Torres del Paine is a very famous and popular national park in southern Patagonia, Chile. Thousands of people come here for trekking every year, as a result, it gets quite crowded during the season. The park has a good infrastructure; well-marked trails, designated campsites, picnic areas, restaurants and shops, ranger posts, etc.
You can come to the park as a day visitor and do short day-hikes or venture to one of the longer routes; the W-trek or the O-circuit and spend trekking here between 5 to 8 days. The highlights of Torres del Paine; Las Torres (three sharp granite peaks), Grey glacier, Pehoe Lake, Salto Grande, Nordenskjold lake – it’s a great place for outdoor, hiking and nature enthusiasts.
Torres del Paine National park facts
- The National park was established in 1959.
- It is located in Southern Patagonia, Chile.
- The total area of the park – 181 400 ha.
- It got its name after three granite peaks of the Paine mountain range that look like towers (Torres from Spanish is “tower”).
- 289 745 people visited Torres del Paine in 2018, 60% of them were foreigners.
Hiking routes in Torres del Paine
The park is huge, with several one-day and multi-day hikes, all trails are well marked and easy to follow. The W-trek and O-circuit start at Hotel Las Torres, 7km from Laguna Amarga (the entrance) to get here from the gate you can take a bus (US$4,4) or walk.
- Day hikes – there are many day-hiking trails in Torres del Paine, distances between 5 and 20 km.
- W-trek – 100km trail, 3 to 5 days to complete.
- O-circuit – 134km, a loop that goes around the park, in the Southern part of the park it joins with the W-trek, 7-9 days. Opened – November to March.
- Q-route – 154km, it’s basically the same as the O-circuit plus 20km extension; from Paine Grande to Administration exit, 8-10 days. Opened – November to March.
If you’d like to visit the park and see most of its attractions but don’t have enough time for trekking you can visit Torres del Paine as a day trip from Puerto Natales. There are several day tours from Puerto Natales including hiking to Mirador Las Torres, Mirador Grey, Valle Frances, and Lago Sarmiento as well as a full day Torres del Paine tour and glacier Grey boat tour.
Download Torres del Paine map.
Which hiking route in to choose?
Depending on how much time you have and what kind of experience you’re seeking for you can choose any of the suggested hiking routes.
- You can walk with a day pack, no need to carry a heavy backpack.
- Staying in a hotel instead of camping (for camping lovers it might be a disadvantage).
- You can choose when and what you want to see according to the weather conditions.
- You can spend more time trying to get a perfect shot or footage.
- It’s more expensive, there are no budget hotels inside the park but you still can camp.
- It takes away a big adventurous part of the hike.
- You won’t be able to see some remotes parts of Torres del Paine.
- It’s a good compromise between a day hike and a week circuit, takes between 3 to 4 days to complete, plus the route goes through the more developed part of the park with hotels, restaurants etc.
- You still have to carry food and gear but only for 3-4 days.
- If you don’t mind paying more you can even stay in hotels and eat in restaurants.
- W-trek can be done as a 5-day fully guided tour from Puerto Natales.
- This part of the park is very busy and gets quite crowded in the season you don’t get a chance to get off the beaten trail.
- There are no free campsites on this route only more private or hotels.
- You have to carry a heavy backpack with gear, food, and clothes for 7-8 days.
- If you’re unlucky with the weather it’ll be a very long walk in the pouring rain and strong wind (it can happen anywhere in Patagonia not only in Torres).
- The same as for the O-circuit.
- You see even more places in the park.
- It’s a long hike, you’ll need 8-9 days to complete it – a lot to carry in a backpack.
- The extension part of the trail is not a circular route, it’s a return trek. The best way to complete this route is to take a catamaran to Paine Grande from Pudeto, CLP 18000/US$28 from there walk the O-circuit and finish with Paine Grande – Administration stretch.
Practical information for hiking in Torres del Paine
There is a CONAF office in Puerto Natales where you can book free campsites and get confirmation or you can book online through the site. The office opened Mon – Thu from 8.30am till midday and from 2.30pm to 5pm; Fri from 8.30am till midday and from 2.30pm to 4pm; Sat., Sun. closed. The office’s located at the corner of Baquedano and Yungay streets, near Erratic rock hostel.
To get more information on Torres del Paine and some practical tips visit daily free talk meeting at 3pm at Erratic Rock hostel, near the CONAF office.
All hiking routes in the park are well-marked and have indications, distances, maps etc.
The O-circuit and Q-trek can be walked only counterclockwise.
The O-circuit (the Q) is opened only from 1st November to 30th March for the 18/19 season.
The W-trek can be walked in any direction.
Most of the trails have a closing time, you won’t be allowed to start walking a stretch after the specified closing time.
|Trails (stretches)||Distance||Required time||Closing time|
|Paine Grande – Campsite Italiano||7.5km/4.6mi||2h30min||6.30pm|
|Campsite Italiano – Mirador Britanico||5.5km/3.3mi||3h||3pm|
|Campsite Italiano – Campsite Frances||2km/1.2mi||30min||7pm|
|Campsite Italiano – Los Cuernos||5km/3mi||2h30min||5pm|
|Los Cuernos – Hotel Las Torres||11.6km/7.2mi||4h30min||–|
|Hotel Las Torres – Refugio Chileno||5km/3mi||2h||–|
|Refugio Chileno – Campsite Torres||3km/1.8mi||1h30min||6pm|
|Campsite Torres – Mirador Las Torres||1.4km/0.8mi||1h||6pm|
|Hotel Las Torres – Campsite Seron||13km/8mi||4h||–|
|Campsite Seron – Campsite Dickson||18km/11mi||6h||3pm|
|Campsite Dickson – Campsite Perros||12km/7.4mi||4h30min||5pm|
|Campsite Perros – Campsite Paso||8km/5mi||6h||2pm|
|Campsite Paso – Refugio Grey||7km/4.3mi||5h||3pm|
|Refugio Grey – Paine Grande||11km/6.8mi||3h30min||4pm|
If you’re planning to stay for a night inside the park you must book your accommodation (campsite, hotel) beforehand.
Take printed campsites booking confirmation with.
Bring your passport to the park. You’ll need your bookings are made on your passport details. To keep your documents and phone dry on the trek use a waterproof pouch.
There is no/very limited cell phone reception in the park.
Hikers in all the time inside the park must stay on established trails.
Camping is only allowed at designated campsites, wild camping is strictly prohibited.
No open fires are allowed inside the park.
Using a camping stove is allowed only at designated areas, campsites.
All waste must be carried with you outside the park (some private campsites have rubbish bins).
Travel insurance for hiking in Torres del Paine
Hiking like any outdoor activity involves a risky part with the possibility of getting an injury (even on a day hike) it’s always advisable to have travel insurance that can cover you in case something goes wrong. We’ve done many hikes all over the world and never had any accidents (except one time when I lost my backpack hitchhiking in Patagonia) but it’s always great to know that if something happens you’re covered.
Out of many insurance companies, we recommend World Nomads, they work all over the world and specialize in outdoor activities like hiking. Torres de Paine is one of the top destinations World Nomads cover which means they work with local companies quite a lot and will be able to resolve a case without any complications. Another great thing about World Nomads is that you can buy insurance policy online while traveling (it takes a couple of minutes), their policy is very flexible it can cover the whole period of your trip or only the hiking part of it, even if it’s one or two days. Get a quote right now!
Note! Always make sure you carefully read the Terms and Conditions part.
Torres del Paine entrances and nearest hiking trails
In season (October to April) entrance is from 7am to 10pm; off-season (May to September) – from 8.30am to 5.30pm. There are three entrances to the park (which one to choose depends on your route.
Laguna Amarga. The O-circuit, the W-trek and day hikes (if it’s the closest entrance to your accommodation). You can start hiking from the entrance or catch another bus that will get you to Las Torres – the official start, 7km. The bus costs CLP 3000/US$4,50 pp.
Pudeto (catamaran). The W-trek (it can be walked either way), the Q-trek, day hikes (if it’s the closest entrance to your accommodation), to get to the park you need to catch a catamaran, CLP 20 000/US$25 one way.
The Administration entrance (near Guardería Serrano). In high season it can be used only for exiting the park. The stretch Paine Grande – Administración can’t be walked the other way around.
Where to stay before and after hiking
If you’re planning to do day hikes in the park the best option is to stay inside the park or in one of the nearby places, it’ll save you a lot of time compared to staying in Puerto Natales and spending 4-5 hours every day driving to and back. For more details and suggestions on day hiking trails in Torres del Paine and the nearest hotels go to THIS POST.
Accommodation inside Torres del Paine
All the hotels inside the park are quite luxurious; rooms with nice views, private bathroom, heating, TV, towels, comfortable beds, breakfast. Some have the option of full board with 3 meals included.
Staying in refugios might be a little bit cheaper but if you add up 3 meals per day it works out almost as expensive as staying at one of the fancy hotels just with less comfort. You can rent a tent or camp with your own gear inside the park check Camping in Torres del Paine section for more details on the option.
- Refugios Torre, Chileno, and Los Cuernos can be booked through Fantastico Sur. Price US$116 per dorm bed (no meal included).
- Refugios Paine Grande, Grey, and Dickson can be booked through Vertice Patagonia. Price from CLP 34 000/US$42* per person in a dormitory, no meal included. On their site price in USD is US$57 but if you convert the price in Chilean pesos according to the current exchange rate it’s US$42. I guess it’s better if you choose to pay in Chilean pesos.
Places to stay just outside the park
There are some places that are located just outside Torres del Paine which makes it easy to access different hiking trails in the park. Like hotels inside Torres del Paine, these places are quite pricey and luxury but a bit less expensive.
Places to stay in Puerto Natales
If you’re planning to do one of the multi-day hikes in Torres del Paine then staying in Puerto Natales is probably the best option. There are many places for different budgets from campsites and backpackers to fancy guesthouses and hotels. Puerto Natales is a town where you can find all you need to prepare for hiking; ATMs, shops, gear rental places etc.
Campsites in Torres del Paine
Inside the park there are three different companies running the campsites; CONAF (the National Forest Corporation) – runs free campsites; Italiano, Paso, and Torres (closed for 18/19); Vertice Patagonia – paid campsites; Grey, Paine Grande, Dickson, Los Perros, and Fantastico Sur – paid campsites; Torre, Los Cuernos, Frances, Seron and Chileno.
All the campsites can be booked online; book CONAF (as for November 2019 there are very few spots left for December and January); book Vertice Patagonia; book Fantastico Sur. Don’t forget to print it and take your booking confirmation and passport with you.
Paid campsites have much better facilities but in the peak season, they get overcrowded to use any of the facilities e.g. shower or toilet you have to wait for a while. There are 9 paid campsites in Torres del Paine National park they are run by two companies; Vertice Patagonia and Fantastico Sur.
CONAF (free campsites)
There are two free campsites that belong to CONAF, they have very basic facilities and are located next to the rangers stations. To get a spot in one of them in the peak season (December, January, February) you must book long in advance.
Vertice Patagonia (paid) campsites
These campsites have better facilities than the free ones and the price is moderate compared to the other campsites in the park. The price for camping with your own gear is between rice – between CLP 5500/US$7 and CLP 6500/US$8.
Fantastico Sur (paid) campsites
These are the most expensive campsites in Torres del Paine. The current price is CLP 16 000/US$21 per person (if you’re two people) for camping with your own gear. If you’re one person there is an extra charge of US$11, in total you pay US$33 for one person to camp at Fantastico Sur campsites with your own gear.
Campsites outside the park
Campsite Pehoe is a good stop for visitors with their own vehicle who are planning to do day hikes in Torres del Paine. The campsite is located at Pehoe lake.
Getting to Torres del Paine from Puerto Natales and back
You have several options for getting to Torres del Paine from Puerto Natales; taking a bus, renting a car or hitchhiking. If you’re planning to do day hikes in Torres del Paine and want to visit several locations inside the park renting a car will be the best option. Public buses stop only at three park entrances, some trails are accessible only by private vehicles which means you’ll have to do a tour or drive there yourself. If you’re a couple of people renting a car it will work out cheaper than joining a tour. Get an instant rental quote.
If you’re planning to do some multi-day hikes then taking a public bus is the best option. Buses leave every day at 7.30am (we’d suggest being there earlier to get a spot on the first buses) and 2.30pm from Puerto Natales, most hostels and hotels sell bus tickets. It takes between 2-3 hours to get to Torres del Paine (depending on where you’re going to). Price CLP 10 000/US$12 one way pp. The bus makes 3 stops in Torres del Paine; Laguna Amarga, Pudeto and Administration.
|Bus Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine||Bus 1||Bus 2|
|Leaves Puerto Natales||7.30am||2.30pm|
|Arrives at Laguna Amarga||9.45am||4.45pm|
|Arrives at Pudeto (catamaran)||10.30am||5.15pm|
|Arrives at Administration||11.45am||6pm|
To get to Torres del Paine from Punta Arenas you must first get to Puerto Natales and then take a bus to the park, same from other towns in the area.
Hitchhiking might be difficult in the peak season there are many people on the road all depends on your luck, it’s better to start early. We hitched in March and were quite lucky to get to the park in two rides, it took us 3 hours in total just 1 hour longer than by bus.
To get to Hotel Las Torres (the starting point of the O-circuit and the Q-trek and some day hikes), from Laguna Amarga take a bus to Hotel Las Torres. Its departure time is linked with the arrival time of the bus from Puerto Natales. It takes 10min., price CLP 3000/US$4. It’s possible to walk this stretch, it’s about 7km.
To get to Paine Grande (the starting point of the W-trek and some day hikes), first, take a bus from Puerto Natales and get off at Pudeto. Second, take a catamaran (ferry) from Pudeto to Paine Grande. The trip takes 30min., price CLP 20 000/US$26 one way.
|Catamaran||Pudeto – Paine Grande||Paine Grande – Pudeto|
To get back to Puerto Natales from Torres del Paine take a bus, there are two daily buses from the park. They stop at three different entrances. The price is CLP 10 000/US$12. Travel time 2-3 hours.
|Bus Torres del Paine – Puerto Natales||Bus 1||Bus 2|
|Leaves Laguna Amarga||2.30pm||7.45pm|
|Arrives in Puerto Natales||5pm||10pm|
Cost of hiking in Torres del Paine
Transport – bus Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine (one way) – CLP 10 000/US$12. Bus Hotel Las Torres – Laguna Amarga (for the O, Q, and W-trek) – CLP 3000/US$4, optional. Catamaran Pudeto – Paine Grande (W trek) – CLP 20 000/US$25 one way.
Entrance fee – CLP 21 000/US$26 in season, off-season (May to September) – CLP 11 000/US$14; the price is fixed and doesn’t depend on the duration of your visit; no matter if you stay for a couple of hours or a week.
Accommodation – hotels between US$130 and US$350 for a double room, depending on the location and facilities. Hostels – between US$60 and US$80 per bed. Private campsites – between CLP 5000-13000/US$6-16. Currently, there are only two free campsites in Torres del Paine.
Food – cooking your own food – US$10 per day per person; eating out – between CLP 11 000/US$14 and CLP 16 000/US$20 per meal.
Gear rental (optional) – to rent camping gear (tent, sleeping bag, cooking stove, etc.) in Puerto Natales will cost you between CLP 13 000/US$16 and CLP 20 000/US$25 pp. per day, depending on what you rent. At most paid campsites you can rent a tent, mat, sleeping bag but it’s more expensive than in the town.
Tours in Torres del Paine (optional) – boat trip to Grey Glacier – US$120 pp.; hike on Grey glacier – US$154 pp.; kayaking to Grey glacier – US$100 pp.
Tour operators charge; for a day tour from Puerto Natales from US$60 per person, for a 5-day W-trek – around US$1000 (including transport, accommodation, food, gear, park entrance fee), for a 7-day O-circuit – US$2000 (including transport, accommodation, food, gear, park entrance fee).
Guided tour in Torres del Paine vs independent visit
- It’s much cheaper, especially for longer treks.
- It’s more adventurous.
- You’re more flexible.
- You carry a heavy backpack with gear and food for the whole trek.
- You pitch and break down a tent, make food, pack etc.
- The preparation stage is easy; no need to book campsites, find buses, rent gear or pack – all you have to do is to find a good company and pay.
- The trekking part is easier as well; no carrying a heavy backpack, pitching a tent, cooking, packing, etc. You walk with a day-pack and your guides do the rest.
- Usually, it’s more fun to join a group if you travel alone but in Torres del Paine there are many people chances of you hiking and camping on your own are basically non-existent.
- It’s more expensive.
- It takes away the adventurous part.
- All the trails in the park are well-marked and easy to follow, you don’t really need a guide to show you the way or to find the campsites.
Suggested tours and activities in Patagonia
What to pack for hiking in Torres del Paine
Regardless if you’re planning to do day-hikes or a multi-day trek you’ll need good hiking shoes (men’s model). It’s always advisable to wear your shoes before you go on a long-distance hike to minimize the chances of getting blisters. As for choosing between hiking boots and hiking shoes, it’s a matter of personal preferences, e.g. I don’t like wearing high boots, my last two pairs of hiking shoes were Merrell. It’s better to have waterproof shoes especially if you’re planning to do one of the multi-day routes rains are quite frequent in Torres del Paine even in summer.
Socks might look like not a very important item but since we started using merino wool socks we don’t want to go back to wear normal cotton socks when hiking. Merino wool socks don’t absorb odors which is great on multi-day hikes often you don’t have a chance to wash your socks every day. They protect your feet and help to prevent blisters which is another great thing. And they last forever, not like cheap cotton socks we used to wear that were totally done after of hike.
For more details on hiking clothes for Patagonia for different seasons for men and women check our Patagonia packing list post. There we elaborate a lot on every item.
If you’re planning to do the O-circuit or the W-trek you’ll need camping gear you can bring your own gear (which I’d recommend doing if you’re planning to do more hikes in the region), rent gear in Puerto Natales or if you don’t feel like carrying camping gear with you can rent it at every paid campsite in the park.
If you’re planning to travel with your own gear invest in buying a good lightweight tent and sleeping bag these will serve you for many years to come. Currently, we use MSR Hubba Hubba camping tent and out of several tents we’ve had this one is the best; very light, packs super small, waterproof and easy to pitch.
As for a sleeping bag, we had quite a few as well and after trying synthetic and down bag decided that down sleeping bags work better for camping in cold weather. They are very warm, light and pack really small.
Having a proper backpack for hiking is very important it should be comfortable, easy to adjust, lightweight and have a rain cover.
More details on camping gear for Patagonia you can find in THIS POST.
Bringing your own camping gear vs renting it in Puerto Natales/Torres del Paine
Let’s’ compare prices of camping gear on Amazon.com and renting camping gear in Puerto Natales and at the paid campsites in Torres del Paine. If Torres del Paine is the only place you’re going to hike renting camping gear is the easiest option if you’re planning to do more hikes it’s worth bringing your own gear.
The easiest option for multi-day hikes in Tores del Paine is to rent camping gear at every campsite you stay in this case you don’t have to carry heave gear with but it’ll work out more expensive than renting it in Puerto Natales.
As for small stuff like a camping stove, pots, hiking poles, etc. if you don’t bring it with you from home it’s better to buy them in Puerto Natales renting small items for 5-7 days will cost you as much as buying them. After the hike, you can try to sell that stuff for less to other hikers.
- *Prices are for Amazon US.
- **Rental prices at Rental Natales and Erratic Rock in Puerto Natales
- ***Gear rental prices at Vertice Patagonia campsites
Best time for hiking in Torres del Paine
If you wonder when it is the best time to visit Torres del Paine here is some weather-related data to help you planning. To characterize Patagonian weather in one word I’d say “unpredictable” – it can change in a blink for an eye from nice and sunny to stormy and rainy.
Patagonia has four well-defined seasons; Spring – September to November; Summer – December to February; Fall – March to May; Winter – June to August. Summer and the beginning of fall is the best time for hiking in Patagonia. Temperature; December, January, and February are the warmest months when even night temperatures are quite comfortable. April and November – are shoulder season; warmish days and not cold nights.
In this part of Patagonia wind, not rain is the main problem, it gets very windy which turns to pitch a tent or cooking to a complicated task. The beginning of summer November – January are the windiest months in Torres del Paine. February is the most comfortable in sense of wind and temperature. April to September is the least windy period but it’s too cold for hiking, plus long treks are closed for offseason.
As you can see chances of rain are pretty even throughout the year, summer and fall months get quite a lot of rain, February again is the best month for hiking in Torres with the least rainfalls. In winter the chances of rain are quite small though it can snow.
Day duration in summer in Patagonia is quite long, up to 18 hours of daylight! You have long hiking days even if you start later you’ll have enough time to complete a stretch with the sun still high up. November – February it basically gets dark around 11pm, the sun rises between 4am and 5am. In winter daylight hours are half as long as in summer.
From all the above you can make a conclusion that February is the best month for trekking in Torres del Paine; warm, little wind and rain, long days but it’s the busiest month for the park with the most visitors coming here. November, December, and March might be a better option if you want to skip the crowds, plus all hiking trails are already or still opened, but these months get quite a bit more rain and are windier. We hiked in March and were lucky with the weather, out of 7 days in the park we had only 1 rainy day and it wasn’t pouring rain, the wind didn’t bother us too much.
Wildlife in Torres del Paine
In high season chances to see wild animals in the busy part of the park (W-trek, day hikes) are quite small but you still can be lucky. We saw most animals on the O-circuit, in more remote parts of the reserve. If you’re lucky you can see a puma and our friends did see one walking near camping Serron one morning. Grey and red fox – you have good chances of spotting them on the longer routes. Huemul – local deer, we saw a couple of them but from far. Guanaco – a bigger and wilder version of a llama. There many smallish mammals; Patagonian skunk, dwarf armadillo, condor, rabbits, and mice.
Recommended books and guidebooks
In the last years, rules in Torres del Paine have changed quite a lot make sure to buy an updated guide book.
If you prefer reading e-books, join Amazon Kindle Unlimited to get access to thousands of e-books and audiobooks. You can use it on any device (phone or tablet) not only a Kindle all you have to do is just to install a free app. You can try it right now, the first 30 days of using Kindle Unlimited are free.