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One of the most spectacular sites in the world-renowned Torres del Paine National Park is arguably Glacier Grey. The National Park and Glacier Grey are both located in southern Chile’s Patagonia, with the glacier making up part of the extraordinary Southern Patagonian ice field. Encompassing 270 square kilometers, you’d never guess that this is one of the small glaciers in the Southern Patagonian ice field.
Once you’ve seen it, it’s easy to see where the glacier gets its name; the dazzling blue-grey color mesmerizes every visitor. The deep, sparkling hue has a likeness to a precious stone that gleams seemingly just beneath the surface. The color is so commanding that it can even be seen from space! The sheer size, power, and beauty of Glacier Grey makes it one of the most iconic sights in the Torres del Paine National Park, Chile, and all of South America.
The cherry on top? Lago Grey (Lake Grey), a beautiful lake filled by the mighty glacier at three different entrance points. Icebergs can be seen drifting slowly along in the icy waters. Add in the breathtaking backdrop of jagged, snow-covered mountains, hanging glaciers, and the occasional waterfalls and you’ve got one of the most picturesque places on the continent.
There are several ways to experience incredible vistas of this mighty giant. Feast your eyes on Glacier Grey; be it by land, by water, or by hiking the glacier itself:
- W Trek on Torres del Paine leads hikers along the side of Lago Grey. Mirador Grey (Grey Viewpoint) provides an excellent viewing platform across Grey Lake and is the most popular place from which to see the impressive glacier. If you want and have time, there is an additional several kilometer-long hike from Mirador Grey that will take you to a closer viewing point.
- Torres del Paine Full Circuit. However, the reward is more than worth it. This route takes trekkers to a maximum of 1,200 meters above sea level and provides incredible views across Glacier Grey. You’re able to see more of Glacier Grey, as well as the entire ice field. The views are more expansive than what you’d see if you just hiked the W and viewed the glacier from Mirador Grey.
Kayak toursEnjoy a leisurely paddle around Lago Grey and experience a closer exploration of the glacier. Kayak tours are available for those visitors who want to take some stellar pictures from different points of view. Looking up from the water, the glacier looks more powerful and breathtaking than ever. For more on kayaking tours in Chile, see here.
Boat tripsTake in the amazing scenery of Glacier Grey via a cruise across Lago Grey. The ferry-style boat crosses the water, passing floating icebergs along the way. Views of the snow-capped mountains create a stunning backdrop. The boat takes visitors to the glacier’s massive face for a worm's-eye view of the beast. This position is arguably one of the best views; the panoramas of it are more spanning than if you were on the glacier itself. Additionally, the cracking noises of the glacier shifting and breaking are very audible. Tours leave from Refugio Grey. Round trip tours last about three hours. There are one-way trips available as well, lasting 2 hours that include views of Glacier Grey and then a drop off from where you can pick up either the W Circuit or the O Circuit. Some of these tours may also avail a drink of whiskey or pisco sour with ice from the glacier!
Ice hikingFeeling really adventurous? Strap on the crampons and get ready for an intense trek up the side of Glacier Grey. This trip is a once in a lifetime chance to get up close and literally personal with a great natural wonder. The guided tours usually start and end at Glacier Grey Base Camp located on the northeast edge of Lago Grey. A 15-minute boat ride takes trekkers from camp to the west side of the glacier. Hikers will see rivers, lagoons, tunnels, and cracks in the multi-toned blue ice.
- Lago Grey, mentioned several times above, is an attraction itself. The lake’s water, filled by Glacier Grey, is over 500 meters deep and the shores beautifully framed by Paine Mountain. The flat, mirror-esque surface is a perfect environment for kayaking and canoeing. Those who venture into the icy waters are treated to uninterrupted views of the glacier, mountains, and natural surroundings, as well as large floating chunks of blue ice. A total other-worldly experience.
- Valle Pingo (Pingo Valley) is a hike off-the-beaten-track. Lying to the west of Lago Grey, this is a relatively easy hike through the flat valley and past several pretty waterfalls. However, it is quite remote and few people do it. This means your chances of seeing Huemul Deer is high and enjoying some solo time is almost guaranteed. Once inside the valley, you can also check out the Pingo Glacier and Zapata Glacier. This is a trek for which you’ll definitely want to hire a guide!
- Spring (September–November) or Summer (December–March) has the more temperate weather and is deemed the best time to visit. The downside is the big crowds you’ll likely encounter during this time.
- Winter (June–August) is also beautiful. Yes, the temperatures are cold but there are far fewer people in the park, making the terrain, views, and the entire experience that much more special.
- Weather is unpredictable and varies drastically throughout the day. Pack clothing suitable for any temperature.
- Bring warm clothes for the boat and ice hiking tours. For the treks, bring a variety of clothes, including warm and waterproof ones!
- On a boat tour, the top deck usually empties during the return journey. You can enjoy the same views without having to fight with the other tourists.
- Be adventurous! A glacier lake kayak or ice hike could be the highlight of your trip to Chile and the experience of a lifetime.
Southern Chile is loaded with awesome natural wonders that aren’t seen anywhere else in the world. Torres del Paine National Park is a huge part of Chile’s fame, which is boosted by the truly humbling sight of Glacier Grey. Take to the trails, paddle or cruise through the frigid waters, or climb the solid ice walls — there are plenty of ways to experience Glacier Grey and not one of them will disappoint.
For more information on other glaciers in Patagonia that you might want to visit, look up our list of top 11 glaciers in Patagonia.