Torres del Paine National Park is also known as the “crown jewel of Patagonia”. It’s easy to understand why: this wild area in southern Chile encompasses a great variety of landscapes, including ice fields, blue lagoons and steep granite spires. Here, the vast nothofagus forests meet the flat “pampa”, where the wind never stops blowing. Torres del Paine is the definition of wilderness, and it is also a land of contrasts that may just be the best place on earth for outdoors photography.
Every year about 300,000 persons visit Torres del Paine (that was before the COVID-19 pandemic). While most of them are hikers, thousands of travelers come with a prime focus on photography. And in Torres del Paine, you don’t always have to hike to get the best shots. Some places like Grey Glacier and Pehoe Lake are accessible for the non-hikers, and other areas are best enjoyed for wildlife photographers who tend to sit down and wait for the puma to show up.
The real challenge here is the weather. You can get 4 seasons in a day, which can get pretty tricky when it comes to protecting your camera’s sensor. Also, some spots are a real challenge to get to (check out the Torres del Paine “O” Circuit), so the most adventurous photographers may indeed hike for a few days to get the best mountain shot.
Whichever type of photographer you are; you’ll find beauty everywhere in Torres del Paine. And these photographers provided us with the best demonstration we’ve found out there.
1. Nighttime at the Towers’ Base
Photographer : @cathsimard
“Small people in big landscapes will always be the perfect representation of pure freedom and humility to me and I’ll keep doing it no matter what.” Says photographer Catherine Simard. This shot is a nice long exposure of the towers’ base viewpoint, the most popular spot in the national park. This 22km/13mi demanding hike is usually done at early morning, but some hikers brave the night to reach the lake at nighttime. A landscape that never disappoints – especially when the stars are shining.
2. Spires of Ice
“What would you like to experience most in Patagonia? Jagged peaks, massive glaciers, or 100 km/h winds?” says photographer Aaron. At Grey lake you can experience all of these. Some huge icebergs can be seen at the shore of the beach, especially during spring and summer when Grey glacier retreats. A beautiful landscape with “the Horns” (los Cuernos) as a backdrop.
3. Land of the Mighty Horse
“The definition of freedom in one picture” says photographer Timothy Dhalleine. While a herd of about 100 wild horses actually inhabit the eastern side of Torres del Paine National Park, these horses are domesticated and can be occasionally seen in the plains surrounding the Serrano area. They look even better with these magnificent mountains (Los Cuernos) as a backdrop.
4. The Face of a Hunter
Photographer : @jm.wildlife
“This is a huge male puma. We were driving through Torres del Paine National Park when suddenly a puma appeared near the road. We started taking pictures and about a hundred meters away we realized there was another puma eating a guanaco. The puma was focuses on its prey, so I could observe him for a while and take some nice close-ups of his face as he was enjoying his meal.”
5. Land of the Guanacos
“This is one of the moments when I just enjoyed sitting in front of majestic Torres del Paine mountains and waiting until guanacos will finally agree to pose for us. Well, almost 2 hours took them to understand what are we waiting for so patiently” says photographer Daniel Kordan
6. Windy Mornings
Photographer : @gettyphotography
Pehoe Lake may be the most beautiful lake in Torres del Paine National Park, it is often hit by very powerful wind gusts. It creates scenes of raw beauty especially at sunrise, when the first lights of the day hit Mt. Paine Grande and los Cuernos.
7. Ice Fields
The southern Patagonian Ice Fields are the world’s 3rd freshwater reserve after Antarctica and the Artic, with a total area of 16,800km2 (6,500 sq.mi.). However, most glaciers of these ice fields are retreating, like Grey glacier in Torres del Paine. Photographer Blake de Bock offers us a beautiful aerial shot of of the ice fields from a plane.
8. After the Fire
In 2011, about 17,000 hectares of Torres del Paine were burnt after a tourist from Israel burnt toilet paper near Grey lake. A catastrophe that changed the entire landscape of the western side of the park. And while it was a devastating event that also killed thousands of animals, what’s left of the disaster create a dramatic setting that attracts lots of photographers.
9. Wild Winter
Photographer : @birdsofpatagonia
Winter is the most extreme time of the year to visit Torres del Paine, yet there is less wind and it is easier to spot wildlife, with less tourists on the trails. The peaks are covered with snow, which creates some dramatic landscapes – especially when there are animals involved.
10. A Flight Above Torres del Paine
Russian photographer Lena Bam spent a few years exploring Torres del Paine. She enjoys wandering around the Serrano River, an area that offers a panoramic view of the Torres del Paine mountain range.
11. Condor in Fall
Autumn is the most photogenic time of the year to visit Torres del Paine according to plenty of photographers. Lots of reflections, contrasts and wildlife and colors that create the most amazing scenery for a painting. This lonely condor – the world’s second bird with the largest wingspan (up to 3 meters / 10 ft) - was at the right place (Nordenskjöld Lake) at the right time.
12. The Towers From Above
Photographer : @rodrigomoragaz
The granite towers of Torres del Paine gave their name to the national park. The highest tower is the south tower (2850m.a.s.l. / 9350ft.). In this picture shot from a plane, you can appreciate not only the three famous granite spires, but also Mt. Escudo (center left) and Mt. Fortaleza (center right). Torres del Paine is full of incredible granite spires and when it comes to mountain beauty, not everything is about the towers. The photographer, Rodrigo Moraga, is amongst the most well-known wildlife photographers in Chile : check out his feed for insane puma pictures!
Photographer : @ekelundfotos
If someone tells you “the wind never stops blowing in Patagonia” don’t believe him. When the wind stops blowing miracles occur, especially around the lakes and rivers of Torres del Paine (like here at the Serrano river at sunrise).
14. Frozen Waters
Photographer : @montaraz.naturaleza
The famous lake at the towers’ base can also freeze, especially between June and September. This is a rare sight of that famous place that can be enjoyed on a Winter W Trek (don’t forget your crampons), with very few hikers are on the trails.
15. Inside Grey Glacier
Photographer : @saulsantosfotografia
The retreating Grey glacier is still a massive glacier that is commonly enjoyed from the daily navigation or from the trails of Torres del Paine Circuit (“O Trek”) or the W Trek. However, it is also possible to hike on the glacier – a full day that may be the best way to feel how alive the ice fields truly are. Photographer Saul Santo photographed a glacier mill from inside and, well…that’s huge.
16. Peaceful Mornings
Photographer : @_fabiozingg
Says photographer Fabio Zingg. Easy to believe him (shot at Pehoe Lake). ”
17. The Herd
Photographer : @wild.shores
18. Winter Explorations
Photographer : @alanjavier.ph
Photographer : @rodrigoterren
20. Welcome Dome
The Welcome Dome is the “front desk” of EcoCamp Patagonia, the world’s 1st geodesic hotel. It is a place where travelers from around the world gather before hiking through the trails of Torres del Paine or watch the sunset before having dinner in the Community Domes. It is a “dome with a view” and you’ll always find some nice people inside – Not convinced yet? Here’s the shot!
Inspired by the awesome photography opportunities that Torres del Paine National Park can offer? Do it yourself! Go for a Wildlife Safari or focus 100% on wildlife while doing a Puma Tracking in the park.