Torres del Paine Trek
Chile’s Torres del Paine trek is the “classic” Patagonian trek offering towering granite peaks, valleys surrounded by 360 degree panoramas of mountains, glacial views stretching to the horizon, incredible fields of wild flowers, and much more. With short options from day hikes, to the very popular “W” trek, to truly take in all of its splendor, the complete circuit should be completed.
Regardless of the duration of your trek there are many starting points. We chose to take the catamaran to Refugio Lago Pehoe and start the trek in the more traditional anti-clockwise direction hitting many of the side trips along the way.
Trekking the circuit can require as few as eight days, but took us eleven. The weather is quite unpredictable and patience is rewarded. Hasty trekkers miss the best views, settling for partial glimpses at the towers, valleys, and glaciers. Instead, take your time and allow the views to ripen under the proper weather conditions. There is simply no comparison to seeing the towers under the rays of the early morning sun versus the often gray clouded over views of a midday trip up to the towers.
While the trek around Mount Fitzroy was truly magnificent, after completing the circuit and seeing the great diversity the Torres del Paine trek offers, the nod goes to Torres del Paine as the best trek in Patagonia.
Guided vs Independent Treks
The trek around the circuit is clearly marked and there is little need for a guide. Unlike other treks there are no porters to help you with your load. However, there are guides and many options for the less hardy traveler. Many people stay at the Refugio’s and/or the Hosteria Las Torres and day hike to the primary sites with their belongings being carted by horse from site to site.
Access / Local Information
The traditional way is to travel through Chile, landing in Santiago and then flying to Punta Arenas and taking a bus to Puerta Natales where you can catch a bus to the park.
While you can buy many last minute items you need in Punta Arenas, it was quite easy to find any supplies in Puerta Natales. Try not to buy your food and perishable supplies in Santiago, because the airline will charge you for excessive baggage if your check on luggage weighs too much. This can somewhat be avoided if you fly to Punta Arenas shortly after you arrive in Chile. Check with your airline for their exact rules.
Interestingly, while Punta Arenas appears to be the more modern city, the Internet access was better in Puerta Natales.
An alternative way to get to the park is to fly through Argentina. You can fly from Buenos Aries and then take another flight to El Calafate. From El Calafate you can catch a bus to Torres del Paine. We couldn’t confirm if this stopped in Puerta Natales along the way or was a direct bus. Going through El Calafate was more quaint than Punta Arenas and if you plan to add a trek around Mount Fitzroy, it is more convenient.
Day to Day Account - Jeff Salvage -
Our journey around Torres del Paine was just one of four treks I scheduled for the winter of 2006. Having taken the quarter off from teaching, I planned to get the most out of my time away from work. Unfortunately, I had surgery to remove a piece of glass from my foot a few months prior to my trip. For a month beyond the operation I was given strict orders that I couldn’t bear any weight on the recovering foot. This left me in a huge physical deficit and only a little more than a month to prepare for my trek. A wise man would scale back his plans, but no one ever said I was wise. Instead, I ratcheted up my therapy and prepared as best I could. The story continues.. …