There are few places in the entire world more desirable as a trekking destination than Torres del Paine National Park. Located in Chilean Patagonia, this vast portion of unspoiled mountain wilderness is protected, safe from development and welcoming to anyone looking for outdoor adventure. This itinerary covers all the highlights of the park, including visits to its mountain peaks, lakes, glaciers, and even a kayak outing on a nearby fjord. What could be better?

Highlights

  • Visit a working Patagonian ranch and enjoy a traditional BBQ
  • Take a tour of the rivers and fjords around Torres del Paine
  • Grab your ice ax and enjoy a hike on the surface of a Patagonian glacier
  • Hike up to the Horns of Paine, the most famous landmark in Torres del Paine
  • Make an excursion to Salto Grande, the most incredible waterfall in the park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Santiago de Chile Santiago
Day 2 Fly from Santiago to Puerto Arenas &Transfer to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 3 Day-Trip to a Patagonian Ranch Puerto Natales
Day 4 Boating Adventure: Ultima Esperanza Fjord & Rio Serrano Torres del Paine
Day 5 Boat Trip to Glacier Grey Torres del Paine
Day 6 Hike to Las Torres Lookout Torres del Paine
Day 7 Hike the French Valley Torres del Paine
Day 8 Admire Salto Grande Torres del Paine
Day 9 Tour the Milodon Cave Puerto Natales
Day 10 Kayak the Eberhard Fjord Puerto Natales
Day 11 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 Puerto 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: Day-Trip to a Patagonian Ranch

Scenery in the Patagonian fjords
Scenery in the Patagonian fjords

After breakfast at your hotel in Puerto Natales, you will visit the beautiful Estancia La Peninsula. This full-day tour is the perfect way to learn about daily life at a working Patagonian ranch.

The adventure starts with a 30-minute boat ride through the fjords before arriving at the ranch for a welcome pastry and cup of coffee. From here, you will have the chance to choose between a variety of activities such as horseback riding, hiking, or taking a land tour in a 4x4 vehicle. You'll then enjoy a traditional barbecue followed by a demonstration of sheep shearing and wool classification. You will also have a chance to meet the estancia's resident sheepdogs.

At the end of the outing you'll return to Puerto Natales

At the end of the tour, return by boat to Puerto Natales where you will have the rest of the evening to enjoy at leisure.

Day 4: Boating Adventure: Ultima Esperanza Fjord & Rio Serrano

Serrano Glacier
Serrano Glacier

After breakfast, it's time for a boat tour of the Ultima Esperanza Sound, a fjord adjacent to Puerto Natales. During the voyage, there will be opportunities to stop at many viewpoints for a chance to see glaciers, waterfalls, and cliffs. If you keep an eye skyward you'll likely spot condors, too.

Eventually, you will arrive in Bernardo O'Higgins National Park where you'll disembark for a short walk through the native forest of Coigues, Ñirres, and Ciruelillos until reaching the impressive Serrano Glacier. You'll then continue the boat journey up the Río Serrano. enjoying the natural beauty of the region as you go. Eventually you'll arrive in Pueblo Serrano, a village known as the gateway to Torres del Paine National park, where a delicious meal will be waiting for you.

Afterward, you'll head into the park and check into your lodging for the night.

Day 5: Boat Trip to Glacier Grey

Grey Glacier
Grey Glacier

In the morning, you'll enjoy another fun boat excursion. This time, you'll board the Grey III catamaran for a tour of Glacier Grey, which feeds the lake of the same name, Lago Grey. The boat travels across the lake and stops close to the glacier, which gives passengers a prime vantage point to snap photos of its massive ice walls. The Grey III then continues to the other side of the lake, where you'll disembark and make your way to the Bigfoot Basecamp to begin an epic ice hike.

This portion of the trip starts at Islatak Island with a hike up the glacial moraine. After an hour, you'll reach the ice, gear up, and learn the basics and safety protocols of glacier hikes from a pro. Equipped with an ice ax, crampons, helmet, and harness, you will then walk onto the Grey Glacier, where you will step over blue crevasses, hope over meltwater streams, pass alongside ice caves. It's truly a singular experience. 

Following your ice hike excursion, you'll return to your hotel. 

Day 6: Hike to Las Torres Lookout

Base Torres lookout
Base Torres lookout

After an energizing breakfast, you will transfer to Hotel Las Torres at the other end of the park. This is where you will stay for the next three nights.

After settling in, you'll then embark on one of the most famous routes in Torres del Paine: the trail that leads to Base Torres, at the foot of the Cuernos del Paine (Horns of Paine). Here three granite pillars that jut out of the ground over a silver lagoon. It's the best view in the park.

This eight-hour hike begins at the trailhead near Hotel Las Torres with a walk up Almirante Nieto, a mountain featuring wide views of Lake Nordenskjold and the Asencio Valley down below. After two hours of steady ascent, you'll arrive at Refugio Chileno, a lodge where you'll have an opportunity to take a break and enjoy lunch with your fellow hikers.

From here, it's another hour of hiking through a dense Lenga forest. After emerging from the forest you'll approach a rocky moraine and climb up to Base Torres. You'll likely be exhausted, but the image of those granite peaks towering over you will make the whole experience worthwhile. Later, you'll hike back down the mountain and return to your hotel. 

Day 7: Hike the French Valley

Onward to the French Valley
Onward to the French Valley

Today you will hike into the heart of the park to visit another iconic area of Torres del Paine: the French Valley. After breakfast, you will meet your guide and transfer to the Pudeto Ranger Station, located on the shore of Lake Pehoé. From here it's a half-hour catamaran cruise across to the lake where you'll arrive at the trailhead and begin your trek.

The first part of the trail is relatively flat and leads along the north side of Lago Skottsberg to Refugio Italiano, which is located at the bottom of the French Valley. Here you'll break for water and snacks. Afterward, you'll have the option to continue deeper into the French Valley along a steep trail through lenga forest. Roughly 2.5 km from Italiano, you'll reach a viewpoint near the Horns of Paine that affords wide views of the French Glacier hanging down from Mount Paine Grande. From here we will make our way back to the hotel and you can spend the remainder of the day relaxing.

Day 8: Admire Salto Grande

The majesty of Salto Grande
The majesty of Salto Grande

Today you will visit the park's most spectacular waterfall: Salto Grande. This day's excursion is a relatively easy one, as the outing begins with a 45-minute drive to Pudeto, located in the heart of the park's lake district. From there it’s a short walk to Salto Grande, a raging aquamarine cascade that channels water between lakes Nordenskjöld and Pehoé.

From the waterfall, you'll continue on a trail that leads to Sendero Mirador Cuernos, one of the park’s most spectacular viewpoints. The panorama here features prime views of the Horns of Paine, the French Valley, and the French Glacier rising straight up from the north shore of Lago Nordenskjöld. The total hike time is about two hours roundtrip, and high winds are common during this trek.

Day 9: Tour the Milodon Cave

The Milodon Caves
The Milodon Caves

In the morning you'll leave Torres del Paine for a tour of the Milodon Cave National Monument, which is located 25 kilometers (15 miles) to the northwest of Puerto Natales. This is one of the oldest and most important paleontological sites in southern Patagonia.

Evidence of a human presence dating back to 11,000 years BCE has been found in these caves as has the remains of extinct animals like the Mylodon. The tour includes a visit to a network of caves, the largest of which is 200 meters (656 feet) deep. The tour lasts a total of four hours, at which point you'll head to Puerto Natales.

Day 10: Kayak the Eberhard Fjord

Kayaking in Patagonia
Kayaking in Patagonia

From the hotel, it's a 20-minute drive to Estancia Puerto Consuelo, a working family-owned ranch on the shores of the Eberhard Fjord. There's a lot of history here, as Puerto Consuelo was built by German immigrants at the end of the 19th century.  This will be our base camp for today's kayaking excursion.

This kayak trip includes visits to a number of historic locations along Eberhard Fjord, such as the settlement of Puerto Prat, founded in 1899, and Krugger Island, known as the “Island of the Dead”, which was once used as a cemetery to bury the first settlers. During this excursion, it's common to see a variety of birds, such as Andean condors, Chilean flamingos and black-necked swans.

At the end of the excursion, you'll return to Puerto Natales.

Day 11: Puerto Natales to Santiago - Departure

Farewell, Chile!
Farewell, Chile!

Today, you’ll take a private transfer from Puerto Natales to the Punta Arenas airport. You'll then hop on a domestic flight from Punta Arenas to Santiago where you'll transfer to the international terminal for your flight back home. ¡Buen viaje!

Map

Map of Torres del Paine & Ultima Esperanza Fjord - 11 Days
Map of Torres del Paine & Ultima Esperanza Fjord - 11 Days