Complete guide to the O circuit in Torres del Paine, Chile

Torres del Paine National park, Patagonia, Chile
Beautiful scenery in Torres del Paine National park, Patagonia, Chile

The O circuit in Torres del Paine is a real hiking adventure that offers incredible scenery and moderate physical challenge. You get an opportunity to explore one of the most remote and beautiful areas of South America. The trek is a great combination of wild experience and good infrastructure; the route is well-marked, there are several ranger stations on the way and designated campsites with basic facilities.

O trek facts

  • Distance – 120 km/74 miles.
  • Required number of days – 6-8 days.
  • Starting and finishing point – Hotel Las Torres (Laguna Amarga entrance).
  • Highest point – John Gardner pass – 1220m/4000ft. 
  • Permits – no special permits needed, park entrance fee is paid at the gate. Campsites booking is required for multi-day hikes. 
  • Accommodation – campsites, refugios (hostels) and hotels. 

Practical information for the O trek

  • Park entrance fee can be paid only in Chilean pesos, no other currencies or credit cards are accepted.
  • The O circuit is closed from 1st of April to 30th of September
  • The O trek can be walked only counterclockwise.
  • Hikers are allowed to camp only at designated campsites – wild camping is prohibited in the park.
  • Campsites on the route must be booked beforehand.
  • Take printed booking confirmation and passport with on the trek.
  • Open fires are not allowed in Torres del Paine.
  • Using a camping stove is allowed only at designated areas at the campsites.
  • Drinking water can be found throughout the park (rivers, creeks, streams), it’s claimed to be good quality. We didn’t use any filters or purification. 
  • You can get more information on Torres del Paine before the trek attending daily free talk at 3pm at Erratic Rock hostel/gear shop.
  • Most of the trails have closing time if you arrive at the start of a trail after the indicated cut off time you won’t be allowed to continue walking any further.

Grey glacier, the O trek, Torres del Paine
Grey glacier from a view-point, the O trek, Torres del Paine

Best time for trekking

Patagonian summer from December to February is the warmest time with day temperatures between 12°C and 15°C when night temperature is between 9°C and 12°C. November – January and March 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 rainfalls. Out of weather point of view February is definitely the best month for trekking in Torres del Paine. The main drawback of hiking in February is crowds, it’s the busiest month for the park with the most visitors coming here. It means you must book campsites long in advance to make sure you get a spot on planned dates. For more details on seasons and weather in Torres del Paine go here

More information on other trekking routes in Torres del Paine you can find in our posts W trek guide and Day hikes in Torres del Paine.

Guided or independent trek

Independent trek

Pros

  • It’s much cheaper.
  • It’s more adventurous.
  • The route is well-marked and easy to follow; distances, names, altitude profile etc. you don’t need a guide to show you the way. 
  • In season there are many hikers on the trail even if you walk alone you won’t be lonely.

Cons

  • You have to plan the hike, book campsites, buy food etc.
  • You’ll be carrying a heavy backpack for a week.
  • Setting a campsite by yourself; pitching tent, cooking, packing/unpacking after a long walking day. We love doing it but for some people it’s more pain than fun.

Guided tour

Pros

  • Easy – no arrangements, bookings, gear rental etc. your tour company will do everything for you.
  • Walking with a day-pack, your luggage will be transferred from campsite to campsite.
  • No cooking, pitching tent, packing etc.

Cons

  • Quite a bit more expensive.
  • Takes away the adventurous part of the hike.

Cost of the O circuit, Torres del Paine

  • Transport – bus Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine  – CLP 15 000/US$23*, return. Bus Hotel Las Torres – Laguna Amarga (optional), return – CLP 6000/US$10 (each way paid separately).
  • Entrance fee – CLP 21 000/US$32 in season, CLP 11 000/US$17 – off season (May to September). 
  • Accommodation – campsites – between CLP 5000-13000/US$8-20. Note! There are two free campsites on the O-trek; Italiano and Paso. Refugios (hostels) – between US$60 and US$80 per bed. Hotels between US$130 and US$350 for a double room. 
  • Food – cooking your own food – US$8-10 per day per person; eating at the park restaurants – between CLP 11 000/US$17 and CLP 16 000/US$25 per meal.
  • Gear rental (optional) – to rent camping gear (tent, sleeping bag, cooking stove etc.) in Puerto Natales will cost you between CLP 13 000/US$20 and CLP 20 000/US$30 pp. per day, depending on what you rent. Note! You can rent camping gear (tent, mat, sleeping bag) at the paid campsites in the park but it’s more expensive than in Puerto Natales. To rent camping gear at Vertice Patagonia campsites will cost you per day; tent (2 person) – CLP 20 000/US$30; sleeping bag – CLP 14 000/US$21; sleeping mat  – CLP 5000/US$7,5. A good thing about renting at campsites is that you don’t carry camping gear from place to place which makes your backpack significantly lighter. 

* Check here current conversion.

Guided O circuit tours start at US$2000 per person it includes  accommodation (usually more comfortable option e.g. Eco camps or hotels), transportation, guide, park entrance fee, ferry ticket, luggage transfer, all meals, gear (sleeping bag) if needed. It’s quite a bit more expensive than independent trek but it’s much more comfortable and easy.

Packing for Torres del Paine

You can find complete packing list (including gear comparison) for hiking and camping in Torres del Paine here ↓↓↓

O trek distances and times

  • Laguna Amarga – Hotel Las Torres (the starting point) – 7km/4,3 miles, walking – 2 hours or by bus – 15min.
  • Hotel Las Torres – Serón campsite – 13km/8 miles, 3 hours
  • Campsite Serón – Campsite Dickson – 18km/11 miles, 6 hours
  • Campsite Dickson – Campsite Los Perros – 11,8km/7,3 miles, 4,5 hours
  • Campsite Los Perros – Campsite Paso – 8km/5 miles, 6 hours, John Gardner pass, steep ascend.
  • Campsite Paso – Campsite Grey – 7km/4,3 miles, 5 hours, steep descent
  • Campsite Grey – Paine Grande – 11km/6,8 miles, 3,5 hours
  • Paine Grande – Campsite Italiano – 7,6km/4,7 miles, 2.5 hours
  • Campsite Italiano – Mirador Britanico – 5,5km/3,4 miles, 3 hours
  • Campsite Italiano – Campsite Frances – 2km/1,2 miles, 30 min.
  • Campsite Italiano – Refugio Los Cuernos – 5,5km/3,4 miles, 2.5 hours
  • Los Cuernos – Hotel Las Torres, 11km/6,8 miles, 4.5 hours
  • Los Cuernos – Campsite Chileno – 15km/9,3 miles, 5,5 hours
  • Hotel Las Torres – Campsite Chileno – 5,5km/3,4 miles, 2 hours
  • Campsite Chileno – Campsite Torres – 3,2km/2 miles, 1.5 hours
  • Campsite Torres – Mirador Las Torres – 0,8km/0,4 miles, 45 minutes
  • Mirador Las Torres – Hotel Las Torres (descend) – 9,5km/6 miles, 3 hours
Map of the campsites on the O circuit, Torres del Paine, Patagonia
Map of the campsites on the O trek, Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile

Campsites on the O circuit

The campsites on the O-trek belong to three companies; CONAF (the National Forest Corporation) – free campsites – campsites PasoItaliano and Torres (closed for 2018/19 season); Vertice Patagonia – paid campsites – Dickson, Los PerrosGrey and Paine Grande; Fantástico Sur – paid campsites – Serron, Las Torres, Los Cuernos, Frances and Chileno.

Paid campsites have better facilities and are easier to book as there are more camping spots than at the free campsites.

Booking campsites on the O circuit

All the campsites can be booked online; book CONAF ( as for August 2018 their booking system is not working yet); book Vertice Patagoniabook Fantastico Sur. Don’t forget to print your booking confirmation and take it with.

If CONAF online booking system still doesn’t work you can book free campsites Paso and Italiano at their office in Puerto Natales, Manuel Baquedano st. 847. 

CONAF, free campsites

Fantastico Sur, paid campsites

Vertice Patagonia, paid campsites

How to get to Torres del Paine from Puerto Natales

The O trek starts at Hotel Las Torres (Laguna Amarga entrance), to get there from Puerto Natales;

  1. Take a bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine (Laguna Amarga). It takes about 2h30mn. Price CLP 15 000/US$23 return pp. Keep your bus ticket for the way back.  
  2. Get off at Laguna Amarga entrance, go to the park office to pay the entrance feeCLP 21 000/US$32 and get a map.
  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 3000/US$5, takes 10 min. As an option you can walk this stretch, 7km, 2 hours.                      

Getting back from Torres del Paine (Hotel Las Torres) to Puerto Natales

  1. Take a shuttle bus from Hotel Las Torres to Laguna Amarga – CLP 3000/US$5 or walk this stretch. Check for departure time at the hotel reception.
  2. Take a bus from Laguna Amarga to Puerto Natales.                                       
O circuit trekking map, Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile
O circuit trekking map; walking route and bus route from Lagina Amarga to Hotel Las Torres.

Download O-trek-Torres-del-Paine map. 

Torres del Paine, the O circuit – 7-day itinerary

Day 1. Puerto Natales – Serón campsite, 13km

Puerto Natales – bus – Laguna Amarga – bus – Hotel Las Torres – Serón campsite, 13km/8 miles, 3 hours bus + 3 hours walk

Cost: bus Puerto Natales – Laguna Amarga (return) – CLP 15 000/US$30, entrance fee – CLP 21 000/US$32, bus Laguna Amarga – Hotel Las Torres – CLP 3000/US$5 (one way), camping at Serón – CLP 13 000/US$20.

Highlights

Challenges

  • 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, pay 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 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, chill.

Day 2. Serón campsite – Dickson campsite, 18km

Serón – Guarderia Coiron – Dickson campsite, 18km/11 miles, 6 hours

Cost: camping at Dickson – CLP 5000/US$8.

Highlights

  • Our friends saw a puma in the morning just a few hundred meters from the campsite.
  • Paine lake
  • Dickson lake

Challenges

  • Walking through an opened windy area between Serón and Coirón.

7.00 – get up, make breakfast, 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.

Lake on the O circuit, Torres del Paine
A small lake on the way between Serón and Dickson campsite. The O circuit

Day 3. Dickson campsite – Paso campsite, 20km

Dickson campsite – Los Perros campsite – John Gardner pass – Paso campsite, 20km/12,3 miles, 10 hours.*

*You can split this day into two; stay at Los Perros campsite one night and next day continue over the pass to Paso.

Cost: camping at Paso – free.

Highlights

  • Los Perros lake and glacier
  • View over Grey glacier from Gardner pass

Challenges

  • John Gardner pass – steep and long ascend, about 900m.

7.00 – get up, quick breakfast, packing. It’s important to start the day early first, because it’s a very long walking day and second, because the trail between Los Perros and Paso campsites closes at 14.00 if you arrive after that time you’ll have to stay at Los Perros.

8.00 – start walking towards Los Perros campsite – 12km/7,5 miles, 4,5 hours, the ascend starts from Dickson and continues all the way till the top of the pass.

12.00-12.30 – arrive at Los Perros campsite. If you’re fine with time you can stop for lunch here and continue after, if you arrived after 13.00 we’d suggest walk past the rangers office first and then stop somewhere for lunch to make sure you’ll be allowed to continue. From  Los Perros the ascend is getting steeper, you start climbing John Gardner pass – 900m up.

14.30-15.00 – arrive at the top of John Gardner pass, spend some time enjoying the view over Grey glacier – it’s fantastic. Prepare warm clothes; gloves and beany – it’s very windy on the top.

15.30 – start descend to Paso campsite.

17.00-17.30 – arrive at Paso campsite. It was a tough walking day with amazing scenery!

Grey glacier, John Gardner pass, Torres del Paine
Grey glacier from the top of John Gardner pass, the O circuit

Day 4. Paso campsite – Paine Grande, 18km

Paso campsite – refugio/campsite Grey – Paine Grande, 18km/11 miles, 8 hours

Cost: camping at Paine Grande – CLP 6000/US$9.

Highlights

  • Grey glacier
  • Grey lake
  • Two suspension bridges
  • Pehoe lake

Challenges

  • Steep descend to Grey campsite
  • Several ascends and descends on the way from Grey to Paine Grande campsite

7.00 – get up, have breakfast, pack.

8.00 – start walking towards Grey campsite – 7km/4,3 miles, 4,5 hours, steep descend.

12.30 – arrive at Grey campsite, have lunch, rest.

13.30 – continue walking to Paine Grande – 11km/6,8 miles, 3,5 hours.

17.00 – arrive at Paine Grande, pitch your tent, rest.

Pehoé lake, Paine Grande campsite
Pehoé lake, Paine Grande campsite, Torres del Paine

Day 5. Paine Grande – Italiano or Frances campsite, 20km

Paine Grande – Italiano campsite – Mirador Frances – Mirador Britanico (in good weather) – Italiano campsite or Frances campsite, 20 km/12,4 miles, 8 hours

Cost; camping at Italiano – free, camping at Frances – CLP 13 000/US$20.

Highlights

  • Skotsberg lake
  • French Valley
  • Mirador Frances
  • Mirador Britanico

Challenges

  • Steep ascend to Mirador Britanico from Italiano campsite
  • Steep descend back from the Mirador to the campsite

7.00 – get up, make breakfast, pack.

8.00 – start walking to Italiano campsite – 7,6 km, 2,5 hours.

10.30 – arrive at Italiano campsite, leave your backpack at the office, take the valuable stuff, walk to Mirador Frances – 2km, 1 hour, ascend.

11.30 – arrive at Mirador Frances, rest, have lunch. If the weather is good continue walking to Mirador Britanico (great views) – 3,5 km, 2 hours, steep ascend.

13.30 – arrive at Mirador Britanico, rest, enjoy the view.

14.00 – start going down to Italiano campsite – 5,5 km, 2-3 hours, descend all the way back.

16.30 – arrive at Italiano. If you stay at Frances it’s about 2 km more – 30 minutes walk.

Nordenskjold lake, the O circuit, Torres del Paine
Nordenskjold lake, the O circuit, Torres del Paine

Day 6. Italiano/Frances campsite – Chileno campsite, 21km

Italiano/Frances campsite – Los Cuernos – Chileno campsite, 21km/13 miles, 8 hours

Cost: camping at Chileno – CLP 13 000/US$20.

Highlights

  • Nordenskjold lake

Challenges

  • Several ascends and descends on the way to Chileno campsite

7.00 – get up, breakfast, packing.

8.00 – start walking to Los Cuernos – 5km, 2 hours.

10.00 – arrive at Los Cuernos, there is a shop and restaurant here, you can stop for snack and rest.

10.30 – start walking to Chileno campsite – 15km, 5,5 hours.

15.30 – arrive at Chileno, pitch tent, walk around, 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.

Nordenskjold lake, the O trek, Torres del Paine
Scenery along the Nordenskjold lake on the way to Chileno campsite

Day 7. Chileno campsite – Mirador Las Torres – Puerto Natales, 14km

Chileno campsite – Mirador Las Torres – Hotel Las Torres – bus or walk – Laguna Amarga – bus – Puerto Natales, 14km/8,6 miles, 5h30min.

Cost: bus Hotel Las Torres – Laguna Amarga – CLP 3000/US$5, bus Laguna Amarga – Puerto Natales – paid (if you bough return ticket).

Highlights

  • Sunrise at Las Torres – definitely one of the main highlights of the trek.

Challenges

  • Very early get up
  • Long and steep ascend to Mirador Las Torres
  • Long and steep descend to Hotel Las Torres

4.00-5.00 (depending on sunrise time) – get up, start going up to the Mirador – 4km, 2h15min. Leave you stuff at the campsite, take only valuables and camera.

6.15-7.15 – arrive at the Mirador. Enjoy sunrise, walk around, take photos, snack.

8.00 – start descending back to Chileno – 4km, 1h30min.

9.30 – arrive at Chileno, pack your stuff, start going down to Hotel Las Torres – 5,5km, 1h30min.

11.00 – arrive at Hotel Las Torres, catch a bus to Laguna Amarga (confirm 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 bus timetable at the park office.

16.30 – arrive in Puerto Natales.

Sunrise at Mirador Las Torres
Sunrise at Mirador Las Torres, the O circuit, Torres del Paine

Accommodation in Puerto Natales

Puerto Natales is 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. Buses from several places in Patagonia, both Chile and Argentina, go here.

What you can find in Puerto Natales;

  • Hotels
  • Hostels
  • Campsites
  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Supermarkets
  • Shops
  • Farmacies
  • Gear rental places
  • ATMs

If you’re looking for a budget accommodation – Refugio Hoshken is a good option. They have dormitories and double rooms with shared bathroom. It’s a nice, clean and social place – great for solo travelers. The hostel has wi-fi, hot shower, shared kitchen, heating, nice garden, laundry service etc. Breakfast is included in room rates.

If you want to stay in a quiet place, have more privacy and don’t pay too much Hostal Treehouse Patagonia is a place for you. They have double rooms with private bathroom, rooms are not big but neat and cozy and feature; wi-fi, heating, big comfortable beds, hairdryer, communal kitchen etc. Continental breakfast is included.

If you’re not on a tight budget and would like to check into a cozy place after hiking for a week in Torres del Paine – Toore Patagonia is a great place to consider their bungalows look very inviting and have good facilities; private bathroom, fully equipped kitchen, wi-fi, big bed, heating etc. The outside garden with BBQ is a great place to relax and celebrate the end of the trek with wine.

Gear rental prices in Puerto Natales

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.

Related posts

PIN IT FOR LATER!O circuit trekking guide, Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile. Itinerary, packing list, cost, route map, campsites, transport. #torresdelpaine #ocircuit #trekking #chile

 

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