Torres Del Paine
The Torres Del Paine National Park is situated on the far southern edge of the Patagonian ice fields. Here, giant granite torres (towers) jut out of the earth’s crust and stretch into the vast blue Chilean skies. These mighty formations are millions of years old, dating from a time when the earth was still being moulded out of fire and ice. Many of the peaks of the Paine Massif are permanently covered in ice.
The National Park itself is over 180,000 hectares in size, and boasts iridescent lakes, fresh rivers, lagoons and waterfalls, as well as an impressive array of wild animal species, some of which have been rescued from the brink of extinction. Watch out for eagles and condors soaring around the peaks of Torres and Cuernos, while on the ground you might spot pumas, culpeos, guanacos and a whole host of other unusual creatures.
Trekking in the Torres Del Paine
Treks start from the foot of the torres. The major routes either circle the whole Paine massif or lead directly into the massif itself. Most people do one of three routes; the 5 or 7 day W trek or 9 day Torres Del Paine Circuit.
- The Torres Del Paine Circuit: 100km in length, takes you around the whole massif, viewing the torres from every angle. It also offers many smaller treks, which lead off from the main route. The Circuit trek requires hikers to carry all their equipment for up to 9 days. This is a tough, demanding trek
- The W trek is a far more refined way to see the Torres Del Paine. The trek picks out the highlights of the park with dramatic ascents and spectacular views of the lakes, valleys and peaks whilst keeping you safely ensconced in comfortable accommodation each night. The reward after a days trekking include great food, hot showers and comfortable beds. As the W trek is broken down into sections it enables hikers to offload their gear at the refugio base camps. This is often the deciding factor for those less enamoured at the thought of carrying heavy backpacks for many days at a time. The W trek is typically a 7 day trek but can be reduced to 5 days.
Fitness is almost a pre-requisite, as this is mountainous land with changeable weather patterns and basic facilities for washing and sleeping. It is a good idea to go hiking beforehand to build up stamina and strength. Due to the variety of weather phenomena in this region – rain, sleet, snow, sun, winds – it is advisable to be prepared for anything. Hiking is theoretically possible at any time of year, although November to April are the best months. Exposed mountain pass viewpoints might act as a wind tunnel and blow light hikers off their feet, while rainbows might serenely stretch through the same mountain pass a few hours later.
For those less enamoured with trekking, there is always the option to base yourself in one of the several eco lodges in or around the park and head out for short day walks and wildlife tours before returning to the comfort of the lodge for dinner.
Treks we offer in the Torres Del Paine National Park
5-9 Day Torres Del Paine Treks from £852pp
Choose from the short 5 day W trek, the classic 7 day W trek or for those wanting a challenge the 9 day Torres Del Paine circuit. Combine the luxury of the stunning Ecocamp with roughing it in mountain refugios.
4-6 day packages at Ecocamp in Torres Del Paine Day from £680pp
Stay in the stylish Ecocamp eco lodge in the heart of the Torres Del Paine National Park. Packages included day walks and wildlife tours.
The best time of year to visit Torres Del Paine National Park
The Torres Del Paine National Park is best visited in the summer months between October and April. Whilst it is possible to trek in the winter, most organised treks take place in the summer months. This is South America in the true sense of the word, and temperatures behave accordingly. The average in summer hovers at around 11C, climbing to a maximum of 24 and descending to 0.
In spring the days are long with up to 18 hours of daylight, allowing plenty of time for exploration and impressive viewing opportunities. These days are frequently followed by rain, sleet and even snow. Summer often sees winds of up to 80km an hour. When you are at the end of the earth the weather is changeable and chaotic.
How to get to Torres Del Paine National Park
The jumping off point for most people is Puerto Natales, and most treks include transfers from here. To get to Puerto Natales you can either fly from Santiago or journey overland from El Calafate in Argentina.
From Santiago: Travellers to this region generally fly from Chile’s capital, Santiago, over Patagonia, to the fishing town of Punta Arenas. From here buses run to Puerto Natales. Another appealing option is to travel by ferry from the capital of Los Lagos, Puerto Montt, through the fjords to Punta Arenas.
From Argentina: Many travellers like to come across to the Torres from El Calafate in Argentina. A bus service runs from El Calafate bus station to Puerto Natales (journey time of about 4.5 hours) or you can arrange a private taxi.
Accommodation in Torres Del Paine
There is a choice of accommodation in the park: campsites, refugios, hosterias, lodges and hotels. Mixed accommodation is popular, as people treat themselves with a night or two of comfort before roughing it up and down the slopes of the Massif. There are numerous campsites on the 100km of trekking routes that stretch throughout the park.
It is important to bear in mind that the refugios are crowded at the beginning of the year, and the policy is first come first served. It is possible to book them – prices range from 40 to 200 USD - depending on the type of board. They serve food and drink, which is comparatively expensive by Chilean standards, but of course far cheaper than US and European rates. The refugios have shower facilities; be aware that the water may be cold and the surfaces dirty. Camping is a wholesome alternative, offering space and refreshment for the soul. Camping will save your wallet; the campsites charge from $6 per night and the unmanned campsites are free. It is advisable to go to Torres Del Paine with the attitude that you are on expedition and to expect washing in lakes to be the norm. Therefore if you come into contact with any kind of tap, mattress or purchasable food you will be pleasantly surprised. Keep your expectations of comfort to a minimum and you cannot be disappointed.
As the park is so vast there are numerous guarderias – or ranger stations - run by Chile’s Corporacion Nacional Forestal (CONAF) in permanent residence. These may be found at Lago Pehoe, Laguna Verde, Lago de Grey and Lago del Toro, the latter of which is the main administrative hub for the park. These guarderias can provide camping and trekking information and are a good starting point before any expedition into the interior.