Torres del Paine National Park
Here you can find out about best routes, tours and guides for trekking, kayaking and horse riding.
Torres del Paine: Guide, getting there, things to do
Torres del Paine, on the edge of the South Patagonian Ice Cap is Patagonia's number one destination for adventurous travellers. From day hikes, to 8 day treks, kayaking, ice hiking and horse-riding this the place to come if you're looking for an adventure in one of nature's most dramatic and varied arenas.
Patagonian Winter is a fantastic time of year to visit Torres del Paine, with autumnal colours, snow capped mountains and fewer visitors to the park. If you're looking to hike between May and September, visit our winter in Torres del Paine page.
Here we'll answer your questions from what to do in Torres del Paine, to what's it like, how to get there and when to visit.
Things to do in Torres del Paine
Torres del Paine is one of the world's most famous trekking destinations - you can see snow covered mountains, trek on glaciers, walk through beautiful valleys, and have lunch by crystal-blue lakes all in one day.
Kayaking in Torres del Paine National Park is a great way to see some of the less accessible parts of this natural reserve as you can take in the wilder, and more secluded areas before or after enjoying your W ...
If you want to explore the full variety that Torres del Paine offers then the best way to do that is to combine different activities with different terrain and parts of the park: trekking, kayaking, mountain biking and horse riding. ...
So what are these ‘Torres’?
The ‘Torres del Paine’ are three granite towers to the east of the Paine Massif (Macizo Paine), in the centre of the national park. The highest point in the massif is actually Cerro Paine Grande (at 3,050m) a few kilometres to the south-west. The third main feature of the Paine massif, in between, is Los Cuernos (‘the horns’). They dominate the landscape…and many photos of the region.
The best views of the Torres themselves are from the top of Valle Ascensio, and to experience Los Cuernos you should trek the Valle Frances, and stop-over at either Camping Los Cuernos or Refugio Los Cuernos.
The park was shaped by the huge Campo de Hielo Sur (Southern Patagonian Ice Field), and remnants of this remain in the four main glaciers in the park: Glacier Grey (the longest at 24km), Dickson, Pingo and Geikie.
How do I get there?
Puerto Natales is the nearest town to Torres del Paine National Park, and it's 2-3 hours away. But there are several regular and reliable bus companies and if you go with a small guided group transfers from Puerto Natales are always included.
There are plenty of hotels to choose from in Puerto Natales. For recommended places and to check for availability and prices for your dates please see our guide to hotels in Puerto Natales.
Typically people would fly in to Punta Arenas (PUQ) in Chile, and then travel north to Puerto Natales (about 3 hours). However El Calafate (FTE) over the border in Argentina isn't much further away and may be more convenient for those travelling in from Argentina. Find out more about getting to Patagonia.
What are the must-see landmarks?
By far the most memorable moment for me personally was Paso John Garner in the North of the park. Trekkers normally approach this 1,180m pass from the East so that as they come over it they are presented with the view of Grey Glacier & the Southern Patagonian Ice Field reaching out into the distance. But getting to the North of the park tends to take a few more days of trekking.
Those with less time can get up close to the Grey Glacier via Lago Grey, either on foot (a couple of days trek from the main entrances to the park), or by boat (a day trip).
To view the Towers and Los Cuernos themselves there are two main valleys taking you to the best vantage points: Frances in the West for Los Cuernos, and Ascensio in the East for the Torres. Valle Ascensio can be tackled in a day trek from the main lodge/camping or from the new EcoCamp, both near the main entrance. Valle Frances is tackled as part of the ‘W Circuit’ (see below).
I’ve heard about some boats and a catamaran…
Torres del Paine National Park has 2 large lakes which have regular boat crossings: Grey and Pehoe. Not only are these boat trips a beautiful and unique way to see parts of the park, but they also provide you with a way to get around fast, and avoid those terrible ‘double-back-on-yourself’ moments. Booked separately they cost $22 to $70 approx, but this is almost always included in your overall cost of the trip. In case you were wondering it’s a motor-based catamaran - sadly the weather isn’t consistent enough for passenger-based sailing.
What time of year?
The best time to trek is from October to late April, but some companies do provide winter trekking in Torres del Paine too.
Do I need to book a park entrance ticket?
There is a fee to use the park (5,000 to 15,000 pesos depending on the time of year - that’s £6 to £20), but you don’t need to book in advance.
Does it get busy?
Torres del Paine is one of the most famous trekking destinations in the world. So, yes, it does attract lots of visitors, especially over mid-December to mid-January when Chilean and Argentinian visitors take the opportunity to visit this incredible corner of their country. However it's a huge park covering 2,400 square kilometres. Only 5% of visitors make their way to the northern parts of the park on the 'Full Circuit'.
Map of key landmarks in Torres del Paine National Park
>> See more Torres del Paine Maps
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When are you
thinking of going?
See Patagonia at the height of the season, when you'll have 18 hours of daylight and feel Patagonia's infamous wind at its strongest. There are just so many options open to you in addition to hiking, why not try glacier trekking, mountain biking and white water rafting on the rapids of the Futaleufu River?
If you want to visit last minute, the key is moving quickly and booking your flights. Availability in Chalten shouldn't be too difficult but in Torres del Paine it's likely that refugios will be fully booked. Don't worry though, it's warm enough to camp under the stars. If you're still in the planning stages of your trip but hope to go this season, it's a good idea to get flights booked as early as possible and make the most of Patagonia's summer before autumn sets in April.
February is a great time to trek Patagonia's national parks, in particular Torres del Paine quietens down as Chilean visitors head back to their cities. In Feb you can expect temperatures of between 5 and 19 degrees in Torres del Paine, and this could be a good time to trek the W Circuit independently if you want to save some money to go kayaking for example.
If you want to go in February but you've left it last minute, you may be able to find a late deal on our Exclusive Deals page. Your best bet is finding a Patagonia Tours which tend to have lots of departure dates to join during February.
If you're considering visiting next season, (starting in October), why not getting your flights booked good and early? If you're lucky you may be able to get flights from London to Punta Arenas for £850.
March is the tail end of the season for adventure in Patagonia so the infamous Patagonian wind will be on its way out, there'll be fewer people in the national parks so generally quieter on the trails. This is great as you may find prices come down slightly as the locals and tourists leave, but it's more difficult to get a group together, so could be harder if you're travelling alone (although we'll strive to pair you up with someone). However, most longer, multi-location trips run by our global operator partners still run in March and they tend to have bigger groups, but prepare for rain if your trip visits the lake district!
In April the season is coming to an end, so try to get there in the first half of the month for more availability and better weather conditions. If you're hoping to stay in the Eco Camp in Torres del Paine or do an adventure cruise round Cape Horn, they finish for the season in early April, so get going! Luckily it's about this time that skiing in Bariloche becomes available in the Argentinian Lake District. Remember that many mountain lodges and estancias close around this time making it hard to do the W or Full Circuit for example. Plus certain services become unavailable such as the catamaran across Lago Pehoe in Torres del Paine and glacier hiking, so it may be a good idea to go earlier in the season if these are on your list of things to do.
Find out more about visiting Torres del Paine in winter >>
Winter is getting into full swing now so you may want to try out volcano skiing in the Patagonian Lake District or tailor made tours that take into account the potentially difficult weather conditions. As many operators and lodges wind down for the winter, fewer travellers visit the trails and parks so private departures on most trips are likely. The weather will be a bit like trekking in wales in Dec, are you up for that challenge?
Find out more about visiting Torres del Paine in winter >>
At this time of year, the snow is starting to settle in Torres del Paine National Park and the trees are brown and orange, a very beautiful time to see the highlights. June is also when operators launch their Winter W Circuit and Fitz Roy trips, which vary from the usual itineraries as many refugios are closed and van transfers are required because the catamaran across Lago Pehoe stops. Although days are short and weather temperamental, if you can see Patagonia in winter, it will be serene and picturesque.
Find out more about visiting Torres del Paine in winter >>
Mid winter, July is equivalent to our January in terms of weather. This is a great time to take advantage of the skiing Patagonia has to offer, particularly in the Chilean and Argentinian Lake Districts. Araucania offers off piste skiing, whereas Bariloche is home to the popular Cerro Catedral Resort but also caters for off piste skiing. For adrenaline junkies, you can ski down the slopes of several volcanoes on certain trips. If you're planning a trip for next season, start looking at flights as the sooner you book them, the cheaper they are.
If you hope to visit Torres del Paine this month, find out more about visiting Torres del Paine in winter >>
This is a great time for snow shoeing in Bariloche, or skiing in the Patagonian Lake District. There are also some winter trips in the Torres del Paine & Fitz Roy areas. Come prepared - cold temperatures, snow and short days means that your trip may not go 100% according to plan, Chalten is known for snow blocking the roads for a day or 2. Alternatively, August is a great time to plan and book trips for the early part of the season ahead, at this time operators will be starting to release availability and rates to help with that.
August is the last month to take advantage of specially designed winter trips in Torres del Paine. If you're keen to see the park covered in snow, find out more about hiking in Torres del Paine in winter >>
In September, it's still pretty chilly in Patagonia, with snow and temperatures of 5 degrees in El Calafate for example. If you're hoping to trek the main national parks, you may find that operators don't have any groups heading out, so you may have to go on a private trip with just your guide. The season really kicks off at the end of September/beginning of October with W Circuit and Full Circuit trips as well as estancias and lodges opening their doors to clients.
However, winter trips are still running in Torres del Paine. Find out more here >>
Get in before the crowds - you won't see many people on the W Circuit and you'll have the northern part of the park pretty much to yourself on the Full Circuit (you may even come face to face with the endangered Huemul deer). It's still a bit too early for horse riding and rafting trips, you're best off doing these from November onwards. So if you're thinking about visiting Patagonia this season, get your flights and trips booked, as availability really starts to tighten up over October/November.
November is a good time to visit: late spring/early summer. Not too busy but a full range of trips and itineraries to choose from. If you want to visit this month, you need to move fast. Refugios are getting booked up until January, but the operator will work hard to fit you in. Don't forget it takes at least a week to organise a tour, so don't leave it too late!
Mid summer, 18 hours of daylight and there will probably be days when you're hiking in shorts and t-shirt. Many Chileans and Argentinians will come down to Patagonia for their Christmas break so availability may be tight and you should expect the National Parks to be busier.
It's essential that you get your flights and tours booked asap, as flight prices are also increasing.
Top landmarks in Torres del Paine
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