Here is a complete guide to visit Torres del Paine, the most important natural wonder of Chilean Patagonia, the perfect place for trekking between mountains and lakes.
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How to get to Torres del Paine?
The base city to visit Torres del Paine is Puerto Natales, 75 km away. There are several options to get to Puerto Natales and visit Torres del Paine:
If you are a foreigner and arrive in the country through Santiago, there are direct flights to Puerto Natales from the Chilean capital, but only in the months of December, January and February. The airline that makes the journey is LATAM, with two weekly flights in December and four weekly flights in January and February.
Check here cheap flights to Puerto Natales.
Outside the summer months, the usual way to travel to Puerto Natales is to fly to Punta Arenas airport and then from here take a bus or private transfer that makes the journey to Puerto Natales. Punta Arenas has frequent flights to Santiago thanks to the airlines LATAM, Sky Airlines and JetSMART.
Check here cheap flights to Punta Arenas.
The ferry company Navimag makes the trip from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales only in high season, with a duration of 4 days. It leaves Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales on Saturdays and returns from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt on Wednesdays.
Check timetable and prices in the Navimag official website.
By bus it is not convenient to travel to Puerto Natales, mainly because of the large number of hours of travel. If you want to get to Puerto Natales by bus from Chile, there are services that depart from Puerto Montt and take about 37 hours to arrive, making part of the journey on the Argentine side, as there is no route within Chile that connects Puerto Natales with the center of the country.
From El Calafate in Argentina you can get to Puerto Natales by bus crossing the Andes through the enabled pass and the journey takes about six hours. There are three weekly frequencies in low season and a daily frequency in high season that connect El Calafate with Puerto Natales. It must be taken into account, especially in winter, that due to inclement weather the pass may be closed.
In your own car or for rent
If you want to get to Puerto Natales by car, there are two options:
- From the south: you can do it from Punta Arenas or even from Ushuaia, using a ferry with vehicle transport to cross from the island of Tierra del Fuego to the mainland.
- From El Calafate or the north: through the border crossing located about 20 km from Puerto Natales. If you are coming from the north of Chile, there is no route within the country to get to Puerto Natales, but you have to make the journey through Argentina.
Check here if you want to rent a car in Puerto Natales.
How to get from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park?
There are buses from different companies that make the journey, normally with two daily frequencies from October to April. From May to September you have to check with the transport companies to see if they have departures or not. There are also transfers from tourism agencies that make the journey during the high season.
By car or rental is an hour of travel, easily accessible by paved route.
Check here Torres del Paine Trip to discover the National Park and the Mylodon Cave. Included: Hotel pick up and drop off, English speaking guide, entry to Mylodon Cave and entry to Torres del Paine National Park.
Best time to visit Torres del Paine
Due to its location, it has a cold climate with extremely low temperatures in winter and a lot of wind in summer.
Summer is the ideal time to visit Torres del Paine, when daytime temperatures reach 20ºC (68ºF), although at night it gets considerably cooler. It is also the windiest season in the region, with winds of 30-40 km/hour, reaching 100 km/hour if there is a storm. The duration of sunlight in these months reaches 16 hours during the day, so it is a plus to visit Torres del Paine.
In autumn, the maximum temperatures drop and the minimum temperatures usually go below zero. This is the rainy season in the city, although until the end of April you can still enjoy Torres del Paine without much cold and too many people.
In winter, the climate is very cold with maximum temperatures that don’t exceed 10ºC (50ºF) and minimum below zero. At this time of year there is not so much wind, although a visit to Torres del Paine may be hindered by the amount of snow in the mountains. The advantage is that you won’t practically find people in the National Park and the access price is cheaper.
Spring has very variable days, it can rain, the sun can come out and it can get very cold at night. The days begin to lengthen, in terms of the duration of sunlight.
In any case and regardless of the time of year to visit Torres del Paine, you must wear warm and waterproof clothing, as weather conditions can vary greatly throughout the day.
What to do in Torres del Paine?
There is no doubt that trekking is the main activity to do in Torres del Paine, within which two circuits stand out: W Circuit and O Circuit.
Map of the W Circuit and O Circuit in Torres del Paine National Park
Download the Maps.me app that has the maps with the trails of the two circuits updated.
DAY 1 – Green
DAY 2 – Red
DAY 3 – Yellow
DAY 4 – Purple
DAY 5 – Pink
DAY 5 – Orange
DAY 6 – Brown
DAY 7 – Blue
DAY 8 – Pink
The W circuit is the one that attracts the greatest number of travelers, since it is possible to reach the most interesting sites in Torres del Paine National Park, without the great extension in days represented by the O circuit. What you will miss are the beautiful landscapes in the O circuit from the Grey refuge to the Dickson refuge.
Although there are four entrance gates to Torres del Paine National Park, if you want to walk along the W circuit, you must enter through the Laguna Amarga portal and then reach the area where the refuge and the Hotel Las Torres is located, a place where you can camp or spend the night in the lodging. There is a distance of about 7 km between the Laguna Amarga portal and Hotel Las Torres. If you don’t want to walk or don’t have a car, there is a bus that makes the trip for about 5 US$.
At a normal walking pace, it takes about five days to make the W circuit. The W circuit is called that way, because that is exactly the shape of the route to be done, entering the mountain to access the different viewpoints and returning along the same path to continue.
The stages of the W circuit are:
Day 1 Refugio Las Torres to Mirador Base de las Torres:
It’s about seven hours of walking back and forth on this trail that runs along the Ascencio River. The starting point (and the returning one) is the refuge or hotel Las Torres Patagonia, up to which there is a paved road. Then the road becomes a demanding trail, with steep slopes.
If you do not want to make the journey to the Mirador Base in a single day, you can stop to sleep in the refuge and camp Chileno halfway.
The Mirador Base de las Torres is one of the most popular with travelers because from there you can see Lake Torres and in the background the Central, Monzino y Dagostini Towers, the 3 peaks that conform the Torres del Paine (see photo cover).
For this trekking, we recommend that you leave your backpacks at the Las Torres refuge and go all the way back and forth with a small backpack, very light of luggage.
If you want to do the trekking to Torres del Paine in one day because you don’t have much time, it is possible to go to the base viewpoint of the Torres and return to the starting point.
The one-day trekking can be done on your own or hiring a tour in Spanish to the Mirador Base de las Torres del Paine. Includes: Pick up and transfer back to the hotel, Spanish speaking guide, picnic lunch and water. Entrance fees not included.
Day 2 Refugio Las Torres to Italian camp:
It’s a 7 hour hike bordering Lake Nordenskjöld and overlooking the Los Cuernos massif. If you want to shorten the distance and do it in two days, you can sleep in the French camp or Los Cuernos, both of which are for a fee.
The Italian camp is free but must be booked at the previous refuges or the portal of Laguna Amarga, especially in high season.
Day 3 Italian Camp at Paine Grande Refuge:
This day is the ascent and descent to the British viewpoint, crossing the valley (about five hours of walking in total). It is one of the most impressive sections of the W circuit, where you can see rivers, glaciers and high snow-capped peaks.
After returning to the Italian camp, there is a two-hour walk to the Paine Grande refuge, where Lake Skottsberg and Lake Pehoé are bordered.
Day 4 Paine Grande Refuge to Mirador Refugio Grey:
In this case, as in the visit to the Base Las Torres viewpoint, it is best to leave your backpacks at Paine Grande refuge and start the eight-and-a-half hour tour in total (round trip) with light luggage.
On the way you border Lake Grey until you reach the refuge, where you have breathtaking views of the Grey Glacier and the Southern Ice Field. If you don’t want to go all the way back and forth in one day, you can camp or sleep at Grey Refuge.
Day 5 Paine Grande Refuge to Visitor Center:
It’s a five hour hike to the Visitor Center, no longer great landscapes. From here you can return to Puerto Natales by bus to rest.
The O Circuit includes the W, starting at the Las Torres hotel and refuge and after about eight days of walking you will arrive at the same place, making the circular O circuit.
The first four days are the same as in the W circuit and, instead of returning to the Paine refuge or sleeping in the Grey refuge, perhaps you can continue and reach the Paso camp. Then:
Day 4 of the W circuit from Paine Refuge to Paso Camp:
It is about eight and a half hours in total, spotting the highest part of the Grey glacier.
Day 5 from Paso camp to Los Perros camp:
It is about six hours of walking through the John Garner pass at 1,200 meters above sea level.
Day 6 from Los Perros camp to Dickson camp:
It is a five hour hike, bordering the Los Perros River and the valley of the same name and arriving at the shores of Lake Dickson.
Day 7 from Dickson camp to Serón campsite:
It’s a six hour hike. From this day on, the scenery is not as spectacular as it was a few days ago.
Day 8 from Serón campsite to Las Torres shelter:
Four hours of walking to return to the starting point of the entire circuit. From here there is a bus to return to Puerto Natales.
Options to enjoy Torres del Paine National Park with kids
If you are going to travel with kids to Torres del Paine you probably won’t be able to do the demanding trekking, but you can enjoy the beautiful views without much effort.
The most accessible is to reach Grey Nursery, take the two-hour walk to Ferrier viewpoint and then board the ferry that sails Lake Grey to the refuge and glacier. All this can be done in one day perfectly, although you won’t see the Paine massif in all its splendour.
Check here the Boat Trip to Lake Grey Tour. Included: Hotel pick up and drop off, Spanish-speaking guide specialized in the Chilean landscapes, boat ride on Lake Grey and tasting of a cocktail of Pisco Sour on board.
The other ferry option is to sail on Lake Pehoé from Pudeto to the Paine Grande nursery (half an hour sailing).
Sleeping in Torres del Paine
There’s a lot of accommodation on the way:
Hostels and refuges
They are the most expensive, but where you will sleep without getting too cold and comfortable. A bed in a shared dorm can be from 55 US$ per night and can reach up to 100 US$ in high season. A private room costs more than twice as much as a dorm.
Check here where to sleep in Puerto Natales.
In the campsites of Torres del Paine National Park you can bring your tent and sleeping bag, or you can also rent in the place. Rental prices can be a bit expensive for a budget traveler (about 15 US$ per day to rent a tent).
There are campsites that are free, such as Italian or Torres, although the services are basic. Private campsites charge 10 US$ per person per night. Free camping is not allowed in non-licensed areas.
It is advisable to reserve your place in the campsites, especially in high season when many people visit the National Park.
Luggage to visit Torres del Paine
Ideally, don’t carry so much luggage, but this depends on whether your budget is high or not to visit the site.
If you’re on a high budget, you might be able to afford to sleep in dorms or private rooms, rent a tent and sleeping bag and eat in shelters. This way, in your backpack you only have to take warm clothes and some food for lunch and breaks.
On the other hand, if you have to carry food and a tent, your backpack can weigh more than 10 kg, which is not recommended for long walks. You will also suffer more from the weather at night.
In any case, what should not be missing are warm clothing, raincoat, trekking shoes and sunscreen.
Admission fee to visit Torres del Paine
According to the season in which the National Park is visited, the prices change:
In high season, from October to April:
- Chilean adults: 6,000 pesos
- Foreign adults: 21,000 pesos (30 US$)
- Chilean children under 6: free of charge
- Chilean children between the ages of 6 and 16: 2,000 pesos
- Foreign children: 6,000 pesos (9 US$)
Low season, from May to September:
- Chilean adults: 4,000 pesos
- Foreign adults: 11,000 pesos (16 US$)
- Chilean children under 6: free of charge
- Chilean children between the ages of 6 and 16: 1,000 pesos
- Foreign children: 1,000 pesos (1.5 US$)