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What happens if there’s an emergency in Chile?

When something happens – a natural disaster, political unrest, or disease outbreak – in a country you’re traveling to or in, it can be unnerving to say the least. It can leave you with a host of questions, like what will happen with your activities? Is it safe? Can you still travel? 

In Chile, the Government has the right to enforce several ‘States of Exception’, or ‘Estados de Excepción Constitucional’. In the past, these have been put in place for widespread protests and natural disasters like major earthquakes and forest fires. The four kinds of state of exception in Chile are: State of Assembly, State of Site, State of Emergency, and State of Catastrophe. Each of these states correspond to different circumstances and levels of risk. The president of Chile may declare multiple states of exception if deemed necessary for the crisis at hand. 

When you travel with Ecochile, we’ll be in contact to help you every step of the way to answer any questions or to modify your travel plans if necessary. But if you’re curious or looking for peace of mind, here we’ll explain what each one means and how it can affect visitors. 


Estado de Emergencia – State of Emergency 

The State of Emergency is probably the most common state of exception implemented in Chile. This can happen in cases of upheaval of public order or danger or threat to national security for internal or external origins. Only the President can declare a State of Emergency in a particular area, which has a maximum duration of 15 days. After those 15 days, it can be extended for the same period of time. Any further extensions require Congress approval. If the State of Emergency is implemented, it gives the government the right to restrict freedom of movement and assembly. 

This means, for example, if there are protests in Santiago, a State of Emergency may be declared there for a couple of weeks. However, you would still be free and able to enjoy your spectacular hikes in Torres del Paine

Nonetheless, if you do find yourself in a place where a curfew is put in place, this should be strictly adhered to. If you have a reason to go outside during this time, you should have a legitimate reason, like seeking urgent medical care. You would also be allowed to travel to the airport for a flight provided you can show the relevant documentation, like boarding passes and passports.


Estado de Catastrofe – State of Catastrophe

The State of Catastrophe sounds more dramatic than its reality, although this state of exception gives the government the most power outside of a state of war. Nonetheless, the measures are implemented with caution and great consideration. The President can enforce a State of Catastrophe, indicating the affected area, and indicating to Congress the adopted measures. Congress has the power to end the State of Catastrophe if it considers the risk to have diminished. 

A State of Catastrophe enforced only in extreme circumstances. For example, it was enforced in Chile during the Covid-19 pandemic for example, enabling the government to enforce a lockdown, enforce school closures, and close national borders amongst other preventative measures. It was also implemented more recently during the forest fires that affected the region of Valparaíso in February 2024, in order to enable adequate access for emergency services.

The following two states of exception are far less common.

Estado de Asamblea – State of Assembly 

The State of Assembly could be declared in the case of war outside of Chile. It would be announced by the President with agreement by the National Congress and will last as long as the war. The state could be implemented across the whole of Chile or only in certain areas.

If the State of Assembly is brought into force, it gives the Chilean Government the right to restrict personal freedom, the freedom to meet and the freedom to work. The government may also intercept, open or register any correspondence and infringe on a person’s right to property.

Estado de Sitio – State of Site

State of Site could be implemented in the case of an internal war or serious domestic unrest. Again, it would be declared by the President with agreement by the National Congress and could be implemented across the whole of Chile or only in certain areas. In comparison to the State of Assembly, the State of State can only be declared for 15 days at a time and the President can extend the State. 

This state grants the government the right to restrict freedom of movement and the freedom to meet, as well as the right to arrest people in their home or place of residence. 

But don’t let that put you off!

The above can be concerning, but it is certainly not intended to put you off! Latin America as a whole is a region of extremes, both in terms of its nature and politics. However, these are flashpoints and are far from the norm. Chile, as its neighbors, is a beautiful country with extremely friendly people that will give you an adventure of a lifetime. If you find yourself in any of these situations or you have particular worries, don’t hesitate to contact your Ecochile representative for clarification on how it will affect your journey. 

How to ask for your customized trip

At Ecochile, we absolutely love planning unique vacations for every individual and group that contacts us – in fact, we pride ourselves on our ability to tailor each itinerary to every traveler’s needs. But if you’ve never asked for a personalized itinerary before, maybe you’re used to planning your own vacations, here are a few tips to help ensure that we do the very best we can for you. 

More information means more personalization

If you only read one sentence of this blog, let it be this one: the more information you give us, the more we can do for you! No detail is too small or too big. If you’re traveling for a special occasion, have health-concern that could be relevant, or there’s a trip you’ve always been dreaming of, knowing these can help us shape your trip. 

Tell us where you want to go

Do you have a list of places you want to visit in South America? Let us know! This can be as specific or as general as you like. Maybe you’re dreaming of one specific small town in the Chilean Lake District, or maybe you just want to explore Argentina! The benefits of a bespoke vacation is that we will make a trip that works for you. If you have some destination ideas, include these in your form and make sure to say which are non-negotiable and which would be a bonus ‘if possible.’ 


If you’re totally unsure of destinations, giving us an idea of the kinds of landscapes and activities you want to explore will help us guide you to the perfect vacation. If you have a special interest, from bird-watching to cooking, from cycling to kayaking, wine tasting to photography, we want to hear it! South America is incredibly diverse and we can accommodate almost any activity if you name it!

Have a look at our Instagram & Facebook for more inspiration! 

Equally important is letting us know if there’s an activity that would be an absolute ‘no’ for you. Every traveler is different, and while some may dream of going horseback riding across the Patagonian landscape, that may sound like a nightmare to others. Equally, if you don’t drink alcohol, we wouldn’t want to suggest a trip around Mendoza’s vineyards… 

On that note, let us know if you want a fast-paced vacation to see and do as many things as possible in the time you have, or if you prefer to take it slow and soak up each destination. Of course, we can do somewhere in the middle too!


This is a big one! How fixed are your dates, budget, and destinations? 

Travel times, flight availability, and certain tour requirements (like cruising through Tierra del Fuego or traveling to Antarctica) may shape the rest of your itinerary. If you can be flexible with your dates, do let us know so we can plan the smoothest and most efficient itinerary possible. Equally, if your dates are fixed, we will work with providers to make everything work for you. 

Something to consider before you contact us is what is your priority for your South American adventure: sticking to a strict budget or having the most epic experience possible? If you fall into the first category, we’ll create an incredible vacation that will leave you with amazing memories and without worries about the cost or FOMO of the activities you didn’t do. If you fall in the latter, we’ll offer you some of the best experiences that you can find in Chile and Argentina. If you’re in the middle, willing to spend a little more for something truly special, we’d love to make sure you know all the options available. 

What happens next

Once you’ve sent your form, we’ll take a look, pull a few ideas together and get back to you with a potential itinerary. The more detail you can give us in the first step, the closer you will be to having a confirmed holiday. Be sure to leave a contact number so that we can call (this really speeds up the process for you!), as well as your preferred contact hours and time zone. If you prefer not to be contacted by phone, just leave a note of this and we’ll email the information across instead. 

If you have any questions about planning a trip to Chile, Argentina, or Antarctica, contact us today. Or let’s get started on planning your vacation of a lifetime!

Where to stay: A Guide to Lodges, Cabins, Hotels & Glamping in Chile & Argentina

On an Ecochile itinerary in Chile and Argentina, you can find a range of accommodation options that suit you. But the names of these hotels can be confusing! Some places call themselves a lodge but seem more like a boutique hotel, while a ‘hostal’ can raise alarm bells for travelers who are long past their backpacking days. Here we’ll explain what we mean about different accommodation styles at Ecochile. 

Stars in your eyes

The number of stars a hotel has is often seen as the best way to judge what your hotel will be like. Our unpopular opinion is that it’s not! That’s why when you book with us we will ask you what you expect from your accommodation, rather than only considering the number of stars it has. This is because the number of stars is based on the amenities a hotel has. A 4* hotel could be just as luxurious as a nearby 5* hotel, it just might not have a spa, for example. 

Viña VIK Wine Spa

When you’re planning your trip, you might be surprised at the differences in prices between accommodations that have the same ratings. Believe it or not, 5* hotel in Santiago can cost you the same as a 3* hotel in Torres del Paine! The remoteness of the national park increases costs here, so you get less for the same money. 

Your Ecochile travel specialist will help you find the right accommodation for you and your priorities. If for you, a spa and pool is non-negotiable, we’ll find a hotel that has those. Likewise, if you want to be in the center of town or have a great lake view, we’ll recommend you hotels that suit your preferences. But, if your budget is a priority, we will work with you to find the best accommodation for your buck! Have a look at the styles available below to help us make great recommendations to you.

Palafitos, Chiloé


A ‘lodge’ typically refers to a small hotel in a rural location. These are very cosy and reminiscent of traditional, rustic means of living. Built from the wood the surrounding landscapes provide, lodges are nestled into their surroundings and have an authentic homely feel often with spectacular views. You often won’t have the luxuries of modern life at this kind of accommodation. Wifi can be but a distant dream and you won’t be steaming in the spa at the end of the day. But they do offer a way to immerse yourself in nature, to slow down and switch off, and enjoy the pleasures of living simply for a few days.

Pikera Uri Lodge – Easter Island

An example could be the Estancia Cerro Guido in Patagonia, which celebrates the Estancia’s ranching culture and the beautiful landscapes that surround it. Hostería Pehoé, sitting on an island in the Pehoé lake and overlooking the Cuernos del Paine is another magnificent option of this humble but impressive style of accommodation. 


These are small hotels that are as independent in ownership as in style. They are sometimes renovated, like the charming Casa Higueras, Valparaíso, which perfectly blends the old and new. Or they could be purpose-built, modern, and quirky like Hotel Bidasoa in Santiago. Boutique hotels are more common in cities and large towns and are great options if you want to be at the center of things and offer a friendly but professional service. They often have superb restaurants on site, too, if you’re looking for a delicious meal without stepping too far out of your hotel. 

Eco Boutique Hotel Bidasoa


Ecovillages and glamping

At an ecovillage or glamping experience, you can enjoy your own hut, airstream, or villa. Follow the pathways to your exclusive residence These are a great way to connect with nature or the traditions of your destination and have some of the best environmental policies you can find. The most iconic, but certainly not the only one, of these is Ecocamp in Patagonia. Its round domes offer a way to feel like your sleeping in nature without fearing that your tent will blow away! They also offer a range of domes depending on your budget, varying from a basic dome with a shared bathroom to an almost luxurious superior suites (private bathroom included!).

Ecocamp dome – Torres del Paine


No, this doesn’t mean a youth hostel with 8 bunkbeds to a room and being woken up in the night by your strange bunkmate! A ‘hostal’ roughly translates to mean a modest hotel, similar to a B&B. They are normally small in size and independently run and include breakfast. These can be quirky, decorated in a way that honors the area and traditions of the community, and attended by a welcoming host. The Hostal El Puesto in Puerto Río Tranquilo offers this homely atmosphere with communal rest areas and cosy private rooms. 

Hostal El Puesto, Aysén


A ‘cabaña’ translates to cabin. These vary in style, with more rustic or chic options available depending on the hotel and location. The great thing about these is that travelers can enjoy their own space as a couple or as a family while having access to the hotel amenities. The cabins often include a kitchen or kitchenette and a living space, as well as bedrooms and bathrooms. Staying in a cabin doesn’t necessarily mean losing out on the luxury aspect. You can enjoy some marvellous views across lakes and mountains, or even ask one of the hotel’s chefs to cook you a private dinner in your cabin! 

Huilo Huilo Cabaña


A journey along the Carretera Austral

Aysén, in northern Chilean Patagonia, is home to a splendor of nature. The area is part of the spectacular Route of Parks conservation project, and the epic Carretera Austral runs through a region of ancient glaciers, impressive waterfalls, turquoise lakes, and Patagonian steppe. It is one of Chile’s best kept secrets, as the lesser trodden and less well-known neighbour of the Torres del Paine. Lying off the beaten path, it offers a unique, authentic, and truly incredible experience for any visitor.

All of that I know now. But a month ago, I was unsure of Aysén. As a fan of warmer weather and knowing very little about the region other than its notoriety for unpredictable weather conditions and that the hyped Torres del Paine were a few hundred miles further south, it was far from my first choice of places to go. I could not have been more wrong. It is now one of my favourite places in Chile, if not the world. 

We traveled in late March, which they say is a great time to visit Patagonia. It had snowed the week before as an early blast of winter teased the region, leaving a white coating on the mountaintops while fiery shades of red and orange leaves cascaded down. It was a landscape that I had only seen in paintings as we traveled south along the Carretera Austral from Balmaceda. We were only just starting the trip when we spotted a rare huemul at the side of the road as if welcoming us to its home. 

Cerro Castillo hike

Zigzagging down the picturesque Cuesta del Diablo (Devil’s hill), we arrived at the quaint town of Villa Cerro Castillo for the night. The woodburning stove kept us warm as we admired the view of the jagged Cerro Castillo mountain and a rushing river from the comfort of the B&B before resting for tomorrow’s adventure. 

In the morning, we awoke early for breakfast, put on our layers of hiking clothes, and set off with our local guides to the base of Cerro Castillo. Once we had signed in with the park rangers, we started our incline. The hike was relentless – it is a constant incline, climbing 1000m over a 7km distance – but magical. We started by walking through a forest of native trees, crossed some log planks to a small field, and then started up a rocky path.

As we climbed higher and higher up the mountain, we learned about the fauna and flora, filled up our water bottles in the stream. At this point our guide said, ‘If you do Patagonia quickly, you’re doing it wrong.’ She was right. Turning around to see how far we had come, my jaw dropped at the view. A perfect rainbow straddled a valley of green fields, orange and red trees, and blue skies. This was it – this was the magic of Patagonia. 

After 5km of walking through the changing terrain of the mountain, we arrived at the lookout point. We were rewarded with a panorama over the Ibañez valley, looking over a horizon of fields, forests, mountains, and rivers. Unfortunately the snow from that point was too thick and we couldn’t continue to the lagoon – but no complaints from me. It was the most rewarding and beautiful hike of my life regardless. We headed back down beaming and excited for our next destination that we could see in the distance – General Carrera Lake.

Back in the town, we traveled further along the Carretera Austral, constantly fascinated by the views of the lakes and mountains surrounding us, and arriving at the small town of Puerto Rio Tranquilo on the shores of the second largest lake in South America. With the smell of woodfires in the air, we checked in to our delightfully cozy hotel.

Trekking Glacier Exploradores 

We headed out early on day two to the Exploradores Glacier, driving along a dirt road alongside more lakes and mountains and stopping only to wait for the cows to move out of the way. After about an hour, we arrived at the entrance to the park, put on our helmets and set off with our guides. A short ten-minute walk through dense forest brought us to our first lookout point. It was our first view of the glacier: an expanse of ice as far as you could see, wedged between two mountains.

We carried on along the route, and soon we were standing on the glacier. We kept walking until we reached the clean ice, attached our crampons, and ventured further onto the glacier. As we hiked, the thick, ancient ice glowed a striking shade of blue, accentuated by the day’s clouds. The small hollows in the ice allowed us to perch inside and appreciate the sheer immensity, the weight, the size, the coolness of the glacier. We ate lunch as we took in the silence of the glacier. Although physically demanding, it was a brilliant day, and we headed back to our transport and hotel with a newfound sense of wonder.

Kayaking the Marble Cathedral

Day three was another early start, which blessed us with a view of the fiery sunrise appearing over the mountains and the General Carrera Lake. We drove to the shore for the morning’s activity – kayaking to the iconic marble caves. Our guide gave us our equipment and a briefing, and we set sail. We started at a tranquil cove to get used to the kayak and practice our technique before turning the corner into the open lake. We paddled along the edge of the lake with wind and the spray of the water in our faces. The view of the gigantic lake was a sight to behold with mountains in the distance and even the goats perched on the edge of the cliff. Eventually, we arrived at the main spectacle – two monoliths of marble emerging from the water. 

It’s a strange sensation to be so fascinated by a rock sticking out of some water, but here we were, taken aback by the beauty and the uniqueness of what we were seeing. It was easy to understand why these formations had gained their ecclesiastical names. The turquoise blue of the water inside the caves reflected and danced off the walls as we paddled through the arched tunnels and the erosion of the rock had created mosaic of shapes, like we were exploring the tunnels of a stained-glass Mediterranean church. 

As we emerged from the caves, the bright blue water seemed to spread across the whole lake as the sun emerged from behind the clouds. We paddled back to our starting point taking in the magnificent view of the Patagonian hills, mountains, and lakes and relishing in the experience. But the magic did not end there. As if to greet us, an austral pygmy owl swooped into the small tree just a couple of meters away. We stood and watched mesmerized as it twisted its neck 180 degrees looking for food, every so often watching us or fidgeting its feathers. 

Road trip to Patagonia National Park

Our final activity was a road trip further along the Carretera Austral as sun lit up the fantastical colors of the landscape. We drove along the edge of the bluest lake I’ve ever seen as our driver told us about the scenery and stopped to witness the power of water at the confluence of the Baker and Neff rivers, where two differently coloured rivers met in a crashing of waves. With looming gray skies that couln’t dampen our spirits, we continued on our way to the Patagonia National Park where it seemed like guanacos were waiting for us at the entrance. We watched as they galloped along the Patagonian steppe, ears pricked, alert to any lurking pumas.

The landscape here was different: drier and barer than that of the past few days. It gave a sense of vastness and pure wilderness, which felt appropriate as we headed to the Explora Lodge and center of the Tompkins conservation project. We entered the guest center to learn more about the rewilding work in the region and left inspired with a destination for our next trip. With that, it was time to head back for our final evening in Aysén and return home. 


Before the trip, I didn’t have many expectations. I certainly did not expect such natural beauty, or to be so moved by the the trip. Yet afterwards, I often find myself reflecting about everything we saw, felt, experienced, and I know it certainly changed something for me. There, in this remote corner of the world, I found a love for nature – for Patagonia – and a profound gratitude for the beautiful world we live in.

If you’re looking for a new corner of Patagonia to explore, or are looking for an alternative to the Torres del Paine, Aysen is the place to go. The wilderness, the vastness, the colors, the wind in your face – it’s like a full body reset from our tech-obsessed, busy lives. It’s the place to test your boundaries, to try something new, to disconnect. I cannot recommend it enough. 

Mike Wardynski – Patagonia Photography Workshop Expedition Leader

My name is Mike Wardynski, AKA Nature Mike.

I’m a landscape and travel photographer based out of Oakland California. At the forefront of landscape photography, I specialize in photography workshops, luxury fine art prints, and licensing. My work has been featured in Design Milk and Focus on the Story amongst many other avenues. Leading 25 – 30 photography workshops per year, I keep a busy schedule.

I grew up in Michigan and after graduating with a broadcasting degree and realizing I was a much better photographer than a musician, I packed up my van and headed to a little park known as Yosemite. There I would spend three and a half years working in the wilderness department for The Yosemite Conservancy. It was during those years that I deliberately made the decision to dive headfirst into the photographic rabbit hole for good. While working in the park, I spent much of my time lugging camera gear around the high country and hanging out with my friends at the Ansel Adams Gallery.

I currently reside in the SF Bay Area where I work as a photography instructor. My travels have given me the opportunity to photograph the Kiluaea eruption from air, as well as document dolphins in the Pacific Ocean. I’ve witnessed unbelievable light unfold before me and in an instant disappear. Those are the moments that I live for. I love sharing my passion for photography and nature with others and I’m grateful for the path that has to lead me here.

Feel free to reach out at any time if you would like to discuss a workshop, prints, or licensing.


Nature is at the heart of my work. Not only because it is often my subject, but because it is where I find inspiration. Human beings are spiritually connected to the planet as a whole. Interconnectivity is where the spirit thrives. Through photography, I remind the viewer of their connection to the earth. We do not own the planet; we are part of it. It is our responsibility to protect as well as enjoy our environment because it is an extension of ourselves. One cannot harm the environment without harming themselves, just as one cannot heal the environment without healing themselves. Imagery is a powerful tool; I use it to start the conversation of conservation. How will you help heal our home?

Why it’s a good idea to plan your vacation to Chile now

Once it’s safe to travel again, we know that you’ll want to get back out there traveling and exploring as soon as possible to make up for time lost; we want to do the same thing too! But the travel landscape is bound to be a bit different after the pandemic, making it more important than ever to plan ahead in order to protect your health, safety, and money.

Here’s how planning a trip a year or so in advance will benefit you:

Photo: Ecocamp

Increased availability 

Booking farther in advance will give you more options for activities and accommodations. Furthermore, many 2020 travel bookings that had to be canceled because of COVID-19 were pushed into 2021, meaning that there might not be as much availability as you’d expect during certain seasons and at popular destinations. Plan and book well in advance to guarantee finding the best hotels, excursions, and transport available. 

Photo: Leona Amarga


In the wake of COVID-19, the travel industry has implemented extremely flexible booking, postponement, and cancellation policies to help protect clients and  operators like tour companies, hotels, and airlines. We at EcoChile have also outfitted our tours with the most flexible, accommodating policies possible, working with leading travel insurance companies, so that if something comes up and you need to cancel or change anything, we’ve got your back. 

Photo: Patagonia Camp

Good Opportunities 

Like many in the travel industry, we’ll be offering special promos and early-bird specials to entice future travelers. So take advantage of those deals while they’re available: you’ll be saving money yourself and helping support an industry that has been hit hard by the pandemic. And when you book late, there will likely not be special rates, so book well in advance!

Photo: Patagonia Camp

Not only are all these logistic reasons important, but it can also be fun to have something to look forward to. Instead of rushing to plan and organize a trip a few months in advance, you’ll be able to relax and look forward to your perfectly organized trip!


12 Different animals you could see in Torres del Paine National Park

Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia is one of the most popular outdoor adventure destinations in the world, and for good reason. The park has spectacular glaciers, mountains, grasslands, lakes, and rivers, and is essentially a nature-lover’s idea of paradise. Many people visit to do day hikes to popular spots like the French Valley, the Grey Glacier, or the base of the Torres, or others do the W circuit or Paine treks. And on all the many different treks and activities you can do to explore the park, you’re bound to see some of Torres del Paine’s unique and diverse fauna: animal life. While this is not a definitive list, here are 12 of the animals you can see in Torres del Paine National Park!


Photography: @justinhofman


1. Pumas – The king of Patagonia, puma sightings in Torres del Paine have become increasingly common in recent years after fires forced the guanaco population into the areas of the park with more roads and tourism infrastructure. The pumas live solitary lives except when the females are raising their young, which take several years to mature. They prey on guanacos, as well as sheep, which has led to anti-puma sentiment among ranchers and farmers, who hunt them to protect their herds. But conservation and educational outreach programs are turning the tide of opinion on these powerful predators.


Photography: @alvarosotov


2. Huemuls – If you catch a glimpse of these very shy and elusive deer, which are featured on the Chilean coat of arms, you are really lucky! Sighting a huemul is more rare than sighting a puma. These deer, which are endangered from diseases contracted from farm animals like sheep, loss of habitat, and hunting. With a brown coat and large ears, huemuls are also about half the size of regular deer.


Photography: @dagpeak


3. Darwin’s Rhea (Nandus) – Similar in appearance and size to an ostrich or an emu, these large birds – which have grey plumage and ruffled feathers – live and travel together in flocks as big as 30 individuals. Similar to their cousins, the ostrich, and emu, they are flightless and elude predators by running at incredible speeds on strong legs. Females lay clutches of up to 50 eggs, which, when they hatch, take three years to fully mature. As its name suggests, it was first recorded by Charles Darwin during his journey on the Beagle.


Photography: @justinhofman


4. Guanacos – A relative of the alpaca and llama, these spindly-legged camelids are some of the most common sights in the park, roaming around in large herds or as individuals (if you see an individual, they are a young male who does not have a harem of females). Competition between males (especially during breeding season) is fierce and fights are common, during which they try to bite their opponent’s testicles. The guanaco diet consists of grass and other plant life, and they mainly live and around seen out in the pampas part of the park, where the herds roam. Their main threat is from the puma, and herds have sentries on hilltops to keep a look out and raise the alarm should they see anything.


Photography: @cristinaharboephotography


5. Condors – The Andean condor is truly a sight to behold: with a wingspan that can reach ten feet, they are one of the largest bird species in the world. Condors are scavengers, using the thermals and air currents over the park to soar high and keep a lookout for leftovers (carrion) like dead guanacos, which they can spot from incredible heights and distances. You can often see them flying high over the park or coming home to nest on cliff faces.


Photography: Antonia Cornejo


6. Armadillos – There are two different kinds of armadillos in Torres del Paine: the Piche Patagon and the Quirquincho Peludo. The main difference between the two is when they are active, as the dwarf forage for food and explore during the day and the hairy are nocturnal. Both subspecies dig burrows to live in and feed off of grubs, roots, and shrubs. Sometimes they are hunted for their meat or their tough, protective body armor, but in general, they are left alone.


Photography: ©Ian&KateBruce


7. Hog-nosed skunk – Surprise, surprise, there are skunks in Patagonia! They’re not a common sight, as they mainly come out at night, but they can sometimes be seen nosing around and foraging for insects, grubs, and wild vegetables. They live in deep burrows that they dig themselves in the pampas, more desert-like areas of the park, and they can be seen out and about during spring, summer, and fall, as during winter they close off their burrows and live off of stored food. And, of course, like all skunks, if threatened or startled, they will spray a stinky, nasty-smelling substance in self-defense.


Photography: Oxana Protchenko


8. Southern grey fox – The Patagonian fox (or chilla) are a likely sight while out exploring the park or hanging out at your accommodations, as they are curious and are often found just out exploring or hunting for their daily diet of rodents, berries, eggs, or other small prey. With a greyish brown coat (which they are sometimes hunted for) the fox can also be identified by its distinctive “yip” call. Also, these foxes are actually not even foxes at all but are a member of the lycalopex family, which are often referred to as “false foxes”.


Photography: @valentina_neupert


9. Red fox (culpeo) – These adventurous and nosy red foxes are renowned for their “auspicious” and bold hunting style (their name comes from a Mapuche word for madness). In the past, their diet was mainly made up of rodents, birds, berries, and eggs, but since sheep were introduced here in the 1800s, the foxes have definitely taken advantage of the easy prey and have made the sheep their primary targets. With beautiful fur of red and brown, the foxes are sometimes hunted for their furs, despite protection laws.


Photography: @emintehess


10. Geoffroy’s Cat – A sighting of one of these is a real treat, as sightings are incredibly rare since they are nocturnal hunters, coming out at night to catch small birds and rodents. About the size of an average house cat, the Geoffroy’s cat has a soft coat of tawny brown or light grey covered with black spots and stripes. In the past, they were hunted for their pelts and were even listed as endangered for a while, but new laws and protections have allowed the populations to bounce back. Some naturalists wait their whole lives to see a Geoffroy’s cat, so if you see one during your stay at the park, you are truly lucky.


Photography: @pablo_martinez_morales


11. Magellanic woodpecker – Torres del Paine is home to some spectacular bird species, like this jet-black with red faced beauty. They are mostly commonly found in the forested part of the park, drilling into trees for insects, grubs, and other edibles, as well as creating homes for their families. If you are patient and quiet while walking through the forests in the park, you may hear the distinctive “tock, tock, tock” of their hammering.


Potography: avesdelnea


12. Austral parakeet – Parakeets? In Patagonia? You bet! These birds, which are identifiable by their green and red plumage, can be found in the park’s forests and woodlands, feeding off of berries, seeds, and other plant life.



What to pack for a trip to Atacama desert

Located in the north of Chile, the Atacama Desert is the driest desert in the world, making it one of the most out-of-this-world places to discover in Chile.


You can see martian valleys, salt flats, high altitude geysers and hot springs, volcanoes, and some of the clearest night skies anywhere in the world (the Atacama is a world-renowned spot for astronomy). If you’re lucky, you’ll see some of the special creatures that call this place home, like vicunas (related to llamas and alpacas), flamingos, and foxes. You can go hiking, look for archaeological ruins and evidence of ancient tribes, soak in salty lagoons, and get up close and personal with the universe while stargazing. With so much to see and do in the Atacama, you’ll need the right equipment.

There are several important things to remember when packing:



Pack layers: Despite being the high desert, during the winter and at night the Atacama gets very cold, so it’s a good idea to bring warm weather clothing which you can then take off as the day progresses. This is also a good idea for coping with the heat.

Protect your skin: You’re vacationing at nearly 8,000 feet above sea level. The sun is very strong here, so be proactive about protecting yourself. Using a sunhat, sunscreen, and protective clothing are just a few ways to take care of your skin, as well as trying to stay out of the sun during the main part of the day.



The following is EcoChile’s list of recommended items to bring on your trip to the Atacama desert.


Hiking boots – There is some excellent hiking to be had in the Atacama Desert, especially around San Pedro de Atacama in Valle de Luna and Valle de Arcoiris. Bringing a pair of sturdy and comfortable hiking boots will make the experience all the more enjoyable for you. While the exact best brand or type of shoe varies depending on personal preference, shoes that are made of a more breathable material and have a thick sole are best suited for desert hiking, to combat the heat and to protect your feet in case of accidentally stepping on something sharp.

Hiking socks (moisture wicking, lightweight) – You’ll probably be sweating a lot during day hikes in the Atacama, so lightweight socks that’ll help wick moisture away during the day will aid in comfort and hygiene.

Lightweight hiking pants – Hiking pants made from a lightweight, airy material will make a world of difference when it comes to comfort and cooling down during the heat of the day. Pants that can unzip into shorts are a great option as well, as you can start out with long pants during the cold morning and then transition to shorts during the heat of the day.

Long pants (jeans or leggings) – For hiking you’ll want more flexible, breathable hiking pants but for just walking around town and in the cooler evenings and mornings, bring along some jeans or cotton leggings for something warm.

Windbreaker – Atacama is not very windy but during your tour in the moon valley it can get very blustery.




Solar protection blouses/shirts – The heat in the Atacama is formidable, so during the day you’ll want to strip down to as few clothes as possible. Wearing a light t-shirt or tank top is a good idea, but for further protection (apart from sunscreen), wear a loose, airy solar protection shirt or blouse over the undershirt for covering your skin more and an extra bit of stylish flair.

T-shirts/ short sleeve shirts– Loose, comfortable t-shirts are ideal for hiking during the heat of the day.

Sunhat – Protect your head from those high desert rays!

Fleeces/ sweaters – Warm clothing? In the desert? Oh yes! Even in the dead of summer, the altitude of the Aticama (San Pedro, the starting point for most Atacama tours, sits at 7,900 feet above sea level) means that the nights get very cold. So if you’re going to do any stargazing (highly recommended, especially in winter when the night skies are clearest) or getting up early in the morning to see the Tatio geysers, you’ll want some warm sweaters and fleeces to bundle up in.

Shorts/ capri pants

Warm hat and gloves – For those cold nights and mornings!

Swimsuit – Despite being the driest desert on Earth, there are plenty of swimming opportunities in the Atacama. You can go swimming and sunbathing at cities on the coast like Iquique, and near San Pedro you can lounge in thermal hot springs at Puritama hot springs or float in refreshingly cold, buoyant high-altitude salt water lakes. For these occasions (and also to take advantage of hotel swimming pools and hot tubs), it’s a good idea to include a swimsuit.

Flip flops – To visit sites like the Puritama hot springs or Lagunas Baltinache, you’ll want to have a pair of flip flops for moving from pool to pool.

Heavy-duty sandals – For easy day trips that won’t require a lot of hiking, crossing streams during multi-day treks, or when exploring towns like San Pedro, some sturdy sandals (like Tevas) will definitely come in handy, as well as giving your feet a break from stuffy hiking boots.




Backpack – For day trips, you’ll need a comfy backpack to carry your essentials for the day: sunscreen, water bottle, hat, glasses, layers, etc. Something lightweight would be best, made with a breathable, airy material.

Sunglasses – The high-desert sun can cause serious eye damage, so be sure to pack some shades! For those who wear contact lens, we recommend swapping them for prescription glasses for the duration of your trip, as the Atacama can get windy and sand can blow into your eyes, get under your contact lens, and irritate your eyes.

Camera – The Atacama is a visually stunning place, with volcanoes, geysers, salt flats, shimmering high altitude lakes, and diverse wildlife, and you’ll want to bring a good camera to capture those sights.

Binoculars – The vast distances of the Atacama desert and excellent camouflage abilities of the animals that live here can make it tricky to notice wildlife or passing points of interest while hiking or driving, so pack a pair of travel binoculars to use in such moments.

Reusable water bottle – Not only is using a reusable water bottle environmentally friendly, it’s important! Spending time in the high, arid desert of southern Chile takes a toll on your body so drinking plenty of water throughout the day, whether you’re physically exerting yourself or not, is important.




Sunscreen – Not only are you in a desert but a high altitude one: the sun is extremely strong here and the white sands and salt flats are strong reflective surfaces, so be sure to apply sunscreen all over and reapply throughout the day. SPF 50 or higher.

Eye drops – For those with contact lens or prescription lens, the dry climate of the high desert may be a strain on the eyes, so don’t forget some eye droplets to add a little moisture.

Medication – If you have any prescription medication, be sure to bring along plenty for the trip, just in case the pharmacies where you’re staying don’t carry what you need. Keeping some Advil or Ibuprofen on hand as well in case of headaches caused by the altitude is also a good idea (see below).

Remedies for altitude sickness – Altitude sickness is a frequent problem for visitors to the Atacama; luckily, for most, the symptoms are relatively mild and go away within anywhere from a few hours to a day or so. Symptoms include headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, fatigue, shortness of breath, rapid pulse, and having trouble sleeping. While there are plenty of regional solutions for dealing with altitude sickness, such as drinking coca tea or chewing coca leaves, if you have medication or at home remedies that help you deal with altitude sickness, be sure to bring them along. Otherwise, doing things like drinking plenty of water, slowing down and taking deep breaths when feeling out of breath or fatigued, sitting down when feeling lightheaded, eating carbs, and avoiding alcohol are several ways to help your body adjust to the altitude.

Lip balm (with SPF protection)

Snacks – Pack some light snacks like protein bars and fruit for day hikes to give you that little extra boost of energy when the heat of the day is getting to you.

Basic first aid – Even though your guide and hotels will have first aid kits, it never hurts to bring some band-aids along on day trips just in case.

Cash and credit cards – In Atacama tourist centers like San Pedro, most of the stores, restaurants, etc., will accept credit cards but for outlying towns, it’s best to always keep some cash on hand.

Aloe vera lotion – In the event you do get a sunburn, keep some aloe vera lotion on hand to massage onto the burn at the end of the day to help soothe it and speed up the healing process.

Feel free to ask your expert trip designer any questions you may have about this packing list.

Happy packing and we’ll see you in the Atacama!

Cerro and Laguna Torre Trail

The hike to Cerro Torre is a more tranquil version of its neighboring counterpart to Fitz Roy on the Laguna de Los Tres trail. Both hikes are a must do for anyone visiting Los Glaciares National Park.



The trail

The trail is approximately 1km from the heart of the charming recreational town of El Chalten. This 18km (11miles) hike takes an average of 7-8 hours to complete over an easy to moderate terrain. The hiking itself takes up about 5 hours, leaving the rest of the time to spend enjoying the scenery at Laguna Torre.

On the way to the lake, you’ll pass by many picturesque spots. A few noteworthy pit stops include Mirador Margarita, Mirador del Torre, and Mirador Maestri.

Mirador Margarita is just under a kilometer in on the trail and offers panoramic views of both Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy.



A little further along on the trail (approximately 2.5km/1.55miles) you’ll find the Mirador del Torre. This scenic viewpoint provides you with incredible views of everything from Cerro Solo to Cerro Torre and it’s neighboring towers — Egger and Standhart.



The next stop is Laguna Torre, you’ve made it! This is a great spot to have some lunch as you take in breathtaking views of Cerro Torre, Glacier Torre, and the pristine glacial lake, Laguna Torre.



The final viewpoint, Mirador Maestri, is located further along the trail passed the lake. This sightseeing is optional as the main endpoint is Laguna Torre. However, if you desire more sightseeing, then continue along the trail to the northwest about 2.2km (1.4miles). Here you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Glacier Torre, Glacier Grande, and, of course, Cerro Torre.



After the hike:

Theres no shortage of great eateries in El Chalten. This small town boasts an array of food choices as well as craft beer. Once you’re off the trail, head into town for a hearty meal and a local beer or famous Argentinian wine.

What to bring:

  • Daybag
  • Water
  • Snacks + Lunch
  • Sunblock + sunglasses
  • Bring warm layers! These will be nice to have to keep you warm when you’re having lunch at the lake.

Best time of year to go: November to March

Grade of difficulty: Easy to moderate

The park is filled with native flora and fauna that are unique to the Patagonia region. If you’re looking to gain more insight about the park’s wildlife, then we recommend hiring a guide as much of the wildlife is difficult to spot on your own. Another reason why you might want a guide is if you’re planning on visiting the park outside of the summer months. The weather can make the terrain rather difficult and caution is advised.

Ready to start planning your trip? Visit us here to find an expert local guide to show you the area!



Laguna de los Tres Hike in the Argentinian Patagonia

Fitz Roy: Laguna de Los Tres

The Laguna de Los Tres hike is a 24 km (15 mile) day hike and is an absolute must-do for anybody visiting the area. The trail, like much of Los Glaciers National Park, can be easily accessed from the charming town of El Chaltén in the heart of Argentinian Patagonia. With just over 2,000 inhabitants, this cozy little town is a mecca for all things outdoor. There’s no shortage of rock climbing, trekking, kayaking, and rich adventures to be found here. All easily accessible by foot!


Getting there:

Wherever you stay in El Chaltén, it won’t take you more than 1km to get to the trailhead.

Pack light as the last leg of the trail is very steep and you won’t want to be climbing up the mountainside with a heavy backpack weighing you down. If you are planning on camping, you will be able to drop off your bags at the campsite and pitch your tent before reaching the tougher terrain.


The trail:

The lagoon is a 12 km (7.5 mile) hike from the trailhead, making the trek a total of 24km (15 miles) there and back. The mileage is broken up nicely with several miradors (scenic lookouts) along the way for you to rest, take photos, and grab a handful of trail mix.



Rió de Las Vueltas mirador is .7km (.4miles) into the trail and offers vast panoramic views of the valley.



The Mirador Fitz Roy is located 4km (2.5 miles) in and is well worth a prolonged stop. Here you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Fitz Roy and the surrounding rivers and mountains that shape this breathtaking landscape.

The popular Poincenot campground is found 8km (5 miles) into the trail. If you plan on camping, take the opportunity to ditch your heavy bags and prepare your tent before heading back on the trail. For those of you not camping, this is also a lovely area to have a rest by the river, fill up your waters (this will be your last chance), and get some food in you before embarking on the final leg of the ascent. There are two outhouses on the campground as well as one more about 15 minutes from the campsite along the trail. So make sure to utilize these facilities before it’s too late!

After you’ve had some snacks and filled your waters, you’ll continue on the same trail to Laguna de Los Tres. From here you’re just 4km (2.5miles) shy of the lagoon. It will take approximately 1.15hrs to walk and the last hour is more or less a steep climb on rocky terrain, so walk with caution and use trekking poles if you have them!



Once you get to the lagoon, make yourself comfortable on one of the many giant rocks, you’ve made it! Enjoy lunch while gazing at one of Argentina’s most prized possessions, Cerro Fitz Roy. If you feel an awe-inspiring sensation while taking in the scenery, you’re certainly not alone. The image made such an impression on Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard, that he decided to use the mountain range as the logo for his company.

When you’re ready to explore some more, walk down to the lagoon (~2 mins) for some up close and personal photos of the ice-capped water and stunning mountain scenery.

After the hike:

As you’re making your way back into town, pop into any one of El Chaltén’s craft cervecerías or local restaurants for a much-deserved beer and a hearty meal.

What to bring:

  • Daybag
  • Trekking poles (not a total necessity, but they will be nice to have for the last leg of the journey)
  • Water
  • Snacks + Lunch
  • Sunblock + sunglasses
  • Have warm layers available so you can spend lots of time at the lagoon comfortably. There’s a very good chance that you won’t want to leave this place!

Best time of year to go:

November to March

Grade of difficulty:

Moderate to challenging


  • Distance: 24km (15mile) round trip
  • Elevation gain: 882m (2,894ft)
  • Time: approximately 6 hrs of hiking time



The park is filled with native wildlife unique to the Patagonia region such as huemuls (deer) and carpinteros (large woodpeckers). These animals are very difficult to spot on your own and require expert eyes and an advanced knowledge of the area. If you’re looking to gain more insight about the region and see wildlife, then we recommend hiring a guide to get the very best of your hike.

Ready to start planning your trip? Visit us here to find an expert local guide to show you the area!