You may expect the O Circuit to be tough, but more unexpectedly arduous is actually booking campsites in Torres del Paine. It may be one of the best hikes in South America, but camping in Torres del Paine requires making reservations across three websites (plus CONAF, Fantastico Sur, and Vertice Patagonia aren’t exactly the easiest sites to use). When you factor in sporadic availability and a whole lot of outdated information, even your Lonely Planet can’t save you.
Have you found making arrangements for Torres del Paine camping to be a real pain in the ass? Below you’ll find everything you need to know (along with a 2017-2018 update from Erratic Rock) about 2017 regulations for Torres del Paine National Park, suggested trekking routes, and information on how to book campsites in Torres del Paine.
What’s changed since 2016?
Back in October 15, 2016, Torres del Paine made it very hard to show up and improvise. So what changed? You can read the full PDF in Spanish here, or I’ve summarized it below:
- It’s now mandatory to have advance reservations for all the campsites along the W Trek and the O Circuit. Printed vouchers are 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 Patagonia, Fantástico Sur) that offer shelters and camping 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
- NOT AVAILABLE FOR 2019-2020 // Camp Torres: Book with CONAF
- 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
Updates from September 2018: CONAF campsites for 2019-20120 could open as late as September, but no official date has been announced. Check back regularly to be sure you don’t miss the updates!
To book your campsites, go to the CONAF Reservation System and create your account. Once you’re logged in, click on the “Inicio” drop-down and select “Comprar”. After you’ve filled in your personal details to pay for your entrance, you’ll be prompted to “Reservar Servicios”. Then click the “Selecionar Servicios” and tick the radio button for the dates that you want each campsite. If you don’t see all your campsites, go back to “Inicio” and select “Ver Disponibilidad” to check the availability of the sites during your trip.
I’ll be honest that this process still seems completely complicated. The site is only available in Spanish, so tick on your Google Translate plugin if you’re not comfortable navigating in Spanish.
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. Here’s a post on trekking routes in Torres del Paine if you want some inspiration!
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 route to take so you can determine which sites to book. This post also includes hiking distances and suggested itineraries for the W Trek, the O Circuit, and the Q Circuit.
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 the 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 backward. (UPDATE JULY 2017: Campamiento Torres isn’t accepting reservations for 2018-2019. Instead, you can either splurge on a night at Chileno or wake up extra early to see the 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 inquire 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 for camping in Torres del Paine was a bit of a disaster for the 2016-2017 season. There were two main checkpoints along the O Circuit: Guardaria Coirón where they required proof of booking for Dickson or Los Perros and Guardaria Los Perros where you must show a reservation for Paso or Gray. Proof of reservation was mandatory, but I met lots of people traveling without them.
UPDATE MARCH 2019: When I did the trek in 2017, it was possible to make reservations along the way by asking the campsites to call ahead or arriving around sunset. I suggested it would be an annoyance but they wouldn’t send you on your way. But according to a park ranger’s comment on this post in 2019, this policy is officially changed. The gist of what she said is that that these days, people are sent back to the Central Sector or Paine Grande at least, where they must: pay a higher rate in a refugio (where available) or hire a private transfer to leave the park OR get sent back to Guardería Torres and have to redo their same hike the next morning.
Listen. It sucks to miss out on this hike, but this place is fragile and beautiful and the restrictions are in place for a reason. In the name of being a responsible traveler, do your best to plan ahead or find an alternative to Torres del Paine that doesn’t require reservations as far out. There are so many places for trekking and camping in Patagonia that are totally underrated.
For information on how to get to Torres del Paine, the best time to visit, and a comparison on the W Trek vs the O Circuit in Patagonia, read THE OTHER W TREK: THE O CIRCUIT
Where to Stay in Puerto Natales
Need a place to stay the night before your trek? Here are some of the best hotels in Puerto Natales.
Refugio Hoshken | The best part of Refugio Hoshken is its inexplicable ability to draw cool people together. The rooms themselves are quite basic, but the vibe is right in the shared kitchen and common areas. The staff is super friendly and they’ll even let you leave your stuff in storage while you undertake your trek! Dorms from $14.
The Singing Lamb | The Singing Lamb is the best-rated hostel in Puerto Natales thanks to their helpful staff and clean rooms. The place is quite simple but spacious common areas and its location just five blocks from the bus station makes this one the go-to for many people trekking in Torres del Paine. Double rooms start from €51.
Hotel Simple Patagonia | While the name might not have you expecting much, the Hotel Simple Patagonia is one of the more luxurious accommodations in Puerto Natales. The property is a full 4km from the bus station, but sleek architecture and floor to ceiling windows (with views of the Ultima Esperanza Sound) easily make up for it. Double rooms from $158.