Torres del Paine National Park

Travel Guide South America Chile Torres del Paine National Park



Los Torres

Los Torres

© brynster

Torres del Paine National Park is named after the 2,000-metre tall granite pillars that dominate the landscape of the park. In addition to the towers, visitors can see glaciers, lakes, waterfalls and wildlife. There are also a number of multiday hikes that visitors can undertake, but also shorter walks of an hour or several hours are possible. You can also visit parts by bike or even car, but you won't get into the real wilderness that way. The park is located roughly 112 kilometres north of Puerto Natales and 312 kilometres north of Punta Arenas. Argentinian El Calafate is not that far away either.




According to the studies made to the Paleo-Indian artifacts found in the surroundings of the park, the are must have been inhabited some 12,000 years ago. The Tehuelche Indians, descendants of the Paleo-Indians gave the name of Paine to the Massif, which meant "blue" in their language.
Lady Florence Dixie, in her book published in 1880, gave one of the first descriptions of the area and referred to the three towers as Cleopatra's Needles. She and her party are sometimes credited as being the first "foreign tourists" to visit the area that is now called Torres del Paine National Park. Several European scientists and explorers visited the area in the following decades, including Otto Nordenskiöld, Carl Skottsberg, and Alberto María de Agostini. The park was established in 1959 as Parque Nacional de Turismo Lago Grey (Grey Lake National Tourism Park) and was given its present name in 1970. In 1976, British mountaineer John Gardner and two Torres del Paine rangers, Pepe Alarcon, and Oscar Guineo pioneered the Circuit trail which circles the Paine massif. In 1977, Guido Monzino donated 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) to the Chilean Government when its definitive limits were established. The park was designated a World Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO in 1978.



Geography and Weather

Beside the astonishing Paine massif and its beatuiful peaks, azure lakes, trails that meander though emerald forests, roaring rivers you are to cross on rickety bridges and radiant blue glaciers, not to mention the vast openness of the steppe to rugged mountain terrain topped by looming peaks.
Fauna include abundant guanacos, flamingos, pumas, ñandu, gray fox and andean condors.

According to the Köppen climate classification, the park lies in the “temperate climate of cold rain without a dry season." The meteorological conditions of the park are variable due to the complex orography. But you have to be prepared for harsh weather. Wind and strong sun are also issues, and the weather can go through a full four seasons in the course of a day, as locals say. The zone is characterized by cool summers, with temperatures lower than 16 °C during the warmest month (January). Winter is relatively cold, with an average high temperature in July of 5 °C, and an average low of -3 °C. The rainiest months are March and April, with a monthly average rainfall of 80 mm. This represents double the July–October (winter) rainfall, which are the drier months. A study of the exact chemical components of the precipitation in the park has been carried out.




During the high season (October to April) a CLP$21,000 entrance fee is collected on entrance for foreigners and a CLP$6,000 entrance fee is collected for Chilean citizens and residents, which means, if you are in Chile as an exchange student or working for a period of time, just show your Cédula de Identidad (Identity card given by the Civil Registry and Identification Service (Servicio de Registro Civil e Identificación)) to pay the resident entry fee.

In the low season (May to September) foreigners pay CLP$11,000 and Chilean citizens and residents CLP$4,000.



Sights and Activities

  • Torres del Paine - The lookout, Base de las Torres, is a 45-minute hike from Campamento Torres.
  • Valle Francés - Accessed from Campamento Italiano, three hour hike one way.
  • John Gardner Pass - Located between Camping Los Perros and Campamento Paso, the John Gardner Pass is the point between the Valle de * Los Perros (Valley of the Dogs) and the backside of the Circuit, and Glacier Grey.
  • Glacier Grey - The Glacier Grey can be seen via a short hike out onto a sandbar from Guardería Grey, from the John Gardner Pass, or from Refugio Grey on the "W".
  • Lago Sarmiento - A large pretty lake with distinctive white banks, a result of calcium deposits.

Multiday Trips

  • W Trek. Bus to Visitors Centre/Administration, hike via Campamento Las Carretas to Refugio Paine Grande (17.5 kilometres), sleep first night there, Hike to Refugio Grey or Campamento Las Guardas (beautiful view of Grey Glacier) and back to Refugio Paine Grande (15 kilometres), sleep at Refugio Paine Grande, hike to Campamento Italiano (7.6 kilometres), sleep there, hike to Campamento Britanico and the Mirador of Vallé Frances (beautiful view on the snow-covered summits) and back (15 kilometres), sleep at Campamento Italiano, hike to Hosteria Las Torres (16.5 kilometres), sleep there, hike to Campamento Torres and Mirador Torres (beautiful view of the three torres) and back (10 kilometres). Minibus to the Laguna Amarga park gate. edit
  • Paine Massif "O" Circuit. Connects the two ends of the W via Camping Los Perros, Refugio Dickson, and Camping Serón, passing through the John Gardner Pass. 123 kilometres in total, 6-10 days.



Getting There

By Car

Warning: The nearest guaranteed gas/petrol station is located in Puerto Natales.

There are four main entrances (porterías) to the park.

  • Ruta Y-150: Laguna Amarga – The main entrance to the park, located closest to the Las Torres complex.
  • Ruta Y-156: Lago Sarmiento – The least visited entrance located near the banks of Lago Sarmiento.
  • Ruta Y-160: Laguna Azul – The northernmost entrance to the park, mostly used by those who renting horses for the trails located nearby.
  • Ruta Y-290: Serrano – The most direct route to Puerto Natales (approximately 90 kilometers, 1.5 hours) and the closest to administration building and visitor center.

It is also possible to enter the park via Ruta Y-180/Portería Laguna Verde. However, the road ends here and it is only possible to further enter into the park on foot or on horse. This entrance is more an option for those reentering the park on an already paid pass, as entrance fees are not collected at Laguna Verde.

By Bus

Buses run daily from Puerto Natales (two hours), the main connection to civilization. All normal buses pass through Laguna Amarga, where entrance fees are collected and official Conaf maps are given out, before continuing to Pudeto which is the departure point for the catamaran to Paine Grande. At Pudeto those wishing to continue on to the administration building/visitors' center will change to a different bus, regardless of bus company.

The following bus companies in Puerto Natales make twice daily trips to the park in the high season, and all follow the same schedule. Note that all buses leave from the bus terminal in Puerto Natales (at the corner Avenida Santiago Bueras and España). Tickets can be purchased either at the bus terminal or at the addresses listed below. Tickets may include an open return, so don't lose the return ticket stub.

  • Buses Pacheco, Eleuterio Ramírez 224, +56 61 41480.
  • Buses Fernandez, Armando Sanhueza 745, +56 61 242313.
  • Buses Gomez, Arturo Prat 234, +56 61 415700.
  • Buses María José, Arturo Prat 262, +56 61 41095.
  • JBA Patagonia, Arturo Prat 258, +56 61 410242.

In the shoulder seasons (April and September) there is only one departure and return daily (7:30AM departure from Puerto Natales and the 1PM return from the administration building), and the public buses do not run in the low season (May–August). It is avisable to confirm with the bus companies ahead of time.

From the park there are no direct buses for El Calafate but many tour operators offer them, in particular Chalten Travel. It is thus possible to go directly from El Calafate to the park and even return another day, although this is expensive (US$80 return, US$40 when returning another day).

By Boat

A catamaran runs between Refugio Pudeto and Refugio Lago Pehoé.



Getting Around

The main trails located at lower elevations are generally open year-round. However, the backside of the Paine Massif Circuit (between Laguna Amarga and Refugio Grey, counter-clockwise) is closed in the wintertime (May–October) due to the absence of park rangers and the difficulty of the terrain. Additionally, parts of the W trek (the Francés Valley, the Base of the Towers lookout, for example) are regularly closed in the wintertime due to snow accumulation, even if it is not snowing in other sectors of the park. It is advisable to check the website for the most up to date information.

Generally, most visitors to the park access the main trails (that comprise the "W" trek and the Paine Massif Circuit) either by catamaran from Pudeto to Paine Grande or on foot/by shuttle to Hotel Las Torres from the Laguna Amarga entrance. The main trails can also be accessed from the administration/visitor center on foot to Paine Grande, passing Campamento Las Carretas on the way (colloquially called the "Q" trek).

The catamaran Hielos Patagónicos runs between Pudeto and Refugio Paine Grande. One way and round trip tickets cost CLP$18,000 and CLP$28,000 respectively, backpack and luggage transport costs an additional CLP$4,000 and must not exceed 50 kilograms. From Laguna Amarga a van runs to and from Hotel Las Torres four times a day in order to connect the Las Torres to the main bus route. The price is CLP$3,000 one way. The shuttle typically leaves at 2:00pm to get passengers back to their buses by 2:30 to return to Puerto Natales. Backpackers can wait at the Refugio Central and get a hot lunch or relax while waiting.

The Grey II runs between Hostería Lago Grey and Refugio Grey and must be booked in advance (CLP$55,000).

The rest must be done by foot.




Refugio Paine Grande has the only combination bar/restaurant on the W trek. Provisions can be expensively restocked at Refugio Grey, Refugio Chileno, and Refugio Los Cuernos. A small kiosk is located at Hotel Las Torres at the beginning of the trek to Las Torres. At Pudeto a small cafeteria is available and convenient to those awaiting the catamaran departure.




The only bar on the W trek is located at Refugio Paine Grande. Hotel Las Torres Patagonia has a nice bar. The menu includes salads and finger food.




Beginning in October 2016, the park created a rule requiring reservations for lodging at both private and public CONAF campsites and refugios. This is not at all necessary to enter the park, but rangers will check your reservations when passing ranger stations between campsite and get you turned around if you have no reservation. However, if you arrive after 21:00 to a CONAF campsite that's far from other campsites, the rangers will generally let you stay.

You can make the free reservations for the CONAF campsites at the Torres Del Paine Official Park Website.

There are several basic lodges in the park called refugios. Make reservations well in advance if you plan on staying in these. The cost for a dorm bed is about CLP$85,000.

  • FantásticoSur Lodges, ☎ +56 61 614184, e-mail: Reservations for Refugio Torres, El Chileno and Los Cuernos.
  • b]Vertice Patagonia[/b], ☎ +56 61 412742, e-mail: For Paine Grande Lodge, Refugio Grey, and Refugio Dickson.

Both FantasticoSur and Vertice will ask for credit card information and charge it two weeks before arrival. There appears to be no cancellation penalty before that. Usually the two companies do not answer email and the best is to arrange bookings with the at their office in Puerto Natales.

There are several campsites. Camping near a refugio costs CLP$6,000 orCLP $10,000 the other campsites run by CONAF (called campamentos) are free but reservation in advance is mandatory. All campsites have at least basic toilet facilities (bring your own toilet paper) and refugios have hot showers. Travelers are theoretically restricted to camping for only one night at each CONAF campsite, but this seems to be relatively unenforced.

Hiking and camping outside of designated areas is forbidden, and will result in immediate expulsion from the park if caught.


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This is version 6. Last edited at 11:00 on Feb 15, 18 by Utrecht. 5 articles link to this page.

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