Me and my boyfriend are heading to Chile in January and are planning to do the 'w' trek in torres del paine. We're trying to decide whether to take camping gear or stay in the refugios they have out there, but I can't seem to find any info on prices. I found some info and prices on organised tours but we would prefer to do it on our own and at our own pace.
It might be handy to have camping gear with us as we're also planning to head up to the lake district and do a bit of hiking there too but it's extra weight to carry and if the refugios aren't that expensive it might be better to stay there. Also if we do end up camping is it possible to hire lockers at the refugios so that we don't have to do all the walking with our heavy backpacks?
If anyone has been here and has any tips/advice we'd love to hear from you!
I do not remember the exact prices for each refugio, but i do know it is not cheap. if you do the W, you will need between 3 and 4 nights in them, I think they cost between U.S. $30 and $50 a night !!! (or more). ALso keep in mind the meals at the refugios are not cheap either. Breakfasts cost about $8, dinners are about $15, a cup of hot chocolate was like $3 !!! So not bringing your own food or tent can add up quick ! Even with a tent they still charge more than expected for camping, again don't recall off hand, but maybe $ 12 ? And keep in mind they try and charge you $12 per person, not tent???? weird... so we just sent one of us in the refugio to pay to save a few bucks. They sell packages in nateles for full refugio accommodation and meals for the whole trip (W), but it is expensive. If you search enough on the net you will find the exact prices for everything. Camping Rentals are everywhere in P natales, the whole town is a rental place ! On a side note, my biggest surprise about the park was the costs. While compared to U.S. standards its not too bad, but i wasn't expecting that down there. Another recommendation for you, when you arrive in natales i would try and go to Erratic Rock Hostel for their daily hiking talk. They give some good info on the park, tips for camping, how to pack, what to pack, what to expect.. its a free daily talk, and worth an hour of your time. We were glad we went. I am sure if you email them they could answer more specifically your question about prices.
I'd personally forget about the camping idea and go for the refugio despite the extra price. I would begin booking ASAP if you want the refugio option because you will probably find some are already close to booked out for that period of time you are talking about going as it is peak time. You will be thanking your lucky stars that you have the refugio/bed option rather than the tent option if you encounter a day of bad weather.
I booked the bed option for every night I could, but I left it too late to book two of the nights in a bed (even though I booked about this time last year for late December). I checked on arrival in case someone had cancelled and thankfully a cancellation had happened for my first night at the 2nd camp, but the 2nd of the two nights was the worst weathered day of my whole trip. It poured with rain the entire day and blew very strong winds as well. I stayed out in a tent hidden under trees and a fair bit of high grass to try and avoid it as much as possible, but this wasn't enough. I paid to hire a sleeping mat, thick sleeping bag and high quality tent but the floor already had four deep worth of sleeping mats. By the end of that day of constant rain the water had seaped through the floor very badly and every bit of me was soaked to the bone and my only pair of shoes was soaked right through. At least one persons tent was flooded much deeper than the sleeping mats and his baggage was soaked right through after he had left it there throughout the day. That was the most awful day of my whole month away, but had I been in a bed in a relatively warm cabin rather than on a wet floor it would have been considerably better. At least I would have woke the next day after a night of sleep rather than get up having had no sleep.
I think the names of the main companies which owned the refugios were "Fantastico Sur" and "Vertice". I found them doing google searches for Torres Del Paine and they were on a few pages. Also the place where one of the other people mentions about Erratick Rock is a great place to go in Puerto Natales and that American guy is very helpful.
I am certain about the name "Fantastico Sur" as that is showing on my creditcard statement from when I went away, but the other one I'm not 100% on the name of the company. It was about $30-40 a night and maybe more at a couple of the more grande places, but it is a place worth splurging on. Food is very expensive so try and bring as much food as you can to avoid the massive prices you pay at the refugio's.
[ Edit: Edited on 31-Aug-2009, at 04:28 by aharrold45 ]
Ah the TdP. I spent 6 months in South America and this possibly formed my favourite week.
We took the Navimag down there mid Jan which cost circa $300. A lot but that including everything except alcohol and was a brilliant trip.
Spent a day and a half in Puerto Natales once we got there and basically booked our travel from there to and from the Park. A week or two earlier I spent a bit of time looking up refugio's and booking what I thought we needed.
I have to say that it will be a brilliant part of your trip and if you can afford it then it is worth it. Included in the price will be breakfast, a snack lunch and dinner. So there is no prep time, no need to carry food, no hassle basically. You can use all your time to appreciate one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Fantastico Sur sounds very familiar and a great tip on Eratic Rock.
Post TdP I would massively recommend a trip to the massage place with the giant outdoor hot tubs. Also the restaurant Afrigonia was one of the very best I came across. Lady from Kenya mixing her home foods with those from Patagonia. Awesome.
So bottom line. Take the hit and spend a little more on a once in a lifeime opportunity/trip. It's unlikely you will be back. I promise you that you will not regret it.