Have you ever dreamed of trekking through one of the most famous and beautiful protected areas in the world? If so, then this quick seven-day itinerary is for you. In just a week, you can jet off to Chilean Patagonia and partake in the famed "W" circuit trek—a multi-day hike that covers the furthest reaches of the awe-inspiring Torres del Paine National Park. Be sure to get in shape beforehand, because this is the very definition of an active adventure.

Highlights

  • Arrive in Santiago and visit some of the city's most famous landmarks
  • Visit Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales, two of Patagonia's most beautiful cities
  • Embark on the famous "W" circuit trek—four days of hiking amid mountains, glaciers, and lakes

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Santiago de Chile Santiago
Day 2 Santiago to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 3 Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine - W Trek Day 1/4: Mirador Base Torres 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 Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas & Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Santiago de Chile

Santiago is an eclectic, artistic, and historic city
Santiago is an eclectic, artistic, and historic city

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, the most magnificent viewpoint in Santiago. When visiting any new city it's a good idea to get your bearings by surveying the area from a high vantage point. Pathways lead 850 meters (2,788 feet) up this central hill to a series of lookouts that offer wraparound views of Santiago. Enjoy the reconnoitering, and if you aren't the hiking type not to worry: you can catch a scenic gondola to the top.

  • Stroll the cobblestone streets of Barrio Bellavista. On the north side of Santiago, you'll find this trendy enclave, at once fashionable and bohemian. Brightly painted old houses adorned with graffiti art sit alongside modern shopping complexes featuring an eclectic array of eateries and bars. It's a great place to come for dinner out, a glass or two of Chilean red, and people watching from a patio table. 

  • Visit the Plaza de Armas, located in Santiago's historic center. There's a lot of history within the four corners of this expansive stone plaza, as it was founded all the way back in 1541. Also here is the impressive Catedral Metropolitana, a neoclassical church dating to 1748 and 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 just a short stroll from the Plaza de Armas, and like the plaza, it's filled with history. 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. Today the country is under democratic rule, and visitors are welcome to visit the palace. 

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: Santiago 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 is phenomenal at sunset.

Day 3: Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine - W Trek Day 1/4: Mirador Base Torres

View of the Horns of Paine from Mirador Base Torres
View of the Horns of Paine from Mirador Base Torres

In the morning, you'll hop a bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park (Laguna Amarga Main Entrance). The total distance is 70 miles/112 km, and the drive takes about two hours, with a short stop at Cerro Castillo Village. The scenery along the way will be incredible, as you'll get your first glimpses of Torres del Paine's massive peaks as well as some of the local fauna, like guanacos. 

You'll arrive at the Laguna Amarga main entrance and register yourself with the park office (the entry fee is already included). Then it's a quick shuttle ride to the Las Torres sector. From here you'll hike up Mt. Almirante Nieto, which features stunning views of the Asencio Valley below and Lake Nordenskjold. After two hours of hiking, you'll reach Refugio Chileno, where you'll overnight. You'll leave your heavier bags here and, after a brief rest, continue trekking up the mountain. 

It's another hour of hiking past ancient lenga forests until you arrive at a moraine. The next part is 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. 

Hike distance: 15.5 km/9.6 miles
Hike 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.

Hike distance: 11 km/6.8 miles
Hike duration: 4.5 hours

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

French Valley landscape
French Valley landscape

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.

Hike distance: 17.3 km/10.7 miles
Hike duration: seven hours

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

Glacier Grey and Lake Grey
Glacier Grey and 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.

Hike distance: 11 km/6.8 miles
Hike duration: four hours

Day 7: Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas & Departure

Say goodbye to Patagonia
Say goodbye to Patagonia

It's time to say goodbye to Torres del Paine and Chile. In the morning, you’ll take a bus from Puerto Natales to the Punta Arenas airport. There you'll catch a domestic flight to Santiago and transfer to the international terminal for your flight back home. ¡Buen viaje!

Map

Map of Torres del Paine Modified W Trek Adventure - 7 Days
Map of Torres del Paine Modified W Trek Adventure - 7 Days