Starting in Chile's capital, most of this itinerary takes place in Torres del Paine—the crown jewel of national parks in Patagonia. Here you will embark on a multi-day hike known as the W Circuit through Grey Glacier, French Valley, and the imposing towers of Las Torres. Finish off with a relaxed (yet no less beautiful) excursion to Laguna Azul to round out this adventure.

Highlights

  • Hike past ancient Lenga forests on your way to the Horns of Paine
  • See the emerald and turquoise waters of Lake Nordenskjöld and Lake Pehoe
  • Take a rewarding boat ride to Grey Glacier to finish the trek
  • Spend three nights in Puerto Natales for great restaurants and sunset strolls
  • Day-trip to Laguza Azul and look for roaming horses and pumas

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Santiago de Chile Santiago
Day 2 Fly from Santiago to Punta Arenas - Transfer to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 3 W Trek Day 1/4: Mirador Base Torres to Refugio el Chileno Torres del Paine
Day 4 W Trek Day 2/4: Refugio el Chileno to Refugio Los Cuernos Torres del Paine
Day 5 W Trek Day 3/4: The French Valley to Refugio Paine Grande Torres del Paine
Day 6 W Trek Day 4/4: Glacier Grey to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 7 Explore Laguna Azul - Return to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 8 Puerto Natales to Santiago - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Santiago de Chile

Hike or take a gondola up to the top of Cerro San Cristobal
Hike or take a gondola up to the top of Cerro San Cristobal

Welcome to Chile! Upon arrival at Santiago International Airport, a driver will meet you and transfer you to your hotel. You'll have the rest of the day to explore the city at your leisure. 

Suggested activities include:

  • Hike to the top of Cerro San Cristobal, where you can get your bearings by surveying the area from a high vantage point. Pathways lead 2,788 feet (850 m) up this central hill to a series of lookouts that offer wraparound views of Santiago. If you aren't the hiking type, not to worry: catch a scenic gondola instead.

  • Stroll the cobblestone streets of Barrio Bellavista. On the north side of Santiago, you'll find this trendy enclave, at once fashionable and bohemian. Stroll past colorful houses adorned with graffiti art and choose between an eclectic array of eateries and bars—great for people watching. 

  • Visit the Plaza de Armas, a stone plaza located in Santiago's historic center dating to 1541. There's also the impressive Catedral Metropolitana, a neoclassical church dating to 1748 whose towering twin bell towers dominate the north side of the plaza.

  • Snap pics in front of the Palacio de la Moneda. Chile's opulent Presidential Palace (known simply as "La Moneda") is a short stroll from the Plaza de Armas. It was here in 1973 that Chile's armed forces, backed by the U.S. government, overthrew President Salvador Allende, kicking off a brutal right-wing military dictatorship that would last for 17 years. Visitors are welcome.

For dinner be sure to get out of the hotel and enjoy a culinary adventure in the city. In recent years Santiago has emerged as a global foodie destination. Chilean chefs are reinventing traditional dishes like empanadas, cazuelas (stews), and seafood with ingredients harvested all the way from the northern deserts and southern Patagonian regions. You can find great restaurants and wine bars not only in the Bellavista neighborhood but also in the revitalized historic barrios of Yungay and Italia.

Day 2: Fly from Santiago to Punta Arenas - Transfer to Puerto Natales

Aerial view of Punta Arenas
Aerial view of Punta Arenas

After breakfast, a driver will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport, at which time you'll catch a flight to the city of Punta Arenas in Chilean Patagonia. Upon arrival in Punta Arenas, you'll hop a bus for a three-hour trip north to Puerto Natales. When you arrive, you'll transfer to your hotel and have the rest of the evening to relax and explore the town. 

This small port city is the main base for excursions into Torres del Paine National Park. It's far less touristic than many other Patagonian hubs and thus retains its air of small-town tranquility. Puerto Natales offers simple pleasures like strolling its waterfront promenade, which sits on the Ultima Esperanza Sound. Facing north from here, you'll see the peaks of Cerro Benitez and Cerro Toro, and the view at sunset is phenomenal.

Day 3: W Trek Day 1/4: Mirador Base Torres to Refugio el Chileno

Mirador Base Torres
Mirador Base Torres

Today, you will embark on a trekking adventure into Torres del Paine National Park. The excursion begins around 9 am with a one-and-a-half-hour ascent featuring stunning views of the hanging glacier at Mount Almirante Nieto (2,670 m) as well as nearby lakes. Once you reach Refugio el Chileno, you can drop off your bags and take a quick break to refuel.

You'll then hike for another hour past ancient lenga forests until you arrive at a moraine. From here it's a challenging steep ascent for 45 minutes until you reach the top, which is known as Mirador Base Torres. "Mirador" in English means "viewpoint,"  and this little section of the mountain, with the Cuernos Del Paine (Horns of Paine) looming over a green lagoon, is the best view in the park. From here you can also marvel at the towering peaks of nearby Torre Sur, Central Tower, North Tower, Condor's Nest, and Glacier Torre, all set amidst the sweeping backdrop of the Patagonian highlands.

After spending some time enjoying the views at Base Torres, you'll then hike back to Refugio el Chileno to rest up for the evening. 

Hiking distance: 11 miles (18 km)
Hiking duration: 6.5 hours

Day 4: W Trek Day 2/4: Refugio el Chileno to Refugio Los Cuernos

Lake Nordenskjöld
Lake Nordenskjöld

After breakfast, you'll depart Refugio el Chileno for a more moderate day of hiking. After passing by the Paine Massif you'll pass the base of Mount Almirante Nieto. Then it's more hiking for 4.5-6 hours, during which you're treated to views of Lake Nordenskjöld's emerald waters, impressive hanging glaciers, and fascinating local flora. Eventually, you will reach the Cuernos sector of the park and spend the night in Refugio Los Cuernos, a welcoming refuge nestled on the hillside in the heart of Torres del Paine.

Hiking distance: 6.8 miles (11 km)
Hiking duration: 4.5 hours

Day 5: W Trek Day 3/4: The French Valley to Refugio Paine Grande

The French Glacier
The French Glacier

Prepare for the longest, most arduous, but also the most rewarding day of trekking on the W circuit. The morning starts with a two-hour hike around Lake Nordenskjöld. Upon reaching the Campamento Italiano sector, you'll leave your bags at the camp and carry on with a small daypack containing the day's necessary food, water, and extra clothing.

Then it's a 1.5-hour ascent beginning at the French River Valley, passing the French Glacier, and finishing at the "British camp," which is a group of primitive log shelters once used by English hikers. Nearby you'll find the Mirador Britanico (British Viewpoint), which features one of the most amazing panoramic views in the park. The mountains of Cerros, Paine Grande, Catedral, Hoja, Máscara, Espada, Aleta de Tiburón, and Cuerno Norte Horn can all be seen from this viewpoint.

Afterward, you'll return on the same path to Campamento Italiano and pick up your bags. You'll then continue on to Refugio Paine Grande, on the shores of Lake Pehoé, and settle in here for the evening.

Hiking distance: 10.7 miles (17.3 km)
Hiking duration: 7 hours

Day 6: W Trek Day 4/4: Glacier Grey to Puerto Natales

Icebergs floating in Lake Grey
Icebergs floating in Lake Grey

In the morning, you'll depart from Refugio Paine Grande on a hike through native forest and along Lago Grey. After about two hours you'll get your first glimpses of Glacier Grey, the giant mass of ice that feeds the lake, and the peaks of the Cordon Olguin.

You'll cap your Torres del Paine adventure by hopping aboard the Grey III catamaran and taking a tour of the lake as well as getting up close to the glacier.  The catamaran will then leave you at the shore in the Pudeto sector of the park, where a vehicle awaits to transport you back to Puerto Natales. In the evening, you can relax in your hotel and rest after a long day.

Hiking distance: 6.8 miles (11 km)
Hiking duration: 4 hours

Day 7: Explore Laguna Azul - Return to Puerto Natales

A herd of Mustangs in Laguna Azul
A herd of Mustangs in Laguna Azul

After breakfast at your hotel in Puerto Natales, you'll be picked up by a private guide for a full-day excursion to the rarely-visited Laguna Azul on the edge of Torres del Paine. This remote location isn't accessed on either the W or O treks, rather through separate treks or horse-riding trips led by a guide.

It should also be known that the trail is not as challenging as days past—instead, you'll have plenty of time to enjoy stunning views of the lagoon and the amazing granite towers from a new angle. In addition, there are many native species in the area including pumas and wild horses, so keep your camera close! If lucky, you may see a lot of wildlife in one day. 

After a day exploring the area, you'll be transferred back to Puerto Natales in time to enjoy dinner out on the town. If you haven't done so already, consider a walk along the promenade at sunset for views of the Patagonian fjords.

Day 8: Puerto Natales to Santiago - Departure

Farewell, Chile!
Farewell, Chile!

It's time to say goodbye to Patagonia and Chile. Today, you’ll take a private transfer to the airport in Punta Arenas and hop on a domestic flight to Santiago. Upon arrival, you'll meet your connecting flight home. Buen viaje!

Map

Map of Patagonia's W Trek & Laguna Azul - 8 Days
Map of Patagonia's W Trek & Laguna Azul - 8 Days