Every single backpacker in Patagonia recommended me the W trek in Torres del Paine National Park. Located right into Chile’s Patagonia region, it is known for its beautiful mountains, bright blue icebergs that cleave from glaciers. Its most iconic site is the 3 granite towers from which the park takes its name.
The best time to visit Chilean Patagonia is November to early March (summertime in the southern hemisphere). I went in October and it was perfect because not many people were on the trek and it was easy to book the refuges.
Itinerary and Map
Arrival in Puerto Natales
|Preferably arrive in the morning in Puerto Natales. If you arrive at the bus station, you can book your bus ticket to get to the national park (Puerto Natales to Pudeto) directly for the next day. Then look for your camping equipment in the city if you camp. Test your equipment and prepare your backpack. Prepare food for your first lunch in the night.||Night in We are Patagonia Backpackers Hostel|
|Day 1 Puerto Natales to Grey||7:00am – Take a bus from Puerto Natales to the Pudeto (the catamaran ferry stop). We booked a super cheap taxi to make sure we arrive right on time.|
8:45am – The bus will stop at the park entrance when you first get into Torres del Paine to pay your entrance fee. Make sure you have $21,000 CLP in cash.
10:00am – You will arrive at Pudeto but you might have to wait one hour for the ferry.
11:00am – Take the ferry across to Paine Grande. It costs $21 000 CLP for a one way trip.
11:45am – Arrive at Paine Grande and get your lunch before starting to trek to Grey. The trail will go uphill right away and after crossing the 50% it will go downhill. On the way you will discover the beautiful Lago Grey.
4:00pm – The hike from Paine Grande takes about four hours so expect to arrive around 4pm to pitch your tent. If the weather is great, you can drop all your backpacks and head to the glacier and bridges like we did. The views after the second bridge are fantastic!
|Night in Grey campsite https://www.verticepatagonia.cl|
Grey to Paine Grande
|8:00am – Wake up and have breakfast.|
9:00am – Leave your stuff at the campsite and return a few hours later to pack everything up. From the campsite, an additional one kilometre north through the forest brings you go two viewpoints lying over a kilometre from the glacier’s snout. From here, look out for enormous chunks of ice in the water. Continue a further 2.5 kilometres (around a one-hour hike) along the path along the edge of the glacier to reach a series of two rope bridges hanging over ravines. From here you get the best views of the glacier and, if you’re lucky and it’s a clear day, the Southern Patagonian Ice Field beyond. Return to Grey along the same path and back to Paine Grande.
4:00pm – You will arrive at Paine Grande at around 4pm, which is where you will spend the night. The facilities are great here, with a covered dining area for campers.
|Night at Paine Grande https://www.verticepatagonia.cl|
Day 3 Paine Grande to Frances
|8:00am – Wake up, have breakfast and pack up your tent.|
9:00am – Today begins with a flattish trek around Lake Nordernskjold to Guardería Italiano and the free, CONAF run Campamento Italiano. You can leave your bags here with the ranger before hiking up into the Francés Valley.
11:00am – The next hike up the Francés Valley is pretty long and difficult. This part of the hike marks the central section of the W and it’s all uphill. After an hour’s steep gradient up a rocky, slippery trail to Mirador Frances, look for Glaciar Frances as it clings to the mountainside in the west. This was one of my favorite viewpoint in the all trek. Continue climbing to Mirador Britanico (an additional 3.5 km each way; around three hours’ return), where you will view a ring of toothy granite peaks, including the park’s second most famous landmark, the three-horned Cuernos del Paine. It’s one of the park’s most stunning viewpoints—when the sky is clear. Luckily, the hike back is downhill to return to Campamento Italiano, where you pick up your backpack and hike the 30 minutes to reach Frances.
4:00pm – Arrive at Frances, pitch up and enjoy the views across the lake.
Night at Frances
|Day 4 Frances to El Chileno||8:00am – Wake up, have breakfast and pack up your tent.|
9:00am – Leave the campsite and begin the trek to El Chileno, situated about two hours from the bottom of the towers. This trek meanders alongside the lake, gaining and losing altitude as it goes, until you reach the start of the valley where it becomes all uphill. The views are incredible but if it’s sunny, it will be hot!
3:00pm – Arrive at El Chileno and pitch your tent. Get everything organised for the morning as you’ll be leaving early. Check with the staff what time sunrise will be the next morning.
We arrived quite early at the Chileno refuge and the weather was great with a perfect blue sky. So we decided to hike the towers right away. After 1h30, we had about 15 minutes on top before the park ranger asked us to leave. We really made it right on time.
7:00pm – Taste the great pizzas of El Chileno to get some strengths for the next day!
Night at El Chileno
El Chileno to Puerto Natales
|2 hours before sunrise – Wake up and take your day backpack with warm clothes and a snack to see the towers at dawn. Don’t forget your torch as the route is over rocks and can be treacherous. |
Start hiking up to the towers.
8:00am – Leave the towers and return to the campsite. Pack up, have breakfast and start the long walk down.
12.30pm – Get the shuttle minibus ($3,000 CLP to take you to Laguna Amarga, you need to hike one kilometre down the road towards Torres Central/Norte to reach the Centro de Bienvenida/Ranger station. The shuttle usually leaves when it’s full.
1:00pm – Take the bus from the Ranger station back to Puerto Natales.
3:00pm – Arrival in Puerto Natales bus station!
|Night in We are Patagonia Backpackers Hostel|
Below is the budget we used for our 5 days trek for 2 persons. The rental equipment includes tent, sleeping bags, sleeping mat, cooking stove and a 50-60L backpack. We booked the equipment at Erratic Rock Equipment Rental Center (Manuel Baquedano 719, Puerto Natales).
|Food, snacks, gas||100000|
|Taxi to get to the bus station||2000|
- Camping will be a much nicer and cheaper experience than the refuges if you are ready for the adventure
- Don’t book the bus return ticket to the park, it is easier and much quicker to pay the first available bus at the ranger station
- Before starting to book anything, check all campsites availabilities
- You absolutely don’t need a guide, the trail is well indicated
- You can get a passport stamp at the park entrance
- Electricity is available in most camping sites, same for showers
- Get a small day backpack to carry only the necessary when you will leave all your stuff in the tent
- Cook the night before leaving if you can, you will be thankful for a good lunch before starting the hike and won’t waste any time on the first hiking day
- You can’t cook in the Chileno refuge, don’t carry food for that one
- Don’t carry all the food with you, you will find mini-markets along the way with basics things such as noodles or rice or snacks
- Many people leave their extra gaz to cook in the refuges that are located at both extremities of the W trek
- Don’t trust too much the weather forecast above 48h, it changes very fast there
- Most of the distance/time estimate signs were wrong, better to check it online
- Some people bring their sleeping bag on top of the towers to wait for the sunrise
I hesitated for weeks before booking everything and did it at the last minute. Turns out, it was the best adventure of my 6 months trip in Latin America and I am so happy I decided to go. The park has everything you can wish for as an adventurer and it will most likely surprise you with its landscapes, fauna or flora!