The Complete Guide to Hiking Torres del Paine

UPDATED SEPT. 2018: A lot has changed since we visited Torres del Paine in 2015. Trekkers doing the O and Q circuit can only hike counterclockwise, and all campsites and refugios need to be booked in advance including the free CONAF campsites. Note that Campamento Torres will still be closed during the 2018/2019 season due to maintenance. Read on for more details.

After several months of indulging in amazing luxury experiences in Peru and Argentina, Tony and I were craving a good challenge and decided to hike the O circuit around the Torres del Paine Massif. It had been way too long since we did a multi-day trek on our own, so hiking Patagonia without a guide was just what the doctor ordered. It was time to hit the trails and test our physical limits. This time, no organized lodges, no guides or porters, no prepared meals. We wanted a real adventure to rediscover our sense of independence. Just a tent, food, and enough time to explore 130 km of wilderness. We know this is not for everyone, so in our Torres del Paine itinerary below, we are also including options for guided tours.

Torres del Paine National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is a household name among serious trekkers. Even if you have never heard the name, you’ve certainly seen the world-famous park in advertisements. Its epic, low-altitude landscapes represent everything that makes Patagonia so unique: rugged granite peaks, windswept grasslands and towering forests as well as rivers and lakes fed by massive glaciers and ice fields. Granted, most of Patagonia fits that description, but what makes this park so unique is its extensive trail system and convenient set-up for trekkers of every budget and mindset.

Torres del Paine National Park

Torres del Paine trekking routes include everything from one-day outings to Las Torres, the three granite peaks after which the park was named, to multi-day treks around the Paine Massif. Several of these trekking routes are consistently ranked among the best in the world. There’s a great deal of information on trekking Torres del Paine online, so in addition to our itinerary, we are including links to other detailed itineraries of the various treks at the end of this post. But before you skip down to go through each Torres del Paine itinerary, we think there are some important details that have been left out of many reports, so stick with us for a second.

Overview of Torres del Paine Hiking Routes

Before we get down to details, we should probably give a quick overview of what Parque Nacional Torres del Paine has to offer. Perhaps the most famous trek is the 5-day W route, named for the W-shape of the trail when traced on a map. The W trek takes in the southern half of the Paine Massif exploring the stunning Grey Glacier, the gorgeous French Valley and – drum roll – Las Torres.

The more challenging 8-day O trek winds along the northern side of the massif, crosses the John Gardner Pass and then takes in all the attractions of the W trek. The 9-day Q trek is similar to the O trek but adds an additional day along the Grey River southeast of the massif. Both the O and the Q trek see a lot fewer trekkers, which makes for a much more genuine experience. Ultimately, we chose the O circuit because we wanted to explore the whole massif and we liked the fact that the O trek culminated with a sunrise visit to Las Torres.

Treks in Torres del Paine National Park, ChileGoogle Image: Torres del Paine Map – O route: red; W route: yellow; Q route: red/blue

Torres del Paine Offers Options for Every Budget

In addition to the extensive trail system, the park is set up for every budget imaginable. Visitors can hike independently, hire a personal guide and porter, or do the trek as part of a tour. It all depends on your personal hiking style; we chose to trek on our own because we wanted the freedom to set our own pace and leave open the possibility for last minute changes. (We should point out that the new policy requiring visitors to pre-book every campsite makes last-minute changes virtually impossible.)

Similarly, there’s a good range of accommodation and food options to choose from. We camped the entire time and cooked our own food, which is obviously the cheapest and most independent way to do the trek. (Our 8-day trek cost US$350 for the two of us which included our return transfer from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine, entrance fee to the park, food, camping fees, and rental equipment.) Others may choose a room and full board in lodges or a combination of camping and lodging. Quite often, this is determined by the trekking route itself. On the popular W trek, hikers have a good range of choices. But there are stretches on the O and Q routes along the northern part of the loop, where camping is the only option (Serón, Los Perros, and Paso).

Our Torres del Paine Highlights

Successfully hiking the Torres del Paine circuit independently was perhaps our greatest highlight. It was clear that most full-circuit hikers were half our age and most of the hikers who were our age or older were on organized tours with extra support. Although we had done several much longer treks, this is the first time we carried 10 days of food. (We wanted to carry extra provisions in case we had to wait out bad weather crossing the pass.) Yes, it was physically demanding schlepping our 35-pound backpacks through deep mountain valleys, up steep steel ladders, and across wobbly suspension bridges, but boy was it worth it! Here are a few other highlights:

  • Getting up close and personal with a mountain lion (Andean puma). The footage in the video above was shot from a very safe distance, but our puma encounter ended up being much more hair-raising than that. (Read more in our post Close Encounters.)
  • Chilling at Campamento Dickson, the O circuit’s most beautiful (and spacious) camp ground. The setting on Lake Dickson with an eye-popping view of Glacier Dickson made for the perfect camping experience. Our motley band of trekking comrades even gathered for a sunset picnic and a blue-sky breakfast on the pebble beach from where we soaked in the mirror reflections of pristine Patagonia.
  • Hiking through vast stretches of towering Patagonian forest along the O route between Campamento Dickson and Los Perros. Much of Torres del Paine’s once grand forests have been destroyed by forest fires caused by careless campers. While the W trek does have small stretches of intact forest, much of the trail passes through stark tree graveyards reminding visitors just how slowly Patagonian forest recovers.
  • Descending from the John Gardner Pass (1,240 m / 4,070 ft) with a 180 degree panorama of the mind-blowing Grey Glacier. It just goes on forever. Grey Glacier is fed by the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the same ice field that feeds glaciers Upsala, Perito Moreno and Viedma in Argentina. Many consider this the highlight of the entire trek.
  • Making our way up the insanely beautiful French Valley… with perfect weather. Many trekkers rush in and out of this spectacular side valley after arriving at Campamento Italiano in the late afternoon. If the weather looks good, we highly recommend taking an extra day to explore the valley. At the head of French Valley, we had stunning views of Cerro Catedral and Cerro Cota 2,000.
  • Meeting cool trekkers from around the world. While we mostly hiked alone during the day, the refugios and campgrounds were filled with fascinating people exploring South America. Swapping stories over mediocre camping meals definitely made our evenings.
  • Basking in the golden glow of a perfect sunrise at the base of Las Torres, the three granite towers which most people consider the highlight of Torres del Paine National Park. Again, crystal-clear skies made this an unforgettable experience. We just sat there in our sleeping bags munching on breakfast Snickers bars as we enjoyed the show with our group of trekking friends.

Grey Glacier

And Now for Some Important Pointers…

While it’s easy to find online information about the must-see places in Torres del Paine, it gets trickier when it comes to actual advice that makes your trip easier and ultimately more successful. So here are a few important tidbits you may not find elsewhere online to help you plan your trip.

Book Your Torres del Paine Accommodation Far in Advance

Because of the sheer number of visitors, we highly recommend you book your accommodation and meals as early as 6 months in advance. Prepare yourself, prices are shockingly high for what you get. All lodging and meal options along the W, O, and Q trek can be booked through CONAF – the governing body of Chile’s national parks – and two private companies, Fantastico Sur and Vertice Patagonia. Fantastico Sur operates everything in the eastern part of the park and Vertice Patagonia everything on the western side.

When we did our trek in February 2015, only CONAF’s free Campamento Torres required a reservation. All other campsites could be booked on the spot. This has changed. Starting in 2016, advanced reservations are required for all campsites and refugios before you are allowed to enter the park. Unfortunately, this means you have to stick to a set daily schedule so that you arrive at each campground on a certain day. Waiting out bad weather in one of the camps or throwing in an impromptu rest day is no longer an option. (We honestly don’t know what happens if you do fall behind or if the pass closes. Let us know if you experience this.)

You can reserve CONAF’s free campsites (Paso, Italiano and Torres) at their office in Puerto Natales or online through their awkward reservation system. Just click on “Reservar Camping CONAF” at the bottom to get to the next page. From there, click on “Comprar entradas” which takes you to a registration page. (If there is no button to change the language, use google translate.) If you register for the first time, click on “Registrese” or “Create account” at the bottom of the page. Be aware that you cannot book more than six months in advance, and that you can only book one night at each campground.

NOTE: Campamento Torres will be closed during the 2018/2019 season. If you are planning a sunrise hike to Las Torres, you should stay at Chileno and calculate a minimum of 3 hours to reach the towers.

The reservation madness doesn’t stop here. If you want to get a spot in one of the private campgrounds or a bed in one of the refugios, you need to book as early as possible. Visit Fantastico Sur to book online for the following campgrounds and refugios: Los Cuernos, El Chileno, Serón, El Francés, and Torres (next to Hotel Las Torres). Unfortunately, Fantastico Sur has hiked up their prices in recent years which is quite maddening. Visit Vertice Patagonia to book in advance for campgrounds and refugios Paine Grande, Grey, Dickson, and Los Perros.

Patagonian forest, Torres del Paine

Hike Counterclockwise

We can’t stress enough how important it is to trek counterclockwise to avoid heavy headwinds. For the W trek, this means hiking west to east. Walking counterclockwise, the strong winds descending from the Grey Glacier will be at your back as you hike; this will literally make your hike a “breeze.”

As for the O trek, starting in 2016, visitors are only allowed to trek the circuit in a counterclockwise direction. And this is a good thing. Crossing the John Gardner Pass counterclockwise makes a lot more sense. The last camp, Campamento Los Perros, is closer to the pass and not as steep which means a shorter and easier ascent. Also the views of Grey Glacier while descending are fantastic. Moreover, the poor maintenance of the trail down the western side of the pass has caused sections of the trail to erode into large steps, which can be several feet high. Walking down this path is no thrill, but walking up it would be sheer murder.

While many people don’t agree with CONAF and claim it’s better to walk in a clockwise direction to avoid the crowds, we don’t think that’s true. You can easily find some solitude on the trail by either leaving the camp earlier or later than the masses. We always headed out late and took the whole day to explore rather than rushing to the next camp in a big clump of hikers.

Don’t Worry About the Altitude

While Torres del Paine looks like it’s located in a high-altitude environment, it’s actually not. The highest point in the park is Paine Grande at 2,884 m (9,462 ft). Unless you are planning to climb the peak, there’s no need to worry. Altitude sickness is generally only an issue above 2,500 m (8,200 ft), but during your Torres del Paine trek, you will be hiking way below that.

The highest point on the O and Q trek is the John Gardner Pass at 1,240 m (4,070 ft), and the highest points on the W trek are the Mirador Britanico in the French Valley at 755 m (2,475 ft) and the Las Torres viewpoint at 880 m (2,887). Moreover, all campgrounds and refugios are below 500 m (1,640 ft). Feel free to check out the interactive Torres del Paine circuit map on Alltrails, which gives you distances and altitudes along the O and W trek.

Torres del Paine's French Valley

Keep an Eye out for Wildlife

If you are a wildlife enthusiast like us, Torres del Paine is definitely the right place to go. While you are not tripping over animals along the trails, there’s plenty of wildlife around waiting to be discovered. Yes, that’s right, you actually have to look for it. Tony and I started our trek knowing that the park is one of the best places to spot pumas in the world. So we kept our eyes peeled the whole time, and on day seven, Tony spotted one.

We also spotted Andean condors on almost a daily basis, either circling high above us or perched on rocky outcroppings. But you have to look! At one point, Tony and I stood for ten minutes watching in awe as a stream of two dozen hikers walked passed two condors perched on a rock, and not a single person noticed them. We even managed to take a photo of one condor with a hiker not looking at it! (But we won’t post it because that hiker might be reading this.)

Magellanic woodpecker

Of course, luck is part of spotting wildlife. Even though we continuously scanned the area while hiking Torres del Paine, we did not see a single guanaco or rhea along the trail. Other hikers did. Most of these animals can be found on the plains on the outskirts of the park, especially between Puerto Natales and the park entrance. Guanacos and rheas can also be found in Argentina.

Choose the Right Trekking Season

While you can’t choose the right weather for your trek, you can definitely choose the right season. Best time to visit the park is from October to April. We did our hike during the shoulder season in late February 2015 and were quite lucky with the weather; we only had two semi-rainy days. Also be aware that during summer in the southern hemisphere, UV radiation can be very high. (Use a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30.)

High UV radiation in the southern hemisphere

Pick Your Hiking and Camping Equipment Wisely

It is easy to underestimate the harsh Patagonian weather. While our trusty old tent barely made it through the trek, other people’s tents were literally ripped apart by strong wind gusts. (Luckily, most campgrounds and refugios rent out tents and sleeping bags, although they might be hard to come by during high season.) Of course, warm sleeping bags and good hiking clothing is essential. The weather changes here every three seconds. One moment it’s wet and freezing, the next it’s sunny and hot.

On a separate but equally important note, many trekkers hike without hiking poles. BIG MISTAKE! People kept telling us that hiking poles didn’t look cool. Seriously? Those poles saved us so many times. Especially with a heavy backpack on, you can use them to balance, push yourself uphill, or brace yourself downhill. We met two pole-less guys in their 20s who both completely ravaged their knees on the circuit. Hiking poles mean you’ll still be hiking at our age! 😉

Campamento Italiano, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Try to Navigate the Hordes of Visitors

Somebody just has to be honest and say it: Torres del Paine is overwhelmed by the sheer number of visitors. Facilities simply aren’t sufficient for the more than 250,000 people who visit the park each year, most of them within a period of a few months. The situation is most extreme along the W trek where competition for reasonable campsites can border on gladiatorial. Similarly, fire safety regulations require that people cook in special cooking areas which are overcrowded and, at moments, dangerous with dozens of propane stoves precariously balanced on uneven picnic tables just waiting to topple over on someone. Beyond that, we noticed numerous environmental problems related to the overwhelmed campsites included raw sewage flowing into the lakes. Not good.

Having said that, the park administration has begun to react to people’s complaints by limiting the number of hikers on the O and Q treks to 80 per day. They are definitely moving in the right direction, but there’s much work to be done (especially improving the facilities and controlling pollution).

Tony in Torres del Paine National Park

Be Aware That Nobody Will Rescue You

Now another piece of bad news, nobody is going to rescue you. The deceptively modern appearance of Chilean national parks leads many to compare them to other parks in places like the U.S., Canada and Australia. But be warned, there is no rescue service in Torres del Paine. Young Chilean couple Felipe and Carolina were confronted with this issue two days into their hike.

We met Felipe and Carolina on the trail and started bonding with them immediately. After putting up our tent at Camp Dickson, we noticed Felipe hobbling around his tent. He had twisted his ankle which quickly became sore and swollen. Clearly, they couldn’t continue the 8-day trek over the rugged terrain. But with no rescue service around, how could they leave the park to seek medical help?

To make a long story a little shorter, they had to save themselves. Even more annoying, they were required to get an emergency exit permit from CONAF to allow them to use the park’s service road system to exit the park. The permit took about four days to obtain and that was the end of CONAF’s involvement in the rescue effort. (How completely stupid is that?) The couple finally arranged to hitch out on a service road with someone from the privately run Dickson Campground.

Campamento Dickson

This experience brings many questions to mind. What if you are more seriously injured? What if an accident happens away from the service roads? Where the heck does the US$35 national park entry fee go? And for many people who are accustomed to more professionally run national parks, is the trek really worth the risk?

Torres del Paine is amazing and obviously worth the risk for many trekkers; this includes us as well as Chilean couple Carolina and Felipe, both of whom told us that they are ready to come back and try again once Felipe’s ankle has healed. That says a lot about the park. However, not everyone agrees.

Fellow travel bloggers Audrey and Dan from UncorneredMarket.com did a post on their W hike in which they called the trek “nice” but not “a trip of a lifetime.” They felt that expectations for Torres del Paine had been set a bit too high. We totally understand and realize that experiences along the trail can be very different depending on crowds and weather. To be honest, we might have felt similarly if we had only done the W trek because while that section of the trail is quite beautiful, it is also crowded and competition for camping and cooking spots can be fierce.

Colorful plant life in Torres del Paine

Having said that, we have hiked some of the most spectacular routes on the planet, and when we reflect a bit, we do recognize why Torres del Paine has become so famous. The combination of sharp glacial spires, sprawling plains, sweeping glaciers, and turquoise lakes makes this route special. There are very few low altitude routes that can compare.

So, not surprisingly, opinions differ on the park. The most important thing for prospective hikers is to do their homework and get a realistic idea of what the trek involves. Know who you are and what you feel comfortable doing. If you have never done a long multi-day trek, the O circuit is probably not the best place to start due to the extreme weather and no easy escape routes. The W trek does provide for shorter versions and an easier exit.

French Valley

Torres del Paine Itineraries for the W, O, and Q Treks

For detailed itineraries and tips related to specific hikes, we are linking into some helpful resources we used to organize our own trek. To start, we are listing our own 8-day, 7-night O trek itinerary because it deviates from the one listed below. (Add a 2-hour bus ride at the beginning and end between Puerto Natales and Laguna Amarga, the Torres del Paine park entrance.)

  • DAY 1 – Laguna Amarga to Campamento Serón: 12 km (7.5 mi), 7 hours
  • DAY 2 – Campamento Serón to Refugio Dickson: 18 km (11 mi), 8 hours
  • DAY 3 – Refugio Dickson to Campamento Los Perros: 11 km (7 mi), 5.5 hours
  • DAY 4 – Campamento Los Perros to Refugio Grey: 17 km (10.5 mi), 11 hours
  • DAY 5 – Refugio Grey to Campamento Italiano: 18 km (11 mi), 8.5 hours
  • DAY 6 – Campamento Italiano to Refugio Los Cuernos: 5.5 km (3.5 mi), 2.5 hours
  • DAY 7 – Refugio Los Cuernos to Campamento Torres: 20 km (12.5 mi), 7 hours
  • DAY 8 – Campamento Torres to Laguna Amarga: 12 km (7.5 mi), 9 hours (including sunrise hike to the Las Torres viewpoint)

After crossing the John Gardner Pass on day 4, some people stay at Campamento Paso and trek to Paine Grande the next day. We split it up differently, hiking to Refugio Grey and then to Campamento Italiano the following day. This way we had a lot of time to explore the beautiful French Valley on day 6.

The W Trek

Steve from Back-Packer.org describes a budget camping version of the W trek including itineraries for 4, 5 and 6 days.

Sherry from Ottsworld.com describes a 5-day luxury version of the W trek organized with Ecocamp. If you are interested in this high-end trekking experience, you can check out the Ecocamp tour here.

The O Trek

Steve from Back-Packer.org describes a budget camping version of the O trek including itineraries for 7, 8, and 9 days.

Andonis from TheCounterIntuitive.com provides a detailed description of his 8-day camping circuit with Erratic Rock.

The Q Trek

Erratic Rock describes a 10-day camping version of the Q trek.

Erratic Rock is a tour operator slash hostel located in Puerto Natales, the gateway town to Torres del Paine. They hold free daily seminars at their Basecamp pub called the 3 o’clock talk giving information about the trek and answering questions. They also rent out equipment.

For online information on how to prepare for your hike, check out Steve’s informative article on Back-Packer.org.

Torres del Paine

Plan your Trip to Torres del Paine National Park

When to Go – Best time to visit is October through April when days in Patagonia are warm and dry(ish). The park is usually less crowded early and late in the season (October and April) while the weather can be quite pleasant.

Accommodation – Most visitors stay in Puerto Natales, the gateway town to Torres del Paine, before and after their hike. It’s a great place full of like-minded travelers, gear rental shops, well-stocked supermarkets, and plenty of accommodation. Room prices during high season can be steep, so booking in advance is advised. We recommend searching for great Puerto Natales deals on HotelsCombined.com, a site which finds the best deals for you across numerous top hotel booking sites, including booking.com and agoda.

Travel Insurance – Overseas medical insurance should be your number one priority when hiking Torres del Paine. As mentioned in the article, there’s no rescue service in the park, so it’s especially important to get travel insurance that includes emergency evacuation. World Nomads’ travel insurance covers travelers for overseas medical, emergency evacuation, baggage and a range of activities and adventure sports. One of the advantages of World Nomads’s insurance policy is that you can buy and claim the insurance online, even after you’ve left home.

Tours – Although this article is geared toward independent hikers, some readers may be interested in joining a tour after learning what the trek involves. You can check out these two Viator tours: The 5-day small group guided W trek and the 4 to 6-day Ecocamp luxury W trek. REI also offers a guided 13-day Patagonia Hiking & Camping tour that combines Torres del Paine National Park in Chile with Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina.

Guidebooks – We often travel with a Lonely Planet. During our travels in Chile, we used the Lonely Planet Chile & Easter Island. This guide is great for cultural and historical info, maps, hiking tours, itineraries, and also includes a section on Torres del Paine National Park. If you are looking specifically for a Torres del Paine guide, we recommend the Trekking Torres del Paine guide book. While these books provide general information and detailed overviews of trekking routes, make sure to check online sources for the latest updates on how to book accommodation and meal plans. Wildlife enthusiasts might want to consider getting the animal guide A Wildlife Guide to Chile. All of these guidebooks can be conveniently purchased on Amazon.

Travel Gear – There’s a long packing list for Patagonia, especially if you want to do some serious hiking. To help you get started, here are a few essential things everyone should have: A good pair of hiking boots and hiking socks, a comfortable hiking backpack (we prefer Deuter), and a durable, lightweight tent (MSR gets good reviews). Also, get some trekking poles, they will be one of your best investments for your knees and back. We also recommend an action camera such as the GoPro to capture your adventure on film.

Disclosure: The article contains links that help us earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

31 responses to “The Complete Guide to Hiking Torres del Paine”

  1. avatar Chris V says:

    Yay!

    We’ve been waiting months to see this post! Great video, I love the timelapse!

    Hope life is awesome wherever you two are!

    • avatar Thomas says:

      Hi Chris,

      I know, it took us way too long, but we working on different things. I hope you watched the video all the way to the end – after our logo – to see how we remember you guys. 🙂 Everything is well here; we hope you are having a blast as always!

  2. avatar Steve says:

    Hi guys – great to see you’ve been doing the circuit. I remember we had a few talks in Berlin when we met in 2013 🙂

    Thanks also for sharing my hiking guides. My chile guide will be published on Amazon soon including all the information for Torres del Paine.

    Great pictures and videos of my favorite place in Patagonia!

    • avatar Thomas says:

      Hi Steve,

      Thank you as well, we used your guide in planning our trip in Torres del Paine. We are looking forward to your Chile guide on Amazon.

  3. avatar Samantha says:

    I have heard that you have to book Torres del Paine way in advance. Does that apply to both camping and lodges?

    • avatar Thomas says:

      @Samantha, if you want to stay in refugios, you do have to book in advance. For camping, you don’t necessarily have to make reservations, with the exception of Campamento Torres. If you want to stay at this free CONAF run campground, you have to make reservations at the park office the day you start your trek. (This was the only campground for which we had a reservation.)

  4. avatar Markus says:

    I noticed in the video that you used a water filter. I had heard the river water was clean enough to drink. Do you need to treat the water in the park?

    • avatar Tony says:

      @Markus,

      Many people were kind of laughing at us for purifying water because most sources claim the park’s waters are pristine. We chose to use the filter anyway for several reasons.

      1) The parks trails often pass through stretches of privately controlled land with herds of grazing horses. Those horses definitely leave their calling cards in some of the water sources.

      2) Some of the overwhelmed camping areas have raw sewage flowing into the streams and lakes. The worse example we saw was at Campamento Los Cuernos. Other camp sites have people washing dishes in the water sources.

      3) There are backpackers from all over the world who sometimes urinate in rivers and streams. The chances of introducing outside diseases into this highly visited area is obviously a concept. This has occasionally been a problems in U.S. parks such as Yosemite.

      4) We had the water filter in our backpack anyway, so why not use it just to be safe. 🙂

  5. avatar Yuna says:

    We are planning a trip to Torres del Paine in Nov or Dec and we are deciding between the Q and O. Do you have any thoughts on whether that extra day is worth it?

    • avatar Tony says:

      @Yuna,

      As we mentioned in the post, we really loved the fact that the O ends at Las Torres, which is a great way to end a full-circuit hike. Having said that, we do wish we had gone back and hiked in the area where the Q starts to get those classic distant views of the Torres del Paine Massif. It would also really depend on the weather.

  6. avatar Indira says:

    Do you need a lot of experience to hike the O circuit? I’m fit and I love to camp but I have not done a long distance hike ever.

    • avatar Tony says:

      I would definitely suggest that you have some long-distance hiking experience before you do the O or the Q because there is a cumulative effect of carrying a fully loaded backpack for 8-10 days. There isn’t really anything technically challenging on the trip, but along the northern half of the circuit treks, there is not really any way to stop and get off the trail. Once you start, you either need to cross the pass or go back to the beginning.

  7. avatar Sarah says:

    Have you seen solo hikers doing the full circuit? Is it allowed? I’m thinking of doing a guided 8 day trek with Erratic hostel but the money I could save going solo is so tempting.

  8. avatar Thomas says:

    @Sarah, solo hiking is allowed. We actually met quite a few solo female hikers on the trail (although they had quickly bonded with other solo trekkers). The circuit can be quite busy so other hikers are never too far. We thought the circuit was quite safe (although this is from a male point of view).

  9. avatar Virginia says:

    Thanks for this update. I was just researching the O trek and I found your article. Thanks also for your honesty about the number of people on the trek.

  10. avatar Lauren says:

    My husband and I are planning to hike the O in December/January. We have reservations to camp with our own tent at Seron, Paso, Italiano, and Torres. We are missing Dickson and Paine Grande which are both reserved through Vertice and are currently listed as sold out. Are we required to have reservations at these campsites? I don’t want to arrive there and be told we cannot do the hike because we don’t have all of the required reservations. Thanks for your help!

    • avatar Thomas says:

      Hi Lauren,

      From my research, Vertice is not a hundred percent clear on that. They do mention that prices double if you show up without a reservation. But since you don’t want to get stuck, I would definitely contact them in advance. According to the National Park website, the number of hikers per day on the full circuit is limited to 80. If the campgrounds show they are fully booked that might indicate that the 80 people max. has been reached. There’s a contact email at the end of Vertice’s homepage for both the Puerto Natales and Santiago offices. If you don’t hear back from them by email, I would call them up, I’m sure they speak basic English.

  11. avatar K. Chae says:

    Hello,

    thanks for the great article. I’m an independent traveler, and I’m not a seasoned trekker. So I’m hoping to join a group or hire a guide to do the complete trek of Torres del Paine. However I’ve been having trouble finding a agency for this. Do you have any recommendation? Or is it easy to find a agency that I can arrange this with, once I’m in Puerto Natales? I plan to do it on late October, 25th of October, actually. Please do let me know.

    • avatar Thomas says:

      Thanks for contacting us. It’s great to hear you found our article useful. Off the top off my head, I would recommend Erratic Rock in Puerto Natales if you want to join a tour. I don’t know what your budget is, but their 10-day Full Circuit camping tour is $2,400. This local company also runs the Basecamp Pub which holds daily seminars on the Paine circuit (highly recommended).

      Clearly, doing the hike independently or just hiring a guide (and porter) would be the cheapest option. Puerto Natales is completely set up for finding guides or tours once you get there. Because tours require a minimum number of people, it might be worth inquiring and organizing before you go – just to be on the safe side. I would also browse some Chile guidebooks in a bookstore and see what companies they recommend.

      I hope I could help you and wish you all the best,

      Thomas

  12. avatar Mark says:

    Can you rent equipment like sleeping bag, tent, etc. in or outside the park?

    • avatar Thomas says:

      Most campgrounds and refugios rent out tents and sleeping bags, however, I wouldn’t count on availability and quality, especially in high season. It’s better to get your equipment outside the park. Puerto Natales is full of equipment rental shops. In addition, many hostels rent out equipment to their guests (many also run their own guiding services). While we brought our own tent, sleeping bag liners and gas cooker, we rented sleeping bags, sleeping mats, and dishes/pots for cooking. One thing you should never rent is hiking boots, bring your own and make sure to break them in before you go on a multi-day hike.

  13. avatar Ryan Smith says:

    Thanks for a great video and article.

    In the video I saw you guys using a water filter, may I know its brand?

    Thank you.

    • avatar Thomas says:

      Hi Ryan, it’s a Swiss-made Katadyn water filter. It’s a bit on the heavy side, but it’s one of our favorite items to take when we are trekking.

  14. avatar Dean says:

    Hi mate, we are planning the “O” in early October 2019. Do you know earliest when we can book camp sites? If we plan to use the facilities – showers or meal options, does this require a separate booking?
    Any help much appreciated
    Regards Dean

  15. avatar Thomas says:

    For the free campsites through CONAF, you cannot book more than 180 days in advance. I assume, it’s the same for Fantastico Sur and Vertice Patagonia (BTW, Vertice Patagonia changed their URL, we updated our post accordingly). This means, you should be able to book for the first week of October. When I just checked, I noticed that Fantastico Sur only offers booking through April 2018. The booking systems of all three companies (CONAF, Vertice Patagonia, and Fantastico Sur) can be a mess. If I were you, I would contact them by email with your exact dates and ask them directly when you can book. If they don’t get back to you, call them. Torres del Paine is very popular, so it’s worth being a little aggressive. To answer your other questions, showers are always included with your accommodation bookings, but you do have to book the meal options.

  16. avatar Claire Hodgson says:

    Hi Guys

    I really enjoyed your write up and liked your route. If you have time, I am looking for some detailed advice on the different Torres del Paine camps along the O circuit.

    I have been advised by other people, who have done the route that I will be fine hiking and camping by myself. And they advised saving the cash and taking my own gear. But they all did this many years ago and usually in couples, sharing carrying the gear. I had planned to carry all my gear and camp but am thinking that saving weight/space and not pitching a tent would make a the hike more enjoyable.

    I have done quite a bit of reading but am struggling to work out a) which sites are open for Nov 2018 b) distances between different camps c) whats included in some of the pricing eg does the $50 / 130 at the fantastico sur include tent with platform? and food?
    I believe I can start booking from May, just trying to figure out what to book..

    I liked your proposed route, aiming to start 1 Nov. But I wasn’t sure if I would need to carry a tent for Italiano and Torres. Hiking Grey to Los Cuernos might be long/rushed but another route planner had it as preferred option
    DAY 1 – Laguna Amarga to Campamento Serón: 12 km (7.5 mi), 7 hours
    DAY 2 – Campamento Serón to Refugio Dickson: 18 km (11 mi), 8 hours
    DAY 3 – Refugio Dickson to Campamento Los Perros: 11 km (7 mi), 5.5 hours
    DAY 4 – Campamento Los Perros to Refugio Grey: 17 km (10.5 mi), 11 hours
    DAY 5 – Refugio Grey to Campamento Italiano: 18 km (11 mi), 8.5 hours
    DAY 6 – Campamento Italiano to Refugio Los Cuernos: 5.5 km (3.5 mi), 2.5 hours
    DAY 7 – Refugio Los Cuernos to Campamento Torres: 20 km (12.5 mi), 7 hours
    DAY 8 – Campamento Torres to Laguna Amarga: 12 km (7.5 mi), 9 hours (including sunrise hike to the Las Torres viewpoint)

    Any advice is very welcome.
    Thanks

    • avatar Thomas says:

      Hi Claire,

      I agree that as a female solo traveler you can hike the circuit by yourself. If you want to cut down on weight, renting tents along the way might be a good solution. Personally, I think the food in the park is too expensive, so I would opt to take my own food or book food options at certain stops, but not all the time. Of course, that depends on your preference and budget.

      To answer your questions:

      a) The high season starts on October 1, 2018 so most campgrounds should be open at this time. Fantastico Sur opens their camp sites by latest October, Vertice Patagonia by latest November (Dickson and Los Perros).

      b) You can see distances in my 8-day itinerary. If you want to break down the hike differently, you can check distances and altitudes between all camps on an interactive map. Click on this link to Alltrails. Put the cursor over the dark-grey altitude chart at the bottom and move it around. Then you will see the corresponding dot moving along the red circuit outline above. To help you estimate where each camp is, look at our map which has approximate camp locations.

      c) I totally get it. Their explanations are very confusing. Looking at their price list (in Spanish), if you book “camping platform premium” for one person ($50), you get a platform, a tent, sleeping bag, liner, and a thermarest mat. If you book the same with “FB” (full board) for $130, they also include breakfast, dinner, and a lunch box as well as a towel, shampoo and soap.

      Make sure you book as soon as they open the booking process because it’s the start of the high season.

      I hope this helped.

  17. avatar Polly says:

    Hey there. A rep from Fantastico Sur mentioned in an email a few months ago that we’ll need a guide to enter Torres, but I don’t see that requirement anywhere. Can you tell me if this is a requirement?

    • avatar Thomas says:

      Hi Polly,

      I’m not aware that you need a guide. Of course, rules change all the time. I couldn’t find any reference to that online. When I chatted with Fantastico Sur, they were very vague. They said that it depended on the time of year, f.e. if you wanted to do the O circuit before November, you would need a guide. When I dug a little deeper, they only said it is a requirement by CONAF, the governing body of the national park, and I should contact them.

      Best thing would be to contact CONAF directly and ask them in general terms and also in terms of your specific plans.

      If you do get an answer, I would appreciate if you could let us know what they said.

      Thanks,

      Thomas

  18. avatar Polly says:

    Ok, so I received this response from CONAF, and wanted to pass it on to you. Thanks for you assistance!

    “In high season it is not necessary to hire the services of a guide, this restriction applies for low season (May – September) or when there are bad weather conditions or other causes of force majeure.”

    Best,
    Polly

    • avatar Thomas says:

      Thank you so much Polly for letting us know.

      I guess the park wants you to take a guide in low season because of weather. If it snows, the trails might be hard to follow. Anyway, that’s now been solved.

      Thanks again for telling us and have a wonderful trip. Torres del Paine is truly amazing!

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