MIRADOR TORRES DEL PAINE

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If you make the trip to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in Chile, there is one thing you MUST do while there whether you’re hiking the circuit, the W, or staying just one night. I personally demand that you visit the Mirador Torres del Paine at sunrise. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring, and unique sights you will ever experience in your life. If that claim isn’t enough to get you there, I don’t know what is.

The Mirador Torres del Paine is a lookout point that gives a breathtaking, up-close view of the park’s namesake massive granite towers. Of course, you can visit this gem of a spot any time of day, but the best views are at sunrise when the towers turn a shockingly bright orange. (Photos don’t do it justice, so you’ll have to check it our for yourself.)

The best way to know if the sunrise trek is worth it is to wake up at around three or four in the morning and check if you can see stars. This alone is a heart-stopping experience, as you’ll likely see more stars and in a clearer sky than you’ve ever seen before. If you do, in fact, see thousands of luminous stars, you’re in luck – chances are good that the view at the Torres will be lovely. However, if you see a sea of blackness and clouds, go back to sleep – the view won’t be worth it. At least this is what the park guides promised us.

If you’re lucky and find yourself under a blanket of twinkling lights, get your camera and get ready to go. Depending on where you sleep, your trek will be between an hour and a half to three hours. For those of you out there who aren’t frequent hikers, this won’t be an easy few hours... but it will be worth it. Trust me. The first part is simply walking through the pitch black woods. Not too difficult. The last hour of the hike, though, is a tough one. All uphill, you’ll be traversing hands and knees over rocks at some points. At other points you’ll be literally hiking up streaming waterfalls, and walking next to massive drop-offs. Needless to say, be aware of your footing! I highly doubt there’s much of a history of hikers falling off the mountain, but it’s worthy of note, just for good measure. The trek can be tough on the knees, especially on the way down, but again -- it’s worth it.

One last (important!) piece of advice: at the end of the hike, you’ll come to a quite steep rocky incline. You need not scale this dangerous stretch, especially if you’re an inexperienced hiker. There is a path marked by orange poles, and though it’s hard to find at this last part, it is much easier, safer, and faster.

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The best way to access the Mirador at sunrise is by camping the night before at Campamento Torres del Paine, which is situated at the foot of the mountain. If you don’t have camping gear of your own, you’ll have to stay at Lodge El Chileno (the nearest refugio) or rent camping gear. If you stay at the refugio, plan to wake up around 3:30 or 4am to start your trek to the Mirador, depending on the time of year and when the sun will be rising. The trip should take you two and a half to three hours. Remember, you’ll be hiking in the dark, so be sure to bring a headlamp or a flashlight, or rent one before you get there.

Good luck, and don’t forget your camera. This is certainly a frame-worthy sight.