Getty Images/Cultura RM

Parque Nacional Torres del Paine

Soaring almost vertically above the Patagonian steppe, the granite pillars of Torres del Paine (Towers of Paine) dominate the landscape of South America's finest national park. Part of Unesco's Biosphere Reserve system since 1978, this 699-sq-mile (1810-sq-km) park is, however, much more than its one greatest hit. Its diversity of landscapes range from teal and azure lakes to emerald forests, roaring rivers and that one big, radiant blue glacier. Guanacos roam the vast open steppe, while Andean condors soar alongside looming peaks.

Forget roughing it. You can hike the whole 'W' while sleeping in beds, eating hot meals, taking showers and toasting your day with a pisco sour. Yet it isn't fully tamed. Weather can present four seasons in a day, with sudden rainstorms and knock-down gusts like a hearty Patagonian handshake.

The park's wild popularity has been taxing on infrastructure, an issue now being addressed by a strict reservations system for overnighters.

Featured videos

Kayak among icebergs in Chile

1:02