Torres del Paine is a famous national park with incredible scenery and amazing hiking trails. Thousands of people come here for backpacking every year, as a result, it gets quite crowded during the season. The park has good infrastructure; well-marked trails, designated campsites, picnic areas, restaurants, shops, hotels, rangers’ posts, etc. Torres del Paine is definitely a not-to-miss place in South America.
You can come to the park as a day visitor and do one of the day-hikes in Torres del Paine or spend more time and complete one of the multi-day backpacking routes: the W-trek or the O-circuit. In this post, you can find the necessary information to prepare for backpacking in Torres del Paine.
If you like the outdoors and wilderness you might enjoy trekking in El Chalten, Argentina. There are several day-hikes and long-distance treks that offer fantastic scenery.
Torres del Paine National Park overview
- The National park was established in 1959.
- It is located in Southern Patagonia, Chile.
- The total area of the park – 181 400 ha.
- It got its name after three granite peaks of the Paine mountain range that look like towers (Torres in Spanish mean “towers”).
- About 300 000 people visit Torres del Paine every year, 60% of them are foreigners.
Patagonia is an amazing region for backpacking. There are many beautiful parks with hiking trails that offer some of the most impressive scenery on the continent. You can explore Patagonia independently or join one of the small group tours e.g. Hike Patagonia in-depth or End of the Earth.
There is a CONAF office in Puerto Natales where you can get more information on Torres del Paine. The office is open 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. It’s situated at the corner of Baquedano and Yungay streets, near the Erratic Rock hostel.
To get first-hand information on Torres del Paine and some practical tips you can attend a daily free talk at 3pm at Erratic Rock hostel, near the CONAF office.
You can buy Torres del Paine entrance tickets online.
All hiking routes in the park are well-marked and have indications, distances, maps, etc.
The O-circuit can be walked only counterclockwise.
In the 2021/22 hiking season the O-circuit is open from 1st November till April.
The W-trek can be walked in any direction.
In the 2021/22 hiking season the W trek is open from 20th October.
If you’re planning to stay for a night inside the park you must book your accommodation (campsite, hotel) beforehand.
Take printed campsites booking confirmation with.
Bring your passport to the park. You’ll need your bookings are made on your passport details. To keep your documents and phone dry on the trek use a waterproof pouch.
There is limited cell phone reception in the park.
Hikers in all the time inside the park must stay on the marked trails.
Camping is only allowed at designated campsites, wild camping is strictly prohibited.
No open fires are allowed inside the park.
Using a camping stove is allowed only at designated areas at the campsites.
Water in the park is potable, using purification systems e.g. LifeStraw is optional.
All waste must be carried with you outside the park (some private campsites have rubbish bins).
Distances and cut-off times of the trails
Most of the trails (stretches) in the park have a closing time, you won’t be allowed to start walking a stretch after its closing time. For multi-day routes, if you stick to standard itineraries the cut-off times won’t be an issue.
|Trails (stretches)||Distance||Required time||Closing time|
|Paine Grande – Campsite Italiano||7.5km/4.6mi||2h30min||6.30pm|
|Campsite Italiano – Mirador Britanico||5.5km/3.3mi||3h||3pm|
|Campsite Italiano – Campsite Frances||2km/1.2mi||30min||7pm|
|Campsite Italiano – Los Cuernos||5km/3mi||2h30min||5pm|
|Los Cuernos – Hotel Las Torres||11.6km/7.2mi||4h30min||–|
|Hotel Las Torres – Refugio Chileno||5km/3mi||2h||–|
|Refugio Chileno – Campsite Torres||3km/1.8mi||1h30min||6pm|
|Campsite Torres – Mirador Las Torres||1.4km/0.8mi||1h||6pm|
|Hotel Las Torres – Campsite Seron||13km/8mi||4h||–|
|Campsite Seron – Campsite Dickson||18km/11mi||6h||3pm|
|Campsite Dickson – Campsite Perros||12km/7.4mi||4h30min||5pm|
|Campsite Perros – Campsite Paso||8km/5mi||6h||2pm|
|Campsite Paso – Refugio Grey||7km/4.3mi||5h||3pm|
|Refugio Grey – Paine Grande||11km/6.8mi||3h30min||4pm|
Backpacking routes in Torres del Paine
The park is massive some parts of it are accessible only on foot or by boat, some can be reached by car. There are many one-day hikes and two multi-day backpacking routes in Torres del Paine. All trails are well marked and easy to follow. The routes start at different places inside the park before getting there choose which one you want to walk.
|Day hikes (more than 15 routes)||W trek||O circuit|
|Distances between 5-20 km/3-12 mi||distance – 100 km/62 mi|
days required – 3-4
|distance – 134 km/83 mi|
days required – 7-8
- Day hikes – there are many day-hiking trails in Torres del Paine. From short and easy 5 km routes to challenging 20 km trails. You can do several day hikes and stay in the park for a couple of days or do two or three short hikes in one day.
- W-trek – a 100-kilometer backpacking trail. You need 4 to 5 days to complete it. The route takes hikers to the main highlights of the park.
- O-circuit – a 134-kilometer loop around the park. You need 7-8 days to complete the trail. The curcuit covers off-the-beaten-path areas of Torres del Paine as well as its famous landmarks. The O trek is open only during the summer season from November to April.
If you’d like to visit the park and see the highlights but don’t have enough time for hiking you can visit Torres del Paine with a day tour from Puerto Natales.
Other suggested day tours from Puerto Natales
- Full day Torres del Paine and Milodon Cave Viatour
- Sierra Baguales Fossil Route Trek
- Balmaceda and Serrano Glacier navigation Viatour
Download Torres del Paine map.
Which route to choose?
Depending on how much time you have and what kind of experience you’re seeking you can choose any of the suggested hiking routes.
Short hiking trails in Torres del Paine are some of the best day hikes in Patagonia. They vary from short and easy child-friendly routes to challenging trails. The scenery throughout the park is spectacular whichever route you choose you won’t be disappointed.
- You can walk with a day pack, no need to carry a heavy backpack.
- You can stay indoors if you don’t like camping.
- You can decide when and where to hike according to the weather conditions.
- You can spend more time trying to get a perfect photo shot or footage.
- It’s more expensive if you decide to stay indoors and eat at restaurants. You still can camp and prepare your own meals
- It takes away a big adventurous part of backpacking.
- You won’t be able to see some off-the-beaten-path parts of Torres del Paine.
- It’s a good compromise between a day hike and a week circuit. This route takes 3-4 days to complete.
- The trail goes through developed part of the park with hotels, restaurants etc.
- You still have to carry food and gear but only for 3-4 days.
- If you don’t mind paying more you can even stay in hotels and eat in restaurants.
- W-trek can be done as a 5-day fully guided tour from Puerto Natales.
- This part of the park is very busy and gets quite crowded in the peak season.
- There are no free campsites on this route only private campsites and refugios (hotels).
The O Circuit is one of our favorite long-distance treks in Patagonia. If you enjoy hiking and wilderness I’d definitely recommend completing this route.
- You get to see a large part of Torres del Paine.
- You get a chance to skip crowds; some parts of the trek are quite remote and not accessible for day visitors.
- It’s a true backpacking adventure.
- The O Circuit can be done as an organized group tour from Puerto Natales.
- You have to carry a heavy backpack with gear, food, and clothes for 7-8 days.
- You’ll have to camp at least half of the time, there are no refugios and hotels in the northern part of the park.
- If you’re unlucky with the weather it’ll be a very long walk in pouring rain and strong wind.
Travel insurance. Backpacking like any outdoor activity involves a risky part with the possibility of getting an injury (even on a day hike) it’s always advisable to have travel insurance that can cover you in case something goes wrong. We’ve done many hikes all over the world and never had any accidents (except one time when I lost my backpack hitchhiking in Patagonia) but it’s always great to know that if something happens you’re covered. Out of many insurance companies, we recommend World Nomads, they work all over the world and specialize in outdoor activities like hiking. Their insurance policy is very flexible it can cover your entire trip or just its hiking part (even if it’s only 2 days). You can buy it online and any time before or during your trip it takes just a couple of minutes. Get a quote right now!
How to get to Torres del Paine?
You have several options for getting to Torres del Paine from Puerto Natales; taking a bus, renting a car, or hitchhiking. If you’re planning to do day hikes in Torres del Paine and want to visit several locations inside the park renting a car will be the best option. Public buses stop only at three park entrances, some trails are accessible only by private vehicles which means you’ll have to do a tour or drive there. If you’re a couple of people renting a car it will work out cheaper than joining a tour. Check car rental prices and get a quote.
During the season (October to April) the entrance is from 7am to 10pm; off-season (May to September) – from 8.30am to 5.30pm. There are three entrances to the park (which one to choose depends on your route.
If you’re planning to do a multi-day trek then taking a public bus is the best option. Buses leave every day at 7.30am and 2.30pm from Puerto Natales, most hostels and hotels sell bus tickets. It takes between 2-3 hours (depending on which part of the park you’re going to) to get to Torres del Paine. Price CLP 20 000/US$25 return. Buses make 3 stops in Torres del Paine at Laguna Amarga, Pudeto, and Administration entrances.
Hitchhiking might be difficult in the peak season there are many people on the road all depends on your luck. It’s better to start early in case you have to wait for a ride. We hitched in March and were quite lucky to get to the park in two rides, it took us 3 hours in total, 1 hour longer than by bus.
To get to Hotel Las Torres (the starting point of the O-circuit, the W trek, day hikes), from Laguna Amarga take a bus to Hotel Las Torres. The departure time is coordinated with the arrival time of buses from Puerto Natales. It’s a short 10-minutes. Price CLP 4000/US$5 one way. You can walk from Laguna Amarga to Hotel Las Torres, it’s about 7km.
To get to Paine Grande campsite (the starting point of the W-trek and day hikes), first, take a bus from Puerto Natales and get off at Pudeto. Then, take a catamaran (ferry) from Pudeto to Paine Grande. The trip takes 30min., price CLP 20 000/US$25 one way.
To get back to Puerto Natales from Torres del Paine take a bus, there are two daily buses from the park. They stop at three different entrances. Travel time 2-3 hours.
If you have time you can combine hiking in Torres del Paine with a trip to Perito Moreno Glacier near El Calafate, Argentina.
Accommodation in Torres del Paine
If you’re planning to do day hikes in the park the best option is to stay inside the park or in one of the nearby places, it’ll save you a lot of time compared to staying in Puerto Natales and spending 4-5 hours every day driving to and back.
Hotels and refugios
Accommodation inside Torres del Paine
All the hotels inside the park are quite luxurious; rooms with nice views, private bathroom, heating, TV, towels, comfortable beds, breakfast. Some have the option of a full board with 3 meals included.
- Middle price | Goiien House |
- Luxury | Hotel Lago Grey | Hotel Las Torres Patagonia | Explora Patagonia – All Inclusive |
Staying in refugios might be a little bit cheaper but if you add up to 3 meals per day it works out almost as expensive as staying at one of the fancy hotels just with less comfort. You can rent a tent or camp with your own gear inside the park check Camping in Torres del Paine section for more details on the option.
- Refugios Torre, Chileno, and Los Cuernos can be booked through Las Torres Patagonia.
- Refugios Paine Grande, Grey, and Dickson can be booked through Vertice Patagonia.
Places to stay outside the park
There are some places that are located just outside Torres del Paine which makes it easy to access different hiking trails in the park. Park entrance ticket is valid for several days you can stay outside the park and enter Torres del Paine again without paying the fee.
Inside the park, there are 11 campsites: 9 paid and 2 free. The campsites are run by three companies: CONAF (the National Forest Corporation) – runs free campsites Italiano and Paso; Vertice Patagonia (paid campsites): Grey, Paine Grande, Dickson, Los Perros; Las Torres Patagonia (paid campsites): Central, Cuernos, Francés, Serón, and Chileno.
Paid campsites have much better facilities but in the peak season, they get overcrowded to use any of the facilities e.g. shower or toilet you have to wait. Campsites in Torres del Paine can be booked online through the companies websites. Don’t forget to print it and take your booking confirmation and passport with you.
|CONAF (free campsites)||Las Torres Patagonia (Paid campsites)||Vertice Patagonia (paid campsites)|
CONAF (free campsites)
There are two free campsites that belong to CONAF, they have very basic facilities and are located next to the rangers stations. To get a spot in one of them in the peak season (December, January, February) you must book long in advance. As of February 2022, two free campsites (Paso and Italiano) in Torres del Paine can’t be booked. There is no information on when they’ll be available.
These campsites have better facilities than the free ones and the price is moderate compared to the other campsites in the park. The price for camping with your own gear is CLP 7000/US$9 per person for double occupancy, +US$6 for single occupancy.
Las Torres Patagonia
The campsites run by this company are more expensive than the Vertice Patagonia ones. Price – US$21 per person, double occupancy; +US$11 for single occupancy for camping with your own gear.
Campsites outside the park
Campsite Pehoe is a good stop for visitors with their own vehicle who are planning to do day hikes in Torres del Paine. The campsite is located at Pehoe lake.
For more information on camping in the park read our detailed post The campsites in Torres del Paine. The information in the post is updated for the 2021/22 hiking season.
The cost of backpacking in Torres del Paine
Transport – bus Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine – CLP 20 000/US$25, return. Bus Hotel Las Torres – Laguna Amarga (for the O, W-trek, day hikes) – CLP 4000/US$5, one way. Catamaran Pudeto – Paine Grande (W trek, day hikes) – CLP 20 000/US$25 one way.
Entrance fee – CLP 25 600/US$32. The price is fixed it doesn’t depend on the duration of your visit; no matter if you stay for a couple of hours or 10 days.
Accommodation – hotels between US$130 and US$350 for a double room, depending on the location and facilities. Hostels – between US$60 and US$80 per bed. Private campsites are between US$9 and US$21. Currently, there are only two free campsites in Torres del Paine.
Food – cooking your own food – US$10 per day per person; eating out – 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. At most paid campsites you can rent a tent, mat, sleeping bag but it’s more expensive than in the town.
Tours in Torres del Paine (optional) – boat trip to Grey Glacier – US$120 pp.; hike on Grey glacier – US$154 pp.; kayaking to Grey glacier – US$100 pp.
Tour operators charge; for a day tour from Puerto Natales from US$60 per person, for a 5-day W-trek – from US$900 (including transport, accommodation, food, gear, park entrance fee), for an 11-day O-circuit – from US$2500 (including transport, accommodation, food, gear, park entrance fee).
Visit Torres del Paine with a tour vs independently
- It’s much cheaper, especially for longer treks.
- It’s more adventurous.
- You’re more flexible.
- You carry a heavy backpack with gear and food for the whole trek.
- You pitch and break down a tent, make food, pack etc.
- The preparation stage is easy; no need to book campsites, find buses, rent gear or pack – all you have to do is to find a good company and pay.
- The trekking part is easier as well; no carrying a heavy backpack, pitching a tent, cooking, packing, etc. You walk with a day-pack and your guides do the rest.
- Usually, it’s more fun to join a group if you travel alone but in Torres del Paine there are many people chances of you hiking and camping on your own are basically non-existent.
- It’s more expensive.
- It takes away the adventurous part.
- All the trails in the park are well-marked and easy to follow, you don’t really need a guide to show you the way or to find the campsites.
Backpacking with your own gear vs renting
Let’s’ compare prices of camping gear on Amazon.com and renting camping gear in Puerto Natales and at the paid campsites in Torres del Paine. If Torres del Paine is the only place you’re going to hike renting camping gear is the easiest option if you’re planning to do more hikes it’s worth bringing your own gear.
The easiest option for multi-day hikes in Tores del Paine is to rent camping gear at every campsite you stay in this case you don’t have to carry heavy gear with but it’ll work out more expensive than renting it in Puerto Natales.
As for small stuff like a camping stove, pots, hiking poles, etc. if you don’t bring it with you from home it’s better to buy them in Puerto Natales renting small items for 5-7 days will cost you as much as buying them. After the hike, you can try to sell that stuff for less to other hikers.
|Item name||Buying on Amazon*||Renting in Puerto Natales, per day**||Renting in Torres del Paine (paid campsites), per day***|
|2-men tent||from US$80||US$8||US$30|
|Down sleeping bag||from US$100||US$7||US$22|
|Inflatable sleeping pad||from US$30||US$3||US$8|
|Camping stove||from US$13||US$3||–|
|Cooking set||from US$18||US$5||–|
|Hiking poles||from US$20||US$5||–|
|Down jacket||from US$50||US$4||–|
|Waterproof jacket||from US$30||US$4||–|
- *Prices are for Amazon US.
- **Rental prices at Rental Natales and Erratic Rock in Puerto Natales
- ***Gear rental prices at Vertice Patagonia campsites
Best time for backpacking
Patagonia has four well-defined seasons; Spring – September to November; Summer – December to February; Fall – March to May; Winter – June to August. Summer and the beginning of fall is the best time for hiking in Patagonia. Temperature; December, January, and February are the warmest months when even night temperatures are quite comfortable. April and November – are shoulder season; warmish days and not cold nights.
In this part of Patagonia wind is the main problem. It gets very windy which makes pitching a tent or cooking on a camping stove quite complicated. The beginning of the summer November – January are the windiest months in Torres del Paine. February is the most comfortable month with less wind and warm temperatures. April to September is the least windy period but it’s too cold for hiking, plus long treks are closed for the off-season.
As you can see chances of rain are pretty even throughout the year, summer and fall months get quite a lot of rain, February again is the best month for hiking in Torres with the least rainfalls. In winter the chances of rain are quite small though it can snow.
Day duration in summer in Patagonia is quite long, up to 18 hours of daylight! You have long hiking days even if you start later you’ll have enough time to complete a stretch with the sun still high up. November – February it basically gets dark around 11pm, the sun rises between 4am and 5am. In winter daylight hours are half as long as in summer.
From all the above you can make a conclusion that February is the best month for trekking in Patagonia and for traveling the Carretera Austral. It’s warm, with little wind and rain, long days but it’s the busiest month for the park with the most visitors coming here. If you want to skip summer crowds you might consider visiting lesser-known parts of Patagonia e.g. Pumalin Park or Cerro Castillo National Park.
November, December, and March might be a better option if you want to skip the crowds, plus all hiking trails are already or still open, but these months get quite a bit more rain and are windier. We hiked in March and were lucky with the weather, out of 7 days in the park we had only 1 rainy day and it wasn’t pouring rain, the wind didn’t bother us too much.
Wildlife in the park
In high season chances to see wild animals in the busy part of the park (W-trek, day hikes) are quite small but you still can be lucky. We saw most animals on the O-circuit, in more remote parts of the reserve.
If you’re lucky you can see a puma and our friends did see one walking near camping Serron one morning. Grey and red fox – you have good chances of spotting them on the longer routes. Huemul – local deer, we saw a couple of them but from far. Guanaco – a bigger and wilder version of a llama. You can see some other animals in Torres del Paine such as Patagonian skunk, dwarf armadillo, rabbits, condors, etc.
Places to stay in Puerto Natales
If you’re planning to do one of the multi-day hikes in Torres del Paine then staying in Puerto Natales is probably the best option. There are many places for different budgets from campsites and backpackers to fancy guesthouses and hotels. Puerto Natales is a town where you can find all you need to prepare for hiking; ATMs, shops, gear rental places etc.
- 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 |
Recommended books and guidebooks
In the last years, rules in Torres del Paine have changed quite a lot make sure to buy an updated guidebook.
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 to install a free app.
- 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, Tierra del Fuego: Smart Travel Guide for Nature Lovers, Hikers, Trekkers, Photographers by Oleg Senkov, 2019. Paperback, Kindle
- Patagonia on a budget by Matthew Morgante. How to travel Patagonia on US$30 a day, Kindle.
- Walking Patagonia by Caspian Ray. It’s more of a fiction story rather than a hiking guide. Kindle & paperback
- 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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