While you expect the O Circuit to be tough, perhaps more arduous is actually booking campsites in Torres del Paine. You will need to make reservations across three websites, factoring in sporadic availability and a whole lot of outdated information. It’s a real pain in the ass, so I figured I’d spare you a few steps.
Below you’ll find everything you need to know about 2017 regulations for Torres del Paine National Park, suggested trekking routes, and information on how to book campsites in Torres del Paine.
What changed in 2016?
As of October 15, 2016, Torres del Paine is making it very hard to show up and improvise. So what’s changed? You can read the full PDF in Spanish here, or I’ve summarized it below:
- It’s mandatory to have advance reservations for all the campsites along the W Trek and the O Circuit. Printed vouchers may be required at designated checkpoints on the trail.
- The O Circuit can only be traveled counterclockwise.
- The Las Carretas – Paine Grande Trail is closed in high season.
- It is now prohibited to camp at Las Carretas camp.
- The Laguna Amarga – Serón trail is closed.
Map + Campsites in Torres del Paine
There are three different agencies (CONAF, Vertice, Fantástico Sur) that offer campsites and shelters in Torres del Paine National Park. The campsites you need to reserve will depend on your route and budget.
You can either wait and book your campsites in person in Puerto Natales (very limited availability) or book online, alternating between corresponding websites.
- Refugio and Camping Las Torres: Book with fantasticosur
- Chileno Refugio and Camping: Book with fantasticosur
- Camp Torres: Book with CONAF (NOT AVAILABLE FOR 2017-2018)
- Camp Seron: Book with fantasticosur
- Refugio Dickson: Book with Vertice Patagonia
- Camp Los Perros: Book with Vertice Patagonia
- Camp Paso: Book with CONAF
- Refugio Grey: Book with Vertice Patagonia
- Refugio Paine Grande: Book with Vertice Patagonia
- Camp Italiano: Book with CONAF
- Camping El Frances: Book with fantasticosur
- Refugio Cuernos: Book with fantasticosur
How to Book Campsites for Torres del Paine
Booking for 2017-2018? Scroll to the end of this post for updates from Erratic Rock **
Still struggling to make reservations? Here’s more information about how to approach it:
Step 1: Choose your Trek
There are three main trekking routes in Torres del Paine: The W Trek, The O Circuit, and the Q Circuit. Each of the routes will take you in on a path the shape of the indicated letter. The W Trek is the shortest at 3-5 days, the O Circuit is meant to be trekked in 6-10, and the Q Circuit can be accomplished in 7-11 days. Most treks will begin at Paine Grande or Las Torres and travel counterclockwise. I have a post on Torres del Paine trekking routes coming soon!
Step 2: Plan your Route
Once you’ve decided between the routes, you’ll need to pick the campsites you wish to stay in along the way. The sites you choose will be impacted by your budget, preferred trekking times, and campsite availability. Check out our post on which campsites to book depending on your route.
Step 3: Check Availability
Before making your bookings, you’ll need to check that almost every campsite on your route is available for your dates. Once you have a start date in mind, make an Excel sheet with the dates you’d stay in each campsite. You’ll need to visit the fantasticosur, Vertice Patagonia, and CONAF websites separately to check availability. If one date is unavailable, consider checking availability for nearby campsites. If you’re running into problems, try the whole itinerary with a different start date. Tip: The best way to see sunrise at the Torres del Paine is to camp at the free CONAF site – “Torres” – one hour from the viewpoint. This is the most popular campsite in the park, so I’d recommend checking availability for this site first and planning your trip backwards. (UPDATE JULY 2017: Campamiento Torres isn’t accepting reservations for 2017-2018. Instead, you can either splurge on a night at Chileno or wake up extra early to see sunrise from Central)
Step 4: Make your Reservations
It is most economical to start your reservations with the free campsites in Torres del Paine on CONAF (you can cancel if needed). Next, book your campsites along the W Trek as these are the most likely to fill up first. Finally, head over to fantasticosur and Vertice Patagonia to finalize your reservations. To ensure you don’t get stuck with an incomplete itinerary, it is important to make all of your reservations on the same day. Note: If one or two of your preferred campsites are booked, you may consider leaving holes in your itinerary, and trying daily for new spots to open up. Once you arrive in Puerto Natales, you can enquire in person. If you’re traveling in low season, there is constantly new availability.
Step 5: Check ’em!
After making reservations across three different websites, you’ll want to double check that you didn’t make any mistakes on dates or campsites. You can easily cancel and rebook on the CONAF site, and you will need to message fantasticosur and Vertice Patagonia directly to make changes to your reservation.
Step 6: Print and Get Ready
Print a paper copy of all your reservations to carry with you on your trek. You’ll need to show proof of reservation to get past some of the checkpoints in the park. Now that you’ve got your dates locked in, you can start planning the trek itself!
… no campsites available?
The reservation process was a bit of a disaster for the 2016-2017 season. Reservations were mandatory, but I met plenty of people traveling without them. There are two main checkpoints along the O Circuit: Guardaria Coirón where they require proof of booking for Dickson or Los Perros and Guardaria Los Perros where you must show reservation for Paso or Gray.
Listen. The restrictions were put in place to protect the park, so we recommend making an honest effort. We met people sneaking onto the campsites in Torres del Paine without problems, but we think the best course of action is this: If your preferred sites are booked, try back every day until your trek starts. If you’ve still got gaps in your itinerary, try to make reservations along the way by asking campsites or checkpoints to call ahead. Last resort is arriving to your campsite around dark and being apologetic about it. The rangers may roll their eyes, but they won’t usually send you on your way to become puma fare after sunset.
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Traveling to Patagonia? You might also like:
- The Other W Trek: The O Circuit
- 5 Trekking Routes in Torres del Paine
- Where to Rent Gear in Puerto Natales
- The $25 Ferry through the Fjords
- What the Hell are the Marble Caves?
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Do you have any other questions for your trip to Torres del Paine? Want more information on the campgrounds? Comment with your questions and we’d be happy to help!
** Booking for 2017-2018?
Rustyn of Erratic Rock says: “The CONAF office here is telling us that there will be no reservations taken until October for any of the free campsites. Things always change with them, but I’m personally not expecting to make reservations until then. This counts for all the free CONAF sites. Both the Fantastico Sur and Vertices sites are pretty bad, but if you write the companies directly they will make reservations for people now. The websites are really not the best plan of attack this time of year.”