Is Patagonia’s The W Trek The World’s Greatest Hiking Holiday?
Spoiler alert: probably.
You hear ‘walking holiday’, it’s easy to think ’retirement village’.
The mere mention of trekking poles conjures up images of bearded, cagouled OAPs doddering around, scheduling regular breaks for their Werther’s Originals fix.
But with popular tourist spots becoming ever more crowded, it’s increasingly hard to really, truly get away from it all - and so it’s no surprise that walking holidays are becoming more and more popular.
In 2018, beach breaks moved from fourth to fifth in the list of preferred getaways for UK holidayers, with ‘walking’ holidays creeping up to third in the list.
So where to begin?
Patagonia’s W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park is one of the world’s most spectacular and accessible. MTV headed down south (very, very south) to explore the region.
We can confirm it is ridiculous - and here’s why…
1. Scenery Porn
It is not a surprise to say that Patagonia is stonkingly gorgeous.
Not only the travel to and from (which almost always involves a bus or car journey from Puerto Natales in Argentina, or further south in Punta Arenas), but the 360 retina-dazzling views you get each and every second you’re in the Torres del Paine National Park.
Forest trails, glacial lakes, rushing rivers, flowing waterfalls and snow-capped jagged mountains surround you at every turn, and it never, ever grows old.
2. The four day hike is accessible to all
There are multiple ways to tackle ‘The W’ - so called because of the W-shaped route you’ll traverse on the map between mountains - but the most common is a four day hike, with camping stops every evening.
It’s not easy, but it’s very far from extreme. As long as you’re of moderate fitness, you’ll be fine - and the route is pliable enough that itineraries can be tailored to different fitness levels in the group, and yet still ensure everyone sees most of the sights.
Even better, the trails are well kept (meaning there’s little chance of you stumbling and/or falling off a mountain), and camping sites are surprisingly well-equipped, with hot water, showers, bars and internet throughout.
Into the Wild it is not.
3. The Towers are everything you’d imagine and more
You may not know them by name, but a quick Google Image of ‘Torres del Paine’ will bring up these infamous spires.
The hike to get there is the toughest of all the days walking, with a final ascent that’s vertical and breathtaking in every way.
But as you turn the corner and clasp eyes on the serene sight of the still, turquoise lake and the imposing mountains, it’s all worth it.
4. You’ll be blown off your feet (literally, too)
We hadn’t heard of Patagonia’s apparently infamous windiness before we arrived - but we were very swiftly, intimately acquainted with it.
It’s a weird thing to rave about gustiness, but as a life experience, being blown almost literally off your feet (and off a cliffside) is the perfect, immediate way to feel like you’re getting back to nature.
5. You'll get calves for days
Who needs Crossfit when you have four days of walking up mountains?
6. Get your glacier on
The hike up to and over Grey Lake is, simply, stunning.
Not only is there an enormo-glacier to gawp at, but there are icebergs floating along the wake that have broken away.
Traverse down to the lake edge, and you’ll even have the chance to kayak past them with a BigFoot Patagonia adventure tour.
It’s an experience that fully impresses upon you the ridiculous scale of them, and very much grounds you in the beauty (and genital-shrinking chilliness) of the landscape.
Oh, and if you get the boat back then you can even finish off the day with a Pisco Sour, cooled with ancient ice from the glacier.