by Katrina Whitehead in Cool Travel on Monday 20 April 2009

I’ve done a bit of bushwalking in my time, but when I set off on a four day hike into the Chilean wilderness with nothing but my backpack, tent and some dried food, I felt about as intrepid as Edmund Hillary. The Torres Del Paine National Park, at the southern tip of Chile, has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. It’s like something out of a picture book: picturesque aquamarine lakes, snow-tipped mountains, raging rivers, and impossibly romantic fields of wild flowers.

While you can choose to sleep in heated refugios (serviced cabins) along the way, there’s also something remarkably liberating about freezing your butt off in a nylon tent, while packs of hungry pumas roam the park in the early hours looking for breakfast. The highlight of this famed trek is a dawn ascent to the actual torres (or ‘tower’) which involves scrambling up an absolutely enormous pile of boulders to watch sunrise spread over the park. And trust me – the lactic acid you’ll feel for the next week is all worth it.