Helen Bateman Dragoman's expert on overlanding in The Americas explains why the W-Walk is now included in all Patagonian itineraries...
We’re delighted to now include the famous W Walk as part of all our Patagonia trips.
This 76 km trek is so named as its route follows a ‘W’ shape though the stunning valleys and forests of the Torres Del Paine, arguably the most beautiful National Park in South America.
Dragoman passengers often tell us that the W-Walk is the highlight of their visit to Patagonia. Whilst the 4 day walk is challenging, it can always be taken at your own pace, and made more manageable by turning around at the earlier viewpoints on route along Lago Grey and the Valle Frances, saving yourself for the walk to the highlight of the park, Las Torres.
Trekking in the park is highly regulated and camping spots sell out quickly, so we work in collaboration with our team of expert Chilean guides, to organise everything for you well in advance. You will arrive to each camping spot to find your tent all set up and a hot meal awaiting you. Whilst usually passengers carry their own sleeping bag and clothes for the trail, it is even possible to hire porters to help you out if you need to.
Make sure you have good walking boots, pack plenty of layers & waterproofs, as it can get very cold and wet (even in summer), an extra battery for your camera and some tasty treats to keep you going on the trail!
Summer - Glaciers, hiking, biking, kayaking, horse riding and carnival
The warmest temperatures for the Park are during the summer months of December to February, when you will also benefit from the longer summer days, with the nights barely lasting 6 hours. This is also the perfect time to visit one of the world’s few advancing Glaciers – the Perito Moreno, a 60m high sheer ice wall, stretching 5km in length. For those who love a challenge, trek to the top of snowy Volcan Villarica in Pucon, before sliding down on a sledge, then hike, bike or ride your way around picture-perfect Bariloche, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve arrived in the Alps, they even have chocolate and St Bernard Dogs!
Check out our trip from Santiago to Buenos Aires, which can be combined with our brand new trip to Rio de Janeiro taking in the best bits of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil and arriving perfectly in time for South America’s biggest party – Rio Carnival. We’ll stay on a typical Uruguayan estancia and ride out with the Gauchos, take a boat across from amazing Buenos Aires to the cool capital of Montevideo, later we’ll raft the rivers of Brotas, search for Jaguar in the southern Pantanal, spend a lazy day on a boat trip around the emerald coast from colonial Paraty, and escape from it all on Brazil’s stunning Isla Grande.
Springtime and Autumn for whale watching and wildlife
If you’re brave enough to visit Patagonia in the colder springtime month of October, you may well feel like you have the place to yourself. The region has its lowest levels of rainfall and generally the winds are at their calmest. The flowers are starting to come into bloom and the lack of people gives you a much higher chance of seeing fox, guanaco, huemal and crested caracaras. You’ll experience one of the world’s greatest road trips along the Carratera Austral – stunning scenery along a road that is in parts still dirt and gravel. Over 1200 km, Chile’s Ruta 7 takes you past enchanted forests, hanging glaciers, turquoise lakes and incredible mountains. Raft the Rio Futaleufu, hop on a horse and ride around the Cerro Castillo park or hike to remote lakes.
A 5 season sleeping bag and a good down jacket, hat and gloves are essential for keeping you cosy. Often our groups will opt to upgrade to cabanas and hostels, as the very first trips of the season may even have a little snow on the higher trails.
This is also the best time to take a Whale Watching trip from Puerto Madryn.
The Autumn (April/May) offers trekkers the chance for amazing photographs, as the trees turn bright orange and red. Again this time of year has the benefit of fewer trekkers on the trails, though be aware that as the season comes to a close some of the activities may be not be accessible.
Pumas in Torres Del Paine
Over the years the Park has become a haven for Pumas. It is estimated that there are now between 50 and 100 pumas living in the park. This is in part due to the healthy guanaco population and also because of their protected status. Hunting is, of course, banned and has been since the 1970s. In order to protect pumas from the impact of tourism, tracking of pumas is highly regulated and only possible on a specific ‘puma tracking’ excursion. Pumas are solitary and elusive cats and though it’s unlikely you will spot one during your treks, some of our trucks have been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them whilst driving through the park.