnt by the rough Patagonian wind and sun. Locals will invite you to share “mate” and will tell you all sorts of fascinating stories. These moments are so pure, real and honest. It’s like the time has stopped. This is something that I feel and what inspired me to live here.
Meat-Based Diet of Southern Chile
The main dish of Southern Chile is meat, especially “Cordero al Palo”. This name refers to how Patagonians traditionally cook lamb. To prepare this meal, the chef will stretch an entire lamb across an iron cross and cook it over an open fire. The whole cooking process takes about five or six hours.
But the result is the juiciest, most delicious meat in the world! On the other hand, “Centolla” is a type of crab dish very common in the region. It’s highly valued because in other parts of the country the crab is expensive.
In terms of restaurants, I recommend the meat restaurant El Asador Patagonico, the bar where you can find a variety of platters and drinks El Puesto, a seafood restaurant called Santolla and La Guanaca Pizzeria. All of them are located in Puerto Natures – 80km from Torres del Paine.
Where to Stay in Torres del Paine
There are many amazing places to stay in Torres del Paine – all of which depend on your budget and preferences. If you are looking for a sustainable and comfortable place I recommend EcoCamp. It’s located close to the beginning of the famous trail to the base of the towers.
Exploring Patagonia with my Horse
A favourite memory of mine was when I took an adventure with my horse Inocente. Last year I bought a horse! I never thought I would do something like this. Anyway, I was alone with Inocente and spent five days on the road from a ranch where I bought him all the way to Torres del Paine.
It was an incredible journey and I felt like I was in a movie. A real experience of being alone in the wild completely off the grid with no reception, sleeping under trees, passing through old ranches and talking to locals. It was quite risky because of the climate and pumas in the area.
But I had good luck along the journey. This extraordinary experience gave me further inspiration to explore Southern Chile well off the beaten path.
Need to Know Before you Go
- Prepare yourself for any kind of weather – the climate changes without warning and it doesn’t matter if you come here in summer or winter.
- Plan your trip at least six months in advance to ensure that you can book spaces in campsites, ecocamps, hotels, lodges, etc.
- If you are a photographer or filmmaker, I definitely recommend renting a car so you can explore freely by yourself. This will be a more comfortable way of managing your time and carrying your gear. When you find a great spot you can stay there longer to take your shots.
- The best time to visit is during the shoulder season – from September to November and March to April. In Autumn, the steppe turns into many shades of golden yellow and the forests glow in shades of orange and red. This is amazing for photographers and filmmakers. Also, there will be less people in the park during these months.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy your time in Torres del Paine!