Beginning this month, for overnight stays in Torres del Paine National Park you must have prior reservations at campsites or lodges.
By Clara Ribera
Due to high demand for partaking in the popular trekking circuits of Torres del Paine National Park, Chile's national park service (Conaf) has announced that starting from October 15, overnight stays in the park will be regulated. The new measure aims to redistribute the growing quantity of visits throughout more months of the year, which will benefit both the park’s natural environment and the quality of the experience for the guests themselves.
"We do not intend to reduce the volume of visitors," explains Rodrigo Rodriguez, who is in charge of parks and protected areas for Conaf in the Última Esperanza province, Magallanes region. Considering the high concentration of guests during a short two-month period -- currently some 40 percent of visitors arrive during January and February, which is the high season during Patagonia's summer -- they want to extend the trekking season into March and April.
The regulation impacts anyone wanting to trek the popular and busy “W” and “Macizo Paine Grande” circuits. "We urge the traveler to plan and inform themselves before coming. Together, we can achieve a change in behavior,” says Ximena Castro, business manager of Fantástico Sur, one of the companies which has a concession for operating lodges inside the park.
Anyone planning an extended hike for more than a day on the trails must now reserve a spot at the various campsites and lodges in advance, before entering the park. Moreover, the visitor will only be allowed one night in each sector. Rodriguez adds that those visitors not yet up to speed with the new system can try to make a last minute booking when registering before entering the park at the welcome center at Cerro Paine, though they will be hit with an additional 20 percent surcharge for usage of the tablets available there. If all the slots are filled, "you can still do a full-day in the park or climb to the base of the Torres without a reservation," says Rodriguez.
Bookings must be made from three different platforms depending on the location: CONAF (www.parquetorresdelpaine.cl), for the campsites, or via Vértice (www.verticepatagonia.com) and Fantástico Sur (www.fantasticosur.com) for the lodges and refugios inside the park. There are plans to launch a joint website in the future.