Torres del Paine is a famous national park in Chile, and consider to be one of the best trekking in South America. The Patagonian landscape of the park includes beautiful lakes and rivers, glaciers, massive granite pillars and more. The trails are well marked and the difficulty is not too demanding, which makes it a great choise for a first trek in South America!
Torres del Paine’s most popular rute is a 4-5 day trek called the ‘W’, due to the ‘W’ shape of the trail. More experienced trekkers can consider the full loop called the ‘O’ circuit, which is much more challenging- less touristy – also includes the ‘W’ rute, and lasts 7-10 days. We chose to do the ‘W’ rute in 5 days.
The best time for trekking Torres del paine is from November to March, while January- February are the most recommended months, providing relatively sunny days with less rain and more hours of natural light. But, Patagonian weather can be unpredictable and it’s usual to experience hard sun, then heavy clouds and winds, then rain, and sun again, all on the same day. For that reason, it’s important to go trekking while being well prepared with proper waterproof equipment and clothing.
Preparing for the 5 day trek
Camping vs Refugios (basic hostels that also have camping areas)
Before heading to the trek, you should figure out whether you do it the fully cheap- backpacking way (which means renting camping and cooking equipment for the trek and carry it and the food with you) or maybe the more expensive- easier way (sleeping in dorms in the refugios that you book in advanse/ renting the tent and the sleeping bag from the refugios, buying food in the refugios). When choosing camping and cooking your own food, you’ll probably carry a 12-15 kilogram backpack, which makes it harder but much cheaper. Some parts of the trail you’ll first reach the campsite, and then it is possible to leave everything inside the tent and hike a roundtrip trail much lighter.
Packing for the trek
– Fleece jacket + waterproof windblock jacket + thermal shirt
– 2 layers of pants: thermal pants/ leggings + travel pants with pockets
– A towel+ little soap+ flipflops (only if you plan to take a shower)
– Winter hat+ neck warmer + gloves
– 3 or 4 season waterproof tent
– Sleeping bag ( -5 degrees celcius comfort rating or more, the nights tend to be cold) + sleeping pad
Head lamp, sun glasses, sunblock protection cream, lipsalve, toilet paper, walking stick, extra money, some medicine
Food and water:
– Lots of energy snacks like chocolate, dried fruits, peanutes…
– If you plan to cook, bring a cooking kit, a stove and a lighter.
– Bring water just for the first day, then refill water from one of the many rivers, water are clean and safe to drink, no need to purify.
How to get to Torres del Paine
First, go to Puerto Natales for at least 1 night. We stayed at Backpackers Kaweskar Hostel. It is one of the best hostels we stayed in. For sure it is the cleaest hostel, which made us feel very comfortable. Showers are great, beds are great, fully equipped kitchen. Omar, the owner, is very friendly and a nice person. The breakfast is awesome with a lot of variety. We had a wonderful stay and really recommend it. In Puerto Natales you can buy or rent everything you need for the trek.
Our rating for Backpackers Kaweskar Hostel is 10 out of 10!
Ready? Starting the trek!
We took the bus from Puerto Natales to the entrance of Torres del Paine park. When we got to the entrance, paid the fee and got the map, we asked some of the locals that work there from which side should we start the trek: from right to left, or left to right. We decided to start from right to left and by that way to hike first to the famous ‘Mirador las Torres’ because the weather was sunny and clear and we could see the peaks from the entrance, quite rare thing…We took another bus from the entrance to ‘Las Torres’ hotel, where the trail begins.
Unfortunately, the sun was fooling us, and after half an hour of walking, the rain and strong winds started. After about 4 hours, we reached the Refugio Chileno campsite. You always need to pay for camping in the rafugio’s campsite, and you can only camp in spesific camping areas. We planed to hike untill ‘Torres’ free campsite on the first day, but we were told that it’s closed, so we had to pay in Chileno refugio. During all the first day it was raining and very cloudy, so we just stayed at camp and hoped for better wheather for day 2.
Total walking hours for day one: 4 hours.
After a rainy- cold night, we woke up and realized it’s getting clearer and sunny. From that moment ’till the end of the trek, we had a really good sunny weather (with ocasional strong winds that can really push you…)
We had a quick breakfast, left our big backpacks in the tent, and started the 3 hour hike to Mirador Las Torres. The last 45 minutes were pretty hard uphill, and then an amazing landscape appered: a beautiful lake and the 3 famous granite “towers”, with a good visibility and big smiles on our faces…
The way back to Chileno campsite was mostly downhill, and it was an easy 1 hour and a half walk. We packed our staff and kept going downhill 2 and a half hours towards Refugio Las Torres (near the starting point of Las Torres hotel). Then we realized that we didn’t bring enough money with us, since we didn’t plan to stay on the campsites that cost money. At this point, Oded began to feel really sick and weak, so walking more was not an option, and it was getting dark. Begging to the owner didn’t help, so we payed and prayed for help, still more days to go and no money for the catamaran for the last day or for other campsites…
Total walking hours for day two: 7 hours
We woke up to another sunny day and hiked 5 and a half hours untill Refugio Cuernos, another campsite that cost money…mmm…
The way was beautiful, walking up and down hills along a great lake with all the surrounding mountains.
We were quite tired at this point and the next camp is a 3 hour -not so easy walk. Luckily, we met some amazing Israelies that lended us money without hesitating so we could keep our trek without worries. Oded was still sick and tired, but we did this trail slowly with a lot of stops to relax. On that evening, the sunset was just amazing! The clouds had all kinds of crazy shapes and colors, and the sky really looked like a beautiful painting.
Total walking hours of day three: 5 and a half hours.
We walked 3 hours to our last campsite, which was finally a free one, Campamento Italiano. We set up our tents and left the backpacks there. We started hiking uphill 2 hours untill Mirador Valle Frances. It was beautiful, but not too amazing, and Oded still was very weak, so we stopped there and went back to camp to rest. We then realizes that Oded had a fever this hole time, not too fun while trekking with a heavy backpack…
Total walking hours for day four: 6 hours
Woke up to our last day of the trek, Oded was feeling a bit better but still weak, we walked the easy 3 hours to Refugio Paine Grande, from there we took the noon time catamaran back to the entrance of the park (which saves us 3 hours of walk) and from the entrance we took the bus back to Puerto Natales. The full W rute also includes going up to Grey Glacier and back to the refugio, but by this point we were tired and decided to skip that, since we knew we are going to visit the massive Pirito Moreno Glacier soon.
Total walking hours for day five: 3 hours
5 day Torres del paine trek costs per person:
– Bus from Puerto Natales and back: 10,000 Chilean pesos (18$)
– Entrance fee: 18,000 Chilean pesos (33$)
– Bus from the entrance to Las Torres hotel: 2,500 Chilean pesos (4.5$)
– Lago Pehoe catamaran on the last day: 12,000 Chilean pesos (22$)
– 3 nights at the refugio’s campsites: 18,000 Chilean pesos (33$)
– Renting a tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad for 5 days: 20,000 Chilean pesos (36$)
– Food for the trek: 10,000 Chilean pesos (18$)
Total costs for the 5 day trek: 165$.
– Some shopping we did for the trek and for the rest of the trip- gloves, hat, socks, walking stick, cooking kit, stove and gas: 47,000 Chilean pesos (85$)
Torres del Paine national park is an amazing place to hike. Although quite a touristy trek and not the cheapest, it is still a beautiful trek with stunning landscape.