Located in Chilean Patagonia, Torres del Paine’s breathtaking views and unspoiled nature has served as a South American trademark since the first indigenous groups arrived over a thousand years ago. While navigating the nuances of Patagonia may discourage travelers, we’ve made a helpful Q&A to alleviate any concerns prior to travelling to Torres del Paine. […]
Located in Chilean Patagonia, Torres del Paine’s breathtaking views and unspoiled nature has served as a South American trademark since the first indigenous groups arrived over a thousand years ago. While navigating the nuances of Patagonia may discourage travelers, we’ve made a helpful Q&A to alleviate any concerns prior to travelling to Torres del Paine.
Depending on your time, budget, and fitness level, there are three Torres Del Paine Circuit options:
Reserve early! Due to growing popularity, Parque Nacional de Torres del Paine now requires advanced reservations to spend a night in the park. If you plan on traveling during peak season, December through February, it is best to reserve at least six months in advance.
If you plan on going without a guide and don’t want to go through the hassle and frustration of planning the trek, we offer several self-guided treks with lodging and/or campsites. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more customizable experience, you can camp in CONAF-run campgrounds. While they are free of charge, you will need to reserve here when the bookings are released for the season.
Before entering the park, the typical starting point is Puerto Natales—a small town 112 km south of Torres del Paine. While scheduled flights are limited, it is crucial you plan ahead. It may be worth flying into Puerto Arenas and taking the 3 hour bus to Puerto Natales—we recommend Buses Pacheco, a reliable and inexpensive source that picks you up right from the airport so you can avoid the taxi or bus ride into town.
Almost all hostels in Puerto Natales offer daily transfers to Torres del Paine National Park in high season. Round trip tickets can vary between 15,000 and 18,000 Chilean Pesos, approximately $22-27 USD. At no extra cost, you can leave your return date ticket open so you can extend or shorten your stay in the park at your convenience. Buses typically leave Puerto Natales at 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.; however, if you are planning to arrive in the morning, we strongly recommend taking the first bus into the park from Puerto Natales. The line to fill out paperwork and enter the park can take over an hour in the mornings, so it is best to get there as early as possible.
Not to worry, most hotels and hostels in Puerto Natales offer luggage storage during your trek. When packing for your Torres del Paine Circuit, we recommend lightening your load as much as possible. Staying at the refugios in Torres del Paine is a great option if you’re new to backpacking or if you’re looking to trek with minimal gear.
The ‘W’ Route:
The ‘W’ and ‘O’ Torres del Paine circuits are among the two most famous trails one can take in Torres del Paine national park. Typically, it takes five days to complete the ‘W’ trek; however, it is possible to do it in four. This ‘W’ trek takes you around the following main sights of Torres del Paine.
The ‘O’ Route:
The Torres del Paine ‘O’ circuit trek can take anywhere from eight to twelve days to complete. While the ‘O’ circuit follows the same path as the ‘W,’ you will travel farther to complete the backside of the ‘W’. In addition to the popular sites listed above, you will also see:
One of the most important parts of preparing, trekking gear is one thing that can make or break your trip. While it is important to lighten your load, it is imperative you don’t “over-lighten.” A common misconception is whether or not hiking shoes are necessary. The trail covers a lot of different terrain, including a lot of mud and rocks. Ankle protection and waterproof shells are crucial for healthy, blister-free, and dry feet.
In addition, the wind in Torres del Paine can be quite strong; therefore, hiking poles will serve to keep your balance and a sturdy, windproof tent will help you stay warm at night. As well, 100 km/hr winds can certainly blow your raincover right off your backpack, so make sure to line your backpack with an extra bin liner/trash bag in order to avoid wet clothing and an uncomfortable trek.
As for clothing, we recommend bringing only two changes of clothes—one for hiking and one for sleeping. While any new clothes will become sweaty and smelly within the first 30 minutes of trekking, make sure to bring an extra pair of socks and underwear for the trip.
Aside from standard trekking and camping gear (take a look at the 5-Day Self-Guided W Trek packing list), a water filtration system is highly recommended. While bathing or washing directly in the streams is prohibited in the park, visitors don’t always follow the rules. As a result, we recommend bringing a Steripen in order to avoid a potential illnesses during the trek.
The choice is yours! If you choose to do the ‘W’ a guide is not necessary, however, if you choose to do the ‘O’ we recommend a guide for a safe trip. Keep in mind with a solo trek, 80% of your bag will be filled with food or cooking materials (though day-by-day your pack will get lighter). If you don’t want to carry food you also have the option to purchase meal services at the refugios.
With a guide you’ll learn more about the park’s history, local fauna and habitants, and are guaranteed to keep safe. Plus, your food and accommodations are all taken care of, so you can relax and enjoy the park instead of lugging a heavy backpack. Avoid the hassle of making reservations and book a fully guided tour where food and cooking is all taken care of and camping gear is carried by a porter.
Torres del Paine is visited by thousands of travelers every year. While most come away with just incredible memories, accidents do happen every season. We strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance before your trip, especially since you’ll be hiking through strong winds, rain, and maybe even snow in a very remote area of the world. We recommend World Nomads, as they can cover trekking up to 6,000m in the Standard Package along with various adventure activities.