This article is part of the Complete Guide to Photography in Patagonia
You could spend weeks in Torres del Paine exploring the possibilities for landscape photography and uncovering new compositions. You can take multi-day treks around the mountains, explore Glacier Grey on a boat tour, or visit the many lakes in some of the most impressive landscape anywhere in the world. However, you don't need to venture far from the most accessible areas to get incredible landscape photographs.
This is my list of the best photography locations in Torres del Paine, and I've concentrated on spots in the centre of the park that are full of photographs but easy to find. You could drive a route passing every one of these locations in barely more than an hour and wouldn't need to spend more than 20 minutes walking to find them. Most are right by the road.
These are also great photo spots in any weather and at almost any time of day. Most places in Torres del Paine look best at sunrise, but there are some locations where you can only capture a great image in the right conditions. For everywhere on this list, you'd still find something to photograph on the windiest, cloudy or rainy days.
Exploring and hiking to find new locations and unique compositions is one of the most exciting activities in photography, and Patagonia is an incredible place to wander. However, if you're looking for the most accessible and popular locations for landscape photography in Torres del Paine, this is where to begin.
Viewpoint by Hotel Explora
At the southern edge of Lago Pehoe is a small bay and a hill next to one of the big hotels in Torres del Paine. With a parking area just off the road, it's a 3-minute walk to the shore of the lake or a viewpoint up the hill.
There's a little room to move around at this spot and create different compositions, but not many foreground options. This is one of the best views of the mountains in Torres del Paine, with the lake spread out before the peaks, and it works in lots of different conditions and at various times of the day.
When to go: This is a great place for sunrise, as it's easy to compose an image with plenty of sky and colour. On a still day, there can be reflections in the lake. However, this is a versatile spot; it's worth visiting at almost any time in any conditions.
The Island in Lago Pehoe
On the eastern shore of Lago Pehoe is a small island with a hotel and restaurant called Hosteria Pehoe, which is a great place to explore with the camera. It's easy to reach, with a small parking area just off the main road and footbridge out to the island.
There are two options here: climb up the hill past the hotel for a view of the lake or get down by the shore for plenty of rocky foreground options. The variations in the water and the rocks allow you to create unique compositions here as you adapt to the conditions on location.
When to go: The mountains look best at sunrise, especially if you visit in the autumn or winter, but you can capture great images here at any time of day. This spot is best for windy days when bigger waves break on the shoreline; it's my favourite spot in Torres del Paine when the wind is high.
To get here: Park just off the main road, then cross the footbridge to the hotel. Walk past the restaurant on your right and either follow the path up the hill for views of the lake or around to the right to reach the shoreline (then follow the shore).
Route to Lago Grey
One road leads to Lago Grey from the main north-south route through Torres del Paine, and it is one of the most photogenic journeys in the park. The road crosses an open plain with clear views of mountains across the fields, which are often full of horses, providing the ideal subject to join with the peaks.
If you plan to visit Lago Grey, it is worth building some time into your journey to capture images on the way, and there is a great place to stop as the road crosses the river with views across the plains. I made this image on an afternoon with broken cloud, the light shafts streaming over the mountains as the clouds moved.
When to go: This is a beautiful route at any time of day. You might capture good light at sunrise or sunset, but cloudy or broken skies can also provide patches of brightness for interesting compositions of the plains.
To get here: Drive from the junction at the main road to Lago Grey and keep your eyes open for photographs. There isn't a single best place to stop, but you'll spot plenty of opportunities depending on the conditions when you travel. A good place for inspiration is where the road crosses Rio Grey.
Probably the best spot to capture a waterfall in front of the mountains at Torres del Paine, Salto Grande is one of the top destinations for tour groups and visitors to the park. It is set in a beautiful area in front of the mountains, with bays and hills scattered around, providing different foregrounds and compositions.
If I'm honest, this is not my favourite composition in Torres del Paine, because the large rock in the mid-ground blocks the view of the mountain, and it's impossible to move to a position where the water is in the right place in the composition. That said, it's a unique framing of the peaks and part of an area with plenty of other photography opportunities (see the patches of dead trees below).
When to go: The peaks are at their best at sunrise but can work at sunset, depending on what time of year you visit. One thing to consider is the popularity of this spot: Salto Grande gets busy from around 9am and stays that way all day, so arriving early for first light can help you beat the crowds.
To get here: There are two parking areas near Salto Grande. The lower area by the waterfront is a much longer walk but is next to a cafe and public toilets. The upper area does not open until after sunrise but is only about 500m from the falls.
Lago Pehoe Bay
The dream image for many photographers is capturing the peaks reflected in the water in Torres del Paine. However, Patagonia is famously windy, and there are often days when the first challenge is simply staying upright. Even on calmer days, there is usually enough wind to ripple the water in the lakes and break up any reflections you might otherwise have found.
However, this bay in Lago Pehoe is one of your best chances for finding reflections. It's protected by a peninsula, creating a calmer patch of water even when the rest of the lake is choppy, but the view is still wide open to the mountains in the distance.
When to go: Not only do the mountains catch the best light at sunrise, but it's also the most likely time for a mirror effect in the water. Arrive very early before dawn for the best chance of finding the lake still; you'll likely find that, if you do get reflections, they'll disappear as the sun comes up.
To get here: This spot is by the campsite at Lago Pehoe, and there are plenty of places to park, including an area right across the road from the bay. The bay is easy to reach from either the road or through the campsite to the picnic tables by the shore.
Area of Dead Trees
Forest fires tore through Torres del Paine in 2005 and 2011, leaving scorched trees and much less foliage than in other parts of Patagonia. You'll find these skeletons of trees all over the park, but the best place to capture them with a great view of the mountains is by the hiking trail just north of Salto Grande.
The twisted branches are full of textures and patterns and make great foregrounds for compositions of the mountains just behind them. The area near Salto Grande not only has a lot of different options, with dead trees scattered around on both sides of the trail, but they are also separated enough to make finding and simplifying a foreground easier.
When to go: The great thing about photographing the dead trees is that they work well with a moody atmosphere and cloudy skies. If the weather is good, with low wind and clearer skies, head for one of the spots around the lake to make the most of the conditions. This area is your best option for when other locations aren't going to work due to the cloud or wind.
To get here: Park at the parking area near Salto Grande and head up the trail past the waterfalls. It's only a 15-20 minute walk from the parking area before you'll find the start of the dead trees along the hiking trail.
Eastern Torres del Paine
The route from Salto Grande to the eastern entrance to Torres del Paine is the best place to find wildlife in the park. With some luck, you may spot a puma in this area, although the best way to find one is by arranging a specialist tour with an expert guide. You'll be more likely to find groups of guanacos along the road and in the hills nearby.
The best way to capture an image of the wildlife in context is to find a parking area with a good view of the peaks, then wait or take short walks around the landscape to look for guanaco. I found that staying in my car for only an hour or so was often enough for a guanaco to wander into view.
When to go: You can find guanaco at any time of day along this route, and it's another good option for when conditions aren't quite good enough for capturing a grand vista elsewhere in the park.
To get here: Drive the main route from near Salto Grande to the eastern park entrance, which has plenty of places to pull off the road and stop the car. A large parking area with a great view of the peaks is here, where I often found guanacos wandering right past me.
Rio Serrano Lookout
This is the only location on this list not inside the national park, but it has one of the most spectacular views of the plains and mountains. Located 2km from the southern park entrance, on a hill overlooking the small village of Rio Serrano, this point is well worth a visit wherever you are staying in Torres del Paine.
You can capture wide views of the landscape here, with the Rio Serrano and the open plains set out in front of the mountain range. It's also a great place to capture close-up details of the landscape with a long lens, and you can see more features in Torres del Paine from this point than almost anywhere else in the park.
When to go: Sunrise is spectacular at this spot, especially in the autumn when the light hits the mountains from the right, and the river reflects the bright colours of the sky. There is not much room to move around and vary your position, but it is a versatile location if you use a long lens to capture details, so it can work in a range of conditions.
To get here: From the southern park entrance, drive the short road to Rio Serrano and stop at the parking area by the road at the top of the hill. The lookout is just by the parking area, though you can descend the hill slightly to vary your position.
Finding the Best Photography Locations in Torres del Paine
Whenever I plan a photography trip, I like to arrange for a mix of established locations where I can be confident I'll enjoy my time with the camera and time to explore and discover new compositions. These photography spots are only a fraction of the great landscape photographs you can capture in Torres del Paine, but they are a great starting point for planning your trip.