It is internationally renowned as one of the most attractive trekking destinations in the world. You may also know that thousands of tourists go there every year, and that its landscapes are some of the most impressive in the whole planet. This is why, and also because we want to tempt you a little bit, we’ve decided to tell you all you have to know about Torres del Paine National Park, from its accesses and services to what to wear, where to sleep, and how to have a good time with other travelers.
First of all, it’s good to know that the Park is located in the southern end of Chile, in the Region of Magallanes y la Antártica Chilena, 112 kms north of Puerto Natales. In its 240.000 hectares you will find mountains, a glacier, icebergs, emerald green lakes, and several flora and fauna species, all of which create a truly amazing landscape.
How to get there?
The starting point to visit the park is the town of Puerto Natales. To get there you can take a plane to Punta Arenas and then travel by land. The buses from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas have an approximate cost of 6000 CLP, round trip. There are no direct buses from Santiago to Puerto Natales, but you can depart from Puerto Montt by land or sea.
There are two roads to get to the park: the old and traditional one passes by Villa Cerro Castillo and gets to Las Torres in a two and a half hour drive. It is a dirt road, so it’s recommendable to drive a 4WD or an SUV. There is also a new, shorter, and better access road which gets to the park along the shore of Serrano river. It gets to Grey Glacier, and it can be covered in an hour and a half.
In winter it is essential to use snow chains. If you don’t want to drive there are several tourist operators in Puerto Natales offering direct transfers to the park. Also, most hostels can organize your trip with a local agency and the hotels in the park will pick you up from Puerto Natales directly. As a last resort, there are regular buses going directly from Puerto Natales to the Park. Private services take the short road, whereas regular buses take, of course, the longer one.
IN THE PARK
The entrance ticket is quite expensive and most of the tours don’t include it in their prices. In high season (October-April) it’s 4.000 CLP (USD 8) for Chileans and 15.000 CLP (USD 30) for foreigners. In low season (May-September) the price goes down to 3.000 (USD 6) and 5.000 (USD 10) respectively.
Ways to visit the park
Even though there are day tours, if you really want to know the park in depth and see its most beautiful spots, you shouldn’t stay there less than two nights. Depending on your physical conditions, age, and how adventurous you are, there are several ways to experience the park:
- If you’re an accomplished camper and you don’t want or need much amenities, we suggest you to grab your backpack, tent, and go camping for some days. You can do so in the sites around the refuges and trekking circuits, but make sure your tent is in good condition because the wind at night is brutal. It is not allowed to camp in any place. For your own safety we strongly recommend you to follow this rule.
- If you have some experience in trekking but do not want to camp, we suggest booking a trekking + accommodation program. You will stay in the hotels in the park and you will only have to carry only a part of your luggage in each trek. The best choice to visit the park in this trekking with accommodation included is the W Full circuit.
- If you have no experience whatsoever, want to sleep comfortably in a nice bed, and walking for hours is not your cup of tea, then we recommend booking a complete package in which you will go through the park on a vehicle, stopping to take pictures of the most important attractions and enjoying all the comforts of the hotels in the park.
Depending on your budget and preferences you can choose between the following options:
- The most basic option is grabbing your sleeping bag, tent and go camping. It’s not the easiest or most comfortable choice, but waking up to see Las Torres is an indescribable experience.
- There are also refuges that, despite being rustic, have all the necessary amenities for a good night of sleep. Some of them have bars where you can share a drink with other travelers at the end of the day. It is CRUCIAL to book in advance because otherwise you may not find a bed. The refuges are usually at full capacity
- If you want a more elegant and comfortable stay, there are several four and five star hotels, but you must be prepared to spend a considerable amount of money. If budget is not a problem, watching the Torres from your bedroom window is a experience worth living. As we said before, it all depends on what you’re looking for.
What to bring
There are only a few places where to buy food in the park. Some of them are the stores in camping Pehoé and Lodge-Camping Paine Grande , which aren’t particularly cheap. That’s why it’s highly recommendable to buy your groceries in advance.
If you’re thinking of camping, bear in mind, you are going to need a gas stove. It is not allowed to carry gas bottles on the plane so, unless you’re traveling by land you will have to buy one in Puerto Natales. They are not expensive and may save you. Anyway, most of the refuges have kitchens and restaurants.
Weather is very unstable, so having the four different seasons in one day is not rare. In summer you must wear light, comfortable clothes during the day and warm clothes at night, either wool or synthetic fibers. In winter you must be as prepared as possible. A beanie, scarf, gloves, and thermal clothing are indispensable for the cold is really intense. You must be prepared to face wind, snow, and rain.
Whenever you go, it is vital to bring a good pair of trekking shoes. It is common to see unprepared travelers suffering for the lack of preparation, or because their shoes simply get worn out.
What to do
You won’t have much spare time, for the offer of activities is really broad and diverse.
To make it simple, Torres del Paine is the best trekking destination in the world. It is that clear.
But that’s not all: you can also go fishing, rafting, and kayaking in Serrano river, climbing in Los Cuernos, ice-trekking in Grey Glacier, observe the wildlife and take photos. Whatever is your preference, or if you just want to admire the landscape, Torres del Paine is a unique place.
Attractions you cannot miss
Now that you know the basics, here are some attractions you CANNOT miss. If you don’t visit them, you just weren’t in Torres del Paine:
- Trekking to base de las Torres: You will have an amazing view of Las Torres.
- Trekking or navigation to Grey Glacier: You will see the park’s largest glacier from a close distance.
- Cóndor Viewpoint: you will have a panoramic view of Paine massif.
- Cuernos del Paine Viewpoint and Salto Grande: An impressive view of Los Cuernos.
If the long treks didn’t tire you enough, and at night you still want to have a drink and celebrate with other tourists the refuges are the best place to do so. Every night fun meetings take place. It’s a good moment to share experiences, interact with travelers from all over the world, and why not, make some friends. If you want to keep on soaking with the park’s ambience, sharing a drink with other travelers in the refuges may be the perfect way to end your day. You won’t regret it.
For more information visit our guide to Torres del Paine National Park clicking here.