Though the majority of Chile’s winegrowing regions are in the country’s temperate central zones, its winemakers seek raw nature to the south. Boasting a diversity of environments and hailed as the adventure travel capital of Chile, Patagonia is an outdoor lover’s dream. Its many hiking trails highlight the area’s famous mountains, glaciers, forests and grasslands, and stretch from the northern Lakes District all the way down to Cape Horn at the southernmost tip.
Here, some of the country’s more intrepid winemakers sound off on their favorite natural places to explore.
Vallejo’s favorite Patagonian trails are both in Torres del Paine National Park, each a popular draw for local and visiting hikers alike. For him a four-day adventure, the W Trek Circuit winds in a W-shaped route around the Paine Massif and visits park highlights like the Grey Glacier. For a longer trek, he likes the O Trek Circuit that encircles the Massif and ultimately connects the two ends of the W trail. The key, says Vallejo, is rewarding yourself after either journey. He recommends dinner in nearby Puerto Natales.
Emma Florensa Bournazeau
There’s more to Torres del Paine than the W and O treks, Bournazeau points out. “I chose the Paso de Agostini because I think it is less known,” she says. “I like it because very different landscapes intersect with the backdrop of Torres del Paine.” With the Paine mountains in the background, the trail leads through the park’s grasslands, passing several beautiful lakes and offering opportunities to see local wildlife like guanacos, which are closely related to llamas.
María Luz Marín
The lesser-known adventures through Torres del Paine are also a favorite of Marín. She enjoys the day hike to the French Valley in the heart of the Paine Massif. “After two hours of traveling through forests and lakes, you arrive at Camp Italiano, the gateway to the incredible French Valley,” she says. “You begin to see the imposing hanging glaciers of Paine Grande, the highest mountain in the park.” After you ascend further through lenga and coihue forests, the hike culminates at the French Valley Lookout, “where you enjoy a wonderful panoramic view.”
A born adventurer, Baettig recommends the rugged Dientes de Navarino Circuit, on Navarino Island in Tierra del Fuego. Recognized widely as the southernmost trek in the world, this epic backcountry journey calls for “a little more experience in navigation with GPS, or a good guide,” he says. The effort rewards with a route marked by jagged peaks, wind-sculpted forests, lakes, peat bogs and top-of-theworld views of the Beagle Channel. “It is spectacular because of its isolation, colder and harsher climate, and wild beauty.”
Phelps a New Zealand transplant, prefers to escape the crowds of southern Patagonia. He looks toward the Aysén or Lakes District regions of the north, renowned for forests, snowcapped peaks, lakes and rivers. “The park I really, really love down there is Conguillio,” he says. “The Sierra Nevada hike is wicked, as is the traverse of Volcan Llaima.” Conguillio National Park is perhaps best known for its forests of Dr. Seusslike, spindly Araucaria, or “monkey puzzle,” trees.
Aurelio Montes Del Campo
Another fan of northern Patagonia, Montes enjoys the peaceful trails of Alerce Costero National Park near Valdivia. The routes there are lined by towering, ancient Fitzroya trees. “It is a much easier…path, ideal for going with children,” he says. “The end of the trail takes you to a larch tree that’s over 2,000 years old, which is simply breathtaking.” He also recommends Futange Park, a private nature reserve on Ranco Lake. Its lengthy trails lead through Valdivian temperate rainforests.