We were all up before sunrise today, and sunrise comes early here. We’re only a few days from summer solstice!

At first, the weather looked bleak for our big trip to Patagonia’s iconic Torres del Paine National Park. But the overcast skies cleared as we headed north, revealing a stunning landscape of rolling pampas backed by the famous craggy cliffs and spires, all set under a crystal-clear sky. The parked lived up to its name in English: Towers of Blue.

The lakes and rivers here all contribute many shades of blue, too. We stopped first at Lake Sarmiento, a brisk breeze rippling its dark sapphire waters, and later took a short hike to Salto Grande waterfall, a cascade of delicately translucent pale blue. We also paused at Lake Pehoe, its waters turquoise and opaque, colored by abundant glacial clay suspended in its icy waters.

Many of our guests headed out on an optional five-mile hike, where we strolled through pampas with fantastic, ever-changing views of the mountains and glimpses of the famous towers themselves. We stopped frequently to photograph flowers adapted to this harsh, windswept environment, and we were thrilled when we discovered the showy yellow flower of a capachito orchid. We visited an ancient rock shelter with pictographs painted by indigenous peoples here thousands of years ago.

We had hoped to see wildlife, and we were not disappointed. Guanacos, the wild relatives of the llama, have been dropping in population across South America. Here, though, they are protected, and their numbers are increasing. We saw many herds of guanacos wandering the pampas and grazing thoughtfully. And of course, the park is rich with bird life, from black-necked swans to soaring Andean condors, to tiny rayaditos and Sierra finches.

We finished our tour with a hearty lunch at the Río Serrano hotel before boarding the buses for our final drive across the pampas, back to the ship in time for cocktail hour and an informative recap by the expedition team.

Writers: Jackie Windh and Chelsea Leven, Naturalists