Fly from Puerto Montt airport to Punta Arenas in southern Patagonia (2hrs). On a clear day you have other-worldly views of the swirling meringue of the southern icecap, its fjords, volcanoes and glaciers. Approaching Punta Arenas you see the rust-brown stain of the Patagonian steppes, pitted with small lagoons stretching out towards the Straits of Magellan.
The region’s fortunes were only briefly revived during a gold rush, and the sheep-rearing business has never really recovered from the collapse of the price of meat and wool. Drive on into Torres del Paine National Park. The scenery becomes more dramatic as you approach the towering massif which looms up on the horizon.
This superb wilderness is dominated by a monumental granite massif of smooth rock towers and icy pinnacles. Milky blue and gem-sharp emerald lakes, sinuous rivers, glaciers and wind-scoured steppes have created a remarkable and unique environment. A UNESCO biosphere reserve, the area is a natural habitat of over 150 species of birds (flamingos, condors, eagles and ostriches) and 25 species of mammal (including guanacos, armadillos, silver foxes and pumas). Guanacos (cameloids) graze peacefully while ostriches scamper across the plains and condors soar above.
You’ll be staying at the Eco Camp, which makes the most of the magnificent Patagonian setting (see Places to Stay).