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Can you go trekking Torres del Paine on your own? You can.
I have done it recently myself. And today I want to share with you everything that I learned during the trip and while getting ready for it. So you can go on a hiking trip to Torres del Paine National park yourself. I didn’t know much about this place before my trip. I just knew that you can buy a Patagonia travel package for some 2000+ USD.
I just thought that it should be possible to do it cheaper.
Turns out it is possible.
You can go on your own, and you can do it way cheaper than 2000 USD.
In fact, you can do it also with some 200 USD.
Trekking Torres del Paine on Your Own: Tips
During the Patagonia trip in 2019 I visited Torres del Paine, El Chaltén, El Calafate (Chile and Argentina).
Here is what I learned from my Patagonia hiking adventure.
1. Most Popular Hiking Trails in Torres del Paine
First of all, there are 2 most popular hiking trails in the park.
These are the trails most of people take.
– W Circuit
W Circuit or W Trek is the most popular hiking trail in Torres del Paine National park. If people are thinking of going hiking in Chile, this is one of their top choices.
On a map it looks like the letter W.
Duration: 5 days, 4 nights
– O Circuit
The second most popular hiking trail in the park.
It’s a circular hiking trail.
Duration: 8 days
2. You Can Stay Overnight Only in Designed Places
If you don’t have a booking, you’ll not be allowed to enter the park.
It can be a booking for campsite or hostel (refugio).
That’s the rules in this national park.
You can’t sleep wherever you fancy, and you can’t make fire either.
On the O-Circuit you’ll be spending one half of the time in campsites.
While on the W-Circuit you can always choose between camping and hostel or refugio, as they are called here.
3. All Hostels and Campsites Are Run by 2 Companies
And these companies are:
1. fantasticosur.com (most of W-Circuit);
2. verticepatagonia.cl (a little bit of W, a lot on O-Circuit).
If you would like to camp, these are the companies to make a booking from.
If you’ll be taking the W-Circuit and you’ll be staying in hostels, you can make a booking either through these companies or through travel agencies.
4. Torres del Paine is VERY Popular
And during the top season it’s always fully booked.
A good time for hiking in Torres del Paine is from October till March, the best is winter (December, January, February).
If you plan to do hiking during the most popular time, for example, around the New Years Eve, make reservations at least 6 months in advance. If you plan to stay in hostels, do it even earlier, around March or April.
A lot of people end up adjusting their travel itineraries just so they can do the hiking.
5. Travel Agencies Can Help You
Mostly companies running the hostels (refugios) don’t bother looking for clients. As there are so many people willing to stay there.
Most of bookings are made through travel agencies.
This is how you can do as well.
Or, if you have tried to make a booking yourself, and there are no places left (it’s fully booked), try and contact a travel agency offering the service. I made my reservations through a travel agency in Sweden, which have a partner in Argentina (www.cynsa.com.ar). And this Argentinian company helped me to get a booking from Fantástico Sur un Vertice.
Yeah, it is more complicated that you might be used to.
There are several middleman mostly.
But that’s just how it is here.
Apart from that the agency also booked all transportation for me. And that was a huge relief.
6. It Can Be Very Expensive
Especially if you opt for some Patagonia travel package.
A W-Circuit package with hostel. 5 days, 4 nights. With 3 meals per day. With transportation to Torres del Paine and back.
The cheapest what I saw was around 1100 USD.
But you can do it also cheaper.
If you go with your own tent. Then you’ll just pay some 12 USD per night. I don’t remember exactly if it was per tent or per person, but anyway – cheap.
Another option is not to carry your own tent, and book one on the site.
It will be a tent that’s permanently there on the campground. Sometimes there will be a sleeping pad and sleeping bag as well. Ask about that when making a booking. It will not be as cheap as staying in your own tent, but cheaper than staying in refugio. And just to remind you – this choice as well gets fully booked at some point.
So, book in advance.
And take into account that weather conditions in Patagonia get very harsh. The wind can be very strong and cold. And it may rain as well. Take that into consideration when planning your trip and your budget.
7. How to Get to Torres del Paine
If you’ll be doing this on your own, remember about transportation.
About how you’ll be getting to the national park.
The nearest town is Puerto Natales. And there is a bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine. It’s a 2-hour bus ride.
Plus – don’t forget about park entrance ticket.
And also – catamaran ticket to get back from the trail, unless you’ll be doing the full circle.
My advice would be to book all of that at once.
There are no shops on the trail.
Hence you have only 2 options: carry all of your food or eat at the hostel restaurants along the way.
Eating at the restaurants is expensive.
And sometimes that’s not even an option. For example, on the O-Circuit in some parts there aren’t any hostels.
Making a fire in the Torres del Paine National park is forbidden. But you can use your own camping gas stove on the campgrounds.
How Much Does It Cost? Example with W-Circuit
If you travel frugally, it’s doable with around 200 USD.
If you’re carrying all of your gear and food, and if you stay in tent, then you can do the hike with some 200 USD per person. That includes your food expenses. Yes, you can do it without spending thousands of dollars.
I did the W-Circuit myself.
My Experience with Torres del Paine W Trek
Here is how I did the W-Circuit.
Day 1. Arriving in the afternoon and staying overnight at Refugio Torre Central.
Day 2. Hiking to Mirador Las Torres (right part of the W on the map), and returning to Refugio Torre Central. 8 hours of hiking.
Day 3. Hiking to Nordenskjöld Lake, to Refugio Frances.
Day 4. Hiking to Mirador Britanico (middle part of the W on the map). On the way leaving my backpack at Campsite Italiano. On my way back I took the backpack, and hiked to Refugio Paine Grande.
Day 5. On the last day and hiked to Glacier Gray (left part of the W), and returned to Refugio Paine Grande. 13.7 miles / 22 km, some 6-7 hours of hiking. At around 5 pm I left the national park with catamaran, and returned to Puerto Natales. There’s no other mode of transportation there.
That may sound very difficult.
But just take a map of the W-Circuit, and it will all make sense.
You Can Do the W-Circuit in 4 Days
If you would like to save money or you’re short on time.
You can do the same in 4 days and 3 nights.
Arrive to the national park at around mid-day, and hike to Refugio Chileano, which is on the way to Mirador Las Torres (first night). Early in the morning visit Mirador Las Torres, return via Refugio Chileano, to take your backpack, and continue hiking to Refugio Los Guernos (second night), which is a little bit closer than Frances. In the morning hike to Mirador Britanico, as already described earlier, and continue to Paine Grande, where you’ll spend your third night. From Paine Grande your fourth day will be exactly the same as my fifth day, with return to city late in the afternoon.
Enjoy your hike in Torres del Paine!
Have you been on a trip to Patagonia? Did you go hiking in Torres del Paine? What was your experience?
Tips by Latvian traveler Eriks Sneiders. Translated and edited by Kaspars Misins.