It's been a few months but I've finally got around to writing my trip report. I had so much help in planning this trip, that I'd like to provide some help to those planning to travel to TDP. In February this year, we hired a 4x4 ute from Europcar in Punta Arenas, through LYS car rental in Santiago, and had a great experience. We were disappointed to find out that the penguin colony at Seno Otway is no longer open so we drove on to Puerto Natales and stayed at Hostal Andes Patagonicos. The staff there were friendly and helpful and we were able to check in early. From there it was about a 5 minute walk up to the main square. We had a really nice dinner at El Bote and set off for TDP early the next morning. I hadn't seen on TA before that the supermarkets open late, if at all, on a Sunday, so we weren't as stocked up as we would have liked for our next few days in TDP. Also, none of the bread shops in Puerto Natales were open at all on a Sunday.
We couldn't believe just how beautiful the scenery is in the Rio Serrano area - we were blown away by it. We stayed at the cabanas at Hotel Lago Tyndall, but I could not recommend it. There are plenty of other cabins in the area which look so much better. The staff at Cabanas Lago Tyndall were not helpful and the cabanas themselves are literally falling apart. The next morning we bought a 3-day pass at the ranger station for USD34 and were told that, after 3 days, if we wanted to re-enter the park, we would have to pay for the full pass again. We drove to Guarderia Grey and did the Mirador Ferrier hike after registering at the Guardaria. It took us two and a quarter hours to hike up the steep hill. We found it a hard hike, but the views at the top are fantastic. It was really windy though so we didn't linger too long and had to crouch to get back over the summit. When we got back down to the Guardaria they told us that they had closed the hike because of the strong winds, so we were lucky we went up early. After 2 nights at Hosteria Lago Tyndall we thankfully left and headed for Hosteria Pehoe where we received a much warmer welcome. We were allowed to check in early as it was raining and we had decided to not hike any more that day. We must heartedly disagree with the negative reviews of Hosteria Pehoe. We found our room was clean and comfortable, the staff were fantastic and helpful, and the location is incredible. We really enjoyed the meals there, which we thought were reasonably priced. The only negative comment I would make is that if you are there at lunchtime (which most people aren't because they're out hiking) you will be inundated by bus loads of people having lunch there during their tour. The weather was not kind when we there but one fantastic short hike we did during a break in the rain was to the Mirador Cuernos, past Salto Grande. What an amazing view!
We then drove to Hotel las Torres in the north of the park. It was twice the price of Hosteria Pehoe, for the accommodation and the meals and drinks. The rooms were nicer but the staff were very unfriendly. We noticed while at reception and in the bar area that Spanish speakers seemed to be given preference when being served and received much more assistance than those of us who were not native Spanish speakers, even though the staff spoke perfect English. This was unfortunate and spoiled the atmosphere for us in what was the ideal location to do some great hikes. We paid for a guided horseback ride and hike to the Base of the Torres and loved the day. Our guide was fantastic and there were only 4 of us tourists going that day. The horses were well trained and had soft mouths, so it was an enjoyable ride, not just a means of transport. The tour cost 82,000 pesos each, which seemed a lot but was well worth it.
When we left Hotel las Torres to head back to Punta Arenas, we drove to and hiked along the shore of Laguna Amarga, then drove back towards the main road. On our way back we saw so much wildlife - condors up close, guanacos, foxes, nandus and flamingoes. What a great way to end our visit to Torres del Paine!