You can see Torres del Paine by horseback, day trip, or even by airplane if you’re feeling really lazy, but anyone who has trekked to it is in on a secret. A heavy pack, too many days of instant oatmeal, and cold nights of camping are the things that make sunrise at Torres del Paine worth it. Whether you go for the W Trek, the O Circuit, the Q Circuit, or any other Torres del Paine trekking route vaguely shaped like a letter, the hard work of a trek will greatly enhance your experience.
Navigating the trail is the easy part – there is really just one path to follow through Torres del Paine. It is planning your Torres del Paine trekking route and booking campsites along the way that can be seriously confusing. The maps show vaguely defined distances and seemingly impossible trekking times. The internet is full of outdated information and the booking sites are kind of a disaster. But eventually, there comes a point where you just have to go for it. Most of the distances are possible if you’re willing to put in a long day. Worst case scenario you’ll become puma bait stranded between campsites after sunset. At least it will be an adventure, right?
Planning your trip to Torres del Paine? I did it (2017) and lived to tell about it. Below, you’ll find a map of the park, the most popular trekking routes, and suggested campsites to stay in along the way.
Map of Torres del Paine with Campsites
The Classic W-Trek | 5 Days
With just 5 days to spare, you can experience the highlights of Torres del Paine National Park (Glacier Gray, Valle Francés, and Torres del Paine). The trek is easy enough, and the campsites are strategically placed so you can do most of your hikes with nothing besides a daypack. The campsites and refugios are quite comfortable, and you’ll have access to indoor areas, electricity, and hot showers at most of them.
Best for: Hikers with limited time or trekking experience
Suggested Route: Gray > Paine Grande > Italiano or Frances > Torres
The Reverse W-Trek | 5 Days
The Reverse W-Trek has many of the same features as the Classic W, but rather than starting with the ferry to Paine Grande, you’ll camp your first day beneath the Torres del Paine.
Best for: Hikers that want to trek the W, but can’t book campsites for their preferred dates or who might need to stop early due to injury.
Suggested Route: Torres > Frances or Italiano > Paine Grande > Gray
Pros of the W-Trek:
- Notoriety: This trek is the bucket list trek in Torres del Paine and you’ll get to see all the highlights
- Accessibility: The W-Trek can be accomplished by hikers of most skill levels
- Ease of Travel: Unlike the backcountry trip, you can buy or rent everything you’ll need along the way.
Cons of the W-Trek:
- Crowded: The W-Trek is extremely easy to get to, and you’ll rarely find yourself alone on the trails.
- Expensive: While there area few free sites along the W-Trek, the campsites and refugios are generally quite expensive, and some will require that you pay full board.
- Advanced Reservation Required: The most popular campsites and refugios can fill up months in advance during high season. Be sure to check out our full post on how to book campsites in Torres del Paine.
The O Circuit
The Classic O Circuit | 8 Days
The O Circuit is the Torres del Paine trekking route that offers a glimpse into the less-traveled backcountry. You’ll get to experience all the park’s highlights, but you’ll also have a bit of solitude as you pass grassy meadows, lakes, and less accessible glaciers and mountains. The O Circuit is best accomplished in 8 days, but if you’re short on time and a very fit hiker, it can be done in as little as 6 days. The campsites on the backside are privately owned and much simpler than those on the W-Trek. Most require that you bring your own gear (tents, mats, sleeping bags, etc.) and facilities can range from flush toilets to holes in the ground. Perhaps the best part of the O Circuit is finishing up and feeling like you earned it!
Best for: Hikers with some experience (capable of hiking 6-11 hour days) and plenty of time.
Suggested Routes: Serón > Dickson > Los Perros > Paso > Paine Grande > Italiano > Torres
Suggested Routes: Serón > Dickson > Los Perros > Gray > Paine Grande > Frances > Torres
Suggested Routes: Paine Grande > Frances > Torres Serón > Dickson > Los Perros > Gray
The Short O Circuit | 7 Days
The Short O Circuit can be completed in 7 days. Rather than taking it slow, you’ll want to get an early start most days and prepare for a couple of 30km+ hikes.
Best for: Fit hikers that are short on time or unable to book all campsites.
Suggested Routes: Serón > Dickson > Los Perros > Gray > Italiano > Torres
Suggested Routes:Serón > Dickson > Los Perros > Gray > Frances >Torre
The Q | 9 Days
The longest route in the park is the Q – a trek that starts with a hike alongside Lago Pehoé before joining with the O Circuit. To begin the Q, you’ll take the bus to the third stop in Torres del Paine.
Best for: Hikers with extra time that want to maximize their time in the park.
Suggested Routes: Paine Grande > Italiano > Torres > Serón > Dickson > Los Perros > Paso > Gray
Pros of the O Circuit or Q Circuit:
- Uncrowded: Uncrowded is relative, but you’ll see much fewer people on the first few days of the O Circuit than you’ll see on the W Trek
- Cheap: As you’re packing your own food and camping gear, most nights of camping only cost you $8-$12.
- Best of Everything: As the O Circuit is an extension of the W Trek, you’ll get the benefit of doing both the backcountry and the more popular W-Trek.
Cons of the O Circuit or Q Circuit:
- Difficulty: The O Circuit requires some long days which feel a lot harder when you’re carrying all of your own gear.
- Limited Points of Interest: As the highlights can be seen on the W-Trek, some of the scenery on the O or Q Circuit is beautiful but not particularly noteworthy.
- Advanced Reservation Required: The most popular campsites and refugios can fill up months in advance during high season.
Where to Stay in Puerto Natales
Need a place to stay before your trek? Here are some of the best hotels in Puerto Natales.
Refugio Hoshken | Refugio Hoshken inexplicably brings cool people together. It’s a basic spot but the vibe is right, 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 quite simple but spacious common areas and its location just five blocks from the bus station makes it the go-to hostel in Puerto Natales. Double rooms start from €51.
Hotel Simple Patagonia | The Hotel Simple Patagonia is anything but simple. The architecture is sleek and you’ll enjoy stellar views of the Ultima Esperanza Sound, which well warrants it’s location 4km from the bus station. Double rooms from $158.