Last Updated on January 10, 2022 by Nellie Huang
Visiting Torres del Paine, Chile, is a dream come true for many outdoor and nature lovers including myself. Here is my complete guide to Torres del Paine Chile.
Torres del Paine, Chile’s most famous national park, is a spectacular region packed to the brim with adventure.
Most people including myself visit the national park for its one greatest hit — the three granite towers Torres del Paine. But upon arriving, you’ll realize there are SO many other natural sights here: spearmint blue lakes, endless pine forests, turquoise lagoons, bright blue icebergs and golden pampas (grasslands) that shelter rare wildlife such as llama-like guanacos.
The highlight of my two-week trip to Chile was definitely Torres del Paine. Coming here required some planning (and saving), but the trip was worth every bit of money and effort. I hope this guide to Torres del Paine will help you plan your own epic trip there.
Table of Contents
- Torres del Paine Chile
- An Overview of the Torres del Paine
- When to Go to Torres del Paine Chile
- Summer Season
- Shoulder Season
- How Much Time for Torres del Paine?
- How to Get to Torres del Paine, Chile
- 1. Fly to Punta Arenas
- 2. Take Bus from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales
- 3. Drive from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine
- OR Take Bus to Torres del Paine
- How to Get Around Torres del Paine
- 1. Hike the W Trek
- 2. Stay in a Hotel inside the National Park
- 3. Rent a Car and Explore Yourself
- 4. Do day tours from Puerto Natales
- Cost of Visiting Torres del Paine Chile
- Where to Stay in Torres del Paine
- Accommodation choices in the National Park:
- Accommodation choices in Puerto Natales:
- Things to Know about Camping in Torres del Paine
- What to Eat in Torres del Paine
- Top Activities in Torres del Paine
- Hike to the Base of the Torres
- Hike to Mirador del Cóndor
- Admire the Salto Grande
- Sail across Lago Pehoé
- Hike to Mirador Cuernos
- Visit Laguna Amarga
- Take a Boat to Grey Glacier
- Visit the Laguna Azul
- Hike the French Valley
- Wildlife in Torres del Paine Chile
- Patagonian Puma
- Andean Grey Fox
- Nandu or Rhea
- What to Pack for Torres del Paine Chile
- Final Tips for Travel in Torres del Paine Chile
- Inspired? Pin it!
Torres del Paine Chile
An Overview of the Torres del Paine
Covering an area made up of more than 695 square miles (1,800 square km), Torres del Paine is a massive national park that stretches across the southern part of Chile. It is SO big that it’s difficult to see all of Torres del Paine in a single trip.
Torres del Paine has become a hugely popular destination and the number of visitors are restricted. That means campsites and lodges get fully booked well in advance. I’d planned to do the W Trek but I was too late and all the campsites were already full. Be sure to plan your trip at least 6 months in advance.
However, it IS still possible to visit for those who don’t want to do multi-day hikes. You can book day tours, take public buses or rent a car to explore yourself. I will elaborate in details all of the above options.
When to Go to Torres del Paine Chile
Patagonia’s weather is notoriously unpredictable. Even in summer, you can get four seasons in a day, with sudden rainstorms and knock-down guests as part of the initiation.
The most popular time to visit Torres del Paine is between November and April, which coincides with spring and summer in the southern hemisphere. Temperatures range from 30s (3-7 degrees Celsius) at night to high 60s (17-20 degrees Celsius) in the day. However, it will get crowded especially on the W Trek.
In my opinion, the best time to visit is during the shoulder season from September to November and March to April. You will be competing less with the crowd while the temperature is still manageable (10 – 15 °C) and the colors of autumn/fall are in full-swing. Note that the W trek is open year-round, but you need an official guide to hike the trail from May 1 to the start of September. You will be fined if you’re caught. Check out this guided hike if you’re interested in doing the W Trek in winter.
How Much Time for Torres del Paine?
My original plan was to do the 5-day W trek, but sadly most campsites were fully booked. Plus, I only had two weeks in Chile (which really wasn’t enough considering I wanted to go to Easter Island too).
Make sure you have at least three weeks in Chile if you want to do the W trek and visit other parts of the country. As distances in Chile are long, backpacking Chile takes some time and planning.
The W Trek takes five days on its own, so it’s best to plan at least one week in Torres del Paine in case of delays or weather issues. If you don’t intend to do the W Trek, I still recommend having one week in the national park as there’s so much to explore.
How to Get to Torres del Paine, Chile
Torres del Paine isn’t exactly easy to get to. It can feel far and isolated, but once you’re in Punta Arenas, it’s quite straightforward.
1. Fly to Punta Arenas
First you need to fly into Punta Arenas Airport, the closest airport to Torres del Paine. LATAM and Sky Airlines fly to Punta Arenas from Santiago (capital of Chile) several times a day. A flight from Santiago takes around 3.5 hours and costs around US$80 return. Book well in advance and flights are half the price!
2. Take Bus from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales
Next you’ll need to get to Puerto Natales, the closest town to the national park. There’s a tiny airport in Puerto Natales but flights there are much more expensive.
It’s easy enough to get from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales by public bus. Buses leave from both the airport and bus terminal. The journey takes around 3 hours (distance is 155 miles or 250km). The three companies are:
Timetable: 10:00am, 12:30pm, 15:00pm, 17:15pm, 19:00pm
Price: 7,600 CLP ($12 USD) one way
Timetable: 11:00am, 18:00pm
Price: 7,000 CLP ($11 USD) one way
Timetable: 7:00am, 8:00am, 9:00am, 10:00am, 11:00am, 13:00pm, 14:30pm, 16:00pm, 17:00am, 18:30am, 19:15pm, 20:00pm, 21:00pm
Price: 7,000 CLP ($11 USD) one way
3. Drive from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine
The Torres del Paine National Park is 70 miles (112km) away from Puerto Natales and you can drive that in around 2 hours.
It costs around $100/day to rent a car in Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales. If you’re traveling as a group, the price isn’t too bad. I recommend booking your car rental online to ensure availability. You can even hire it in Punta Arenas and drive all the way to Torres del Paine.
OR Take Bus to Torres del Paine
A cheaper option is the bus, though you’ll have to follow the bus schedule and you’ll be in trouble if you miss the return bus. The same bus companies as above travel from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine each morning and tickets cost around $15,000 CLP ($23 USD) for a return ticket.
The buses leave at 7:30am from the bus station in Puerto Natales and get to Laguna Amarga (where you pay your entrance fee) at 9.45am and Pudeto at 10:30am. They pick up from Laguna Amarga at 2.30pm and 8pm each day.
How to Get Around Torres del Paine
In general, there are three ways that you can explore the Torres del Paine National Park. There are pros and cons to each way, and all of them require some form of planning.
1. Hike the W Trek
The W trek is considered one of the best treks in the world. The 5-day trek is 80 km (50 miles) long and takes you through the stunning mountains, glaciers and ridges. Here is an excellent guide to doing the W Trek without a tour.
The O circuit is a longer version of it, with the addition of the backside of the mountain to make it a 130 km (80miles) long loop. Most people do the circuit in 7 nights, 8 days.
The two treks are so popular that refugios (campsites) get booked up a year in advance! If you’re too late and the campsites are all booked, you can still do the W Trek on a guided tour.
Check out this 5-day Guided W Trek.
2. Stay in a Hotel inside the National Park
The next option for those who want to spend as much time in the national park as possible is to book a hotel inside the park. Again these hotels get fully booked way in advance so book early! (Scroll down for hotel recommendations.)
There are limited hotels within the park grounds and they are extremely expensive. Prices range from US$150 to $500 a night but many of them include excursions around the park in their prices.
EcoCamp Patagonia (pictured) is the most unique lodge in Torres del Paine, set in sustainable domes with clear views of the surrounding peaks.
3. Rent a Car and Explore Yourself
If you don’t want to burn a big hole in your pocket, another option is renting a car and basing yourself in Puerto Natales, the nearest town to Torres del Paine. Hotels are cheap in Puerto Natales.
The national park is 70 miles (112km) away from Puerto Natales and you can drive that in around 1.5 hours. There are plenty of car rental companies in Puerto Natales, or you can book your car online to ensure availability.
However, it is again quite pricey. It usually costs around $100/day to rent a car in Puerto Natales. If you’re traveling as a group, the price isn’t too bad when split among each other.
4. Do day tours from Puerto Natales
The cheapest option is to book a day tour from Puerto Natales. This charming port village has several small hotels to choose from and it’s a good base for those who aren’t doing the W trek.
Several companies offer well-organized day trips that handle the driving for you and make sure to show you as many sights in the park as possible. The price of these day tours range from US$70 to $200.
I went on three different day tours:
- Full-day Base Torres Trek
- Torres del Paine Day Trip from Puerto Natales
- Day Trip to Perito Moreno Glacier
Here are some other day tours that are worth checking out!
NOTE: It IS possible to do a day tour with public transport from Puerto Natales but the buses have limited departures and you’ll only see a small part of the park.
Cost of Visiting Torres del Paine Chile
The entrance fee for the national park is 21000 CLP ($26.50) for foreigners. Neither credit cards nor foreign currencies are accepted, so be sure to have Chilean Pesos with you.
NOTE: If you want to reenter the park the next day, make sure to ask the park rangers to stamp your entrance ticket.
Torres del Paine is not a cheap place to visit — unless you camp and carry all your own camping gear. Expect food and transport to be more expensive here than other parts of Chile.
For those who are camping, you’ll need to consider these expenses besides the park entry fee:
- Pitching a tent at a campsite — US$20 per night
- Camping gear hire —$50 per night
- Bus ride to the national park — $15
- Food from supermarkets for 1 week — $50
For those who are visiting by day tours from Puerto Natales (like I did), here are the estimated expenses:
- Day tours — $100-200 per day trip
- Midrange hotel — $40-80 per night
- Meals in restaurants — $10-20
Where to Stay in Torres del Paine
As I’ve said once and again, you’ll need to make reservations for accommodation in the national park well in advance as they get booked up quickly. They’re also pricey, with the cost for a dorm bed spot ranging from US$50 to over $100 per person with extra costs for sleeping bags.
Luxury lodges have room rates that range from US$200 to $500 a night but most of them include day trips, food, drinks and park entry fees as well, so they actually offer superb value.
Below are hotel/lodges recommendations. I will talk about campsites and camping in the next section.
Accommodation choices in the National Park:
Luxury: Explora Patagonia
Definitely the most exclusive place to stay in the national park, Explora Patagonia has incredibly stylish designs that blend in perfectly with its natural setting by Pehoé Lake. There are even a heated pool, sauna, and outdoor hot tubs. Room rates include all transportation, meals, beverages and a choice of more than 40 explorations around the park. Check the latest rate.
Luxury: Hotel Lago Grey
One of the few luxury hotels in the national park, this beautiful hotel sits right by Lake Grey, offering views of the Grey Glacier and the floating icebergs. It’s got an excellent location next to hiking trails and it’s easily accessible by car. Check the latest rate.
Midrange: EcoCamp Patagonia
Definitely the most unique lodge in Torres del Paine, EcoCamp is set in sustainable domes inspired by the ancient dwellings of the region. The domes are tastefully designed and offer spectacular views of the jagged peaks. Check the latest rate.
Midrange: Pampa Hostel
This simple and new hostel has a log cabin feel and large green spaces surrounding it. It has dorm rooms, which makes it slightly cheaper than the other hotels, though you’ll still have to pay more than $100/night for a dorm bed. Check the latest rate.
Accommodation choices in Puerto Natales:
Luxury: Hotel Altiplanico Puerto Natales
This tastefully designed hotel is set in a privileged location with open views of Ultima Esperanza Bay. The chic yet rustic rooms have an upscale log cabin feel, with hot tubs adding a touch of luxury. Check the latest rate.
Midrange: Garden Domes
If EcoCamp in Torres del Paine is above your budget, this might be a good alternative. Get the chance to stay in geodesic domes just outside of Puerto Natales, sleeping with views of the mountains and stars above your head. Check the latest rate.
Midrange: Hotel Simple Patagonia
Located on the waterfront along the bay is another simple yet stylish hotel converted from a traditional barn, featuring an all-wood interior. It has a Scandinavian feel, with modern clean lines and functional designs. Check the latest rate.
Budget: Hostal Refugios Bulnes
Right in the heart of Puerto Natales is this affordable hostal converted from a comfortable house. It’s just steps from restaurants and supermarkets, and the value for money is excellent. Check the latest rate.
Things to Know about Camping in Torres del Paine
All campsites have at least basic toilet facilities, but bring your own toilet paper! You can rent camping equipment at every campsite, but it is expensive.
Hiring a 2-person tent costs around 20.000CLP or US$30, a sleeping bag for 15,000CLP or $22, a sleeping mat for 5000CLP or $8, and a portable stove for 5000CLP or $8. You can also get half-board packages (dinner and breakfast) at campsites for around US$56 and full-board for $80 per day.
All the campsites in Torres del Paine are run by these three companies:
- Fantastico Sur
- Vertice Patagonia
- CONAF, a quasi-governmental body that administers the park, but that also has three free campsites in Torres del Paine.
Note: Bookings on CONAF’s website open up later, so I would recommend booking paid campsites, rather than waiting for CONAF to open for bookings.
Here are some of the best campsites in Torres del Paine:
- Refugio Las Torres — A simple campsite with good showers and great views of the towers. You can store your stuff at the refugio to hike Valle Ascencio to the towers.
- Refugio Torres — Free campsite with basic toilets. It is 40 minutes away from the mirador for the towers.
- Refugio Frances — This is suitable for campers carrying their food. The camping area is located uphill from the bathrooms (which are large and good quality).
- Refugio Italiano — Free campsite. You can use it to leave your backpack to walk up Valle Frances.
What to Eat in Torres del Paine
If you are doing the W Trek or going on day tours, I recommend bringing food with you. Stock up in Puerto Natales, which has a good selection of camping food at the supermarkets and small grocery stores. You can also get a packed lunch at its numerous restaurants.
Most refugios and campsites sell some food, but the prices are prohibitively expensive, e.g. a Snickers bar goes for 1500 CLP (3 USD). There are also restaurants at certain spots in Torres del Paine, like at Lake Grey, but again prices are high.
For those who are staying in Puerto Natales and doing daytrips, there are plenty of good restaurants in towns. Meals usually cost around US$10-20, and you can get really good and cheap local wine.
Top Activities in Torres del Paine
Hike to the Base of the Torres
Most people come to Torres del Paine to see the three iconic granite towers, los Torres. But to see them in their full glory, you’ll need to hike up to the base point.
It may be just an 11 miles (18 km) hike, but it’s a steep and continuous ascent. I took around 4 hours to climb up and another 4 hours to descend. It definitely was difficult, but the view at the top and the varying terrain made it worthwhile.
Some people stay overnight at Refugio Chileno (campsite that’s a 2-hour hike away) and head up at sunrise. I highly recommend this day hike to the torres base with guide and transport included. If there’s one hike you do in Torres del Paine, make it this one.
Hike to Mirador del Cóndor
This lookout point offers one of the best views in the national park. To get here, it’s an easy two-hour hike covering around 2.2 miles (3.5km) return.
Start hiking from the campsite at Camping Pehoé. Once up there, you’ll get a 360-degree view of the Nordenskjöld and Pehoé lakes, as well as the Paine River, and the Cuernos del Paine. There are also expansive views over the Patagonian pampa, and in the distance is the Southern Ice Field.
Admire the Salto Grande
Salto Grande is a small but powerful waterfall right in the heart of the national park. It can be easily visited by car (with a carpark right next to it) and it’s a stop on almost every day tour. It’s a beautiful spot to take in views of the surrounding peaks from ground level. You’ll also find herds of guanacos hanging around here.
If you’re not planning to drive, join this day tour and you’ll be able to visit Salto Grande with a guide.
Sail across Lago Pehoé
A regular catamaran service runs across the beautiful Lake Pehoe. Glide through the crystal-clear waters and take in spectacular views of the Cuernos del Paine. Surrounded by endemic vegetation, it is one of the best spots to see wildlife in the park.
The catamaran runs from Refugio Pudeto to Refugio Pehoe. You can drive or take a bus to Refugio Pudeto. The catamaran costs US$35 for foreigners and you can only buy the tickets in person, and with cash only.
Hike to Mirador Cuernos
From Salto Grande, head up to a viewpoint for a spectacular view of the Cuernos (translated to mean “horns” which refer to the iconic jagged peaks the park is famous for).
It’s a 3.7 miles (6km) roundtrip hike, which most people take around 4 hours to cover. The beginning part of the hike has views of Paine grande and its hanging glaciers.
The mostly flat hike is a feast for the senses with whipping winds, grassy meadows, and the occasional sound of breaking ice from the nearby Valle Francés (French Valley).
Visit Laguna Amarga
Another beautiful spot that is easy to visit by car or bus, the Laguna Amarga is an essential spot for anyone coming to Torres del Paine.
Located at the eastern entrance to the National Park, Laguna Amarga is easily reached as many buses stop there. On a clear and cloudless day, you can see the reflection of the Torres in its pristine waters.
Take a Boat to Grey Glacier
One of the highlights of the national park, the Grey Glacier is part of the enormous Patagonian ice Field and is a spectacular spot especially for those who are yearning to see a glacier.
The best way to see the glacier is by boat from Hotel Lago Grey (3-hour trip) or join a kayak tour around the lake. You can also sign up for a day trip from Puerto Natales that brings you on the boat to Grey Glacier.
Visit the Laguna Azul
This startling blue lake isn’t just a feast for the eyes, but the hike around it is easy yet beautiful. Walk amidst flower-filled pastures, along black-sand shores, and piercing blue water. Look up, and you’ll see spectacular snow-capped mountains and granite spires.
You can easily reach it by car. It doesn’t sit on either the W or O Circuit. It is also a popular location to see pumas (scroll to read about wildlife in the park).
Hike the French Valley
The dramatically beautiful French Valley is the middle section of the W Trek. Many rate this as the most challenging part of the hike but also the most rewarding.
The trail offers up sweeping vistas across Lago Nordenskjöld and the open country to the south, the Andes Mountains to the West, and the rugged cliffs, peaks, and hanging glaciers that make this part of Patagonia so spectacular.
For those not doing the W Trek, you can hike just part of the French Valley trail to the first viewpoint (2 hours each way) as the whole trail would take over 11 hours return. This day trip to the French Valley is an excellent way to experience a part of it with a guide.
Wildlife in Torres del Paine Chile
Besides dramatic landscapes and impressive hikes, Torres del Paine is home to plenty of wildlife that are endemic to the region. Here are some animals that you’ll most probably see:
A close cousin of the llama, the guanaco is an adorable creature endemic to the plaines of Patagonia. Just a few decades ago they were endangered, but now there are more than 3,000 of them living in Torres del Paine.
They are easily spotted on the grassy tundra surrounding alpine lakes and soaring peaks.
The Patagonian puma is powerful, solitary and elusive. It’s not quite as easy to spot them, but when you do, it’s really quite something. We saw a puma right around the trail head of the Torres Base hike. Such an adrenaline rush!
Their numbers are particularly high in the eastern side of the park. If you really want to see one, your best bet is to sign up for a puma tracking tour and spend a few days with a dedicated guide.
Andean Grey Fox
Another animal that we spotted quite a few times is the Andean grey fox. We saw one close to the Chile-Argentine border within the park and another at the visitor centre of the Torres Base.
Getting close to a sleek Andean grey fox is surprisingly straight forward, especially if they are hungry and preoccupied with eating. They prefer target hares and rodents, but will happily chow down on any guanacos that have already been killed by pumas.
Nandu or Rhea
What to Pack for Torres del Paine Chile
Be aware that rental of camping gear can be expensive at the campsites. Many people tend to trek with their camping gear, which can be heavy.
- Osprey Women’s Aura 50 AG Backpack: My favorite pack for multi-day hikes
- Waterproof Dry Bag: Great to protect valuables from the rain
- Hi-Tec Hiking Boots: Invest in a pair of sturdy, waterproof boots
- Teva Sandals: For evenings and other occasions
- Moisture-Wicking Wool Socks: These are great for hiking
- Columbia Women’s Down Jacket: Great for the wind and rain
- Craghoppers Fleece Base: Soft and comfortable
- Long Sleeve Merino T-Shirt: Fast drying and odour-resistant
- Quick-Dry Pants: Convertible to shorts for warm days
- Fleece-lined Thermal Underwear
- Beanie or Cap: Useful for the cold weather
- Microfibre Towel: For stays in hostels
- Power Bank: No charging stations at many campsites
Camping gear for those doing the W or O Trek:
- GEERTOP 2-Person Tent: Ultralight and designed for 4 seasons
- Sleeping bag with Compression Sack: Portable, lightweight for extreme weather
- ECOTEK Sleeping Pad: Light inflatable 4-seasons mattress for hiking
- Headlamp: Waterproof and USB rechargeable
- MSR Mini Stove Kit: Most compact, lightweight stove
- MSR Trail Cooking Pots: A complete set of pots, plates and mugs
- TrailBuddy Hiking Poles: These can save your life!
Final Tips for Travel in Torres del Paine Chile
- Make sure to book your accommodation beforehand in the national park, if you want to do the W or O treks. If they’re all fully booked, you can still do the treks on a guided tour.
- After you make all your bookings, make sure to print your confirmations and have them with you as a proof, as well as your passport.
- There are fire safety regulations – never light a fire in Torres del Paine National Park. This is a really serious issue. Please don’t start any fire in the park.
- Internet access is only available in Puerto Natales, even 4G service will be limited in the national park.
- Some camp sites have charging points (eg. Paine Grande, Los Perros, Los Cuernos). However, I wouldn’t rely on them and it is best to have an external battery with you.
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