The W trek in Torres del Paine National park, Chilean Patagonia is a good compromise between short day hikes and the challenging O-circuit. The W route is one of the best hikes in Patagonia. It offers a great hiking experience; stunning scenery, good infrastructure, and a moderate level of difficulty.
The W trek overview
- Total distance – 100 km/62 miles
- Required number of days – 4-5 days
- Starting point – Refugio Paine Grande (ferry from Pudeto)
- Finishing point – Hotel Las Torres (bus to Laguna Amarga)
- Highest point – Mirador Las Torres, 900m/2952ft
- Permits – entrance fee – CLP 21 000/US$32 in season, off-season (May to September) – CLP 11 000/US$17. Confirmed campsites/hotels booking for an overnight stay.
- Accommodation – campsites, refugios (hostels), hotels.
Practical information for the W trek
The W-trek is not a circuit, it starts and finishes at different points.
The trek can be walked either direction starting at Paine Grande and finishing at Hotel Las Torres or the other way around. Most hikers start at Paine Grande.
Book campsites beforehand and bring a printed booking confirmation and a passport with.
Hikers are allowed to camp only at designated campsites.
Open fires are not allowed in the park – in the past, they caused terrible fires.
Hikers are allowed to use camping stoves only at designated areas (campsites).
Drinking water can be found all over the park, it is considered of being good quality. We didn’t use any filters or purification.
Puerto Natales is the best place to be based before or after the hike; the town has many hotels, several campsites, restaurants, shops, and gear rental places.
You can get more information about Torres del Paine including different route options, campsite bookings, etc. at Erratic Rock (hostel/gear rental shop) there is a free daily talk at 3 pm.
The park entrance fee can be paid only in Chilean pesos (CLP), cards and other currencies are not accepted.
Hiking in Torres del Paine you should pay attention to the time. Most of the trails in Torres del Paine have cut off time after which you’re not allowed to start walking it. Check the times below.
Trails closing time on the W trek
|Trails (stretche)||Distance||Required time||Closing time|
|Refugio Grey – Paine Grande||11km/6.8mi||3h30min||4pm|
|Paine Grande – Campsite Italiano||7.5km/4.6mi||2h30min||6.30pm|
|Campsite Italiano – Mirador Británico||5.4km/3.3mi||3h||3pm|
|Campsite Italiano – Campsite Francés||2km/1.2mi||30min||7pm|
|Campsite Italiano – Los Cuernos||5km/3.1mi||2h30min||5pm|
|Los Cuernos – Hotel Las Torres||11.6km/7.2mi||4h30min||–|
|Hotel Las Torres – Refugio Chileno||5km/3.1mi||2h||–|
|Refugio Chileno – Campsite Torres||3km/1.8mi||1h30min||6pm|
|Campsite Torres – Mirador Las Torres||1.4km/0.8mi||1h||6pm|
Don’t forget about travel insurance!
The W-route is a multi-day trek though it’s not a high altitude hike it still has some parts through remote and difficult to access areas of the Torres del Paine – getting travel insurance for this route is a good idea. Any outdoor activity involves the risk of getting an injury, losing or breaking gear, and other unexpected situations that can spoil your trip. It’s recommended to have travel insurance that can cover you if something goes wrong. In my case, it was a backpack that I lost hitchhiking. My travel insurance didn’t help me to recover it but it did cover the cost of buying new gear and clothes.
Out of several insurance companies, we recommend World Nomads, they work all over the world and specialize in outdoor activities like hiking. Torres del Paine is one of the top hiking destinations that World Nomads cover which means they work with local companies quite a lot and will be able to resolve a case in a shorter period of time. Another great thing about World Nomads is that you can buy insurance policy online already on the road, it takes just a couple of minutes. Their policy is very flexible it can cover the whole period of your trip or only the hiking part of it, even if it’s just one or two days. Get a quote right now!
Note! Always make sure you carefully read the Terms and Conditions part.
Guided tour vs independent trek
- The W-trek has a lot of infrastructures; designated campsites with good facilities, hotels with restaurants and small shops – surviving is not a problem.
- The trail is well marked; many signs, maps, and people – you won’t get lost here.
- Independent trek is cheaper.
- You have to plan the hike, book campsites, etc.
- Walking with a loaded backpack.
- Setting a campsite; pitching tent, cooking, packing after a long walking day all by yourself. It’s not necessarily a disadvantage we love doing it but if you’re not a seasoned hiker it might be a pain.
- Easy – no arrangements, bookings, gear rental etc. your tour company will do everything for you.
- Walking with a day-pack.
- No cooking, pitching and breaking down tent etc.
- Takes away adventurous part of the hike.
- More expensive.
Suggested tours and activities in Torres del Paine and Patagonia
- Torres del Paine the W trek (G-Adventures)
- Hike Patagonia in-depth (G-Adventures)
- National Geographic journey. Explore Chile & Argentina (G-Adventures)
- Highlights of Patagonia (Intrepid Travel)
- Patagonia Wilderness (Intrepid Travel)
- Exclusive Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falklands (Intrepid Travel)
If you like hiking you can combine the W trek in Torres del Paine with trekking in El Chalten, the adventure capital of Argentina located is 400 km north from the park.
Cost of the W-trek in Torres del Paine
Transport – bus Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine – CLP 20 000/US$25, return. Catamaran Pudeto – Paine Grande – CLP 20 000/US$26, one way. Bus Hotel Las Torres – Laguna Amarga (optional) – CLP 3000/US$4, one way.
Entrance fee – CLP 21 000/US$26 in season, off-season (May to September) – CLP 11 000/US$14.
Accommodation – campsites between CLP 5000-13000/US$6-16; refugios (hostels) – between US$60 and US$80 per bed; hotels between US$130 and US$350 for a double room. Note! There is only one free campsite on the W-trek – Italiano campsite.
Food – cooking your own food – US$10 per day per person; eating at the park restaurants – between CLP 11 000/US$14 and CLP 16 000/US$20 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$16 and CLP 20 000/US$25 pp. per day, depending on what you rent. You can rent a tent, a mat and a sleeping bag at most paid campsites though it’s more expensive than in the town.
Gear rental prices in Puerto Natales
|Item||Price per day, USD|
|Sleeping bag -9°C||US$5|
|Cooking set (stove, pots, bowls. cups etc.)||US$6|
* You can check up-to-date currency conversion here.
Prices for a guided 5-day W trek tour start at US$1000 it includes accommodation (Eco camps or hotels), transportation, guide, ferry ticket, luggage transfer, meals, gear (sleeping bag) if needed. It’s quite a bit more expensive but more comfortable and easy – no planning, booking, or cooking involved.
Best place to stay before and after the trek
Puerto Natales is the best place to be based before the trek, it’s not a big place but it’s quite geared for tourists, here you can find all you need to prepare for the hike: hotels, hostels, shops, gear rental places, pharmacies, ATMs, etc.
There are many accommodation options in Puerto Natales from budget campsites to fancy guest houses and apartments, here are our suggestions;
- Budget | Hostal Backpacker Cortes | We are Patagonia Backpacker | Refugio Hoshken | Forte Patagonia |
- Middle price | Patagonia Adventure Hostel | Hostal Treehouse Patagonia | Puma House | Pire Mapu Cottage |
- Luxury | Toore Patagonia | Weskar Lodge | DT Loft | Hotel Costaustralis |
Campsites on the W trek
The campsites on the W-trek belong to three different companies; CONAF (National Forest Corporation) – free campsites – campsites Italiano and Torres (closed for 2019/20 season); Vertice Patagonia – paid campsites – Grey and Paine Grande; Fantástico Sur – paid campsites – 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 free campsites.
How to book campsites on the W trek
All the campsites can be booked online; book CONAF (as for November 2019 the online booking system works but there are very few available spots left); book Vertice Patagonia; book Fantastico Sur. Print your booking confirmation and take it with.
If you can’t find a spot in a free CONAF campsite online you can try to book a campsite Italiano at their office in Puerto Natales (Manuel Baquedano st. 847), they might have something available.
CONAF (free) campsites on the W trek
Fantastico Sur (paid) campsites on the W trek
Vertice Patagonia (paid) campsites on the W trek
How to get to the W trek from Puerto Natales
If you start at Refugio Paine Grande
Step 1. Take a bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine. The journey to Pudeto with one stop at Laguna Amarga takes 3 hours. Price CLP 10 000/US$12 pp.
|Bus Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine||Bus 1||Bus 2|
|Leaves Puerto Natales||7.30am||2.30pm|
|Arrives at Laguna Amarga (park office)||9.45am||4.45pm|
|Arrives at Pudeto (ferry)||10.30am||5.15pm|
Step 2. Get off at Laguna Amarga entrance (first stop) to pay the park entrance fee – CLP 21 000/US$26.
Step 3. Get back on the bus.
Step 4. Get off at Pudeto (second stop). Buy catamaran ticket (one-way ticket the trek finishes at a different place). Price CLP 20 000/US$25 one way.
Step 5. Take the catamaran (ferry) from Pudeto to Paine Grande. The ride takes about 30 minutes.
|Catamaran||Pudeto – Paine Grande||Paine Grande – Pudeto|
Getting back to Puerto Natales from Torres del Paine
Step 1. Take a bus from Hotel Las Torres to Laguna Amarga. It takes 10min., price CLP 3000/US$4. It’s possible to walk this part, the distance is about 7km.
Step 2. Take another bus from Laguna Amarga to Puerto Natales. The journey takes 2h30min., price CLP 10 000/US$12.
|Bus Torres del Paine – Pueto Natales||Bus 1||Bus 2|
|Leaves Laguna Amarga||2.30pm||7.45pm|
|Arrives in Puerto Natales||5pm||10pm|
Distances and walking times on the W trek
- Paine Grande – Campsite Grey – 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
The W-trek, Torres del Paine – a 5-day itinerary
Day 1. Puerto Natales – Grey campsite, 11km
Puerto Natales – bus – Pudeto – ferry – Paine Grande – Grey glacier, 11km/6,8 miles
Cost: bus – CLP 10 000/US$12, entrance fee – CLP 21 000/US$26, ferry – CLP 20 000/US$25 (one way), camping at Grey campsite – CLP 5500/US$7.
- Pehoe lake
- Grey lake
- Grey glacier
- Several ascents and descents on the way between Paine Grande and Grey campsite.
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 to pay the park entrance fee. Tip! Try to be among the first people at the office not to wait for too long you still have to get back on the bus. After paying the fee, getting tickets and maps get back on the bus that goes to Pudeto.
10.30 – get off the bus at Pudeto, go to the ferry ticket office to buy a ticket to Paine Grande and find out about the departure time. Buy a one-way ticket you’ll finish the trek at a different entrance. Tip! If you have time before the departure you can go to Salto Chico waterfall.
11.00 – get on the ferry to Paine Grande.
11.30 – get off the ferry at Paine Grande. Here you have to options; to camp and Paine Grande and walk to Grey glacier with a day pack or to walk to the glacier and camp at Grey campsite. If you camp at Paine Grande you’ll walk to the glacier with a day-pack but you’ll have less time to walk around and to go to the distant glacier view-points. If you camp at Grey campsite you’ll have more time to explore the area but you’ll have to walk with your backpack to and back to Paine Grande.
11.30 – start walking toward Grey glacier, 11km, it’ll take you between 3 and 4 hours.
15.30-16.00 – arrive at Grey campsite, pitch your tent, have lunch.
17.00 – walk around the campsite, go to the lake. You can leave your stuff in the tent but we’d suggest taking valuables e.g. camera, money with.
18.00-19.00 – get back to the campsite, have dinner, rest.
Day 2. Grey campsite – Paine Grande, 20km, 7 hours
Grey campsite – glacier Grey view-point – Grey campsite – Paine Grande, 20km/12,4 miles
Cost: camping at Paine Grande – CLP 6500/US$8.
- Grey glacier
- Grey lake
- Pehoe lake
- A steep ascent to Grey glacier view-point
- A steep descent back to Grey campsite
- Several ascents and descents on the way from Grey to Paine Grande campsite
7.00 – get up, have breakfast.
8.00 – start walking towards Paso campsite, to the viewpoints. Leave your stuff in the tent at the campsite, take a day-pack with valuable stuff, water, and snacks.
9.30-10.00 – you’ll arrive at a look-out, there are several points from where you can see the glacier. From here we’d suggest starting walking back you still have to pack your tent and walk to Paine Grande.
11.00-11.30 – arrive back at Grey campsite, pack your tent, have lunch.
12.30 – start walking to Paine Grande.
16.30-17.00 – arrive at Paine Grande, pitch your tent, walk around.
19.00 – make dinner, rest.
Day 3. Paine Grande – Italiano/Frances campsite, 20km, 8 hours
Paine Grande – Italiano campsite – Mirador Frances – Mirador Britanico (in good weather) – Italiano campsite/Frances campsite, 20 km/12,4 miles
Cost: camping at Italiano – free, camping at Frances – CLP 16 000/US$21
- Skotsberg lake
- French Valley
- Mirador Frances
- Mirador Britanico
- A steep ascent to Mirador Britanico from Italiano campsite
- A steep descent back from the Mirador to the campsite
6.00-7.00 – get up, make breakfast, pack.
8.00 – start walking towards Italiano campsite – 7,6 km, 2,5 hours.
10.30 – arrive at Italiano campsite, leave your big backpack at the office and walk to Mirador Frances – 2km, 1 hour.
11.30 – arrive at Mirador Frances, rest, have lunch/snacks. If the weather is good and you feel strong continue walking towards Mirador Britanico – 3,5 km, 2 hours.
13.30 – arrive at Mirador Britanico, rest, enjoy the view.
14.00 – start heading back to Italiano campsite – 5,5 km, 2-3 hours.
16.30 – arrive at Italiano. If you camp here start pitching your tent, have lunch. The rest of the day you can relax, read, etc. If you camp at Frances you still have 2 km, 30 min. to go.
Day 4. Italiano/Frances – Chileno campsite, 21km, 8 hours
Italiano/Frances campsite – Los Cuernos – Chileno campsite, 21km/13 miles
Cost: camping at Chileno – CLP 16 000/US$21.
Staying at Chileno is currently the only option if you want to see the sunrise at Mirador Las Torres. Free campsite Torres that is just 800m away is closed in the 2018/19 season for maintenance. From Chileno to the Mirador is 2,5-3 hours walk which means you have to start at 3.00-4.00 am in summer as the sunrise is between 5.30 (December) and 7.00 (February).
- Nordenskjold lake
- Several ascents and descents on the way to Chileno campsite
7.00 – get up, breakfast, packing.
8.00 – start walking towards Los Cuernos – 5km, 2 hours.
10.00 – arrive at Los Cuernos, stop for rest and snacks. Continue walking towards Chileno campsite – 15km, 5,5 hours.
15.30 – arrive at Chileno, pitch tent, walk around, rest.
18.00 – make dinner, rest.
Day 5. Chileno – Mirador Las Torres – Puerto Natales, 14km, 5h30min.
Chileno campsite – Mirador Las Torres – Hotel Las Torres – bus/walk – Laguna Amarga – bus – Puerto Natales, 14km/8,6 miles
Cost: bus Hotel Las Torres – Laguna Amarga – CLP 3000/US$4, bus Laguna Amarga – Puerto Natales – CLP 10 000/US$12.
- Las Torres – three sharp mountain peaks and the lagoon.
- A long and steep ascent to Mirador Las Torres
- A long and steep descent to Hotel Las Torres
4.00-5.00 (depending on sunrise time) – get up, start going up to the Mirador – 4km, 2h15min.
6.15-7.15 – arrive at the Mirador. Enjoy the sunrise, spend some time resting, taking photos, exploring the area.
8.00 – start going down to Chileno – 4km, 1h30min.
9.30 – arrive at Chileno, get your stuff, start descending towards Hotel Las Torres – 5,5km, 1h30min.
11.00 – arrive at Hotel Las Torres, from here you can catch a shuttle bus to Laguna Amarga (confirm the departure time at the hotel) or walk – 7km, 2 hours.
14.00-14.30 – catch a bus from Laguna Amarga to Puerto Natales. We’d recommend checking the bus timetable at the park office at the beginning of the trek.
16.30 – arrive at Puerto Natales.
The W trek – 4-day itinerary
If for some reason your time in Torres del Paine is limited you can walk the W trek in 4 days.
Day 1. Puerto Natales – Grey glacier – Paine Grande, 22km, 6 hours
Puerto Natales – bus – Pudeto – ferry – Paine Grande – Grey glacier – Paine Grande, 22km/13,6 miles
Cost: bus – CLP 10 000/US$12, entrance fee – CLP 21 000/US$26, ferry – CLP 20 000/US$25, camping at Paine Grande – CLP 6500/US$8.
- Pehoe lake
- Grey lake
- Grey glacier
- Several ascends and descends on the way between Paine Grande and Grey campsite.
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 to pay the park entrance fee.
10.30 – get off the bus at Pudeto, go to the ferry ticket office to buy a ticket to Paine Grande.
11.00 – get on the ferry to Paine Grande.
11.30 – get off the ferry at Paine Grande.
11.30-12.00 – pitch your tent. Leave your stuff in the tent, take only valuables, water, and snacks.
12.00 – start walking to the glacier – 11km, 2h30min.
14.30 – arrive at Refugio Grey, spend some time walking around. If you have time go to one of the nearest viewpoints. Remember the stretch between Grey campsite and Paine Grande closes at 4 pm after that time you’re not allowed to start walking so make sure you start heading back before.
Before 16.00 – start walking back to Paine Grande. In summer it gets dark after 9 pm in Patagonia, on the way back you’ll have enough time to enjoy the view and take some photos don’t waste time on that on the way to the glacier.
18.00 – 19.00 – arrive at Paine Grande, have dinner, rest.
From the second day, follow the 5-day itinerary from Day 3.
If after completing the W trek you still have some time to spend in Patagonia you can visit the impressive Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate, Argentina.
Best time for trekking in Torres del Paine
Weather-wise November to March are the warmest months, day temperatures are between 12°C and 15°C, nights are between 8°C and 10°C. Wind in Patagonia can be quite hectic, summer months, except February, are quite windy – November and January are the windiest months. As for rain in January, March, and April you’ll get the most rainfalls, February is again quite a favorable month with the least rainfalls. From a weather point of view, February would be an ideal month for trekking in Torres del Paine and exploring the Carretera Austral if it wasn’t the busiest month in Patagonia.
What to pack for hiking the W route
Here are some items that will be very useful on the W trek regardless if you’re planning to carry your own camping gear, rent it, or stay in refugios (indoor accommodation in the park). For more information on packing for Patagonia check our post Patagonia packing list.
- Merino Wool Darn Tough Hiker Socks
- Good Rain Poncho
- PETZL – TACTIKKA Headlamp
- Kindle E-book
- Neck Pouch/Passport holder to keep your documents and money dry
- GoPro HERO9 makes it easy to take photos and videos, no need to worry about it getting wet plus it’s light, small, and easy to use.
- LifeStraw filter for drinking. We always drank tap or stream water in Patagonia and never had any problem but we met some people in Torres del Paine that had stomach issues after drinking water from creeks or small rivers on the way.
- Small padlock to lock your tent when you leave.
Recommended books and guidebooks
If you prefer reading e-books, join Amazon Kindle Unlimited to get access to thousands of e-books and audiobooks. You can use it on any device (phone or tablet) not only a Kindle all you have to do is just to install a free app. You can try it right now, the first 30 days of using Kindle Unlimited 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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