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How to hike the W in Torres del Paine, Chile (Trekking Guide)

Torres del Paine
Torres del Paine

This post is also available in: German

The W in Torres del Paine is the most popular multi-day hike as you come to see most of the highlights of the park. If you have a look at the map of the trail you'll quickly realize why it is called the W trek. (updated: May 2016)

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I'll first explain the standard route and then give examples of longer & shorter itineraries. Please plan your trips always regarding to your physical ability and your experience. If you have no or just a bit of hiking experience keep it low and plan more time for each trek.

To prepare for trekking in Torres del Paine checkout my other post named ‘How to prepare for hiking in Torres del Paine' with information about transport, accommodation in Pto. Natales, Gear and prices.
Moreover I recommend a good health & travel insurance: the one I used from WorldNomads is perfect for this trekking trip as it covers also adventure activities!
 
Please make sure to reserve all camping spots in advance as this trek is the most popular one and visitor numbers increased during the last 3 years. Reservations for Campamento Torres, Italiano and Chileno are mandatory during the official high season from October – April.

Map of Torres del Paine
The green path shows the circuit trek – the red one is the ‘W' part you are supposed to trek.

1) The W in 5 days, 4 nights (100 km, 72.300 CLP)

This is the perfect schedule for a relaxed time in the park starting with a nice boat trip and the Glacier Grey, finishing with the sunrise at the Torres in the morning of the last day.

Day 1: Puerto Natales – Refugio Grey (11 km, 18.000 CLP + 15.000 CLP + 15.000 CLP + 6.000 CLP)

Glacier Grey
Glacier Grey
Leave Puerto Natales with the early bus (15.000 CLP return ticket) and get off at Pudeto (next stop after the park entrance – fee: 18.000 CLP) where you catch the catamaran to Paine Grande (15.000 CLP). Use the waiting time to visit the waterfall nearby (ask for the time of the boat before leaving).

After your arrival in Paine Grande start walking to the Refugio Grey – the path goes uphill, along the Lago Grey with some lookouts on the way. The whole trek will take around 3-4 hours so you'll arrive in the afternoon, can setup your tent (6.000 CLP) and have dinner. If you have some time left you can go down to the beach and maybe touch some icebergs.

Day 2: Glaciar Grey – Paine Grande (19 km, 7.000 CLP)

Campsite at Paine Grande
Campsite at Paine Grande

Get up early, leave your stuff at the camp and just take a daypack to hike up to Paso (at 8:00 a.m.). After around 1-1,5hours you'll reach a former campsite (signs with “no camping”) with a lookout nearby (you can see a small path which leads to the platform, hard to find!) – time to enjoy the view to the Glacier for a while (9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.). Now you can decide if you want to continue a bit more into the direction of Paso or keep it shorter. The good thing about the way to Paso: you'll have great views to the Glacier and see a bit more of the massive southern icefield. The downside: it's uphill and adds more km to your trek today (on top of the mentioned 19 km). Do not make all the way up to Paso as it is a pretty long walk (you have to get back to Paine Grande today on time to be fit for the next day).

After your return to Refugio Grey at around lunchtime (12 / 1 p.m.) pack your stuff and head back down (at around 1 / 2 p.m.) to Paine Grande where you spent the night (7.000 CLP), it will take around 3-4 hours – make sure to find a nice place next to the little hill to avoid a bit of the massive winds down there.

Day 3: Valle del Frances – Los Cuernos (28 km, 8.500 CLP)

Valle del Frances
Valle del Frances – lookout

Today is a long & tough day, so get up early again and walk (start at 8:00 a.m.) to Campamento Italiano (around 2 hours = 10 a.m.), leave your big backpack at the camp and head to the Mirador Frances with your daypack (take lunch, water, suncream). After 2,5 hours you'll reach the Mirador and have lunch (12:30 pm.m.). Go back down to Italiano, grab your backpack and keep going to Los Cuernos (03:00 / 3:30 p.m.). After another 2 hours you should reach the campsite (at 5:00/5:30 p.m. – 8.500 CLP).

Day 4: Los Cuernos – Campamento Torres (20 km, free)

Trail from Cuernos to Chileno
Trail from Cuernos to Chileno

On your last full day you have a nice hike ahead – starting flat and going up at the end to the base of the Torres. Start your walk around 9 a.m. to Campamento Chileno. The trail goes along the Lago Nordernskjöld, after around 3,5 hours you'll reach the shortcut to Chileno (it's hard to miss as there is a big sign saying “shortcut to Chileno”). Another 2 hours later you'll arrive at the Refugio Chileno (around 2:30 p.m. / 3 p.m.) you can make a short break and afterwards head uphill to the free campsite Campamento Torres, this will take around 1 hour. After setting up your tent use the chance to visit the Torres for the first time – it's a 45 min walk uphill. Remember that you can only stay there if you made a reservation beforehand!

Go to bed early today as you have to get up very early tomorrow to see the sunrise at the towers. Depending on the time of the sunrise (ask the rangers) set your alarm 1 – 1,5hours before and prepare a daypack with mat, sleeping bag and breakfast as well as rain jacket)

Day 5: Torres – Puerto Natales (16 – 23,5 km, 2.800 CLP optional)

The 3 Torres
The 3 Torres – definitely the highlight of the W in Torres del Paine!

In summer the sunrise is around 6 a.m., therefore leave the camp with your daypack at 5 a.m. to arrive at the Mirador of the Towers on time. Set up your little picnic and enjoy – if you are lucky you'll see amazing colors with a clear view, having the best breakfast ever. If you are not lucky like me you'll have rain and clouds – in that case you'll love the fact that you've been up here the day before. Don't make the fault to skip the way up when it is raining in the camp – the weather changes really quick and you might regret it later. Go for it anyway as it is your last day and it doesn't matter if your sleeping bag gets wet up there ;)

After your return take down your tent, pack your stuff and leave the camp at around 9 a.m. Head down to the Hotel Las Torres – it'll take around 3 hours to arrive there. Depending on the time you arrive (should be 12 p.m.) you can decide if you want to walk from the Hotel to the entrance (1 hour, 7,5km along the road) or pay 2.800 CLP extra to take the minibus which leaves around 2 p.m.
The Bus back to Puerto Natales leaves at 2:30 p.m. from the entrance as already described in the preparation Guide.

Congratulations! You've done the W in Torres del Paine and with that around 100 km by foot.

 

2) The W in 4 days, 3 nights (100 km, around 66.300 CLP)

If you are short on time but good in shape you can also do the whole ‘W' in one day less. For this you simply make Day 1 and Day 2 in one day. With this you have a real challenging program right at the start.

Day 1: Puerto Natales – Refugio Grey – Paine Grande (28 -30 km, 18.000 CLP + 15.000 CLP + 15.000 CLP + 7.000 CLP)
Leave Puerto Natales with the early bus (15.000 CLP return ticket) and get off at Pudeto (next stop after the park entrance – fee: 18.000 CLP) where you catch the catamaran to Paine Grande (15.000 CLP). Use the waiting time to visit the waterfall nearby (ask for the time of the boat before leaving).
After your arrival in Paine Grande leave your stuff at the camp and just take a daypack to hike up to the Refugio Grey – the path goes uphill, along the Lago Grey with some lookouts on the way. The whole trek will take around 3-4 hours so you'll arrive in the afternoon (4 p.m.). Keep walking in the direction of Paso.

After around 1-1,5hours you'll reach a former campsite with a lookout nearby – time to enjoy the view to the Glacier for a while (5 p.m.). Do not continue the way up to Paso as it is a pretty long walk (you have to get back to Paine Grande today to be fit for the next day).
After your return to Refugio Grey (6 p.m.) head back down to Paine Grande where you spent the night (7.000 CLP), it will take around 3 hours – make sure to find a nice place next to the little hill for your tent to avoid a bit of the massive winds down there.

Continue with Day 3 of the previous itinerary

 

3) The W in 6 days, 5 nights (100 km, around 72.300 CLP)

So you decided to take it easy and enjoy a day more in this amazing park? Great, I guess you'll not regret it and you've a bit more time for Lookouts and Pictures.
For stretching your stay it's the best to split the very tough 3rd day and change the stops afterwards a bit. Therefore start with the standard itinerary and continue on Day 3 with this:

Map of Torres del Paine
The green path shows the circuit trek the red one is the ‘W' part you are supposed to trek.
Day 3: Valle del Frances – Campamento Italiano (22,5 km, free)
You don't need to get up so early today (start at 10:00 a.m.) to Campamento Italiano (around 2 hours = 12 p.m.), leave your big backpack at the camp and head to the Mirador Frances with your daypack (take lunch, water, suncream). After 2,5 hours you'll reach the Mirador and have late lunch (14:30 pm.m.). Go back down to Italiano and get your tent ready for the night – as it is a free campsite you don't have to pay tonight.

Day 4: Campamento Italiano – Refugio Chileno (19 km, 8.500 CLP)
Again you can take it easy. Start your walk around 10 a.m. to Campamento Chileno. The trail goes along the Lago Nordernskjöld, after around 5,5 hours you’ll reach the shortcut to Chileno (it’s hard to miss as there is a big sign saying “shortcut to Chileno”). Another 2 hours later you’ll arrive at the Refugio Chileno (around 5:30 p.m.). Remember that you can only stay here if you made a reservation beforehand!

Day 5: Refugio Chileno – Campamento Torres (8 km, free)
As you see you have the most relaxed day ahead because you just move from one campsite to another. Have a slow start and head uphill, set up your tent and use the huge amount of time to spend some hours at the Torres in the afternoon. Also here you mostly need a reservation to camp.

Go to bed early today as you have to get up very early tomorrow to see the sunrise at the towers. Depending on the time of the sunrise (ask the rangers) set your alarm 1 – 1,5hours before and prepare a daypack with mat, sleeping bag and breakfast as well as rain jacket)

For Day 6 continue with Day 5 of the standard itinerary.

Consider: The free campsite Torres is very popular, therefore you can stay mostly only for one night there.

 

Come prepared!

I strongly recommend to get a good travel insurance as in almost every case your current health insurance won’t cover Chile. I used the travel insurance from WorldNomads which is perfect for this trekking trip as it covers a wide range of adventure activities including trekking up to 6,000m in the Standard Package. Use this tool to get a price for the exact time needed:
 

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!
 
Click here to learn more >>


 
Info:
During my time in Patagonia I hiked the W, the circuit and the Q. I hiked the “Q” in 2013 and did the circuit again in 2016, altogether I spent 3 weeks in the park. All times here are based on my experience (i hiked all the trails I'm writing about) – i would say I'm a bit faster in hiking than the average hikers but i made some stops in between for taking photographs and filming. The prices mentioned are for camping and per Person.
A good hiking map will be provided for free once you enter the park, you should consider getting a waterproof map beforehand for planning purposes.
 
This article is part of a whole series of free guides for Backpacking in South America.

 

You hiked the W in Torres del Paine as well? Tell us more!

If you have any tips or hints feel free to join the conversation – post a comment below and share your experience!
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  • Nice detailed information (the most comprehensive I have seen). I am a little slow at hiking – perhaps I will consider W in 6 or 7 nights…

    • Thanks – and you’re right, you should always follow your own ‘blues’. Fortunately the treks in Torres del Paine are really nice to walk and every day more you spend in the park is worth it!

  • The views are so gorgeous!

    • That’s true, Andrea – I loved it and made a lot stops in between to enjoy it!

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  • Very helpful description with some nice details and tips.
    I enjoyed reading it.

    • Thx Udo – I’m glad you found it helpful, the german version follows as well as the other itineraries!

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  • Jen

    I did the W in early December 2008 and this blog would have been really helpful – great attention to detail! I highly recommend taking your time, bringing your own food, camping, and enjoying the one of the most beautiful, natural, and pristine parts of Chile! You dont even have to bring water, the streams are clean and plentiful to fill up your water bottle. P.s. Stay a night or two after your trek in Punta Natales to relax loads of local cafes and hostals with delicious food. ERRATIC ROCK is a hostal & travel advice/camping rental, etc.is outstanding.

    • Thx Jen – I tried to put all information needed into this handy guide to help others in planning their trip. The Erratic Rock is a great hikers place – I’ve been there and had a few chats with fellow outdoor lovers, moreover they offer the free 3 o’clock talk where you’re able to get the latest information about the park & weather!

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  • I’m looking forward to it!

  • twoplank

    Hello Steve – Thank you so much for the wonderful write-up and videos. They are amazing and I cannot wait to get there next month. One question, if bringing our own tents and planning to stay at campsites, do we need to reserve the campsites in advance? Thanks so much, the information has been invaluable. Sincerely, Bowen

    • I never did and there should be no need – I was there in high season and never had any troubles!

  • crnikavbojc

    i was searching through web about those trails in Torres del Paine but more i searched, more i was confused.

    Thank you for this! Nice explained.. with all informations i need.

    Brilliant. :)

  • Brian

    Just back from a memorable experience on the “W”. You were with us the whole time as I printed out your itinerary/advice for the 5 day/4 night. We would often ask, “What would Steve do?” ;) I wanted to share a couple of things from our trip: 1. An alternative itinerary for 5 days/4 nights and 2. Inform future backpackers of TDP about Big Foot Tours at Glacier Grey. (Disclaimer: my wife and I were unconditioned/unexperienced backpackers, who were slow, and had 35 lb packs.) On day 2, we decided to push past Refugio Paine Grande to Campamento Italiano. Refugio Paine Grande was a great stop for snacks and rest, but the camp was crowded and windy from the lake. Waking up at Campamento Italiano made the day hike to Valle del Frances way more enjoyable. After our day hike to Valle del Frances, we stayed at the brand new (Dec. 1, 2014) Refugio Frances, which is about 1 hour from Campo Italiano. The next day we decided to push it to Campamento Torres, which made for a long hiking day. However, we were able to rest at both Campamento Cuernes and Refugio Chileno before arriving late at Campamento Torres. We went to bed with rain and woke at 3:45 AM to a starry sky and a picture perfect sunrise unveiling the towers. As for the Big Foot Tours at Glacier Grey, it is a company that provides kayaking and ice hiking/climbing on the glacier. We only learned about it when we got to the camp, so I don’t know how expensive it is or any details. However, in hindsight, I think I would have stayed an extra day in the park and experienced Glacier Grey by kayak or ice climbing/hiking and eliminated the mad rush to the Perito Moreno Glacier … call me crazy. Thanks again Steve!

    • That. is. amazing! Thanks so much & also for the great advice you gave here to improve this guide with your new tips (great to see they opened another refugio and finished the work at Italiano!).

      You made my day, Brian. Thanks for your lovely feedback :)

  • Hi Michael – sorry for the late response!

    It is pretty much as you intend to do – just show up there and get everything sorted. Though I recommend to bring at least some own gear to save some money.

    When you stopover in Punta Arenas you could consider to spend a day there and head to the “zona franca” which is a toll free zone where you can buy especially outdoor gear for good prices (apart from that South America is quite expensive if you want quality equipment).

    Bus tickets can be bought at most hostels, I’d suggest a day in Pto Natales to buy your supplies in the big supermarket. No need for reservations at the campsites.

    For the rest just follow my advice in the “How to Prepare for hiking Torres del Paine” guide which I linked to at the beginning of this article.

    One final note: I’ve done a lot of trekking and especially the W is not really a big deal in matters of difficulty ;)

    • Michael

      Thank you so much Steve! I appreciate it all of your advice. Do you
      have any suggestions of specific gear you would take vs rent? Also, can you find propane gas blends in Puerto Natales (my stove is tiny if I can find fuel)? I have debated just taking my own backpack loaded with gear because I know it so well and it’s light and reliable. However, when I traveled alone to Peru I just took a small backpack carry-on for two weeks and love traveling light. My gut says to just rent it all and go light but this is a dream trip and I want to be comfortable.

      • I don’t know about the special stove you have – I just had gas cans and a mount to put on which was quite cheap and easy to handle.

        I took all my own gear – I think you could consider renting the tent and maybe some walking sticks – I’d not feel very comfortable in a rented sleeping bag :/

  • Laura Hodges

    Hi Steve, echoing others thank you so much for an actual comprehensive guide on how to tackle the W trek. We are never particularly organised when travelling so we have just looked at booking places in the campsite (we are hiring or bringing all camping equipment) and the two owned by vertice say they are not available – we are planning to trek from 26th – 30th November West to East. You write that there is no need to book? Is this right, I’m not sure what the protocol is if you turn up and there’s no space. Where do you stay then?

    Thank you for all your help thus far and in the future!

    • Thanks Laura!

      I assume that the answer from Vertice is related to the availability of tents or spaces to rent from them. Those are indeed limited – if you take your own tent there should always be space to put it as the campgrounds are quite huge. Even in high season I always found a spot to camp.

      If you want to be on the safe side and get the best spots you should try to head to your next campground early in the morning to ensure early arrival.

      Sure – if you want to use the tents which are already setup at the spots you should always check with the company who is renting it. Especially at the W it can get crowded in high season. Then you should also check with the Refugios if they can accommodate you.

      Have fun trekking there!

  • Bella Gray

    Hi! I have a little question. So I have booked the camp sites for my w trek already for the middle of december. I am a bit unsure about trekking it because I will be trekking by myself and don’t know if this is unsafe because of the weather conditions. Should I consider staying in the Refugio’s or just booking something when I turn up to p natales? I don’t want to have to have to carry a tent around so will it be better for me to just organize something once I arrive there?
    Also thanks for all the tips!

    • Hey Bella, first of all the W is not really a very tough hike..so you should be fine. You’ll also meet fellow hikers on the way as it is the most popular route. Beside Refugios you also have the chance to rent a tent (you can book it in advance via the website of the operator). Generally you can also just turn up in Natales and organize most of the stuff there. Have fun!

  • Hi Leo – if you can’t make the early bus then you won’t be able to get to Refugio Grey as you need to take into account the bus ride to the park, the boat ride…and the 11km hike. This won’t work – so you need to figure out another itinerary (maybe hike my itinerary backwards – but please check with the boat times to get back to Pto.Natales on the last day!)

  • Hi Sen – here are my answers:

    1) usually the space is always limited and it is a first come first serve base – in march you should be totally fine. Even in February I never had problems but arrived also mostly quite early with my moderate hiking pace.

    2) the one from fantastico sur is located at the hotel las torres down in the valley – the free one is called campamento torres and is operated by CONAF, it is located only 40mins away from the highlight of the park

    3) I haven’t done that one but indeed there are companies who offer this. I also know that the Hotel Las Torres offers a shuttle service for guests to El Calafate. Here you can find more info: https://www.tripadvisor.co.nz/ShowTopic-g670171-i12474-k7508911-Tranferring_between_TdeP_and_El_Calafate_specific_companies-Torres_del_Paine_National_Park.html

  • Mags Collins

    Hi Steve. Just wondering how easy / difficult it is to navigate the routes. Are they signposted or do you need maps and compasses. Just don’t know if my compass will work in South America.

    We will buy a map but just wanted to know if it is quite straightforward to find the various routes.

    Thanks
    Mags

    • It is super easy, everything is well marked..it is actually more difficult to get lost than it is to stay on the path ;)

  • Pierre-Philippe Carle-Mossdorf

    Hi Steve,

    Great post, not easy to find reliable information on w trail. What’s the difficulty level of the w trail? I’ve looked at the denivelation and it doesn’t seem that bad so I would say mostly easy to medium in some sections. The trail doesn’t look that technical from looking at the pictures.

    I’m looking at doing it in 3 days of hiking.

    Day 1 get to Paine Grande from Puerto Natales.
    Day 2 Paine Grande to Paso John Grander (with day pack) and back.
    Day 3 Paine Grande to Mirrador Frances to Refugio Chileno
    Day 4 Refugio Chileno to Base of the towers to Las Torres (catch bus to El Calafate)

    Is this realistic? My estimation is that I’m looking at 10 hours of hiking per day and I’m looking to rent tent (do you know if they are good?) and mat at refugio, the rest I will carry as well as food.

    • Your schedule is a bit to tight, especially for the 3rd day. You are right about the level but you should take the distances into account. Also you might want to take pictures!? Maybe you could try to do a bit more on Day 3 and not hike up all the way to Paso (only halfway gives you great views too).

      The tents are good but limited – check with the links provided to reserver your spot ahead!

      • Pierre-Philippe Carle-Mossdorf

        So i did the w and can confirm that 3 days is a bit thight, i ended up doing it in 4 days. Although I have to say that the part from lago grey to paso camp is stunning, you can stop at mid point after the second bridge but the other part i think is worth it as you walk on the edge of the the mountain and not in the forrest. Also brittano lookout is a must.

        • Cool – thanks for coming back and sharing your experience! Sounds like you had a great time & maybe you come back one day to try the whole circuit ;)

  • Vanessa

    I will be hiking the W trek during the last week of march. Do you think the above information would still be applicable? And does the catamaran, and bus schedules change? I have email these sources and it has been slow awaiting a response.

    • I updated the information recently – so it should still be the same. The schedule of the catamaran can be found on the website which i linked above. Have fun!

  • Hi Nick,

    at the time you want to do the W it shouldn’t be a problem as the high season is over by then. Be aware of the fact that you are only allowed to camp in the camp spots, wild camping is strictly forbidden! Have fun hiking there.

    • Debra

      Hi Steve I am planning the W around Christmas. I am wondering if the buses will be running the 24, 25, 26? Or if you can be on the trail during those dates. Thankyou you so much!

      • Sure you can – make sure to consult the bus companies in Puerto Natales for the exact departure times!

  • Rowan Harrity

    Any advice for someone doing this trek in the dead of winter? (Late July and Early August)

  • Margaret L

    We are planning to hike the W the end of Jan 2017. What are the Pros/Cons of going East to West as you suggest vs. West to East?

    • Hey,

      1) There are no pro’s and con’s – you can do as you wish
      2) There are free campsite, I just added information about how to reserve those to that section in the “how to prepare for hiking torres del paine” article (linked at the top of this one)
      3) You’d need to hike to the next campsite
      5) Paid sites should be reserved as well, it is the same situation as in the free sites
      4) Get in touch with them via eMail or call them

      Please consider that I only provide information here but I’m not affiliated with any of the mentioned companies nor CONAF. I hope I could help you planning your trip!

      • Margaret L

        Thanks!

  • Julia Wunsch

    Hi! My friend and I are doing the W in 4 days, and 3 nights December 11-14, 2016. We are planning on going west to east, beginning at Lago Grey. Our plan was to camp for all 3 nights, first at Refugio Paine Grande, then at Los Cuernos, and the third night at Refugio Chilenos. However, Fantastico Sur only books campsites at Paine Grande and Los Cuernos that include full board, making the price per night for a campsite very expensive, around $90 US Dollars per night! Was this the case when you booked these 2 campsites, and what company did you book through? Additionally, how did you book your free campsites through CONAF? I have not been able to find an official website where we can reserve the free sites. Thanks for your help, and I hope to hear from you soon!

    • Emily

      I had the same problem! very confusing…

    • Hey, please consider that I’m not affiliated in any way with fantastico sur, vertice nor CONAF..so I can’t really give you information about their capacities or why they only offer certain packages.

      Finally a reservation system for the free campsites has ben implemented. I already updated the info in the post above :)

      Have fun hiking TdP!

    • lisa

      We are planning on going from West to East as well this weekend. I just got word they are only allowing hiking from East to West. Have you heard of this?

      • jj

        Where did you hear this? I just booked campsites for west to east and didn’t realize how expensive it would be with the CONAF sites all full.

        • lisa

          It’s not true. I was able to hike from west to east with no issues. I just finished the hike last week (nov 2016).

          • Thanks for sharing your experience, lisa. The restriction of direction only applies for the full circuit!

      • Thiago Moulin

        That might be true for the O trail (think I read something about that while doing my research).

  • Emily

    Hello! Thank you so much for this info, my boyfriend and I are planning on following this exact route when we trek the W in December. One question I have – when I attempted to book camping at the Los Cuernos refugio campsite (on the fantastico sur website), the only options available are camping + full board, which works out to be around $180 USD per person, per night! as in there is no option just to camp, as it says in your itinerary. Is there another place to camp that you would recommend on the third night of the trek, if we are working off the 4N/5D itinerary you have provided?

    • Hi Emily,

      please get in touch with the company directly as they run the campsites & spaces are limited. Another option could be the newly opened campamento frances.

      Have fun in Chile!

      • Emily

        Cheers, will do :)

  • Hey Ben,

    there are regular buses from Punta Arenas to Pto Natales at that time, please check with the local bus companies (e.g. Bus Sur).

    Gas – As far as I remember the shops were still open at that time, if not you could head to the Hostel “Base Camp” and ask if you can buy gas there (they also give away half filled gas cans for free).

    Enjoy your trip!

  • Vahid G

    Hi Steve, I can just echo what others have said, that your posts and videos are really amazing! We’ve been very inspired and are now really looking forward to our trip. I’d like to know what you think about going from Italiano to Torres in 1 day. We want to take the free campsites as the Refugio campsites require one to take “fullboard” which becomes quite expensive!

  • Owen Reed

    Hi and thank you for this great guide!!! I am booking my sites for the w trek now. On the fantastico website, I can’t find the campsite for 8,500 pesos. I can only see “platforms” including food for 82$US. I don’t want anything fancy, just a spot to drop my tent. It also says you can’t cook there. Am I looking at the wrong part of the website? I’m looking under camping and all that loads is the 82$US one, could you please send me a link to the website for the camping spaces at 8,500pesos? Not to put the pressure on you, but I need to get this done ASAP. Also, please let me know if there is anything you would like me to look out for for your blog, it is incredibly helpful to have people like you helping out other trekkers and if there is anything I can do to add to your blog, please don’t hesitate to ask, I’d be happy to contribute to this awesome blog!! Thanks Steve!! Keep it up!

    • Hey Owen…it seems you’re a bit late for getting the cheap camping spots as the demand right now is very high. Try to look into alternatives by planning a longer stretch at one of the days (e.g. you could do Francés or Italiano instead of los Cuernos). Have fun trekking!

      • Owen Reed

        Hi Steve,
        Thanks for the reply! I ended having to get a bed in Curenos as Italiano, Frances, Cuernos were all booked up. I have a few tips to share, but they unconventional…please feel free to delete my comments if you don’t want your readers using these tips. First let me explain what happened on my trek and shy I have no problem doing things a bit shady.
        I met a lady in my hostel who was doing the w at the same time as me. The only difference was that she had rented tents at the sites and booked meals so as not to carry all her gear…personally, I wanted to “do it myself” (even though this involves booking sites in advance). The only day where we had differences were: Cuernos, I had had to book a bunk bed (55$US!) and she had a tent set up for her…we asked about trading as I prefer to sleep outside and they had no problem with that..so all was good. The following night, I had had to book at the torres campsite near the park entrance and she a reservation at Chileano. We asked the guys at Cuernos if it would be possible for us to share her tent as we had both already paid, this would mean an easier trek in the morning for sunrise at the Torres. We arrived at chileano and all was good until they mentioned that I had to buy food from them, Supper, breakfast and a take away lunch…for 41000 pesos (80$Can, most of what I spent to date on the trip), I explained that I had my food and didn’t even need to cook, it was just a can of tuna and bread for supper, oats and powdered milk for breakfast, no fire or any put out for them. I was told no and had to hike down to the bottom, get up at 1:30am, come back up, met my friend at Chileano and proceed to the top. Not the worlds worst situation, but really made me feel like all they cared about was the $$$ (these are private, monopoly companies remember), so my tips are how to pay as little as possible (we should have just lied, said nothing and we could have shared her tent easily). So, when booking, reserve for one person, don’t bother paying for two, they won’t know or check. Also every site I slept in, never once checked my sticker on my tent, so anyone can just drop their tent and sleep for free in the pay sites. I thought the hike was great, but the owners of the properties were clearly in it for a cash grab with no concern for their property respecting the environmental rules, ie garbage not properly disposed of, human waste not properly disposed of…in short these places should be shut down, they are destroying what is a gorgeous parcel of land (they market it as the 8th wonder to increase tourism, with no means of handling the overflow of people, garbage, and human waste that I saw being dumped into a river), so do what you can to screw them out of money, they are already making a killing but seem to feel they have the right to squeeze out more at the expense of the environment (most trekkers I met were flabbergasted when I should them a picture of an employee dumping garbage/waste). Thanks again for a great blog…I am going back to complete the O, this time with no reservations and no money on me…hopefully I won’t get kicked out, but I’m leaving the country directly so I don’t care what they say.

        • Thanks for sharing your experience. It is indeed a big problem that tourism increased so much in the past 3 years. This is why I try to have an impact with this blog and tell people how to behave in an environment like this. The whole W is beautiful but very packed and at times it can be frustrating..this is a whole different on the circuit route as it is way calmer and you’ll trek with people who also care about the nature and behave accordingly.

          One thing: they actually check the stickers of your tent at night, this is when they go through the camp with a tiny torch light and make notes about tents without stickers!

          You should really go for the O – it’s the best option. Next time I’ll head down there I try to do the O in winter with some local friends who are rangers in the Park ;)

          • Owen Reed

            Good to know about the sticker checkers…I’ll let you know if I have any problems on the O trail….still going without trying to pay….would happily pay if I felt the money was going to protecting the park, but that is clearly not the case. Please post my bail if I don’t write back in a week! lol

          • jj

            Thanks for the notes, let us know how it goes!
            I was also disappointed that we had to pay extra for food, when all we wanted was a campsite at el chileano (or torres). I guess a lighter load will be nice.

            I might have tried your tip to of only booking 1 person tents, but they probably would notice some people not getting food. Fantasico Sur told me they are doing it to limit the number of people, but I agree they are just using their monopoly to make more.

            Did you try to sneak into the free Campamento Torres at the top? I’m guessing there’s space for more tents, they just don’t want to overbook by a large margin. But if they are checking stickers…

            Here’s my question – for our middle night we could only book 1 tent at Camp Frances. We booked a placeholder spot at the large Camping Central (Torres) 4 hours away. We hope that will get us into the park since we have all a spot for all night. I wonder how hard it will be to sneak our extra tent into a campsite close to Frances. Would they force us to hike all the way to Central since that’s what is reserved?

          • Owen Reed

            well im not admin, so I dont know that it’s my place to say. here’s what I saw. I did not stop at frances (our route was sleep at grey, sleep at grande paine, sleep at cuenos, sleep at chileano/torres (bottom near the entrance), so I could not say with any degree of certainty about sneaking a tent into Frances, not enough room to share the tent booked? In curenos, the tents that I saw were on platorms, so sneaking would be difficult and obvious (unless there was an area for tents on the ground that I didn’t notice). I did join my friend in the dinning hall and just said I was not eating, got me a confused look from the waitress, but no more than that. My suggestion would be to sleep in the same tent as much as possible as it is far less obvious. I have no idea about the sticker checking….if they did check and make notes, no one questioned me about it on the 3 nights that I slept in my tent (reserved, paid for and checked in, but in my own tent, no way for them to know who was sleeping in it or who had paid etc.) My thoughts on this are to go sneaky as much as possible, wait for the trails to be closed (one couple did see a Puma on one of the trails at night), so you can claim fear of being eaten by a wild animal and that should keep you in your tent til morning. Even if you get kicked along, they would need a ranger to accompany you the whole way to the entrance or exit (you can claim lost passport or something to avoid giving up who you are). Bottom line, they are greedy people and deserve to lose as much $ as possible, please do obey all other park rules, no litter, no smoking, stay on the trails, no fires, etc. The only thing I would do against the rules is not pay for my camping, but still use good judgement and camp only in designated areas. Hope this is of some kind of help…..just burns me that they take such a great place and turn it into a money scheme…or that there are hikers who don’t respect the awesomeness that they are getting to see by camping outside grounds, littering or generally doing other stupid things. Enjoy the hiking and please let the rest of the forum know how it turns out. The best thing is to let as many people responsibly enjoy the park while doing minimal damage to keep it going for 100’s of years to come! Stay safe!

          • jj

            Hi Owen,
            Were you able to do the O trek? Especially curious on your methods of camping.

  • Kevin Beach

    Thanks for the post! I will be hiking the W in a couple of weeks, and unfortunately left my hiking boots at home. Do I need a pair of hiking boots or will my Nike running shoes be okay? I am in good hiking shape.

    • Hiking boots would be better but for most parts of it you should be fine with your Nike if it isn’t raining ;)

      • Kevin Beach

        Thanks Steve!

  • Kiui

    Hi Steve!
    Thank you for sharing your experience. Could give me your advice on my issue? I’m planning the W from west to east but… I didn’t check bus timetable nor catamaran’s when booking my flight, and I will land on the 20th morning (9am) and leave on the 25th (10am).
    It means that I can take the bus in the afternoon and the boat at 6pm. Maybe I can start the trek before the night?
    I’m not used to trek, I wanna be realistic in my daily walk distance. I checked your suggestions and also some comments, but not sure what’s the best. Could you help me on that?
    Thank you in advance :)

  • James

    a fantastic guide for those looking to hike the W. thank you! we hiked 6 days/5 nights staying at Grey, Paine Grande, Italiano, Cuernos, and Torres, making only adjustments to the itinerary above. we parked a rental car at Estancia Cerro, near Hotel Las Torres (where the trek ends), and took a bus to the Pudeto catamaran to begin the journey. we got really lucky with the weather and I have to say it was a near-perfect experience. though, it should be noted in the strongest terms: RESERVATIONS ARE MANDATORY, for campsites or whatever, at all locations mentioned (including Italiano, and particularly at Torres and Cuernos). we watched multiple people get turned away in November at every stop along the way. have fun!

    • Thank you very much for sharing your experience, James!

  • Thanks for your valuable feedback Josh! Please keep in mind that this is the first season with the booking system and the visitor numbers are increasing each year – therefore I’d like to recommend the reservation as I don’t want people to plan the trek and then having a bad experience because the got turned away (which is actually happening in some cases) – in the low season and maybe also the shoulder season this is another story ;) Great to hear you had such an amazing experience!

  • Richard Flores

    Hello. I am visiting South America and I’m giving myself 2 weeks to visit Patagonia area. 1 week in TDP Chile and 1 week in Calafete/Chalten area Argentina. I’m traveling on my own and I’m a newbie at hiking/trekking, but I am a long distance runner and swimmer and I’m in reasonable good shape. I have done some uphill hiking and I actually really enjoy it. I decided not to the O and go for W. And I also decided to use refugios instead of camps, given my newbie trekker status, I didn’t want to overdo it. I decided to go with Vertice Patagonia and it seems I will be doing the hike from East to West. I have a few questions:
    1. Since I’m a newbie hiker/trekker, seems the biggest challenge will be the weather conditions and being prepared for that. Hearing about people being blown in the wind and getting knocked out makes me a bit nervous. Have I gone over my head going here? I heard bringing poles is a must for stability. Any other suggestions on dealing with harsh weather conditions.
    2. I think you recommend West to East route, do you have any suggestions on how I can make the best of the East to West route. I already booked with Vertice and don’t want to redo the bookings (since it took forever to just get this booking).
    3. I will have an extra day either before or after the W. trek. Do you recommend staying in the park? or staying in Puerto Natales? What is another activity I should do besides the W trek.
    3. You have any tips on traveling to El Calafete to El Chalten area? Do I need to book buses in advance, or are there many buses that travel in between. Seems both are pretty popular areas and I may be able to wait and buy a bus ticket when I’m in Puerto Natales.
    4. You have done an amazing job covering TDP here. You have any suggestions on El Calafete/El Chalten. Given that I’m a newbie I don’t plan to trek any glasiers or anything, I probably will look for a tour that takes me to see Perito Moreno Glacier and Mt. Fitz Roy.
    Thank you so much for your great blog from a newbie hiker/trekker!

  • Ivan Wood

    4 of us from Canada booked to go to Patagonia in Aug 2016 and from all the information available there was no requirement to reserve camping sites in the park however we now find out that the rules changes on 16 Oct 2016 (start of the season) and you now need to have reservations. The park web site is all in Spanish, so does not help, however the booking site is in English but when we enter our dates it says that there is not a single site available during the week we wanted, which I find difficult to believe.

    The park refers you to two private sites neither of which indicate any availability so we can only hope that some of the reservations get cancelled or were pre booked on spec by tour companies.

    • Hi Ivan,

      sorry to hear that the dates you are looking into are booked already. As stated in my preparation guide the visitor number increased rapidly so I recommend reserving well in advance as there is a restriction on the number of people who are allowed to get in for a good reason: to protect this unique park.

      Even if you don’t get to hike the W I can suggest doing day hikes or tours – there are several options to do so:
      1) Hike to the Torres, starting from Hotel Las Torres (in the morning)
      2) Take the early boat from Pudeto to Paine Grande to the lookout of the Grey glacier (about half way to refugio grey), take the late boat back (please check with the boat times)
      3) Full Paine Tour – this is a great full day tour by bus which takes you to some spectacular viewpoints you wouldn’t see when hiking (the popular images you see on books and all over the web)
      4) Laguna Azul
      5) Grey Glacier by boat

      If you stay inside the park you have all options as you are not tied to the bus times for the transfer to and from Puerto Natales. If you stay in Puerto Natales I’d highly recommend the full paine tour and the day hike to the Torres!

      An alternative would be to go to El Chaltén where you have numerous great hiking options. Nevertheless I think Torres del Paine is worth it even with the day hikes and tours I mentioned, I’ll also write about those more in-depth in the future.

      Hope you have a fantastic trip!

  • Hi Gillian,

    bummer to hear this. The glacier is a great feature of the park but also the French valley and the Torres are worth the visit, not to mention the lakes and mountains around!

    An option to see the glacier would be a boat trip from Hotel Lago Grey (see my preparation guide), it is an expensive but wonderful day trip which brings you up close to the glacier itself (you can still do it afterwards). I also always recommend the full paine tour by bus to see the several impressive viewpoints you don’t get to see when doing the W or O.

    Have fun hiking!

  • Aria

    I am planning on going in 9 days and everything including the camping parts of the refugios are completely full…so am I screwed and can’t do the W since backcountry camping isn’t possible?

  • PopperWasGreat

    Hi Steve, and thank you for this guide!
    I am planning my trip to TDP, and I wanted to know if you think that I can make it in one day from Campamento Italiano to Campamento Torres.
    Avoiding Refugio Chileno, basically…
    I don’t really think that sleeping on wooden platforms is a good idea! :D

  • Courtney R

    Question…are there penguins in this park? If yes, where would I likely see them and what time of year? Also, thank you for this incredible blog. I just downloaded your e-book!

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