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Off The Beaten Track

Torres del Paine, Chile

Saddle up for an exhilarating ride through glacial wilderness

Forget everything you ever thought you knew about the wilderness. In Torres del Paine, gallop across expansive pampas that burst with color and life.

With a backbone of three granite pillars that loom more than 6,500ft over the Patagonian steppe, remote turquoise glaciers and emerald lakes, Torres del Paine is rugged, raw and truly breathtaking. And it’s all about color. Splashed with graphically named features like Gray Lake, Green Lagoon and Towers of Blue, the landscape is alive with color. Once you’re there, it’s easy to see why it’s been voted the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Vast and rolling, the Torres del Paine covers more than 600,000 acres. Most visitors only manage to see a tiny fraction of it. But there is a way you can access its most remote corners: on horseback for an exhilarating trail ride into the heart of the wilderness.

Be warned: this is not gentle cantering. Up to eight hours a day on horseback, with hair-raising downhill gallops, this is the western-style riding you see in movies. But even saddle-sore with aching limbs, the reward is worth it: adrenalin-fuelled, sensory overload in one of the most spectacular settings on earth. As you ride around electric-blue lakes and through deep-green ancient forests, your Ray-Ban Chromance lenses soak up every colorful detail. At sunrise, they really come into their own, with the glowing light turning those famous granite towers rose-gold against the sky.

‘Splashed with graphically named features like Gray Lake, Green Lagoon and Towers of Blue, the landscape is alive with color’.

Exploring Torres del Paine is only for the most intrepid adventurers. Be prepared for erratic weather – one moment the peaks are mysteriously shrouded in clouds and you’re being knocked sideways by wind. The next, you’re riding under clear blue summer skies.

On horseback, you can get to places you couldn't by foot – like the icy white sweep of Dickson Glacier. With their polar filters, your Ray-Ban Chromance lenses stop glare from the water – letting you absorb the incredible turquoise shade of the compressed ice in all its intensity.

Looking for a slower pace? Follow the popular five-day ‘W’ route: a trek to the base of the Torres del Paine. This true scenic route takes you through lush green valleys and across rickety swing bridges over gushing streams – if you’re feeling brave, go for a bracing dip. For a drier experience on the water, get out on the Gray River, where you can kayak among the icebergs that have calved off Gray Glacier. Look out for the abundant native wildlife all around: condors majestically riding the air currents overhead, armadillos scuttling in the undergrowth and if you’re lucky, Magellanic penguins.

For the true gaucho experience, camp out each night. Eat dinner by starlight and then hunker down in your tent listening to the wind as it whirls around outside. Or if you want more comfort – and hot showers – after a day exploring, stay in one of the lodges dotted around the park.

Whether on two legs or four, you’re guaranteed the trip of a lifetime here.

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Credit: agustavop/Getty