Torres del Paine Guide - Chile
Torres del Paine is one of the most pristine places in the world. Its name meaning "Towers of Blue". The landscape is scattered with rich wildlife like the Guanaco (Llama/Camel's ancestor), Puma (the largest mammal in South America) & the Andean Condor (the largest bird in the world). It offers two popular world class through hikes; The W and the O. The O is 130km (80 Miles) and the W trek is 55km (34 Miles).
What to do:
* Go for a trek and see some of the incredible wildlife & raw nature along the way
* Take the boat to see Glacier Grey. If your feeling more adventurous you can go on an Kayak or Hiking excursion on the glacier.
* Take a spectacular day hike to the base of the Torres
Remember your in Patagonia, don't underestimate the weather; But don't overestimate it either. Its a fine line & layering clothes is important.
* Baselayers - Good baselayers are the most important. Long merino wool underwear top/bottom will save you on cold or wet days. Keeping you warm even when wet.
* Midlayer - For upper body I use fleece & down. Lower body trekking pants. (In winter I add insulated pants)
* Shell layer - (You could get away without pants shell if you have water resistant trekking pants)
A 4 season tent is a must here year round because of the strong winds. Since a 4 season tent is quite heavy, most people just rent in town.
You can get everything you need for the park in Puerto Natales; Including rental gear like tents, sleeping bags, stoves.Make sure your well prepared because once your here there isn't much. Although it is possible to go through the whole park staying in refugios and having all your meals made, Its more costly & I wouldn't rely on it.
Theres also great accommodation inside the park if you don't want to brave the wind in a tent. Ive heard great things about staying with Ecocamp. Also Erratic Rock and Ecocamp both offer A+ guide services within the park.
Puerto Natales, Erratic Rock, & the Base Camp info talk:
If you plan on hiking the circuit or W trek. Make sure to stop in here first. Base Camp is hands down the best source of information here. They give an hour talk everyday at 3pm with current park conditions and information about every aspect of the park. Bring a note pad and ask questions! Erratic Rock is the hostel right next door. Its a small place, english speaking, with a killer breakfast, & owned by a couple of cool dudes from Oregon.
Torres del Paine is a quick bus ride from Puerto Natales. More info over here. If you plan on hiking in the park, there is more than enough transportation available. to get you to & from town
Circuit or W Trek?
The W can get quite crowded, but its a great hike nonetheless. This hike takes 4-6 days. A boat goes from Salto Grande to Paine Grande and back everyday except in winter. You will need to take the boat to Start/Finish the W.
The O is more time consuming, more difficult, and more remote. Yet you pass through some wild and dramatic landscapes that you wouldn't get on the W. This takes 7-10 days and incorporates the W at the end.
Personally I like to start at the Torres, hike the backside, climb the pass, and end at the Pehoe ferry or hike back out. Doing it this way, saves 3-4 days from the W and lets you do the backside if you have a limited amount of time.
Note: Chilean Peso (CLP) is 670 to the US Dollar.
Permits for circuit strictly enforced as of 2016. 80 persons per day on backside.
Bus from Puerto Natales + Return Ticket = 15,000 CLP
Park Entrance fee = 18,000 CLP
Use this guide to plan your O or W trek. Each campsite in the park is listed with km from the prior campsite. The O trek is only possible counter clockwise while the W can be done either way. The map to the left shows all of the Camping/Refugio options in the park. Paid camping is in red, while free camping is in yellow. The bus goes back to Natales from the Amarga entrance at 2:30pm
1. Campamento Seron - 12km from Amarga park entrance OR 13 km from Refugio Las Torres. Camping fee 8,500 CLP
2. Refugio Dickson - 18km from Seron. Expect a Conaf checkpoint halfway checking camping permits - Camping fee 6,000 CLP
3. Campamento Los Perros - 11km from Dickson - Camping fee 6,000 CLP
4. Campamento Paso - 8km from Los Perros - Camping FREE
5. Refugio Grey - 10km from Campamento Paso - Camping fee 6,000 CLP
6. Refugio Paine Grande - 11km from Grey - Camping fee 7,000 CLP
7. Campamento Italiano - 7km from Paine Grande + 11km for the round trip if you hike up the Frances Valley to the mirador - Camping FREE
8. Refugio Los Cuernos - 5km from Italiano - Camping fee 8,500 CLP
9. Refugio Chileno - 18 km from Los Cuernos (Best to skip Chileno & continue to Torres. Makes the sunrise hike to the Torres mirador easier) - Camping fee 8,500 CLP
10. Campamento Torres - 3km from Los Cuernos +2km to Torres mirador. Best to hike the Torres in the morning at sunrise - Camping FREE
11. Refugio Las Torres - 8.5km from Campamento Torres - Camping fee 8,500 CLP
Camping away from the Circuit/W Trek:
12. Laguna Azul - Camping FREE
13. Campamento Lago Pehoe - 8,000 CLP
14. Campamento Los Carretas - Camping FREE
15. Campamento Pingo (Guide only)
16. Campamento Zapata (Guide only)
Photos from the W trek
Photos from the Circuit trek
Photos from the rest of the park
Park Campamentos are the most basic campsites. In high season, you need to reserve the ones on the W early (C.Italiano & C.Torres) as the they are often full.
Private Campamentos charge a small fee for use. They usually have a few more amenities. Often a small store, a cold or hot shower, tent rentals, and some even serve dinner (which you can reserve ahead or sometimes get seated day of). They do not have bed lodging.
Refugios have beds in addition to camping. They have nicer shower and toilet facilities than campamentos.
Fantastico Sur handles reservations for: Refugio Las Torres, Camping Las Torres (not the same as the Park run Campamento Torres), Refugio Los Cuernos, Camping Los Cuernos, Domo Los Cuernos, Cabañas Los Cuernos, Refugio El Chileno, Camping El Chileno, Camping Serón, Domo Serón, Camping Francés, Domo Francés, and Refugio Torre Norte
Vertice Patagonia handles reservations for: Refugio Paine Grande (camping, meals & beds), R. Grey (camping, meals & beds), R. Dickson (camping, meals & beds), and Camping Los Perros (camping only).
All other hotels are privately owned and CONAF operates everything else in the park including the free campsites and checkpoints. CONAF also now offers a way to reserve their free campsites online.
Fires in the park are prohibited & cooking stoves are allowed in campgrounds only. This is a rule they could actually deport you for breaking. The climate in Torres del Paine has never had lightning, therefore it has never adapted to wildfires. The wind here could turn the smallest fire into a devastating scene. Half the park burned a decade ago and its still having a rough time growing back.