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Me hiking in Torres del Paine - at the Grey Glacier
Me hiking in Torres del Paine - at the Grey Glacier

Trekking Guide: How to prepare for hiking in Torres del Paine, Patagonia (Chile)

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Here you’ll find all info needed on how to prepare for hiking in Torres del Paine in Patagonia, Chile. Even the Lonely Planet considers the trails here as some of the worlds best trekking routes. I hiked the “Q” in 2013 and did the circuit again in 2016, altogether I spent 3 weeks in the park. (Completely updated: September 2016)

Download my Torres del Paine Trekking guide!
I published all information needed to plan your trip to Chile in one clear and concise 100 page eBook based on my experience. This eBook includes travel guides for each region of Chile and is designed to save you a lot of time & make your trip much easier!

Before packing make sure you have a good health & travel insurance: I used the insurance from WorldNomads which is perfect for this trekking trip as it covers also adventure activities (use the tool in the sidebar on your right to get a price for the duration needed)!

This article is part of a whole series of free guides for Backpacking in South America.

How to prepare for hiking Torres del Paine – Navigation
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1) Backpack & Gear

Camping is the cheapest option and I highly recommend going for this if you want the best experience (see (3) for Campsites and other options) – therefore you should bring:

a) Tent
Should be lightweight, spacious and should have aluminium poles due to the strong winds. I found the MSR tents to be very recommendable – I went with a “Hubba” and met many fellow hikers using MSR tents who were very happy with their choice, too!
b) Trekking Backpack
I recommend using a comfy hiking backpack with options to attach tent and mat – use a bigger one for the longer itineraries like the circuit or ‘Q’

>> find everything you need in the Patagonia Packing list!

Consider: I used 1,5 gas cans for 7 days (breakfast & dinner) for myself only. I didn’t use trekking poles at all but would recommend buying some lightweight ones for the steeper parts as they give you more stability, especially when walking downhill (I was fortunate to use one from my friends for the hairy parts of the circuit!).


2) Bus to Torres del Paine / Transportation inside

Map of Torres del Paine

my own map of the park – red is the “W” trek, green plus red the circuit

The standard starting point for the park is usually the small town named Puerto Natales in Chile. Situated 112 km south of the National Park it offers regular transfers with Buses who depart from the bus terminal.

Get in
Nearly every hostel in Puerto Natales sells return tickets, but prices can vary between 15.000 (= 20 € / 22 USD, directly at the office of the bus company inside the bus terminal) and 18.000 CLP (at the hostel). By buying a return ticket you can leave the date of return open so you can extend or shorten your stay in the park as you wish. Buses leave Puerto Natales at 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and will need 2,5 hrs to arrive at the park entrance (Laguna Amarga).
Beside the entrance there are 2 more stops afterwards in the park: Pudeto an hour later, where you can catch the boat to Paine Grande (see below) and the Administration about 2 hours later.

Bus companies who offer daily services are: Buses Gomez, Buses Fernandez, Buses Maria José and Bus Sur (offers also a connection from Punta Arenas)

Get around
Inside the park you can take a boat which connects Pudeto and the campsite / refugio Paine Grande. The catamaran will cost you 15.000 CLP one way(= 20 € / 22 USD) and 23.000 CLP (= 30 € / 33 USD) for an open return ticket. During high season the boat leaves from Pudeto 09:30 a.m., 12:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. and will take around 30 minutes – the other way it leaves at 10:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m. (bus connection) and 6:30 p.m. (bus connection).
For more info and updated schedules check the certain catamaran info page.

Another option inside the park is to take a minishuttle between the entrance and the Hotel Las Torres. When arriving at the park you just go there, hop on and pay 2.800 CLP (= 4 € / 5 USD). It takes just a few minutes. For the way back it leaves around 30-45 mins before the bus to Puerto Natales arrives at the entrance.

The 3rd option is a rather expensive one where you’d need additional transport inside the park to get to the Lago Grey Pier. From here you can take a boat to Refugio Grey for about 50000 CLP (= 64 € / 72 USD) one way. The same is possible vice versa, for both options you should book in advance. The whole service is offered by the Hotel Lago Grey so it makes sense to stay there if you want to do this.

Get out
You have again two times at the same bus stops. The early bus leaves from the Administration at 1 p.m., from Pudeto at 1:30 p.m. and from the entrance at 2:30 p.m.
The late bus leaves from the Administration at 6 p.m., from Pudeto at 7 p.m. and from the entrance (Laguna Amarga) at 7:45 p.m.

3) Camping in Torres del Paine & Refugios

Campsite at Paine Grande

Campsite at Paine Grande

I recommend using your own tent / renting a tent in Puerto Natales and camp at the campsites.
Consider: cooking is only allowed in campsites / refugios, open fire is not allowed anywhere in the park (smoking is only allowed at the cooking shelters!). The same goes for camping in general.

Refugios & Domes
A bed will be around 35-60 USD in a dorm and you have to pay extra for breakfast (around 14 USD) and sheets or bring a sleeping bag. The refugios are operated by two different companies and it is recommended to book everything in advance especially in the high season.

The main refugios offer a range of services beside accommodation such as tent rental, meals (both to be booked in advance!), kiosks, electricity, some even have a bar and (expensive, slow) WiFi.

Refugios/Dome Tents operated by fantastico sur: Los Cuernos, El Chileno, Torres (next to Hotel Las Torres), El Frances, Seron.
Refugios operated by Vertice Patagonia: Dickson, Paine Grande, Grey

Free Campsites
Wohoo – free accommodation! Yeah that sounds good, huh? Unfortunately there are just a few and some of them might be closed. So: if you want to do one of the big treks you have to stay at paid campsites in between. The setup for a free camp is always the same: you have a rain-covered construction to cook at, places to set up your tent, toilets and water (mostly from a stream).

Due to the increase of visitors those camp sites will be packed so you should try to be there early to get a good spot. If a camp site is full you need to hike to the nearest camp site unless the trails are not closed. Reservation can be done at the CONAF office in Puerto Natales.

UPDATE (September 2016): Finally an online reservation system got implemented! Please head to the official reservation system to reserve your spot at the free CONAF campsites in advance. (For now the instruction page is available in Spanish only, but you can change the language settings once you are in zhe reservation process). Please consider that you can stay for one night only. Reservations are mandatory starting from October 15, 2016.

The free campsites are:
– Campamento Torres (reservation mandatory!)
– Campamento Paso (reservation recommended)
– Campamento Las Carretas
– Campamento Italiano (reservation mandatory!)
You’ll find also Britanico and Japones but they are for climbers with a certain license only.

Consider: you always have to take your garbage with you and you should wash dishes away from the stream. I highly encourage you to take this seriously and talk to fellow campers who don’t respect the rules to protect the environment!

Paid Campsites
There are two kinds of paid campsites – the private campsites and the ones next to a refugio. The prices vary, usually the ones next to a refugio are more expensive. The difference between both are the facilities you can find: private campsites offer a place to cook, toilets, showers and water as well as a small shop. At the refugios you have the possibility of using the restaurant, a minimarket and sometimes you have plugs to charge the batteries of your camera.

Moreover you’ll have the chance to rent tents, sleeping bags and even mats. The paid campsites are also operated by fantastico sur and Vertice Patagonia.

Important: During the last few years the visitor numbers to the park increased strongly. Unless you are hiking in low season you need to reserve each campsite in advance for the exact day you want to stay there. You can do so on the website of the companies.

Here are all campsites with prices (low season/high season – per night, per person) – booking in advance for the campsites of Vertice saves you 1.500 CLP:
– Refugio Paine Grande, Vertice (7000 CLP = 9 € / 10 USD)
– Campamento Francés (7500/8500 CLP = 11 € / 12 USD) [this is a new one, not marked in my trail map; located between Los Cuernos and Italiano]
– Refugio Los Cuernos (7500/8500 CLP = 11 € / 12 USD)
– Refugio Chileno (only with reservation 7500/8500 = 11 € / 12 USD)
– Campamento Serón (7500/8500 CLP = 11 € / 12 USD)
– Refugio Dickson, Vertice (6000 CLP = 8 € / 9 USD)
– Campamento Los Perros, CONAF/Vertice (6000 CLP = 8 € / 9 USD)
– Refugio Grey, Vertice (6000 CLP = 8 € / 9 USD)

4) Weather Conditions, Seasons & Clothes to take

Look to Glacier Grey

View to Glacier Grey

First of all: in Patagonia you can have basically everything in one day, this means: snow, rain and sun. You’ll always have very strong winds to deal with, this means: up to more than 100 km/h. Speaking for the summer season you should be prepared to temperatures until below 0°C. In winter it can be quite cold. I personally recommend to hike during the shoulder season October/November and March/April to avoid the crowds (depending on the exact date you might also not need to book camp sites in advance).

The high season in Torres del Paine lasts from 1st of October to 30th of April, the low season from 1st of May to 30th of September. Though the park is open all year round most trails, camp sites and refugios are closed in winter (May-August). If you still want to hike in winter you need to get in touch with CONAF, come well prepared and consider going with a guide as trails are hard to find after snowfall (there is no maintenance during that time of year).

It’s always best to check the weather before you go even though the forecast is not reliable and weather can change quite quick. So: better be prepared for everything.

Speaking about clothes:
>> find everything in the Patagonia Packing list!

Even in summer I recommend to take a jumper for the colder parts of the trek like the John Gardner Pass. In Winter you should add layers of warm clothes.

Consider: In February I used to trek with thermal shirt and long pants all the time – when it rained i kept walking (believe me you will not melt and also not get sick as long as you are moving – only use the rain jacket when you are in the camp or make a stop). Furthermore I had two of each, this means: walking clothes and dry clothes for the camps – i never mixed it to have always a set of dry clothes in my bag.

5) Which food to take for hiking in Torres del Paine?

Food for the trek

Food for the trek

When I have been on the trek I saw different kind of strategies – basically it’s very individual what to take for a multi-day hike. As I planed for 9 full days my main focus was to pack as light as possible because food will be the heaviest part in your backpack in that case.

Therefore I stuck to (all packed into Zip-Lock bags):
– porridge & dry fruits for breakfast + tea / coffee
– salami, cereal bars, snickers, dry fruits & nuts for lunch (small snacks to eat while short breaks)
– 200g rice or 200g pasta for dinner + sauce (sauce powder or soup powder) + cheese/salami to add more flavour ;)

Moreover it’s always nice to have some chocolate and sweeties to treat yourself, also a small amount of alcohol is not a bad idea for cold nights (i took 200ml of pisco – also cool to celebrate the finish of a steep trail).

The second great option I got to try on my recent hiking trip in 2016 is to take lightweight freeze dried meals. Those meals are easy to prepare, they don’t take much space and they taste actually not too bad. If you want to go for this option you should definitely buy it at home or online and take it to Chile with you!

I was drinking the water from the streams – you’ll have a stream nearly every 20 minutes when hiking. I simply used my cup to drink the water which has the best quality one can find.

At the campsites and the busier parts of the park you should be careful, go a bit up the stream and consider purifying using a SteriPen to ensure to drink clean water (there are some stupid people washing there dishes in the water which is strictly forbidden and led to problems with water quality in 2016 where several hikers got sick!).

So: just take a small bottle with you for the time in between and to purify water when needed.


6) Costs to calculate (Entrance & Shops)

As mentioned in the beginning the Torres del Paine is stunning and therefore very popular and it knows it – apart from the costs already mentioned for campsites and transportation you should calculate the following as well:

– entrance fee is 18.000 CLP (= 24 € / 26 USD) in high season and 10.000 CLP in low season for foreigners (children pay 500, Chileans pay 3.000 CLP)
– sweeties (M&Ms, chocolate bars) at mini-shops in refugios are between 1.000 – 2.000 CLPs
– soft drinks at mini-shops are between 1.500 and 2.500 CLPs
– beer is between 2.000 and 3.000 CLPs

7) Hiking Routes Torres del Paine: the W, circuit, the Q

If you are still unsure which trek to do and you already have some hiking experience let me tell you: this park is absolutely worth staying for a longer time or doing a longer trek. If you are not short on time think about doing one of the big treks and maybe plan to do one of the more relaxed schedules you find below.
The advantages of doing the full circuit also known as the “O” are that you get to see some incredible landscape, you’ll have much less people (the number is restricted to 80, reservation needs to be done in advance), you spend more time in the park and you get to know some great people as you’ll meet your fellow hikers each day at the same camping sites.

my itineraries for you

>> How to hike the W in Torres del Paine
>> Trekking Guide: How to hike the Circuit in Torres del Paine
– Q itinerary pending –

Download my Chile Guide incl. TdP itineraries

backpacking in chile ebookBackpacking in Chile: my Chile Travel Guide
This is a clear and concise 100 page eBook based on my experience from 4 months traveling through Chile.
It includes travel guides for each region of Chile as well as a complete trekking guide for Torres del Paine, plus route itineraries. Checklists are included to help make sure you don’t forget anything.
This eBook is designed to save you a lot of time & make your trip much easier. Download it now and take it with you!
more information >>

If you want to continue traveling through Patagonia you should also checkout the Argentinean part:
backpacking in argentina ebookBackpacking in Argentina: my Argentina Travel Guide
This is a clear and concise 100 page eBook based on my experience from 3 months traveling through Argentina.
The book includes travel guides for the several regions of Argentina as well as a tiny trekking guide for El Chaltén and Ushuaia. Checklists are included to help make sure you don’t forget anything.
This eBook is designed to save you a lot of time & make your trip much easier. Download it now and take it with you!
more information >>

torres del paine trekking mapTorres del Paine Trekking Map (waterproof)

I used this map to prepare my itinerary in Torres del Paine, Chile. As it is a waterproof map it is also great to use it on the trek!
buy it on Amazon >>

lonely planet patagoniaTrekking Patagonia, Lonely Planet

This is a must if you plan to hike a few times in Patagonia as this guide has itineraries for several parts of Patagonia and even for Tierra del Fuego. It’s a good resource for the popular spots like Torres del Paine and Chaltén as well as the lesser known parts. Highly recommended!
buy it on Amazon >>

8) Which camera gear to bring?

It would be a shame to experience the park without taking pictures as the landscape is outstanding. Have a look at the video below and the photo essay from Torres del Paine to see the results.

GoPro HeroGoPro Hero

Since more than 3 years this little genius is my travel companion. Until today I produced more than 75 video episodes with the most versatile camera: it is robust, waterproof, small and easy to handle.

>> show on Amazon

sony nexSony Alpha camera

If you want DSLR quality but don’t want to carry around a heavy DSLR you should get this Sony camera. I really love it as it is easy to handle and takes great photos without you needing to be a professional photographer. This compact interchangeable Lens camera costs less than a DSLR and fits easily in your pocket. If you want awesome photos from your trip to Torres del Paine you will be thankful for this investment later, for sure!

>> show on Amazon (US)


Mini Tripod – since I’m using the GoPro I cannot imagine using it without this flexible travel tripod: small, handy and useful for night shots for both cameras mentioned above.

>> show on Amazon

9) Videos of hiking in Torres del Paine

In 2016 I revisited Torres del Paine and spent around 2 weeks inside the National Park: first I hiked the full circuit (which includes the “W”), next I stayed at the Hotel Las Torres inside the park for a few more days to explore the several day tour options.

My goal was to create a useful documentary to show which options you have exploring the park, what it is like to hike Torres del Paine and what you get to see when doing so. Enjoy!

10) Where to sleep in Puerto Natales

Living Room Yagan House

Living Room Yagan House

The eco hostel named Yagan House was my home for almost 2 weeks and is the perfect starting point for your hiking adventures. I liked the relaxed atmosphere and the cozy common areas – due to the interior it somehow felt more like a mountain lodge than a usual hostel.

Moreover the owner Paulina and her staff are very sympathetic and helpful: you can book bus tickets, organize other activities like kayaking or trips to El Calafate.

Breakfast at Yagan House

Breakfast at Yagan House

Also the breakfast was great: home made bread, yoghurt, cereals, butter, marmelade, freshly made scrambled eggs, tea and coffee are a good base for your first day of hiking in the park. On top of that you have a lot of extra services like a luggage room, laundry, rental of hiking equipment and a small housebar (beer, wine, pisco sour, hot chocolate, brownies).

Positive: there are 4 bathrooms so you never have to wait, great service, cozy atmosphere, luggage room for your time on the Trek, nice staff
Downsides: the Internet was sometimes very instabile (we had to restart the router quite often)
Prices: Dorm (4 Bed) from 10.000 CLP (= 15 € / 21 USD) , Private from 14.000 CLP (= 22 € / 30 USD)

Address: O’Higgins 584

Special Deal:
I can offer you a great give-away! If you use the discount code “holagringo yagan house” when checking in you get a free laundry per booking. A great chance to start on the trek with fresh clothes or get it clean afterwards while chilling in the cozy living room.

11) Where to stay inside the park

The Hotel Las Torres is located at the beginning of the trail to the Torres (doable as a 1 day trek from here!)

The Hotel Las Torres is located at the beginning of the trail to the Torres (doable as a 1 day trek from here!)

Do you want to add a bit of luxury to the end of your hike? Then this is a great option to not only spend more time inside the park but also to explore more and eat some great food!
I got the chance to spend 4 days at Hotel Las Torres Patagonia in 2016 after I finished the circuit trek and used it to explore the spots you don’t get to see when hiking. The fact that the area the hotel is located in is a private area owned by the hotel makes it possible to explore this part of the park on horses. My personal highlight was the rather tough horse riding/hiking combination up to the Cerro Paine which is opposite to the Torres and offers a unique view, a tour offered exclusively by the hotel (only 3 groups went up there in 2016!).
The Hotel itself is -hands down- definitely an upscale choice but offers the best location inside the park (perfect base for photographers), great tours and is a good choice for those who want to explore the park with day trips. Though a bit pricey the rooms are comfortable, the food and the bar are very good, also WiFi is included (but not as fast due to the location).
For those who finish the trip here but won’t stay at the hotel: you are welcome to have a bite or a drink at the bar which has a lovely view to the Paine Massif before you leave!
The tour up to the top of the Cerro Paine is the most intense one the Hotel offers but rewards you with one of the most unique views only a handful of visitors get to see per year!

The tour up to the top of the Cerro Paine is the most intense one the Hotel offers but rewards you with one of the most unique views only a handful of visitors get to see per year!

With the horse riding excursion from the hotel you are able to explore different parts of the park

With the horse riding excursion from the hotel you are able to explore different parts of the park

Helpful? Share this comprehensive guide via Pinterest!

Torres del Paine Trekking Guide

Torres del Paine Trekking Guide

Any tips for hiking in Torres del Paine to add?

If you have any tips or hints feel free to join the conversation – post a comment below and share your experience!
Moreover you can share this article with your friends on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus by using the related buttons on the left.

My accommodation at the Hotel Las Torres was provided by the hotel due to the fact that I was filming an episode for my TV show and YouTube channel. Nevertheless I wasn’t asked to write about my experience here but decided to include it as I liked it and wanted to share another option for those who want to explore more of the park.
All the content I provide from my travels is completely my own – this goes for opinions and views as well as for recommendations.

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  • Arthur Gilles

    Loved this post and your photos, once again, are outstanding…You seem to get better and better with your photography….
    Hoping to do some of my own backpackin’ and trekking come the first of this new year…..
    Take care and keep up your wonderful posts and photos….

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  • This comes in handy as I am planning a trip to Patagonia. But not before 2015 – so there’s still some time to get thing sorted : )

  • David

    My wife and I are doing the Q circuit in March 2014. Your site is the best resource we have found. Great job!

    • Awesome and great choice! Have loads of fun, I’m glad this little guide helped you planning – keep me posted!

    • Love to hear that, thanks Zaid – hope you had a memorable time in the park!

  • Hey Charlie – I used the power bank (it is listed in my gear list – you can find it in the navigation “bags & gear”). It comes with all plugs you need so you can charge your GoPro on the way! I used 3 spare batteries as well.

    Enjoy your trip!

  • David

    My wife and I just got back from Patagonia. It was incredible and your guide gave us all the info we needed. We didn’t even bother with the info meeting at the Erratic Rock. Thanks. If you get an email address to us I will send you a link to our pictures when I get them posted.

  • Yin S

    Hi Steve! My husband and I are trying to plan a vacation to hike Torres del Paine in March 2015 and I just wanted to say how much I love your blog. I have experience backpacking in Alaska about 10 years ago when I was living there, but my husband is less experienced and we really haven’t done too much in the last decade. How much hiking experience do you think we need? Would we benefit from a guide? We’d like to do the full circuit and saw that Erratic Rock offers a guided tour for 1200 US per person — is that worth it, you think? Thank you!

    • Hey Yin – I’m sorry to answer so late but I’ve been traveling a lot meanwhile.

      To answer your question: the W-Trek is a great one even for beginners. Most parts are easy to walk – only the last part up to the Torres, up to the mirador in the french valley are a bit tough.
      All paths are well marked, it’s actually harder to get lost than to find the way (this info is for the W). So: no need to spend a fortune for a guide if you get the right equipment, plan a bit more time to don’t be in a hurry and prepare a bit before leaving to Chile!

  • Chris

    Hi Steve,
    In order to camp at any of the free or paid campsites along the W route, do you have to reserve sites in advance or do you simply pay and register for a site when you arrive? We are going in February and wanted to know if it is necessary to reserve camping or if we should wait until our arrival to find spots. Thanks for all the great info.

    • No need for reserving camp sites – only if you want a bed in the refugios you need to reserve. For me camping has not been a problem on any camp site in the park!

  • K

    Hi there, Your page is super helpful! I am planning on doing the W Trek with two friends in early Jan 2015. Last minute decision! Heading in from El Calafate direction. Do we require to book camp sites? If not, are are they ever full? Thankyou, K.

    • No to both – even in the high season I found a spot everywhere ;)

    • Tabby Asco

      Hi K, I’m planning on doing the W Trek this coming January 2016 and would love any advice as you did it at the same time! How many days did you take? Did you always camp? How heavy were your backpacks?! Tell me more or if you did a blog. Thanks Tabby

  • Sindhu

    Thank you for your post. My husband and I are planning to hike the W trek this Christmas and were worried. We havent made any campsite bookings as yet. We have backpacking experience and were hoping to find availability in the free campsites. (we speak zero Spanish! Will that be a problem?)

    Should we book the shuttle from PN to TDP much before or is it okay to wait till the before day and book it through our hostel?

    • Hey, no worries!

      You can even book the bus the day before with your hostel or you simply go to a bus agency in town. Town is more a village and pretty small.

      About campsites: I never had a problem to find a free spot, not even in high season. When you arrive in the afternoon at the campsites you have plenty of space to choose from

      Sounds like a great christmas plan – so:have fun!

  • Just ask here so also other readers can read the answers ;)

  • I did it in a very short time but wouldn’t recommend it – you should always plan with a little buffer due to the John Gardner Pass.

    If you want to risk it: have a look at the itineraries of the ‘O’ where I described a short version!

  • Uh…from El Chalten it’s a long ride and you also have to cross the border which takes a while (they check every bag for vegetables and food due to strict import laws).

    If you only have 3 days you should think about a version I didn’t mention: trek from Hotel Torres up to the Torres via Refugio Chileno on the first day, camp at Campamento Torres, get up early and see the towers at sunrise and head back to the hotel and to the park entrance. Have fun!

  • jenny

    Hi Steve… as everyone else pointed out, your “how to” guide is awesome and comprehensive- best one I’ve come across yet! Thank you! I am glad to read that it is not necessary to book camping spots in advance. Does that mean you could literally book transportation, get there with all of your gear, and just start trekking, without much planning as to where you’ll stay? Also, we plan to camp without booking in advance, but don’t want to lug too much food around. Will it be possible to eat at the refugios that own the private campgrounds some of the nights? Thank you in advance!


    • Hey Jenny thanks for your feedback!

      Sure you can do it like suggested and just take my itinierary. Hiking in TdP is very easy compared to many other treks I did in Patagonia as there is literally mostly only one path to follow.

      Camping can be done without booking in advance. Prices at the refugios are very high but you can eat there, just make sure to visit the website of the companies who run it to be 100% safe. When I was there mostly groups ate dinner there so I assume you might have to get in touch as they have limited supplies in the high season.

      Enjoy your trip and tell me how it was!

  • Hi Spencer,

    sorry for the late reply! I’ll answer anyway for future readers.

    May can be very rough in matters of climate and I generally don’t recommend hiking alone in case of any emergency. Please try to find like minded trekkers in Puerto Natales and do it in a group for this time of the year. For more information about weather and conditions in the park you should get in touch with the CONAF office in Puerto Natales, the rangers there are also very helpful: http://www.conaf.cl/conaf-en-regiones/magallanes/oficinas-regionales/

  • Thx! Enjoy your travels!

  • Diana Gibson

    Would it be possible to ONLY eat at the refugios and buy food at the local stores on the circuit, or do we have to bring in food? We will be doing the Q circuit in December/January. Hubby doesn’t want to deal with preparing food!

    • I think this might be possible but I haven’t done it myself. Only thing I know that it is quite pricey – check the websites mentioned for the companies who run the refugios for more information!

      On the other hand I’d say preparing your food should be part of the adventure as it is quite social and you get to know other lovely hikers ;)

      • Diana Gibson

        Thanks Steve. Very Quick Response!!! We are an older couple (72/60) and are used to trekking in Nepal where food is purchased along the route from various “lodges” (purely a dressed up term for cold, stone hut!). So then we would need to have a camp stove, cooking gear, etc?

        • Hey Diana – no worries this will be a memorable experience!

          I listed all the items I had with me above. In matters of cooking gear I kept it simple and light: I had some gas cans and a light mount to put a small, leightweight pot on (which I also used to eat out of), a fork, spoon and a knife..that’s it. My food was basic but gave me the energy I needed :)

          But..again..the Refugios are expensive but offer the possibility to eat there. You should just check with them if you have to make a reservation as they often have groups there and need to plan as they get their supplies delivered by helicopter or horse (there are no roads!). You are aiming a popular season, too – so make sure you don’t end up hungry ;)

          • Diana Gibson

            Thank you again Steve! Your site is such a wealth of information and your experience in TdP gives great credibility to what you have to say. The refugios are all booked up already, just so you know if anyone asks. Good info on making reservations for dinner though. Don’t know if it will happen that we eat there or not but good to know. Happy trekking!

          • Thanks so much – have a great trip and tell me how it was when you come back. Cheers to your husband aka “the future TdP chef”. hehe :)

  • Michael

    My friends and I were wanting to do the O. We need the flexibility of our own car to get to and from the park for us to do that, otherwise we will lose a few days to the buses and will have to do the W. Are there places in TDP to park your car and leave it for 8-9 nights?

    • Yes you can go there with your car and there are several options to park your car!

  • Dan Hisey

    Hi Steve!

    This info is super helpful. I was thinking about doing the W from May 9-15 but am worried about two things: weather and services that will be available (things seem to close up after Mar-Apr). I was going to stay in the refugios, but I’m not sure about their availability. Would you recommend against going during this time? Is it going to be more trouble than it’s worth? If not, anything I should be aware of?

    If trekking the W at this time isn’t a good idea, anything else in South America I should do? I’m meeting up with friends in Cuzco on the 15th if that gives you a starting point.


    • This will be pretty late to do that trek as it might be freezing cold. If you meet with your friends in Cusco you might consider the Choquequirao trek which is nearby and beautiful, too!

  • Cara Martin

    Hello! I am hoping to hear back form you as you seem pretty knowledgable about Torres del Paine. I have a group of people and we are planning on going the last week of May. I have read several articles about hiking the w, o and q trails during both summer and winter, however I have heard hardly anything about going in fall (May and June). We are going May 20th – June 1st. Do you have any advice? We are prepared to deal with freezing cold weather but not too sure what to expect about everything else.

    • Hello Cara – this is a tricky one so please do this on your own responsibility.

      Even though the park is open in winter, the trails are actually closed – same goes for camps and most of the refugios. If you still want to go you should be an experienced hiker, you should come well prepared and you should have a good knowledge about the place. If you want to go without a local guide or someone who knows the trails you should only do so if there is no snow to cover the trails as there is no maintenance to keep the trails visible in winter!
      I just came back from my second time hiking the circuit at the end of march and I’m planning on hiking it in winter next time but I will be accompanied by local friends of mine.

  • Sam Jensen

    Hi Steve,

    I’m planning to do the full circuit, but it seems it’s now a requirement to have a guide for the backside – is it easy to find a local guide once near the park?


  • Scott Butler

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks a bundle for the information you have posted. In Dec/Jan I plan to do the “O”. I rang
    the CONAF office in Pto Natales and they gave me a number for the park. I spoke
    to a patient guy at the park over a crackling line (my Spanish is ok but not
    great). Assuming I understood correctly, he told me that I did not need to get
    special permission to do the “O”. He did not seem to know what I was
    talking about when I said that I had read that only 80 people per day were
    allowed on the back part of the track. He said I simply had to book the camp
    sites for each night along the route and then just turn up and the park and do
    the walk. Does this seem correct to you? Or do you think I should try the CONAF
    office in Puerto Natales again (and if so, do you know the correct email

    Also, according to the fantastico sur site, there is no
    cooking at the camping area at Refugio Chileno. Hence the only option is to
    camp and pay US$90 for full catering. Has this changed since you wrote this page or am I missing something?

    Thanks again, Scott

    • First of: I just updated the whole guide recently with all new information.

      This regulation is new since this year and was just announced by the end of the past season…so it is really hard to tell how it will be in the upcoming season. I’d recommend to get in touch with CONAF via eMail (address is provided in the camping section above) , pass on your details to get you on a list. Once in Puerto Natales it is always best to go to the CONAF office in town to double check, after all this is South America (things can get lost in translation) and the number of tourists are very high.

      In matters of Chileno: this campsite was closed recently as the massive amount of campers had a negative impact on nature (resulting in issues with the water)…I’m not sure when and if they re-open this campsite. The refugio is still in operation and also the free Torres campsite is a good option….another option would be to use the campsite down next to the Hotel Las Torres (hiking up from there and back is a famous day hike).
      Please take into account that the refugio also has a shop with snacks, you don’t need to book full catering (I bought sandwiches there).

      Hope you have a great time in TdP!

    • Dave Ingelson (Baldpacker)

      I’m interested in this as well as we’re also planning to do the “O” in January. It doesn’t make sense to reserve all of the sites in advance if we’re not sure if we’ll be able to hike the circuit!

      • As mentioned already: there is such a high demand that I recommend booking in advance to be able to camp at those campsites. You need to understand that those regulations are needed to preserve the park. The limitation is completely new, this is why right now not everything is in place.

        Please get in touch with CONAF directly to ensure your spot on the circuit!

  • Das gilt wie gesagt für den Circuit Trek – am besten du wendest dich direkt an CONAF über die o.a. eMail-Adresse. Bedenke dabei aber das diese Regelung sehr neu ist und es noch kein wirkliches System für die Registrierung gibt, im Zweifelsfall kannst du dich erst in Pto.Natales dafür registrieren.

  • Pranav Tahiliani

    Hi Steve great set of information! I will be travelling to South America for 3 months and am planning to travel light (backpacking). Is it possible to do the “O” Circuit with no tents and food i.e eat and stay along the way in the refugios?
    Alternatively is it possible to do with a tent but eat along the way?

    I also read that you stayed in the Yagan house, is it safe to assume that I can keep a bag there in a locker if I have checked out for those 7-8 days?

    I’m planning to do it in December, any help would be much appreciated! thanks in advance.

    • 1. no it is not doable without a tent and food, you need to carry it around on the circuit.
      2. eating is only possible at refugios, only if they have capacity and only if you reserve in advance
      3. yes

      Cheers, have fun!

  • Hey,

    I covered that topic above. You take a bus to Puerto Natales..there are buses running every hour or so. Use your time in Puerto Natales to prepare and buy supplies (at least one night) and the take a bus to the park (there a a few bus companies).

    BusSur also provides a direct connection to the Park from Punta Arenas.

    Enjoy your trip!

  • 1) right now you need to do the reservation for the O at the CONAF office in Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales. You should decide in advance what to do because spots are filling up quickly and the capacity is limited.

    2) you’ll be fine going solo as you find hiking buddies along the way


  • Brandon Smetak

    Hey Steve, thanks for all the information. Do you know if there is anywhere to park a car inside the park, perhaps by Hotel Las Torres? Just curious if that is an option.

    • Yes there is parking at the Hotel Las Torres – more info about parking spots can be found on the official website!

  • Alexander Diaz

    Awesome post, Steve, my girlfriend and I are using this to plan are W trek this December. I have a question and was hoping you could give us some insight. We have already booked our flight and have made reservations at the free campos. We we’re hoping to stay at either Chileno or Los Cuernos but both locations are reserved on the dates we were planning on going… :( Any advice? We’re freaking out a little

    • Hey Alex,

      I recommend getting in touch with fantastico sur for those camps, your alternatives would be Camp. Frances (a longer hike the next day) and Camp Torres.

      Have a great hike!

  • Hm. I’d advice you to call them. Both companies offer their service in English and should be able to help you. The ultimate chance would be in Pto Natales where all of them have an office.

    Most of the regulations are fairly new so I think they are just overwhelmed by the amount of requests. I hope this get’s better the closer we get to high season :/

  • Sure – this is meant for the day hikers and day tour visitors. If you want to hike you’d need to sleep somewhere and camping is only allowed at the official campsites.

  • Gemma Warren

    Hi Steve, great detailed post. I was wondering if you know are there regular buses from Pudeto to Laguna amarga and if they would be working on the 1st January?