Torres del Paine hiking guide. The O circuit.

Very famous and popular national park, many people come here every year, gets very crowded during the season, with good infrastructure, rangers everywhere and many rules (which make sence becouse of some irresponsible people park was caught in fire couple of times), don’t expect to be in the wild and experience lifetime adventure. But! Nevertheless Torres del Paine is one of the most beautiful hiking place in the world, just forget about crowds and restrictions and enjoy the beauty. We hope our Torres del Paine hiking guide will help you to plan your trip!

Torres del Paine, between Paine Grande and Italiano campings. Torres del Paine hiking guide
Torres del Paine, between Paine Grande and Italiano campings. Torres del Paine hiking guide

Budget for 7-day trekking in Torres del Paine, per person

  • Entrance fee – CLP 18000/$27;
  • Bus – 0, hitchhiked both ways;
  • Campings – CLP 7500/$11, stayed only in one paid camping (Dickson);
  • Food – CLP 10000/$15.
    In total: CLP 35500/$53.

Where to stay in Puerto Natales?

We stayed in Hostal/camping Josmar-2:

  • Camping CLP 5000/pers./$7;
  • Dorm 10000/$14,5 with breakfast
  • Private 22000/$32 double with breakfast.

Nice clean place, has everything necessary, hot water, kitchen, wi-fi (quite good), many outlets, nice common area inside, can buy bus tickets to Torres del Paine or El Calafate. What we specially liked about it that many people leave extra stuff after they are finished with Torres, check in the outside camping kitchen for left gases (we found couple half full gases, didn’t need to buy gas for the hike), you’ll safe about 10$, big gas in PN – CLP 5500-6000, small – 2800. If you buy your bus ticket to Torres del Paine here you can store your extra luggage for free. Actually if you hitchhike you can do it for free as well;) just don’t buy a bus ticket somewhere else.

Typical day of walking. Torres del Paine hiking guide
Typical day of walking. Torres del Paine hiking guide

Where to do shopping?

About 15min. walk or 6 blocks away from the hostel there is a big Unimark with good variety (for Patagonia) of food, fruit, vegetables and some cooked stuff, at lunchtime and evenings gets very crowded, most of the things are cheaper than in small shops, except eggs you can find them for CLP 100-150 in grocery shops. By the way you can check food prices at the end of the article.
There are many agencies where you can rent camping gear and second-hand shops (Ropa Americana) where you can buy some clothes: jackets (35000/50$), fleece, trekking pants (CLP 7000/10$) etc. Maybe not the best but good enough for the hike. As well as a couple of big gear shops (Salomon, Doite) with unreal prices.

Rental prices per day:

Tent (2pers.) – CLP 4500/6,5$
Sleeping bag (-8C) – 3000/4,5$
Sleeping pad – 1000/1,5$
Waterproof jacket – 3000/4,5$
Waterproof pants – 3500/5$
Down jacket – 2000/2,8$
Backpack – 3000/4,5$
Trekking poles (2) – 3500/5$.
You can buy a new sleeping pad for CLP 2500, second-hand trekking pants for 7000, if you shop around you’ll probably find more secondhand stuff to buy.

Formal procedure before Torres del Paine hiking

Before starting the hike in Torres del Paine you should register at CONAF office either in Puerto Natales or at one of the entrances but we’d recommend to do it beforehand specially during the high season (Jan, Feb). 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. Office’s located at the corner of Baquedano and Yungay streets, near Erratic rock hostel.

Why do you have to register for Torres del Paine?

First of all because according to new regulation rules at “O” circuit (if you choose it) in Torres del Paine allowed only 80 people per day, register to be sure you can go in. Second, on the route there are few free campings with certain limits and of course too many hikers when you register you can book free campings in advance.

Where can you get more info before the hike?

There is a free talk every day at 3pm in a place called Base Camp (bar, pizzeria), near CONAF office, there you can clarify all your possible questions.

Which campings do you need to book?

There are four free campins in the park: Italiano, Torres, Paso and Las Carretas. You need booking only for Italiano and Torres, you allowed to stay there only one night.  In fact the earlier you book free campings the better.

Can you book free campings (Italiano, Torres) at the entrance?

The answer is “Yes”. They do have their quotas for campings at the entrance. And if you arrive early enough you can get spots though during the season (Jan, Feb) free campings can be fully booked days ahead.

From 2016 you can book free camps at Torres del Paine official web site. Make sure to book weeks beforehand.

Which campings are paid?

Campings Chileno, Serron, Cuernos and Frances, belong to Fantastico Sur; and campings Dickson, Perros, Grey and Paine Grande, belong to Verticepatagonia – are all paid. Prices between CLP 7000-8600/$10-12 per person. Of course they are better than free campings, here you can get hot shower, cleaner toilets, shelter-restaurant, shops, outside tables, can ask to charge your devices. But! During the peak season all campings are soo crowded to use any facilities you have to wait for hours! In all paid once you can rent camping gear and buy food. In paid campings they control you, after you pay for the camping you get a sticker which you stick to your tent, before closing time (9.00-10.00pm) someone will check that all tents have stickers.

Lake Grey, Torres del Paine National park
Lake Grey, Torres del Paine National park

How do you get to Torres del Paine?

By bus from Puerto Natales — CLP 14000/$20 one way if you buy your ticket at the hostel, takes about 2,5 hours. Buses Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine leave at 7.30am and 2.30pm (high season).
Buses Torres – Natales: from Administration at 1.00pm and 6.00pm; from Pudeto 1.30pm and 7.00pm; from Laguna Amarga at 2.30pm and 7.45pm.
Hitchhiking – free, worked perfect for us both ways, didn’t wait longer than 30min., on the way back were picked up all 5 of us (some friends from the hostel) by one car.

On the way to Italiano camping Torres del Paine hiking guide
On the way to Italiano camping Torres del Paine hiking guide

What to pack for the hike?

Camping gear: tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, torch, stove (no open fire in the park), pots, cups, gas, lighter, knife, utensils,  map, extra batteries, first-aid kit, water bottle, toilet paper, plastic bag for rubbish, hand sanitizer and  backpack.
Clothing (be ready to witness 4 seasons in one day): rain jacket, fleece, beany, gloves, waterproof trekking pants, vests, T-shirts, good trekking shoes, cap, sunglasses, socks, flip-flops, change of clothing for sleeping, towel, sunscreen, mosquito repellent.

Water in the park

No worries about it, you can drink from any water source in the park, no need to use filter or tablets.

Entrance fee to the park

For foreigners – CLP 18000/26$, for Chileans 5000/7$, paid at the entrance, only by cash.

Routes and circuits in Torres del Paine. In blue is the "W", in orange+blue the "O". Torres del Paine hiking guide
Routes and circuits in Torres del Paine. In blue is the “W”, in orange+blue the “O”. Torres del Paine hiking guide

Routes in Torres del Paine?

The “W” – the most popular and crowded route, at the same time all main sights locate here, 3-5 days.
The “O” – circuit, includes all the “W” and some back areas of the park, 6-10 days.
The “Q” – the longest, basically the same as the “O” just add one stretch, 7-10 days.

The “O” clockwise or backward?

We did it backward, the main reason – free campings, it’s easier to book 4-5 days ahead. Some people prefer to do it clockwise to go through the most visited areas first and finish with fewer people.

Which entrance to choose?

There are three entrances to the park, which one to choose depends on your route. If you planning to do the “W” or the “O” – Las Torres, bus from Natales drops you at Laguna Amarga entrance from where you can catch one more bus to the starting point (Las Torres, CLP 3000), hitchhike (all day visitors drive there) or walk (7km). If you want to do the “Q” – Administration. There is one more entrance Pudeto, to get to the park from there you need to catch a catamaran (CLP 15000 one way).
Important to know!
Most of the trails have closing time, it means if you arrive later rangers won’t let you go through and you’ll have to camp in a place you didn’t plan to stay, start your days early enough.

Closing time for the trails

Closing times for different stretches, distance, difficulty and required time. Difficulty: baja - easy; medio - medium; alto - high.
Closing times for different stretches, distance, difficulty and required time. Difficulty: baja – easy; medio – medium; alto – high.

Let’s say you arrive to Paine Grande after 18.30 you won’t be allowed to keep walking to Italiano, you’ll have to stay in Paine Grande. More difficult trails are closed earlier!

Which month is the best for Torres del Paine hiking?

We hiked Torres del Paine in the beginning of March and think it’s the best choice; you still can enjoy nice weather and long days but without big crowds. Weather in Patagonia is unpredictable, depends more on your luck than season, our friends were in Torres three weeks before us and had many rainy days, we were very lucky, had only one rainy day out of seven.

Daylight hours in Patagonia. Torres del Paine hiking guide
Daylight hours in Patagonia. Torres del Paine hiking guide

Torres del Paine hiking. The “O” circuit

We did the “O” circuit in 7 days, could finish in 6 but was impossible to change our booking for camping Torres for one day earlier.

1st day. Entrance Laguna Amarga  –  campamento Serron, 16km.

First stretch Porteria Laguna Amarga - campamento Seron
First stretch Porteria Laguna Amarga – campamento Seron

We started this day quite late; other people had caught a bus to the park before we even woke up! Our plan was to hitch and we felt really flexible with time and we did take our time, had breakfast, broke the tent, packed our backpacks and around 10am slowly started moving towards the road.  As usually we were quite lucky and 20min. later already got our first ride to Cerro Castillo village where we waited 20min. more and got our second ride all the way to Torres del Paine, Laguna Amarga entrance. All day visitors drive there it’s the closest entrance to Torres.

Somewhere in the beginning of the trek, on the way to Seron camping
Somewhere in the beginning of the trek, on the way to Seron camping

We arrived at the entrance Laguna Amarga around 1.00pm, paid the fee, booked free campings and permit for Guarderia Coiron (formal procedure) and started walking. First day walk Laguna Amarga – Seron is really easy even relaxing, flat all the way, nice path to follow, didn’t meet many people on the way.

Our tent in the bush, first day "illegal" wild camping
Our tent in the bush, first day “illegal” wild camping

We decided to take a chance, save some money and camp in the wild, it’s not allowed and if you get caught you can get into trouble. We found a hidden spot, 20min. before Serron, far from the path where nobody could see us and pitched our tent. If you do the same please don’t make fire and collect all your rubbish!

2nd day. Serron – Guarderia Coirion  – campamento Dickson, 18km.

In the morning after 20min. walk we reached campamento Serron. Camping looked quite nice, with hot showers, restaurant, gear rental, price 7000pesos/person.  Our friends stayed in Serron and left very early not far from the camping they saw a puma, they watched it for about 10min.!! Locals say sometimes you can see pumas in the area very early in the morning.

From Serron we head to Guarderia Coiron, 8,5km, some ups in the beginning and walk through very windy areas, after 2 hours we arrived at Coiron, where you show your permit and register. There are some tables and benches outside under the roof you can have lunch break there.

Small lake on the way to Coiron, 2nd day.
Small lake on the way to Coiron, 2nd day.

Second part Coiron – campamento Dickson, 9,5km, mostly flat, through some marshy areas, easy walk. We arrived at Dickson too late to continue the hike and had to camp there.  Camping CLP 7000/10$ per pers., hot water, toilet, inside restaurant/dining area, shop, outside tables and benches, quite spacious area.

3rd day. Dickson – campamento Los Perros – John Gardner pass – campamento Paso, 17,5km.

Maybe the toughest day on the trek, very long steep up and even steeper down.

Camping Dickson, where we spent our second night
Camping Dickson, where we spent our second night

It’s important to start this day early if you plan to end at campamento Paso because stretch Los Perros – Paso closes at 2pm. We started at 8.30am and reached Paso around midday, 10km. The up starts right from Dickson and finishes on the top of the Gardner pass.

Route from Dickson to Los Perros
Route from Dickson to Los Perros

The second stretch campamento Los Perros – campamento Paso, 8km, here comes the main up and down for the day. Paso John Gardner is very windy and cold area.

Route from campamento Los Perros to campamento Paso. Torres del Paine hiking guide
Route from campamento Los Perros to campamento Paso. Torres del Paine hiking guide
The highest point of the trek, John Gardner pass
The highest point of the trek, John Gardner pass

After couple of hours of tough up we were amazed by the view from the top of Gardner pass, huge Grey glacier was in front of us, we could see it all the way, huge icefield sliding down from the mountain to the lake.

View over the enormous Grey glacier from the Gardner pass
View over the enormous Grey glacier from the Gardner pass

We spent a while enjoying the view and taking hundreds of photos, for me it was the best view on the trek and one of the best ever!

Down took us about 1,5 hours then we arrived at campamento Paso. Paso is a free camping, you don’t need any booking, there are dry toilets, no shower,  no shop just rangers’ station. Don’t forget to check Mirador from where you can have nice view over the glacier.

4th day. Paso – camping Grey – camping Paine Grande – campamento Italiano, 26km.

Very long day with some amazing scenery. First stretch Paso – campamento Grey, 7km, steep ups and downs, beautiful views over the glacier, two suspended bridges, took us about 2,5 hours.

View over the glacier on the way to camping Grey
View over the glacier on the way to camping Grey
One of two suspended bridges on the way from Paso to Grey camping. Thrilling feeling and beautiful views!
One of two suspended bridges on the way from Paso to Grey camping. Thrilling feeling and beautiful views!

Second stretch campamento Grey – Paine Grande, 10,5km, again steep up to the Mirador, where we had some break to enjoy the view and eat lunch. After Mirador starts down all the way to Paine Grande, this part took us about 3 hours including lunch.

Route Refugio Grey - campamento Paine Grande. Torres del Paine hiking guide
Route Refugio Grey – campamento Paine Grande. Torres del Paine hiking guide
Laguna de los Patos, between Grey and Paine Grande
Laguna de los Patos, between Grey and Paine Grande

When we arrived at Paine Grande it was still early and we decided to keep walking to Italiano, luckily we could change our booking at rangers’ office for one day earlier.

Beautiful Pehoe lake, near Paine Grande
Beautiful Pehoe lake, near Paine Grande

Walk from Paine Grande to Italiano camping (2 hours) is easy and flat with beautiful scenery, many lakes and mountains on the way. From campamento Grey and on the route gets quite busy; many day visitors and “W” trekkers. We arrived at Italiano around 5pm and we unpleasantly surprised, because we couldn’t change our booking for camping Torres for the next day, it was full (at Paine Grande they assured us it wouldn’t be a problem). You can book or change your booking only for next camping, in Paine Grande for Italiano, in Italiano for Torres. By the end of the long and tiring day we got some pain for the next day!

Mountain reflection, Skottsberg lake
Mountain reflection, Skottsberg lake

5th day. Campamento Italiano –  Mirador Valle del Frances  – Italiano, 12km.

Route campamento Italiano - Mirador Valle del Frances. Torres del Paine hiking guide
Route campamento Italiano – Mirador Valle del Frances. Torres del Paine hiking guide

This day was very chilled, we decided to stay one more night at Italiano though it’s not allowed, since we couldn’t go to Torres and didn’t want to move to one of the paid campings between. In the morning we broke our tent, left backpacks at the office and went to Mirador. In the afternoon we came back, took our backpacks, walked back to the camping area and pitched our tent in a different place, it was easy, there were so many tents and people around!

Glacier Frances, near Italiano camping
Glacier Frances, near Italiano camping

 Luckily for us that day walk wasn’t very long and we could chill out the rest of the day in the tent watching old Game of Thrones, it was the only one rainy day on the hike!

View over Nordenskjord lake from Mirador Frances
View over Nordenskjord lake from Mirador Frances. Torres del Paine hiking guide

6th day. Campamento Italiano – camping Frances – Los Cuernos – campamento Torres, 20km.

Early start, from Italiano to Los Cuernos (5,5km) easy walk, mostly flat along Nordenskjold lake.

On the stretch Los Cuernos – campamento Torres (11km) start some warming up ups and downs, training before Torres.

Route from Cuernos to Las Torres hotel. Torres del Paine hiking guide
Route from Cuernos to Las Torres hotel. Torres del Paine hiking guide

Last 8km to campamento Torres are quite demanding, 700 metres up.

Some very steep ups coming, last bit to camping Torres and Mirador Torres
Some very steep ups coming, last bit to camping Torres and Mirador Torres. Torres del Paine hiking guide

We arrived at campamento Torres in the afternoon after pitching our tent we decided to go to Mirador to take some photos. Just in case next morning the weather wouldn’t be great.  The climb is about forty minutes, over the rocks, quite steep. Luckily that time we walked without our backpacks. The view was beautiful but definitely not the best view we had on the hike. I feel a bit sorry for day visitors who come to see only Las Torres because they missing out a lot.

Mirador Las Torres, went in the afternoon in case of rain next morning
Mirador Las Torres, went in the afternoon in case of rain next morning. Torres del Paine hiking guide

7th day. Mirador Las Torres – camping Las Torres – Porteria Laguna Amarga, 15km.

The earliest wake up on the hike, was very difficult but 100% worth it, amazing sunrise!

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Epic ending of the trek, famous sunrise at Torres. We were quite lucky with the weather.

After the sunrise quick walk down, breakfast and coffee, packing and back to civilization with some dreams of hot shower, pizza and nice bed (last never happened in Patagonia, spent all 2,5 months sleeping in the tent).

Last look at the park before going back to Natales. Hotel refugio Las Torres
Last look at the park before going back to Natales. Hotel refugio Las Torres

To get back to Laguna Amarga entrance you can walk, get a bus (CLP 3000) or hitch, of course we chose hitch and again were quite lucky, a french tourist in his minivan picked us and later our friends up. When we arrived at the entrance (exit for us) we met one more friend so we were 5 people hitching and the first car stopped and picked all of us up! Chileans are the best! We’d got back to Natales before the first bus left Torres:)  It was the end of wonderful and incredibly beautiful hike and even now looking through the photos I can’t belive I’ve been there!

Money saving tips for Torres del Paine hiking

  • Camping Italiano is quite big and spacious, rangers usually sit inside the house, if you enter the camping area from behind the house there is a good chance they won’t notice you, just pitch your tent quickly. When you come with your booking you just register in the book, they don’t give you any sticker for your tent or any other paper, so they can’t check people in the camping.
  • We managed to stay in Italiano for 2 nights (bad weather and problem with booking for Torres camping), just broke our tent in the morning and pitched it in a different area, further from the rangers’ house.
  • Try to minimize staying in paid campings (skip them) for this you’ll have to walk long days: Laguna Amarga (entrance) – Dickson (paid) – Paso (free) – Italiano (free) – Torres (free) – Laguna Amarga. You’ll be done in 5 days, it can work for you as well if you don’t have much time.
  • If you arrive very late to one of two campings (Italiano, Torres) without any booking and nicely ask rangers there is a chance they let you camp.
  • In shops in paid campings if you ask nicely they give you coffee sachets for free.
  • Hitchhike instead of taking buses, save about 40$ and it did work, we hitchhiked both ways, back it was faster than by bus.
  • Bring all the food and snacks with you, prices inside the park are crazy, for cheapest pack of cookies you pay CLP 2500/3,5$, chips (small) – 2000, plain bread roll – 1000 etc.

Food prices at Unimark, Puerto Natales

Spaghetti/pasta Merkat (1kg) – CLP 700/1$
Oats (500g) – 700/1$
Tuna in oil (220g) – 600/0,8$
Tomato souce (200g) – CLP 465/0,6$
Base for bolognese souce Maggi – 560/0,8$
Butter (200g) – 700/1$
Peanuts (200g) – 700/1$
Eggs (6) – 975/1,4$
Instant noodles – 479/0,6$
Instant soup (1 portion) – 250/0,3$
Instant potato (4 portions) – CLP 700/1$
Cheese Gauda – 6500/9,5$ per kg
Smoked ham – 10000/14,4$ per kg
Ham Colonia – 5600/8$ per kg
Cheese Manteq. – 5600/8$ per kg
Salame – 9900/14,3$ per kg
Sausages (5) – 680/1$
Grilled chicken – 4000/5,7$
Bread Marraqueta – 1100/1,5 per kg

Tomato – CLP 1200/1,7$ kg
Avocado – 2000/2,8$ kg
Cucumber – 300/0,4$ unite
Onion – 850/1,2$ kg
Bananas – 900/1,3 kg
Apples – 1100/1,6$ kg
Yoghurt (125g) – 169/0,2$
Cookies from 350/0,5$ unit
Mini cookies – 150/0,2$ unit
Chocolate (100g) – 1000/1,4$
Tea (20 bags) – 630/0,9$
Instant coffee (50g) – 1350/1,9$
Coke (can, 350) – 530/0,7$
Wine – 1900/2,7$

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11 Comments

  • Really interesting article! I will be doing this probably as part of a round the world trip, therefore it will be hard to bring camping gear myself. Would you recommend renting or buying used stuff? I think the tent, sleeping bag and the mattress are the most important ones. Thanks in advance for your response!

    • Hello, Jonas! Thank you for your comment!
      We had our own gear but we know it’s possible to rent or to buy camping gear in Puerto Natales just remember everything is quite expensive there. We bought all our stuff in Cusco, Peru it was so much cheaper than in Chile or Argentina. Especially if you want to rent a proper sleeping bag, tent, mat etc. We calculated that to rent these things in Puerto Natales for 7 days would cost us more than we paid for them in Peru. So our advice if you go to Peru or Bolivia first buy camping gear there. Good luck with your round the world trip!
      Cheers!

  • Great post! Thanks for all the detail. We have flights booked to visit Patagonia next month but now freaking out about how expensive it will be. (We’re currently in Central America where things are much cheaper.)
    What do you think is a realistic daily budget for 2 if we have a tent and and camp wherever possible? Thanks!
    Anna

    • Hello, Anna! Thank you for the comment!
      If you have your own gear and don’t mind cooking your own food and maybe hitchhiking from time to time Patagonia can be pretty cheap. There are campsites everywhere especially in Chilean Patagonia you pay 7$ average per person. We spent 2 months in Patagonia mostly Chilean and our budget was 25$ for both including everything but we didn’t take one bus we hitchhiked and camped all the way. If you prefer buses than you can add 5$/person per day. HItch in Patagonia is great unlike Central America it’s very safe you can camp next to the road without being worried about your safety. Our article on Hitchhiking in Patagonia http://stingynomads.com/hitchhiking-carretera-austral/. For more details and prices check our entry South America Travel Budget http://stingynomads.com/south-america-travel-budget/
      If you have more questions don’t hesitate asking!
      Good luck!

    • You can buy wine in Puerto Natales for not much more than in Mendoza, wine is probably the only one thing that is not expensive even in Patagonia! But in Mendoza for the same price you can buy a better one.

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