Hiking in Torres del Paine National Park is a bucket list activity that attracts thousands of avid hikers every year. Home to lakes, glaciers, mountains and stunning scenery, it is one of the most spectacular hikes in the world. You are visiting Chile and want to know how to visit this incredible part of the world? Here is a definitive guide to hiking on the W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park.
About Torres del Paine and the W Trek
Torres del Paine National Park is in southern Chile and is often considered the highlight of any trip to Patagonia. You can take two multi-day hikes, W Trek and O Trek. The Trek, as the name suggests, takes you on a circular walk through the National Park and takes about 7 to 10 days. The shorter and therefore more popular, the W Trek takes you through the main highlights of a W-shaped hike, which takes 4-5 days. It is also possible to visit certain parts of the National Park on tours of the city closest to Puerto Natales.
Every day, at 3 pm, Erratic Rock, in Puerto Natales, holds a free daily briefing on trekking in Torres del Paine. This is worth doing if you can, as they will explain the route, the estimated walking time between each location, etc. They will also answer any questions you may have.
Make an appointment or do it independently
Due to their popularity, accommodations in Torres del Paine National Park can be booked quickly and you can be stressed when booking a trip here.
There is the option to book a tour, but it is also possible to do it independently. You can also book a self-guided tour without a tour guide, but where everything is pre-booked for you. Obviously, these options come at a much higher price, and unless you really want to avoid any type of organization, this really isn't necessary.
Read on for a guide on how to plan, book and complete the W Trek independently.
If you prefer, here's a GetYourGuide tour suggestion.
Arriving at the national park
Before you start looking at campsites, you need to consider how you will arrive at Torres del Paine National Park, as this will influence where you start W Trek.
There are two well-established options for getting to and from the National Park as follows:
- Take a bus to Pudeto and then a boat across Lake Pehoe to Paine Grande.
- Take a bus to Laguna Amarga and then a bus to Hotel Torres.
When taking option 1 on the way to the National Park, you will return using option 2 and vice versa.
Both routes will inevitably require you to go back a little bit, as it starts at the bottom left and right corners of the W, instead of at the top, and you will see the same no matter where you start. However, if you can, it is recommended to arrive at the National Park using option 1 and start in Paine Grande. This is because Torres' point of view is the highlight of W Trek, so it is preferable to do this on your last day and not the first.
Booking transportation in Puerto Natales is extremely easy. Every bus company sells bus tickets for the same price and leaves at the same time, so it doesn't matter which bus company you choose *. You can buy a return ticket, which includes one-way trips for option 1 and one-way for option 2 for 15,000 Chilean pesos **.
* There is a bus company, Bus Sur, with a bus leaving Puerto Natales to Pudeto at 6:45 am instead of 7:00 am, like all other bus companies. This gives you the chance to cross the 9am boat instead of the 11am ferry (although it still depends on how quickly the bus passes through the entrance to the national park with people buying and showing their tickets).
** Price subject to change.
The boat from Pudeto to Paine Grande departs at the following times: 9 am, 11 am, 2 pm, 4:15 pm, 4:15 pm and 6 pm and returns 35 minutes after that time. However, they can change. Check the link for the most up-to-date times.
In the afternoon, the Miradouro de Torres is extremely busy with people arriving on day trips and does not contribute to a pleasant walk. If you have time, go early on your first morning (ideal for sunrise) for a much more pleasant experience.
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Where to stay
There are many accommodations spread out over the W Trek, so you have more than one option to stay. A summary of the different accommodation options, from the upper left to the upper right of the W, is presented below:
- Gray: Great refuge and camp. Restaurant, bar and shop on site. Book with Vertice Patagonia.
- Paine Grande: Great refuge and camp. Restaurant, bar and shop on site. Book with Vertice Patagonia.
- Italian Camping Site: Just camp. There are no facilities, but free to camp here. Book with CONAF.
- Cuernos: Small refuge and camp. Restaurant, bar and shop on site. Book with Fantastico Sur.
- French: Small refuge and camp. Restaurant, bar and shop on site. Book with Fantastico Sur.
- Hotel Torres: Great hideaway / hotel. Restaurant, bar and shop on site. Book with Fantastico Sur.
- Central: Just camp. Shop on site. Book with Fantastico Sur.
- Chilean: Small refuge and camp. Restaurant, bar and shop on site. Book with Fantastico Sur.
See the next section with links to booking sites.
The refuges contain dormitory rooms, so if you don't want to camp, this is the option for you. The campsites are located outside the refuges and, in all cases, except the Italian, they have a shower block (with hot water!), A toilet and an indoor area where you can cook (with your own kitchen equipment) ). You can also choose to visit the restaurant or bar inside the refuge, and stores will sell extra food, such as pasta or snacks, if necessary.
If walking from left to right, a suggestion would be to book the following refuges / campsites:
- Night 1: Gray
- Night 2: Paine Grande
- Night 3: Frances or Cuernos
- Night 4: Central or Chilean
But it will depend on availability, how many days you have to walk and how far you want to walk each day.
If you can, stay in Chilean on your last night. It is the closest accommodation to Mirador Las Torres (below) and is therefore the best place to stay if you want to go to the sunrise viewpoint.
How to book accommodation
Regardless of when you are traveling, you will need to book all of your refuges / campsites in advance, and your reservations will be verified when you purchase your park ticket.
The Italian camp is the only free campsite on the day and therefore needs to be booked well in advance. It is owned by CONAF and can be booked using the following link: wubook.net/wbkd/wbk/.
The rest of the camps and refuges are owned by two companies: Fantastico Sur and Vertice Patagonia. Prices can be found at the following links: https://www.fantasticosur.com and
vertice.travel/en/alojamientos and the reservation pages are as follows:
Check both sites to see if they are available for the campsites you want and on the days you want before proceeding and booking.
After knowing your travel dates, check the websites for availability. If nothing is showing up, your best option is to send an email directly to the companies and inform them when you plan to arrive in Puerto Natales and on what dates you would like to take the hike. Try to be flexible and ask them to let you know if there are any last minute cancellations. Tour companies often buy accommodation in bulk along the way, and not everyone appears, so contrary to popular belief, it is possible to book accommodation a few days before planning your journey.
Given the popularity of W Trek, it is advisable to book your accommodation as far in advance as possible, as campsites can be booked months in advance. However, it is sometimes possible to book the W Trek more at the last minute.
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In the most basic, you can choose to sleep in a tent at a camp. However, depending on your budget and how much you want to transport, there are other options that can make your hike more enjoyable, without going so far that you can stay in a haven.
If you are camping, you will need to bring a sleeping bag, floor mat and tent. However, if you do not want to charge that much, but still want the experience (and the cheapest costs) of camping, you can choose to rent all (or part) of that equipment at the campsites. When booking your accommodation, choose the camping option and add a tent, sleeping bag and rug (if you are two people, remember to add only one tent). Obviously, this costs more than bringing your own equipment, but it saves a lot of extra weight. It also has the benefit of everything being set up when you arrive (which is great if it's windy and raining!) And the equipment is of the highest quality.
If you are camping, you will also need to transport kitchen equipment, such as propane, pots, etc. If you don't want to transport or cook this, you also have the option of eating in the refuges. You can book breakfast, lunch and / or dinner. Breakfast is usually a buffet, lunch is usually a sandwich to go, cookies, fruit and drinks (as you will be hiking during the day) and dinner is a three-course meal (or buffet at Paine Grande). The food is really high quality and the portions are large, in addition to you having bread, water, tea and coffee.
If you don't book in advance but want a good meal, most restaurants in the refuges will have items such as sandwiches, hamburgers and pizzas available for purchase. You can also purchase the full dinner option, depending on availability.
Take your own food for breakfast and lunch, which does not require cooking, and then dine at the campsites. This way, your costs will not be as high as buying all your meals, you will not need to carry kitchen equipment and you will be able to enjoy a good hot meal at the end of the day.
The W Trek
Going from west to east, an example route would be as follows:
Day 1. After taking transport option 1 (above), arrive at Paine Grande. Walk from Paine Grande to Gray (approximately 3.5 hours). Leave your bags in Gray and continue seeing the hanging bridges (approximately an hour and a half) (alternatively, do so the next morning before leaving Gray). Go back to Gray and spend the night here.
Day 2. Gray walk to Paine Grande (approximately 3.5 hours). Spend the night in Paine Grande.
Day 3. Walk Paine Grande to Italiano (approximately 2.5 hours). Leave your bags in Italian and walk to Mirador Frances. If the weather is good, continue with Mirador Britanico (approximately 3 hours each way). If the weather is not good in Mirador Frances, you will not be able to see anything from Mirador Britanico, so it is not worth the difficult hike here. Return to Italiano, pick up your bags and walk to Cuernos (approximately 2.5 hours). Night in Cuernos.
Day 4: Walk from Cuernos to Chileno (approximately 5 hours). Spend the night in Chilean.
Day 5: Leave your bags in Chilean and walk to Mirador Las Torres (approximately 3 hours each way). Return to Chileno, pick up your bags and walk to Hotel Torres (approximately 1 hour) to catch the bus back to Puerto Natales.
This is just one example of a daily hiking plan and this can, of course, vary depending on the campsites you have managed to book, how many days you have for the entire hike and how much you want to hike each day.
What to take
If you are camping, you will obviously need camping equipment, including the following:
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping mat
- Kitchen equipment
Otherwise, you don't really need much. Remember that the more you pack, the heavier your backpack will be, and the heavier it will be, the harder and less enjoyable the walk will be. If you are traveling for a long period and are not camping all the time, it may be better to hire equipment instead of taking everything with you (see tip below).
We recommend the following:
- One pair hiking boots / trail runners
- Walking Leggings / Pants
- 2-3 hiking tops
- Warm socks
- Comfortable pants and blouse for sleeping and sleeping
- Light / polar jacket
- Small personal hygiene bag
- Post-trekking cards / book
- Head torch
- Hiking Poles
The most important thing is to wear layers, because when people say that Patagonia has four seasons in a day, they are not really lying, and you will inevitably find yourself wearing your jacket and then taking it off again several times a day.
All camping equipment and even hiking clothes and backpacks can be rented in Puerto Natales. Rentals Natales and Erratic Rock have good quality equipment, but there are many options to shop around.
The W Trek is not at all cheap and there are certain costs, such as the entrance fee to the National Park and transportation to and fro that are inevitable. In January 2020, these costs are as follows (all subject to change):
- National Park entry (for> 3 days) – 35,000 Chilean pesos
- Return bus between Puerto Natales and the National Park – 15,000 Chilean pesos
- Boat from Pudeto to Paine Grande – 23,000 Chilean pesos
- Shuttle service between the entrance of the National Park and the Hotel Torres – 3,000 Chilean pesos
In addition to these, walking can be as cheap or expensive as you do. In the most expensive end, you will stay in refuges and have all meals provided; at the cheapest end, you will stay at campsites and be able to bring all your own equipment and food.
- Hostel Last Hope is a great accommodation option in Puerto Natales. The owner can give you lots of hiking tips and they will also keep your big backpack while you are away.
- Buy your ticket to the National Park at the Puerto Natales bus station the day before starting your hike. You will also need to watch a short video about national park security; that way, you'll save a lot of time on the day you start your hike (especially if everyone on your bus needs to do that!).
- Do not pack too much food. Think about what you would normally eat on a day hike and then multiply. Just because you're walking doesn't mean you need a box of porridge and a bag of pasta a day!
- You can fill your water bottle in all the streams in the park. Don't worry about carrying too much water.
- Refuges will have up-to-date weather reports, so check them out every night. For example, if you are only doing a 5 hour hike the next day and the rain forecast in the afternoon, start your hike early.
While W Trek can be difficult in some places, planning doesn't really have to be. Follow this guide and enjoy your time walking through some of the most incredible landscapes, not only in Patagonia, but in the world. Enjoy the walk, admire the views and take as many pictures as your camera can take of it once in a lifetime!
For more ideas on places to visit, read: 10 amazing places to visit in Chile.
Tours and Activities
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