Patagonia’s Most Iconic Hiking Trail
ACTIVITIES AND INFORMATION
We arrange the W trek and Full Circuit trek itineraries; and/ or luxury 4 (or longer) night stays with transport, food and guided excursions included; full day tours; activities such as ice hiking, kayaking, visits to Grey Glacier and fast-speed zodiac ride up or down the Serrano river; trips over to El Calafate and trekking at El Chalten, Punta Arenas and penguin visits as well as Ushuaia for cruise start and end. We also offer whale watching and Patagonia cruises. So much to experience! For Torres del Paine only we suggest a minimum of four nights, but add to that a couple of nights pre and post in order to take in the other places and activities. For the other places, Punta Arenas requires a min of 1 night, usually for logistics, El Calafate 2 nights in order to get to see Perito Moreno Glacier, El Chalten 3 nights and Ushuaia a 1 night minimum pre and another post cruise departures and arrivals. Puerto Natales merits at least 1 night pre and another post Torres del Paine, but also more if you really wish to “take in the area”. We offer all “decent” to luxury hotels and also have some nice offers. This really is “our territory”, we really are the specialists for Patagonia with superb local knowledge and a local office in Puerto Natales.
The Park covers 182,000 sq hectares and is the jewel in Chile’s tourist crown. Just why it’s worth travelling 4.5 hrs from Santiago on a plane and then driving a further 5 hrs by car is only apparent when you stand and stare in amazement at the unbelievable sight of this monumental cluster of mountain peaks that appear to stand all on their own in the middle of an otherwise flat plateau. Comprising this central massif are the “Cuernos del Paine” (Horns of Paine), covered in snow at varying altitudes and offering support to giant blue-white blobs of ice otherwise called hanging glaciers, and three other towers – which are the Torres del Paine (Towers of Paine). The sight of the almost vertical rock sides rising up to an altitude of close to 3,000 m is what causes such an awe-inspiring view. For outdoor lovers Torres del Paine is a must to see before you die.
“The Paine massif is unrivalled….. In its colours and form it is without doubt one of the most fantastic and spectacular sights that human imagination can conceive.” Salesian missionary Padre Agostini.
The vast Torres del Paine comprises the peaks of Torre Monzino (north) (2,600m), Torre Central (2,800m) and Torre D’Agostini (south) (2,650m). To the east of the Torres del Paine is the Valle Ascencio.
Cuernos del Paine comprise Cuerno Principal (2,600m), Cuerno Este (2,200m) and Cuerno Norte (2,400m). To the west of the Cuernos del Paine is the Valle del Frances – one of the glories of the park – a high altitude valley ringed by a curtain of almost vertical rock.
Surrounding this jaw-dropping spectacle is a natural wilderness of turquoise-coloured lakes, waterfalls, glaciers (especially Grey glacier) and fast-running rivers. The massive Grey Glacier, 7km wide at its widest point and stretching back over 20 km., is still in the process of carving its own valley to the west of the Cuernos del Paine.
The vast majority of people coming to Torres del Paine will come to hike the famous “W” trek and the more serious trekkers will hike the complete “circuit”. The “W” is called so because the route forms a pattern like a “W” and the circuit, although encompassing the “W” also takes in the back area behind the Central Massif and completes a circuit of the Park and hence its name. Each route takes a number of days and involves serious trekking; therefore trekkers should be reasonably fit.
All accommodation must be pre-booked. Options on the trails include a number of hikers’ hostels called “refugios” (refuge) and / or serviced camp sites. Refugios offer rather basic, shared dormitory-style accommodation along with communal shower rooms.
For those who prefer something more comfortable there are a number of hotels, which are actually hotels with en-suite bathrooms and nice restaurants. Here at experiencechile we can arrange both refugios and or hotels, just send in an email.
Torres del Paine Transport & Buses
ExperienceChile.Org will include in the itinerary regular bus transfers and private local transfers. We can also arrange rent a car and private long-distance transfers.
- Regular Buses and Private Transfers
- El Calafate to Torres del Paine / Torres del Paine to El Calafate
- El Calafate to Torres del Paine / Torres del Paine to Puerto Natales
- Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine / Torres del Paine to Puerto Natales
- Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine / Torres del Paine to El Calafate
- Puerto Natales to el Calafate / El Calafate to Puerto Natales
- Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales / Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas
- Private Transfer
For those with a higher budget, or for private groups travelling together, a private transfer between cities and / or in to and out of Torres del Paine is the way to go. A private transfer will go at the times you want and take you door to door.
Rent a Car
For those who wish to have total independence having your own car use is the ultimate winner. You can go where you want when you want. Remember that if you want to take the car across the border a permit is required and this requires about a week’s notice.
Getting to Torres del Paine
The principal entry points to Torres del Paine are:
Most commercial flights will land at Punta Arenas some 3.000km south from Santiago. Note: There are NO commercial flights from Buenos Aires nor El Calafate to Punta Arenas. The direct flight will take just under 4hrs and the one that stops off at Puerto Montt en-route will take around 4.5hrs.
From the airport you would then either be met by a private transfer service (if you have contracted one with ExperienceChile.Org), take the regular bus from Punta Arenas city centre to Puerto Natales and change to another bus to get to TDP, have asked ExperienceChile.Org to pre-arrange a regular bus pick-up at the airport, or have arranged for your own car rental. Note that a permit is required to take any car across the border in to Argentina.
You need to fly to El Calafate in Argentina from Buenos Aires or Ushuaia. Here you can stay overnight with an option to go to El Chalten (3hrs away by road) and / or visit Perito Moreno glacier the following day and then the next day come over to TDP. From El Calafate you can take the regular bus across the border (departs 08:00hrs) to Puerto Natales (arrives 13:00hrs approx) and change to the regular bus that then goes to TDP departing around 14:00hrs, or arrange a private transfer service or a car rental. Also from El Calafate ExperienceChile.Org can organise a direct bus transfer to TDP (Laguna Amarga) departing El Calafate at 05:30hrs, which takes 6hrs.
NOTE: No fruit, raw meat, raw vegetables, seeds or cheese is allowed over the border in either direction. If you try to do so you WILL be fined. There is a cafeteria at the Chile border where you can buy snacks as well as at the mini-markets on the W-Trek in TDP.
Navimag operates a commercial ferry ship, which also takes passengers, from Puerto Montt. This ship arrives to Puerto Natales and offers a good-value cruise that passes through the channels and fiords in the area en-route to Puerto Natales (the cruise is available from Puerto Natales too) and ExperienceChile.Org can arrange the reservations. From Puerto Natales you either take the regular bus to TDP, have a pre-arranged private transfer meet you or organise a rent a car.
- Punta Arenas to Laguna Amarga in Torres del Paine (TDP) – 370km (5hrs drive)
- Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales – 250km (3hrs drive)
- Puerto Natales to TDP Laguna Amarga – 120km (2hrs to drive)
- Puerto Natales to TDP Rio Serrano (newest route via Milodon-Cave road) – 80km (1hr to drive)
Most Popular Time to Come
The Summer: December, January and February is typically the most popular time for visitors because the weather is warmer and it is the Winter holiday period in the Northern hemisphere.
Best Time to Come
To avoid the crowds the best time to visit is before mid December or after February. The Winter period is also a wonderful time to experience the tranquillity of the Park and enjoy picturesque wintry scenes and get lower-cost accommodation.
Trekking in Torres del Paine requires attention to safety, personal responsibility and commonsense. You need to come with the right clothes, be very aware of changing weather conditions and also bring other items such as a torch, water and food for the period when you are out trekking. If you are in need of serious emergency help it may well be VERY SLOW in arriving. Helicopters cannot often get into the park because of high winds and the long distance from Punta Arenas. Normally rescue from the remote sectors of the Park will mean transport by horseback or being carried on a stretcher over rough terrain to the nearest road vehicle and then be driven for 3 hrs to Puerto Natales or even longer to Punta Arenas.
Distances & Fuel
Distances within the park can be quite long between refugios, hosterias and campsites. The park is also a 2 hr drive from Puerto Natales and visitors should therefore ensure that they have full fuel tanks when leaving Puerto Natales if they are in their own car rental. Cerro Castillo, about half way between Puerto Natales and the Torres del Paine park entrances, sometimes has petrol but can also be sold out. There is an emergency supply of petrol in the park near the CONAF centre close to Posada Rio Serrano, but again, this should not be relied upon.
Entering the Torres del Paine
Visitors need to register at the park entrance and pay to enter.
The cost is approximately USD40 per person The Park is administered by CONAF (“Corporacion Nacional Forestal”) and income is distributed throughout the organization. The CONAF admin centre is located within the park at the northern end of Lago del Toro, or 11 km past the Explora hotel heading west towards the Rio Serrano end. Here there is an information centre and exhibits the geographical make-up of the Park as well as information on the flora and fauna.
There are three entrance points into Torres del Paine. Laguna Amarga, Lago Sarmiento and Rio Serrano.
- Laguna Amarga is located on the Eastern side of the park 150km (2hrs drive) on Ruta 9 from Puerto Natales, which goes via the border village of Cerro Castillo, when the road becomes Ruta Y 150.
- Lago Sarmiento is also located on the Eastern side of the park 150km (2hrs drive) on Ruta 9 from Puerto Natales, which goes via the border village of Cerro Castillo, when the road becomes Ruta Y 150 and then at the sign post fork left instead of right (right goes to Laguna Amarga entrance).NOTE: That this entry is often CLOSED and not used that much.
- Serrano is 80km (1hr drive), on Ruta 9, from Puerto Natales past the Milodon Cave (which is worth a visit).
Park entrance cost in 2018 was Ch$25.000 or approx USD35 per person.
Torres del Paine National Park Places of Interest
There are numerous activity excursions to choose from in and around Torres del Paine. What follows are only some of the more typical places of interest and activities. Some excursions can be done by touring in a vehicle, but most are done on foot and in some cases on horseback.
Apart from the staggering visual scenery Torres del Paine is also home to many varieties of bird species including the Condor, and rare types of flora and fauna such as the Puma and Guanaco.
The Administration Centre (Sede) This is located in the sector near to Rio Serrano and is the base for CONAF (the park administration people), the Carabineros (the Police). Here there is an excellent exhibition display of the geographical history of TDP and is well worth a visit for those who are interested to know how the amazing and spectacular geographic features of the areas were created.
Ferrier Mirador (View Point Ferrier)
Located near to Hosteria Lago Grey, the return hike is about 7hrs with panoramic views over GreyLake, Pingo Glacier, Torres del Paine Massif and the Cuernos de Paine. The trek involves some difficult uphill stretches.
From this lake is a great view to the Paine Massif and in the immediate area is the Nothofagus wood with Lenga and Nirres trees. The trek will be around 4hrs and not difficult.
Located “around” the other side of the Park (going in an anti-clock wise rotation), this is a very blue-coloured lake from which there is a great view to the towers of Torres del Paine and also home to many types of flora and fauna and especially good for bird watching. Accessible by vehicle.
Located about 1km up the track from Pudeto (from where the catamaran operates). Salto Grande means Large Waterfall. The viewing area is very close to the action and offers people the opportunity to see the power and hear the mighty rumble of vast volumes of water cascading through a narrow gap and then thunder down to the drop some 30mts below.
El Sendero de Los Lagos (The Lakes Footpath)
The start of this trek is from the Estancia (Hosteria) Mirador del Paine – which is technically outside the Park. The trek takes about 8hrs and offers a great view of Lago Toro and a panoramic view of the TDP Massif, glaciers and other mountains. It ends in the Park not far from the Weber bridge, so you will need to be met at the end point. This trek is moderate in difficulty.
Key Places of Interest Torres del Paine W trek
El Sendero de Ascencio
This trek will take around 8hrs return and starts from the Hotel Las Torres area. It passes through the AscencioValley and NothofagusForest and ends up at the Mirador (View Point) at 980mts from where there is a spectacular view of the three Towers of Paine and the Condor’s Nest, and magnificent rock formations. The trek is demanding and part of it can be done on horse back from Hotel Las Torres. It takes 2hrs to reach the Refugio Chileno and then another 2 hrs to reach the Mirador.
To get to the FrenchValley it is necessary to take the catamaran from Pudeto across the LakePehoe to Refugio Paine Grande. From here the trek enters in to the FrenchValley which offers stark and impressive views of Glacier Frances and Cuernos del Paine. The return trek is about 10hrs and quite demanding.
Access to Glacier Grey is either by boat from Hotel Lago Grey or by trek from Refugio Paine Grande. By boat from Hotel Lago Grey the excursion lasts about 3 hrs and offers a close-up view of the glacial face and the chance to drink samples of Whisky or Pisco with millennia-old ice! Trekking to Grey from Paine Grande takes about 4hrs and then on to the Mirador to see Glacier Grey closely takes another 1.5hrs (plus another 1.5hrs to return to Refugio Grey. From Refugio Grey you will need to take the boat to Hosteria Lago Grey or trek back to Refugio Paine Grande. The trek from Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Grey is moderately demanding.
Torres del Paine Suggested Clothes to Take
Clothes to Take
Try to bring LAYERS of breathable clothes that can be taken off or put on easily to adapt to any change in weather and as you heat up and cool down on a trek. Cotton undershirts are NOT recommended – see below.
Ideally clothes such as:
Over your body skin: an under vest (long sleeved if possible) made, ideally, from synthetic fibres so it dries quickly. If very cold weather (ie early spring, winter months or autumn) then thermal underwear made from synthetic fibres. The reason for synthetic fibres is because when you are walking several hours you will build up a sweat and your under garments will get wet, this then gets cold when you stop and will make you cold unless the wet material dries quickly. Cotton does not dry quickly, whereas synthetic material will dry more quickly.
Over your under vest: a breathable top such as a fleece.
Over your fleece: a waterproof windbreaker over jacket.
For your legs: trekking pants, resistant to rain and wind, but made from a breathable material otherwise you will sweat. Jeans are NOT good as they can get wet and not dry.
Over your trekking pants: waterproof shell pants to go over your trekking pants in the event of heavy rain.
For your feet: wool or synthetic socks. Waterproof trekking boots with ankle support and none-slip sole. If new make sure you break them in prior to using them on a trek.
For your hands: gloves. Close to glaciers it can be very cold.
For your head: a warm hat (not a jockey cap), sunglasses and sun-protection cream and a headband to keep your ears warm when not using the hat.
For your personal use: a back pack for food, water and clothes.
For your safety: a battery-operated torch for when power is out or if you are arriving to a refugio in the dark. Take with you during the trek extra water and snacks. Prepare for all weather conditions and dress for the outdoors. Do NOT go off the trail because if you have the slightest incident such as twisting an ankle, you may not be found.
Average Temperatures in TDP during the year
Summer (Dec – Jan – Feb) Max + 23.5°c / Min + 0.8°c.
Our selection of hotels includes many of the most popular accomodations in South America. You’ll find the perfect hotel in your budget.
TORRES DEL PAINE
Set in the heart of Southern Patagonia the Torres del Paine National Park (declared a World UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1978) is one of the most impressive natural geographical spectacles on Earth. It is a “must see” destination and we are the specialists to create your itinerary.