Torres del Paine is not only a national park but also a national gem of Chile. It has it all: glaciers, lakes, and mountains. I’ve had the time of my life there, and I want to help you to enjoy the most of it too. Where to stay, what to see, and what to pack? Read in and find out.
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1. Visiting Torres del Paine National Park
The living, breathing heart of the Chilean Patagonia is the Torres del Paine National Park. This is the place you must visit in Chile if nothing else. For me personally, this is the most beautiful NP in Chile. And I’m not the only one who thinks so, it was granted UNESCO protection in 1987 as a World Biosphere Reserve and declared the eighth wonder of the world in 2013.
Probably any picture you ever saw about Chile is from Torres del Paine. The massive mountains, turquoise blue mountain lakes, million-years-old glaciers…I’m usually not sentimental but I fell in love with this place. I dare say, it’s on the same level as Yosemite Park. The atmosphere reminds me of Norway fjords, just better. Besides the landscape, you can even spot a mountain lion, the great condor, or cute lama guanaco (that’s the only one from the trio who came to say hello when we were there). Plan at least 5 days for visiting Torres del Paine. We spent there almost a week, and still didn’t manage to see everything worth visiting.
How to get there?
To get to Torres del Paine, you need to arrive at Punta Arenas first. Because it’s a 3 100 km (1 900 mi) trip, I strongly recommend taking a plane on this one. The flight connections are almost as regular as buses and far more comfortable. Be sure to buy a ticket from LATAM airlines (Sky sucks).
From Punta Arenas, it’s 250 km (155 mi) to Puerto Natales and another 80 km (50 mi) to Torres del Paine NP.
Torres del Paine maps
The entrance fees differ in low and high season:
High season (October 1-April 30):
- Adults: 21 000 CLP (25 USD | 22 EUR)
- Children: 6 000 CLP (7 USD | 6.30 EUR)
Low season (May 1-September 30):
- Adults: 11 000 CLP (13 USD | 11.60 EUR)
- Children: 1 000 CLP (1.20 USD | 1 EUR)
2. Best hikes in Torres del Paine:
What to do in Torres del Paine? Well, it’s a national park, so the best way to explore the area is hiking. And there’s a lot to explore in Torres del Paine.
W Circuit Trek
- Difficulty: Hard
- Distance: 69.5 km (43 mi)
- Elevation gain: 2 730 m (8 957 ft)
- Time: Approximately 4/5 days
If you wish to spend multiple days in the park, try the W Circuit Trek. It’s the ultimate hike with all the highlights of the park: Las Torres, Los Cuernos, Francés Valley, Paine Grande, and Grey Glacier. The whole trail is well marked, full of camping sites, mountain hostels, and hotels, it’s up to you how close to nature you want to be. The best time to hike is from November to March when it’s summertime. The wind is always killing it, but the weather will be more lenient. The starting point is near the Hotel Las Torres.
Tip: Great accommodation option on W circuit Trek is EcoCamp. In a convenient location in the heart of the park with a hint of luxury. Crash in style and set off the trail comfortably the next morning.
- Difficulty: Easy
- Distance: 2.3 km (1.5 mi)
- Elevation gain: 189 m (620 ft)
- Time: Approximately 1 hour
Now something short and easy for everyone. The Condor Lookout offers magnificent 360° views of Lake Pehoe and the Los Cuernos peaks. It is a bit steep from the beginning, but one doesn’t get such stunning views for free, right? Despite what every guidebook about Patagonia says, we had beautiful sunny weather, so we enjoyed the views to the fullest.
Moreover, you can see the Southern Patagonia Icefield from there. A huge ice plain that remained from the last Ice Age. We had sunny weather, so we could actually see and hear the rumble of the ice cracking and falling in parts. That’s very exciting experience.
And now, the million-dollar question: Is it called Condor Lookout because there are condors or because you have the condor-view of the landscape? Both. In fact, the condors have their nest just below the rocky promontory. Here is a link to the starting point location in Google maps.
Las Torres Trek (out and back)
- Difficulty: Hard
- Distance: 17.4 km (11 mi)
- Elevation gain: 990 m (3 248 ft)
- Time: Approximately 6 hours
This is arguably the most famous trek in South America. It starts in front of Hotel Las Torres as well as the W Circuit Trek as it’s technicaly the initial part of it. The views along the way are meh, but the end of the road is jaw-dropping. The lake and the three “Towers of Paine” peaks are the most iconic landmarks of Torres del Paine, after which the NP was named.
First described as “Cleopatra Needles”, the three peaks are around 3 000 m (9 500 ft) above sea level, while you, standing at the bank of the lake are in some 850 m (2 788 ft). And why I’m telling you this? Well, because your brain goes mash potato in there. It’s not able to process such a huge difference in altitude. I was literally standing there in awe, speechless. That’s how amazing it is. Check the map at alltrails.com.
Fun fact: The three towers were actually never climbed because it’s too dangerous. With the incredibly strong winds, the climbers would become airborne before reaching the peak.
3. Best experience in Torres del Paine: Glacier Gray Kayaking
The absolutely best experience in Patagonia is Kayaking to Glacier Grey. It’s the only thing in Chile, which is advisable to book in advance because the navigation ferry to the base camp leaves just a few times a day. I must say, my bank account cried when I planned this trip, but it was worth it.
To get to the base camp with kayaks, you need to use the ferry. I searched everywhere to discover, there’s only one ferry company. And we all know what happens when there’s no competition. In other words, we spent a fortune just to get there.
The navigation is operated by the Lago Grey Hotel, where you need to check in one hour before the departure. Just for the record, the navigation lasts 45 minutes. We enjoyed every second of it.
- The ferry operates daily, but the times of the navigations vary according to season.
- Round ticket: 80 000 CLP (95 USD | 84 EUR)
- One way ticket: 70 000 CLP (83 USD | 74 EUR)
Once we got to the basecamp, we received the gear and kayak, attended the safety briefing, and headed out on the lake. This was one of the most intense experiences in my life. We floated around the massive glaciers among pieces of deep-blue ice sheets. The expedition lasts about 2.5 hours, but we savored every minute. The tour was informative and the surrounding jaw-dropping. I was amazed to find out that there’s no life in the lake. That’s because the glacier sediment prevents the sunlight.
Fun fact: Torres del Paine NP is bordered by the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. It’s the second-largest extra-polar ice field in the world (after Greenland) covering an area of 16,800 km2 (6,500 sq mi). Why I’m telling you this? It’s prohibited to get there, but there are the most wonderful views of it from Torres del Paine. Three of the park’s glaciers also belong to the Southern Patagonian Ice Field: Grey, Dickson, and Tyndall.
- Operating from October to April daily.
- Departures: 9 am | 2 pm | 5 pm
- 66 000 CPL/person (78 USD | 70 EUR)
Our Tips for Torres del Paine NP: 🥾 Pack for all seasons, there’s an incredibly strong wind and moody weather. 🚣 Book your kayak tour to Glacier Gray: Big Foot Patagonia Adventure 🚗 Rent a car for the transport in the park if you want to make the most of it. Otherwise, it’s too complicated to get anywhere.
4. Torres del Paine Weather: What to pack?
The entire Patagonia is notorious and extremely proud of its strong wind. That also applies to Torres del Paine. Every single guide tells you, it’s mostly windy and rainy in there. Very well, we prepared ourselves we’ll look like a Leo di Caprio in Revenant after a few hours hiking. That didn’t happen. I guess Karin saved our karma-reputation because we had a lovely sunny day with only a mild wind in Torres del Paine.
I’m sure you know that Chile lies in the southern hemisphere, so logically, the seasons are the exact opposite of European or US’s. Here’s a weather overview for Torres del Paine:
- Summer (December-March): 7-19 °C (45-66 °F).
- Winter (June-September): -3-5 °C (27-41 °F).
- The annual rainfall for Torres del Paine is 700 mm (27.5 in).
- The rainiest months are March and April.
- The extreme winds in Torres del Paine reach up to 180 kph (110 mph).
- Ironically the windiest months are in peak season: November-January.
That said, the weather in Torres del Paine is known to change from summer to winter in a matter of hours. So, you can never really predict exactly what it’s going to be like when you are there. I suggest packing for every occasion.
Must-have’s: Waterproof jacket, thermal underwear, gloves, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and lip balm.
It may sound funny, but lip balm and sunscreen saved my life in the mountains with windy weather.
5. Where to sleep? Torres del Paine best hotels
We decided to stay at Punta Arenas, as we planned only one-day trip to Torres del Paine. I always prefer to make a base in the center of the area and take trips from there. However, if you’re planning on exploring the Torres del Paine properly, you should find a hotel nearby.
As I already mentioned, when you’re doing the overall W circuit trek, there are many options right in the wilderness: glamping sites, refuges, yurts, lodges, and eco-camps. But allow me to recommend more comfortable alternatives:
Hotel Las Torres Patagonia
In the middle between the Blue Lagoon and Lago Grey lies Las Torres Hotel. Providing all-inclusive services inside the national park, it’s really one of the top options. As you can see from the name of the hotel, the wonderful Las Torres Trek I described above starts in front of this hotel. The all-inclusive bundle offers unlimited tour guide services, horse rides, free park entrance, transport from and to Punta Arenas, and… open bar. What more one could wish for?
- Prices: from 318 EUR (360 USD | 273 GBP), breakfast included
Río Serrano Hotel + Spa
Modern rooms, relaxing spa with a pool, horse riding tours, and Patagonian cuisine. All of that goes without saying in Río Serrano. It’s located near Lago el Torro with within a beautiful landscape scenery. There’s also a kids’ club and playground on site, so you could enjoy a good hike with no worries about children. The stuff goes an extra mile to make you feel welcome and comfy. Occasionally there are even movie nights and live music performances!
- Price: from 252 EUR (285 USD | 215 GBP), breakfast included
Hotel Simple Patagonia (Puerto Natales)
Most of the tourists prefer to stay in Puerto Natales, where you can enjoy the luxury of civilization and still get to Torres del Paine in a few hours. Simple Patagonia is a modern hotel with a hint of traditional feeling. There’s a restaurant offering traditional local cuisine and a bar on-site. The rooms are sunny and spacious with a sea view. Private parking and the accommodating staff go without saying.
- Price: from 180 EUR (205 USD | 154 GBP), breakfast included
The Singular Patagonia Hotel (Puerto Bories)
Only a 10-minute drive from Puerto Natales and a 2-hour drive to Torres del Paine lies the Singular Patagonia Hotel. Set at the foot of the mountain range with amazing views, this boutique hotel is particularly popular among travelers. After a long day on a hike, you can dive in one of the two swimming pools, pamper yourself in a spa or try the local cuisine in the renowned hotel restaurant.
- Price: from 393 EUR (445 USD | 334 GBP), breakfast included
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