Torres Del Paine

Travelling 7,000 miles to see the 8th wonder of the world was worth it.

Torres Del Paine

Torres Del Paine is the national park that makes up what we know of as Patagonia. The best way to explore Torres Del Paine is through the W or O Trek. The W Trek takes about 3-4 days to complete and you experience the main points of the park. You can also do the O Trek, which many people recommend but your physical fitness needs to be excellent. I personally did day hikes because availability for campgrounds was completely sold out. This way of exploring Patagonia is still an incredible option and it allows you to dine really well in Puerto Natales.

Must Do: Base Las Torres, Mirador Los Cuernos & Mirador Los Glaciares

Exploring Torres Del Paine & Your Options

Torres Del Paine is one of the national parks that make up what we know as Patagonia. Torres Del Paine is a national park in Chile and exploring the park can be done a few ways. You can do day hikes or do the W Trek or O Trek. I personally did day hikes because availability for refugios was completely booked for my dates. Doing day hikes has the advantage of seeing great parts of the park and being able to go back to an incredible dinner in Puerto Natales. There is a disadvantage to day hikes and that is missing parts of the park that are only accessible through the W or O Trek.

If you do day hikes you can still see some parts of the park that are typically seen through the W Trek but it becomes a lot more complicated. I wanted to see the glaciers in Torres Del Paine, but we ran out of time. I really wanted to reach a suspending bridge but it was impossible because of time constraints. To get to the trek that takes you to Glacier Gray, you have to take a boat to Refugio Paine Grande and begin the hike. The problem is that the earliest boat ride to the Refugio is at 9AM and the latest ride back to the park is at 6PM. It’s basically impossible to reach the suspending bridge with this option. There is however another option but it’s a bit complicated. You can take the boat ride from Salto Grande to Mirador Paine Grande and when you reach the glaciers, take another boat ride from the glaciers to Refugio Gray. All this costs about $150 USD because you will need transportation back to Salto Grande. It's doable but complicated, and at this point might as well do the W Trek.

If you want to do the W Trek or O Trek you need to stay in refugios. Refugios are basically camp grounds that have restaurants, restrooms, showers and internet, though the internet is about $5 per hour. To book refugios you need to do this the day they start selling space for the following year. There’s two companies in charge of the refugios inside the park: Vertice and Fantastico Sur. Both of these companies start selling space for the following year around the summer and I suggest you book asap. I tried booking in August for my dates in January and it was completely booked.

If you decide on doing the W Trek or the O Trek, don’t rent a car. The transportation infrastructure in Torres Del Paine is abundant and really inexpensive. It costs about $10 to take a bus from Puerto Natales to Torres Del Paine. I used Bus Sur to move from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales and to cross into Argentina.

Refugios in Torres Del Paine

Fantastico Sur

Offers refugios in: Sector Central, Sector Cuernos, Sector Chileno, Sector Seroón. Sector Franceés.

Vertice

Vertice offers refugios in the areas needed to complete the W or O Trek.

Mirador Los Cuernos

An easy and beautiful hike. Perfect after Base Las Torres.

Mirador Los Cuernos

An easy and beautiful hike. Perfect after Base Las Torres.

Mirador Los Cuernos

Mirador Los Cuernos was one of my favorite hikes in Torres del Paine. It’s about a 1.75 mile hike, round trip and it has some of the best views of the park. I truly loved this hike and it’s best after doing a hard trail like Las Torres. This hike is accessible by car and it’s located in the center of the park in Guarderia Pudeto. In Guarderia Pudeto, there is parking, tourist bus stops and the departing catamaran for Refugio Paine Grande.

Salto Grande

Torres del Paine isn’t known for its waterfalls the same way Iceland is. Torres del Paine, to the best of my knowledge only has one waterfall and that’s Salto Grande. If you’re in the park, you can’t miss this one. If you’re driving on the main road in the park, you’ll definitely see it. To access Salto Grande, you have to enter Guarderia Pudeto and walk a few minutes.

Mirador Los Cuernos

Mirador Los Cuernos is a must, in my opinion. This is the perfect hike to do after you hike Base Las Torres or Mirador Los Glaciares. Me and my group did this one after hiking Base Las Torres and we enjoyed it. It’s only 1.8 miles round trip and it provides some of the best views of the park.

Base Las Torres

A moderately difficult 13 mile hike.

Base Las Torres

A moderately difficult 13 mile hike with an incredible view at the end.

Hiking Las Torres

Hiking Las Torres is a must if you’re in Torres Del Paine. This can be done as a day hike or have it be part of the W or O Trek. Getting to the point with this trail: it’s moderately difficult and you absolutely need good boots. I didn’t feel like I needed trekking poles but good boots are a must. Before the trip I picked up a pair of great boots from REI and they served me well. This trail has an elevation gain 3488 ft and the way back will be brutal without good boots. The trail is about 13 miles and it takes a full day complete. I recommend you pack a meal because you’re going to need it.

A good place to rest — Refugio Chileno

Refugios are located all throughout the park and Refugio Chileno is located on the trail for Base Las Torres. Refugios make exploring Torres Del Paine much easier. They offer accommodation (book way in advance), they offer restrooms for guests, food, drinks and really expensive internet. Refugio Chileno is a good place to take a small break and use the restroom. Me and my group stopped in this refugio twice, once on the way there and again on the way back. You will be tired coming down and the decline can be quite challenging on you knees. We stopped for a quick bite and a few beers. A quick word on payments: in Chile you’ll be able to use your credit cards nearly everywhere. Every refugio I visited took all the major credit cards, including American Express.

Mirador Los Glaciares

The wind makes it very unique but watch the clock.

Mirador Los Glaciares

The wind makes it very unique but watch the clock.

Hiking to Mirador Los Glaciares

If you’re going to hike Mirador Los Glaciares and you’re not part of the W or o Trek, you need to be aware of what you’re getting yourself into and set expectations accordingly. Reaching Mirador Los Glaciares takes a few hours and there will be plenty of time to do this activity. If you’re doing Mirador Los Glaciares, once you reach the mirador, it’s a good time to start going back. If you want to reach the famous suspending bridges, those are still too far away and there’s not enough time to go and return for the last outbound catamaran. If you want to reach the suspending bridges, I suggest you take the catamaran from Guarderia Pudeto to Refugio Paine Grande and start hiking to Refugio Gray. In Refugio Gray you hire a different catamaran from Hotel Gray and they will take you to Hotel Gray. Once you reach Hotel Gray, they will shuttle you back to Guarderia Pudeto. This is assuming you have a rental car and you’re doing day hikes.

Guarderia Pudeto to Refugio Paine Grande

If you are doing day hikes like I was, some parts of the park will require you to take a catamaran to access those parts of the park. To reach Refugio Paine Grande from Guarderia Pudeto, there is one company that offers this service and they’re cash only. The first outbound catamaran leaves at 9AM and it’s typically full. I highly suggest you arrive to Guarderia Pudeto at 8AM if you want to leave on the first outbound catamaran.

The most intensive wind I've ever experienced

Patagonia in general is really windy and it intensifies in certain regions. Mirador Los Glaciares had by far the strongest winds. It was so intense, it became scary. I had to sit down to feel safe. It’s a unique experience that you will definitely experience if you visit Patagonia. Also, no drones for obvious reasons. It’s also not allowed.

A good time to head back

I mentioned earlier that once you reach Mirador Los Glaciares, it’s a good time to head back. This only applies if you’re taking the catamaran and you have to take the last outbound catamaran back to Guarderia Pudeto. The reason I say it's a good idea to head back after reaching Mirador Los Glaciares is because there isn’t much to see past the mirador. You get closer to the glacier which is incredible but time starts running out and you find yourself rushing back to Refugio Paine Grande. Me and my group made it back in time but we all agreed that reaching Refugio Gray wasn’t worth it because it’s just a campground and we weren’t camping there.

My thoughts on Torres Del Paine

It’s really hard to write a concluding section because being in Torres Del Paine is such a unique and privileged thing to be able to do. However, the park is simply gorgeous. If you turn left or right, you see something incredible, something you don’t see everyday. I can write on-and-on about how beautiful the park is but the photos do that better than text ever will. I want to say how beautiful and caring the people and tourist were in Torres Del Paine. We don’t hear that everyday and I certainly don’t in Monterey. We think the tourists visiting Big Sur are shit because they cause traffic and trash the place. I saw the exact opposite in Torres Del Paine. People visiting Torres Del Paine didn’t leave trash behind and they respected protected areas of the park.

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