Trekking O Torres del Paine is undoubtedly one of the main reasons to visit Patagonia. This wonderful trek is generally completed in eight days and seven nights-I took one day less, combining two stages into one,having already hiked the W Torres del Paine seven years earlier.
I recommend, however, sticking to the eight-day rule: the park deserves time!
Torres del Paine Park is located two hours away from Puerto Natales in Chilean Patagonia. Puerto Natales is well connected: it can be reached by plane (flights from Santiago cost about 75 euros one way) or by bus (it took me 5 hours to reach El Calafate, Argentina, and 3 hours to reach Punta Arenas, Chile, even further south).
Puerto Natales is an excellent base for Torres del Paine Park. In fact, here you can rent or buy everything you need for trekking: tents, sleeping bags, kitchenette, gas…everything! In addition, Puerto Natales is very hospitable and boasts a beautiful historic marina as well as an interesting old town with the beautiful Calle Eberhard.
To reach Torres del Paine Park, you need to buy a bus ticket with the Bus Sur company: the round-trip cost is 20,000 CLP (about 25 euros). The bus leaves early in the morning: I took the seven o’clock bus. Once I arrived at Laguna Amarga, I showed my Park entrance ticket (cost about 40 euros for seven days) and took an additional shuttle, which took me to the Central sector of the Park.
I therefore left my backpack in Camping Central and set off in the direction of Laguna Torres. The first day of trekking
(21 km and 1100 meters of elevation gain: trail)
, in fact, took me to the most famous spot in the Park: the Laguna Torres. Starting from Camping Central, after about an hour and a half of walking I reached Campamento Chileno: the climb is never steep and the valley is very beautiful. Once past Campamento Chileno you enter a forested area, which ends after about an hour’s walk.
Once the forest area is over, the final climb begins: it is often rocky, and this does not help the ascent, which is very steep in places. The reward, however, leaves one speechless: the Laguna Torres is truly magnificent, with rocky spires as a backdrop. I returned to Camping Central using the same route as on the way out.
After a great first day, the second cannot reach the same levels of beauty. In fact, the trek from Camping Central to Camping Seron is, in my opinion, the least beautiful part of the entire park. In addition, I found Camping Seron quite dirty: again, I would say it is perhaps the worst Camping in the whole Park.
The walk itself is simple:
in 13 km and 400 meters of elevation gain you reach Camping Seron
. In the final part the scenery becomes interesting, with valleys opening up more and more majestic. In particular, the views of the Rio Paine are very beautiful!
At Camping Seron I found a lot of wind: it was not easy to get to sleep!
The trekking day that connects Seron Campsite to Dickson is definitely more interesting! First, the mileage increases: it is 18 km and 700 meters of elevation gain. Initially we pass by the Grey River, which boasts a splendid blue color. After a small lagoon in the fourth kilometer, the trail climbs steeply. Once the climb is over, the trail turns left with beautiful Lake Paine to the right and…a very strong gust of wind lets me know what will await me in the next four kilometers!
You walk on a small ridge, lashed by the constant strong Patagonian wind. The view always remains wonderful but it cost me the cover – backpack, flown away. Once you finish the scenic ridge, there is a checkpoint at the ninth kilometer: from there on you can only enter with reservations.
The second part of the stage offered other very beautiful landscapes, including humedales, or typical Patagonian vegetation consisting of low trees. The Dickson Campground boasts an excellent location: it is, in fact, just a few meters from the lake of the same name-I highly recommend bringing a mosquito spray, which could ruin your view!
The trek from Dickson to Perros is the easiest of the entire O Torres del Paine trek. The distance is only 12 kilometers and the elevation gain is just over 500 meters. The first part of the trek is forested. Toward the end, however, the forest gives way to vantage points over rivers and glaciers that come ever closer.
The last climb of the day leads to Glaciar Perros: in front, the eponymous lagoon stands out for its beauty! Laguna Perros is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful spots on the entire O Torres del Paine trek.
The Perros Campground is the least welcoming of all those in the Park, but I liked it a lot. Despite the cold (it is located at an altitude of 550 meters, and is definitely the coldest of all), the absence of hot showers, and the requirement to take all garbage with you to the next campsite, Camping Perros is very nice: in fact, it is located in the middle of a forest and is well maintained.
The fifth day of trekking is definitely the toughest of the entire O Torres del Paine circuit. You must leave Perros Campground before 7 a.m. The park rangers are very clear about this obligation. The climb to John Gardner Pass (1170 meters) is never very hard, however, it is steady and often lashed by wind. Once you reach the Pass (it took me two hours) you can admire behind you the now distant Los Perros Lagoon and, in front, a fantastic scenery opens up: the Glaciar Grey!
In fact, very few passes in the World can boast such an exceptional view: in front of me was an infinitely large glacier. Such beauty is impossible to forget! Here is a video!
The descent to El Paso Camping is sometimes steep: once you reach the campsite (unusable as of 2019) you can refill your water bottle. After El Paso Campground the terrain becomes a bit more treacherous: in fact, you often walk along a fairly exposed ridge, and there is never a shortage of ups and downs. Once you finish the ridge, you cross three suspension bridges: the first one, in particular, is an incredible sight, as on the right you can see Glaciar Grey! Here is a video of the crossing!
After passing a couple more scenic spots. I finally reached the Grey hut, after 15 km and almost 1,200 meters of elevation gain. At Grey I had to sleep in the shelter as I had not found room in the Camping: I took the opportunity to do a half-board: the dinner, with meat, was expensive but excellent!
Before dinner, however, I went to Mirador Grey: it is only one kilometer (on the plain) from the lodge and allows a view of Laguna Grey with its characteristic icebergs.
On the sixth day of the trek I combined two stages into one: from Grey, in fact, I went directly to Frances. The first part of the trek connects Grey to Paine Grande: it is 11 km of walking, with 500 meters of elevation gain. I was often forced to turn around, to continue admiring Glaciar Grey behind me: the last vantage point on the glacier I found after six kilometers.
Continuing to walk toward Paine Grande, I found the beautiful Los Patos Lagoon before descending to Paine Grande.
From Paine Grande we walk eight kilometers to the Italian Campamento. These eight kilometers are characterized by simple ups and downs and the Pehoe and Skottsberg lakes-the views are always very beautiful!
Once you reach Campamento Italiano you can leave your backpack behind to take a detour that leads to Valle del Frances and Mirador Britanico. At the Italian Camp you cannot sleep but you can load up your fresh water bottle. In this case, I was not as lucky as seven years earlier:
During the 2016 W Torres del Paine I had found a wonderful sunny day while in this case I found rain and wind. In my opinion, it is still a spectacular viewpoint, even in the rain!
From Campamento Italiano to Mirador Britanico there are six kilometers of trail, at times uncomfortably rocky: in total, it took me about three and a half hours to go there and back.
Picking up my backpack, I walked an additional mile and a half to reach Camping Frances,completing the 23 kilometers and 1200 meters of elevation gain of this second part of the day.
Camping Frances is located in a beautiful forested location but, at the same time, it is a bit inconvenient. The toilets are about a five-minute walk from the tents and the convenience store as many as ten-after a long day, they come into their own!
The last day of O Torres del Paine is once again magnificent. The big stars of the day are the Cuernos: the best spot to view these magnificent mountains is about 500 meters after Cuernos Campground. Once again there is no shortage of lakes and lagoons! After 11 kilometers of walking there is the last fork: left to Camping Chileno, right back to Camping Central.
One last lagoon three kilometers from the end of the trek reminded me of the beauty of the O Torres del Paine trek! On the last day I walked 17 kilometers with an elevation gain of 800 meters. Once I reached the Central area, I again took the shuttle that took me to Laguna Amarga, and from there I returned to Puerto Natales on the 2:30 p.m. bus, which I had booked in advance.
Puerto Natales is the perfect base for visiting the Torres del Paine. In fact, this beautiful Chilean town is only a two-hour bus ride from the entrance to Torres del Paine Park. Puerto Natales can be reached by air, with frequent connections to Santiago, Chile. It is also a three-hour bus ride from Punta Arenas and five hours from El Calafate, Argentina.
In Puerto Natales you can find all the things you need for trekking to Torres del Paine: food, stoves, tents, sleeping bags, etc. In addition, Puerto Natales is home to a beautiful marina-the feeling of being at the end of the world from here is stark!
In Puerto Natales I ate divinely at Asador Patagonico and Santolla. Good pizza from Pizzeria Napoli! Puerto Natales is also home to a wonderful brewery, Baguales, and an excellent bar specializing in cocktails, Last Hope Distillery. For sleeping I recommend Corners’ Hostel, Hostal Patagonico and Hostal Donde Kike.