The O circuit in Torres del Paine National Park is an incredible hiking adventure. The scenery on the route is fantastic: turquoise lakes, waterfalls, bizarre mountains, stunning viewpoints, a massive glacier, and diverse wildlife. The route takes hikers to the highlights as well as to some off-the-beaten-track parts of the park. Backpacking in Torres del Paine you get an opportunity to explore one of the most beautiful places in South America. I could easily say that the O trek is one of our favorite long-distance treks in Patagonia.
Table of Contents
The O trek route overview
- Distance – 120 km/74 miles.
- Required number of days – 7-8 days.
- Starting and finishing point – Central campsite (Laguna Amarga entrance).
- Highest point – John Gardner pass – 1220m/4000ft.
- Permits – no special permits are needed.
- Advanced campsite booking is required for the circuit.
- Accommodation – camping, refugios, hotels.
Besides Torres del Paine there are plenty of other incredible National Parks to visit in Patagonia.
Booking the O Circuit with a tour
You can join an organized small group O circuit trek if you don’t want to hike independently. The company will plan the route for you and arrange accommodation, food, and transport.
What is the O Circuit?
The O trek is a circular hiking route around the Cordillera del Paine in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. The route includes the W trek and a remote route through the backside of the park. The circuit connects the popular areas of Torres del Paine with the remote parts of the park.
How difficult is the O Circuit in Patagonia?
It’s a moderately difficult trekking route that goes through some remote areas of Torres del Paine National Park. The most challenging part of the O route is a 900-meters ascent to John Gardner Pass. It’s not a high-altitude technical route only for experienced hikers but being in good physical shape and having previous hiking experience is advisable. On average, you walk 6-8 hours a day with a backpack.
How long is the O Circuit?
The total distance of the O Circuit in Torres del Paine is 120 km/70 miles. You need between 7 and 9 days to complete the route.
Where does the O trek start?
The O circuit starts at Hotel Las Torres (Central campsite). The nearest park entrance is Laguna Amarga. The circuit can be walked only counterclockwise (from Central campsite to Serón to Dickson etc.).
Can you do the O circuit without a guide?
Yes, you can do the O circuit in Torres del Paine independently without a guide.
How to buy entrance tickets to Torres del Paine?
According to the official website you have to buy your entrance tickets to Torres del Paine online. It used to be different you could pay the fee at the entrance. I’m not sure if it’s still possible for this reason I’d recommend rather booking your tickets online. We’re planning to visit Torres del Paine again this year (2023) and will update you on that.
Tickets should be booked at least 24 hours before your visit.
The entrance fee for the O Circuit (more than 3 days in the park) is 49$US for adults, and children under 12 years old – free.
You can show your tickets on the screen of your mobile phone or print them.
Torres del Paine Park rules
In the 2023/24 hiking season, the O circuit is open from 1st November.
Hikers are allowed to camp only at designated campsites. Wild camping is not allowed in the park.
Campsites on the route must be booked beforehand.
Take a printed booking confirmation, a passport, and a migration card with you on the trek.
Open fires are not allowed in Torres del Paine.
Using a camping stove is only allowed at the campsites.
Drinking water can be found throughout the park (rivers, creeks, streams), and it’s said to be of good quality. We didn’t use any filters or purification.
You can get more information on Torres del Paine at a daily free talk at the Erratic Rock hostel/gear shop. The talk is usually at 3 pm.
If you’re looking for adventurous and off-the-beaten-track things to do in Patagonia traveling the Carretera Austral might be just what you need. The southern route through Chilean Patagonia offers many exciting activities in the most beautiful corners of the region.
If you like hiking and wilderness you might enjoy exploring trekking routes in El Chalten, Argentina. There are several day hikes and multi-day routes that can be done independently.
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How to book the campsites on the O trek?
The campsites on the O-trek belong to two different companies. Vertice Patagonia paid campsites: Dickson, Los Perros, Grey, and Paine Grande. Las Torres Patagonia (Fantástico Sur) paid campsites: Central, Serrón, Francés, Los Cuernos, and Chileno. Vertice Patagonia campsites are significantly cheaper than the Las Torres Patagonia campsites.
There used to be free campsites run by CONAF (the National Forest Corporation) but they were closed down and never reopened. There is no information if they’ll be open again. For this reason, our suggested itinerary for the O Circuit includes only paid campsites.
There is a new online booking service (Booking Patagonia) that you can use to book all the campsites. We haven’t used them yet but it seems that the prices of the campsites and other types of accommodation are the same as on the Vertice and Las Torres websites. The service is recommended on the official CONAF website.
|Vertice Patagonia campsites||Las Torres Patagonia campsites|
|Paine Grande||Los Cuernos|
The campsites in Torres del Paine can be booked online through Vertice Patagonia, and Las Torres Patagonia websites. You have to have your booking confirmation printed or on your mobile to show at the park entrance.
All Vertice Patagonia campsites are open and can be booked through their website. Important! For the O Circuit, it’s impossible to book only Dickson or only Perros. These two campsites have to be booked together. In the 2023/24 hiking season, Dickson and Los Perros on the Circuit are open from 1st November.
Las Torres Patagonia (Fantastico Sur) campsites are open and can be booked online. According to their website in 2023, Cuernos and Seron campsites will be open and available for booking from 1st November (the same day as the O Circuit). Chileno is a very popular campsite because it’s the closest to the Mirador Las Torres. I’d strongly recommend booking it a couple of months in advance, especially during the peak season. The rest campsites (Central, Chileno, and Frances) open in September.
For more information check our post on the campsites in Torres del Paine. There you’ll find updated information (2023/24 hiking season) on each campsite, a map of the campsites, booking tips, and more.
O Circuit Torres del Paine map
The O circuit in Torres del Paine – a 7-day itinerary
Day 1. Central Campsite – Serón campsite, 13 km/8 mi
Bus Puerto Natales – Laguna Amarga; bus Laguna Amarga – Central campsite (Hotel Las Torres), 3 hours. Central campsite – Serón campsite, 13 km/8 miles, 3 hours
Cost: bus Puerto Natales – Laguna Amarga – CLP 12 000/US$14, entrance fee – US$49, bus Laguna Amarga – Hotel Las Torres – CLP 5000/US$6 (one way), camping at Serón – US$70 (double occupancy), single occupancy – US$56.
- Beautiful Patagonian scenery; mountains, forest, Paine River, guanacos, and many birds.
- It would be an easy walk if it wasn’t for heavy backpacks loaded with gear and food for 7 days.
7.00-7.30 – catch a bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park.
9.30-9.45 – get off at the first stop Laguna Amarga; register, and pay the entrance fee, get a map. Tip! Try to be among the first people at the office otherwise, you’ll wait in a queue for a while.
10.00 – catch a bus to Hotel Las Torres. Confirm departure time at the office.
10.15 – get off the bus at Hotel Las Torres, the starting point of the O trek, and begin the walk towards the Serón campsite. Stop for lunch/snack at Las Torres or on the way.
13.30-14.00 – arrive at Serón campsite, pitch your tent, walk around, and chill.
Day 2. Serón campsite – Dickson campsite, 18 km/11 mi
Serón – Guarderia Coiron – Dickson campsite, 18km/11 miles, 6 hours
Cost: camping at Dickson – US$11 per person.
- Our friends saw a puma in the morning just a few hundred meters from the campsite.
- Paine Lake
- Dickson Lake
- Walking through an open windy area between Serón and Coirón.
7.00 – get up, make breakfast, and pack.
8.00 – start walking towards Dickson.
10.30 – arrive at Guardería Coirón – 8,5km. Here you show your permit (booking) and register in the park book. You can have lunch here – there are tables and benches.
11.00 – continue the walk to Dickson – 9,5km.
14.00 – arrive at Dickson campsite.
Day 3. Dickson campsite – Los Perros campsite, 12 km/7,4 mi
Dickson campsite – Los Perros campsite*, 12 km/7,4 miles, 4h30min.
*As I already explained in the paragraph about the campsite in Torres del Paine it’s possible to book only 2 campsites together (Dickson and Los Perros). You can’t book only Dickson or only Los Perros.
For the 2023/24 season, there is no information is the free Paso campsite will be open.
Cost: camping at Los Perros – US$10.
- Los Perros lake and glacier
- An ascent from the Dickson campsite.
8.00 – Today you can take it easy it’s a short walking day. You can get up later and enjoy breakfast, slowly pack, and start walking.
9.00-9.30 – start walking towards Los Perros campsite – 12km/7,4 miles, 4,5 hours. The ascent starts from Dickson and continues all the way to Los Perros. It’s not as steep and challenging as the next day’s ascent over the John Garner Pass.
13.30-14.00 – arrive at Los Perros campsite. You have plenty of time to pitch your tent, make food, enjoy the scenery, and rest.
Day 4. Los Perros campsite – Grey campsite, 15 km/9,3 mi
Los Perros campsite – John Garner Pass – Paso campsite – Grey Campsite, 15 km/9,3 miles, 8-9 hours
Cost: camping at Grey campsite – US$11 per person.
- Views of the Grey Glacier from John Garner Pass
- Grey Glacier
- Grey lake
- Suspension bridges
- John Gardner pass – a steep and long ascent, about 900m
- A steep descent from Paso to Grey campsite
7.00 – get up, have breakfast, and pack. It’s better to start early to arrive at the Paso checkpoint before 3 pm. Prepare gloves and beany – it’s very windy on the top of the pass.
8.00 – start the ascent from Los Perros to John Garner pass – 900 m up.
10.30 – arrive at the top of John Garner Pass. Spend some time enjoying the view over the Grey Glacier.
11.00 – start descending to the Paso campsite.
13.00 – arrive at the Paso campsite. Rest, have snacks, and enjoy the views.
13.30 – continue walking towards the Grey campsite – 7 km/4,3 miles, 4 hours, a steep descent.
17.30 – arrive at the Grey campsite.
Day 5. Grey campsite – Francés campsite, 18,5 km/11,4 mi
Grey campsite – Paine Grande* – Italiano campsite – Frances campsite, 18,5 km/11,4 miles, 6,5 hours
*You can extend the suggested itinerary by one day and stay at Paine Grande. This way you’ll split one day in two; Grey – Paine Grande (11 km/6,8 mi) and Paine Grande – Francés (7,5 km/4,6 mi). It might seem unnecessary but if you want to walk to the Mirador Britanico it’s a better option. To walk to the Britanico viewpoint and back to the Francés campsite takes between 5 and 6 hours, 13 km with a very steep ascent.
Cost: camping at Francés campsite – US$60 for double occupancy, US$51 for single occupancy.
- Pehoé Lake
- Skotsberg lake
- French Valley
- Several ascents and descents on the way from Grey to the Paine Grande campsite
7.00 – get up, make breakfast, and pack.
8.00 – start walking to the Paine Grande campsite – 11 km-6,8 mi, 3,5 hours.
11.30 – arrive at the Paine Grande campsite. Rest, have lunch/snack.
12.00 – continue walking toward the Italiano campsite, 5,5 km/3,4 mi, 2,5 hours.
14.30 – arrive at the Italiano campsite. Rest, continue walking towards the Francés campsite, 2 km/1,1 mi, 30 min.
15.00 – arrive at the Francés campsite.
Day 6. Francés campsite – Chileno campsite, 18,5 km/11,4 mi
Frances campsite – Los Cuernos – Chileno campsite*, 18,5 km/11,4 miles, 6 hours
The Chileno campsite is often fully booked months ahead. If it is not available for your dates you can camp at the Central campsite, it’s about 14,5 km from the Francés.
Optional. In the morning before continuing to the Chileno campsite you can go up to Mirador Francés and maybe to Mirador Britanico. Leave your backpacks at the campsite and take only valuables. It’s quite a walk, about 12 km return all the way but you can turn around at Mirador Francés which is about 6 km return. It’s a steep ascent to the viewpoint.
Cost: camping at Chileno – US$60 for double occupancy, US$51 for single occupancy.
- Nordenskjold lake
- Several ascents and descents on the way to the Chileno campsite
7.00 – get up, have breakfast, pack
8.00 – start walking to Los Cuernos – 5km, 2 hours.
10.00 – arrive at Los Cuernos, there is a shop and restaurant here, and you can stop for snacks and rest.
10.30 – start walking to Chileno campsite – 15km, 5,5 hours.
15.30 – arrive at Chileno, pitch a tent, walk around, and rest. If you want to see the sunrise at Mirador Las Torres better go to bed very early you’ll have to get up at 4.00-5.00 to walk all the way up in time.
Important!!! In the 2023/24 hiking season due to the high risk of forest fires, you’re not allowed to use camping stoves at the Chileno campsite. You can buy ready-made food at the campsite restaurant, bring something that doesn’t require cooking, or pre-cook your meals in advance at the previous campsite. Some people reported that they have a special area inside where they allow using camping stoves.
Day 7. Chileno campsite – Mirador Las Torres -Central campsite, 14 km/8,6 mi
Chileno campsite – Mirador Las Torres – Chileno campsite – Central campsite, 14 km/8,6 miles, 5h30min. Bus/ walk Central campsite – Laguna Amarga, 7 km, 2 hours. Bus Laguna Amarga – Puerto Natales, 2,5 hours
Cost: bus Hotel Las Torres – Laguna Amarga – CLP 5000/US$6, bus Laguna Amarga – Puerto Natales – CLP 12 000/US$14.
- Sunrise at Las Torres – is definitely one of the main highlights of the trek.
- Very early get up
- A long and steep ascent to Mirador Las Torres
- A long and steep descent to the Central campsite
4.00-5.00 (depending on the sunrise time) – get up, and start going up to the Mirador – 4km, 2h15min. Leave your stuff at the campsite, and take only valuables and a camera.
6.15-7.15 – arrive at the Mirador. Enjoy the sunrise, walk around, take photos, and snack.
8.00 – start descending back to Chileno – 4km, 1h30min.
9.30 – arrive at Chileno, pack your stuff, and start going down to the Central campsite (Hotel Las Torres) – 5,5km, 1h30min.
11.00 – arrive at Hotel Las Torres, catch a bus to Laguna Amarga (confirm the departure time at the hotel) or walk – 7km, 2 hours.
14.00-14.30 – get on a bus from Laguna Amarga to Puerto Natales. Check the bus timetable at the park office.
16.30-17.00 – arrive in Puerto Natales.
The cost of hiking the O Circuit in Torres del Paine
Transport. Bus Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine – CLP 24 000/US$28, return. Bus Hotel Las Torres – Laguna Amarga, return – CLP 10 000/US$12, return.
Entrance fee. US$49
Accommodation. Camping with your own gear – US$128 (6 nights) per person for double occupancy. 3 nights at Vertice Patagonia campsites (3xUS$11); 3 nights at Las Torres campsites (2xUS$30 and 1xUS$35). For single occupancy add US$63 extra, a single occupancy supplement in Las Torres campsites is US$21 per night.
If you stay in fully-equipped tents or refugios you’ll pay between US$70 and US$120 per person per night. Full-board (3 meals) stay is even more expensive.
Food. Make your own food – between US$8-10 per day per person. You can get a full board (breakfast, box lunch, and dinner) for US$100 at Las Torres campsites and for US$80 at Vetrice campsites. You can buy separate meals or sandwiches and snacks at most campsites. Meals at Las Torres campsites are more expensive than at Vertice Patagonia campsites.
Gear rental (optional) – 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. To rent a 2-man tent at the campsites costs US$40 per night, a sleeping bag – US$25, and a camping mat – US$11. A good thing about renting camping gear at the campsites is that you don’t carry it with you from place to place, which makes your backpack much lighter.
Total: the most budget hiking option for the O Circuit (camping with your own gear, cooking for yourself) – US$300 (+US$30 for extras) per person for a 7-day trek.
Check here the current conversion.
How to get to the O trek?
The O circuit starts at Hotel Las Torres (Laguna Amarga entrance), to get there from Puerto Natales;
Step 1. Take a bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine (Laguna Amarga). It takes about 2 hours. Price CLP 12 000/US$14 one way.
|Bus Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine||Bus 1||Bus 2|
|Leaves Puerto Natales bus station||7 am||12 pm|
|Arrives at Laguna Amarga||9 am||2 pm|
- Buses are operated by Bus Sur.
Step 2. Get off at the Laguna Amarga entrance.
Step 3. Take another bus from Laguna Amarga to Hotel Las Torres (the starting point of the O), the departure time is linked to buses from Puerto Natales. Price CLP 5000/US$6, one way, takes 10 min. As an option, you can walk this stretch, about 7km, 2 hours.
Getting back from Torres del Paine (Hotel Las Torres) to Puerto Natales
Step 1. Take a shuttle bus from Hotel Las Torres to Laguna Amarga – CLP 5000/US$6 or walk this stretch. Check for departure time at the hotel reception.
Step 2. Take a bus from Laguna Amarga to Puerto Natales – CLP 12 000/US$14
|Bus Torres del Paine – Puerto Natales||Bus 1||Bus 2|
|Leaves Laguna Amarga||3.00 pm||8.15 pm|
|Arrives in Puerto Natales||5.00 pm||9.30 pm|
- Buses are operated by Bus Sur
You can find more information on transportation to the park in our post on how to get to Torres del Paine.
The best time for hiking the O circuit in Patagonia
In the 2023/24 season, the O circuit is open from 1st November to 31st March. You have a 5-month period to decide when is the best time to visit Torres del Paine.
Patagonian summer from December to February is the warmest time with maximum day temperatures averaging 20°C and night temperatures between 9°C and 12°C. November, December, and January get quite a lot of wind – the biggest problem for hiking and camping in Patagonia. February is the least windy summer month. It’s the same with rain out of all summer months February gets the least rainfall.
From the weather point of view, February is one of the best months for trekking in Torres del Paine. The main drawback of hiking in February – the parks are crowded, it’s one of the busiest months for the park with most visitors coming here. It means you must book campsites long in advance to make sure you get a spot on planned dates. If the campsites on the route are fully booked you can do one of the alternative multi-day treks in Patagonia e.g. Cerro Castillo Circuit or hike to O’Higgins Glacier if you want to explore a more off-the-beaten-path route.
Places to stay in Puerto Natales
Puerto Natales is probably the best place to be based before and after the trek. It’s the closest town to the park, tourist infrastructure here is quite good – many hotels and hostels, a couple of gear shops, rental places, restaurants, tour companies, and one or two supermarkets. You can get there by bus or hitchhiking from different places in Patagonia.
In Puerto Natales, you can find hotels, hostels, campsites, restaurants, supermarkets, gear rental places, pharmacies, ATMs, and an information office.
- Budget | Hostel 53 Sur | Xalpen B&B |
- Middle price | Hostal Treehouse Patagonia | Wild Hostel |
- Luxury | Toore Patagonia | Weskar Lodge |
We have a detailed post on hiking and camping gear for Patagonia where you can find more information.
Recommended books and guidebooks
In the last couple of years regulations in Torres del Paine changed a lot if you buy a trekking guide make sure it’s an updated edition.
If you prefer reading e-books don’t hesitate to join Amazon Kindle Unlimited to get access to thousands of e-books and audiobooks. Even if you don’t have a Kindle device you can read or listen to books on your phone or tablet using a free app. The first 30 days are free.
- Lonely Planet Chile & Easter Island (Travel Guide). Kindle and paperback.
- Classic Hikes of the World; 23 Breathtaking treks by Peter Potterfield. To get some inspiration for future adventures. Hardcover.
- Patagonia on a budget by Matthew Morgante. How to travel Patagonia on US$30 a day. Kindle.
- Chile: Carretera Austral: A guide to one of the world’s most scenic road trips (Bradt Travel Guides). Paperback & Kindle.
- Walking Patagonia by Caspian Ray. Don’t expect a hiking guide, it’s a fiction story about a young guy who went to Patagonia in search of adventure and love.
- To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life with No Regret by Jedidiah Jenkins. Paperback, Kindle & Audiobook.
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The pretty half of Stingy Nomads, responsible for all our land adventures (hiking, climbing, walking the Camino) and following them write-ups. Alya loves walking since she was a child, she prefers to walk 1000 km with a backpack rather than to do a 10 000 km road trip (actually any road trip). Alya is a big fan of Latin America, the Spanish language, and dancing. Every time we go away she desperately misses our dog Chile.