Few places in the world are more coveted as a trekking destination than Torres del Paine National Park. Located in Chilean Patagonia, this protected mountain wilderness is open to anyone looking for outdoor adventure. Accomplish the highlights on this 12-day trip, including waterfalls, glaciers, and enormous peaks. You'll also visit Última Esperanza Sound for fjord tours, kayaking, and a cave with 11,000 years of history.

Highlights

  • Take part in a real Patagonian barbecue at a working ranch
  • Enjoy sunset walks on the waterfront while staying in Puerto Natales
  • Grab your ice ax and hike along the surface of Grey Glacier
  • Hike to the base of the Paine Massif for the best views in Torres del Paine
  • Spend your last day kayaking with a guide in the Eberhard Fjord

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 Day-Trip to a Patagonian Estancia Puerto Natales
Day 4 Mount Balmaceda & Serrano Glacier Puerto Natales
Day 5 Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park - Full-Day Tour Torres del Paine
Day 6 Boat Trip to Glacier Grey Torres del Paine
Day 7 Hike to Las Torres Lookout Torres del Paine
Day 8 Hike the French Valley Torres del Paine
Day 9 Admire Salto Grande Torres del Paine
Day 10 Tour the Milodon Cave Puerto Natales
Day 11 Kayaking in Eberhard Fjord Puerto Natales
Day 12 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: Day-Trip to a Patagonian Estancia

Horseback riding in Patagonia
Horseback riding in Patagonia

After breakfast at your hotel in Puerto Natales, you'll 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 tour, return by boat to Puerto Natales where you will have the rest of the evening to enjoy at leisure.

Day 4: Mount Balmaceda & Serrano Glacier

Start your boat tour in Puerto Natales
Start your boat tour in Puerto Natales

Early this morning, you'll head to the dock at Puerto Natales and hop on a boat bound for Mount Balmaceda, located in the southern end of Bernardo O'Higgins National Park. The park is only accessible by foot or by boat, and this nine-hour day tour follows the Ultima Esperanza Sound from Puerto Natales to the mountain (in other words, keep your camera close). 

On the boat ride, you'll be treated to vast, panoramic views of native forests comprised of Coihue, Canelo, and Lenga trees. You're also likely to spot sea lions as you head north towards the Balmaceda and Serrano glaciers. You’ll then disembark and have an opportunity to enjoy views of these glaciers from land. After a short hike, you’ll then reach the Hosteria Perales, where a typical Patagonian barbecue will be served. 

In the afternoon you'll return by boat to Puerto Natales.

Day 5: Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park - Full-Day Tour

A contrast of colors in Torres del Paine
A contrast of colors in Torres del Paine

Early this morning, transfer from your hotel in Puerto Natales to the bus station, where you will catch a ride into Torres del Paine National Park (Laguna Amarga Main Entrance). The trip takes about 2.5 hours (70 miles/112 km), with a short stop at Cerro Castillo Village

Upon reaching Torres del Paine it's time to start the extensive full-day tour. You'll visit some of the park's main attractions, such as the Amarga Lagoon, which features views of the iconic peaks of the Horns of Paine (part of the Cordillera Paine). You'll also trek alongside Salto Grande, the famous thundering waterfalls found in this national park. At noon, you'll enjoy lunch at a restaurant in the park before continuing on the excursion. 

In the late afternoon, transfer to your hotel in Torres del Paine National Park and enjoy some rest and relaxation.

Day 6: Boat Trip to Glacier Grey

Grey Glacier surrounded by fall foliage
Grey Glacier surrounded by fall foliage

This morning, 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, hop over meltwater streams, and pass alongside ice caves. It's truly a singular experience. 

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

Day 7: Hike to Las Torres Lookout

The base of the Paine Massif
The base of the Paine Massif

Today, 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 few days.

Once you've settled in, it's time to embark on one of the most famous routes in Torres del Paine: the trail that leads to Los Torres, at the base of the Cuernos del Paine (Horns of Paine). This is where three granite pillars jut out of the ground over a silver lagoon. It's considered by many to be 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 Las 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 for dinner and a good night's rest.

Day 8: Hike the French Valley

Dramatic views from the lookout point at the French Valley
Dramatic views from the lookout point at the French Valley

Today you will hike into the heart of the park to visit another iconic area of Torres del Paine: 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 1.5 miles (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 9: 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 10: Tour the Milodon Cave

The Milodon Caves
The Milodon Caves

This morning, after breakfast, you'll leave Torres del Paine for a tour of the Milodon Cave National Monument, which is located 15 miles (25 km) 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, including the remains of extinct animals like the Mylodon. The tour includes a visit to a network of caves, the largest of which is 656 feet (200 m) deep. The tour lasts a total of four hours, at which point you'll head to Puerto Natales for the rest of the day.

Day 11: Kayaking in Eberhard Fjord

Kayaking in Patagonia
Kayaking in Patagonia

After breakfast, get ready to paddle near the scenic coast of Puerto Natales! 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.

The 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 12: Puerto Natales to Santiago - Departure

Farewell, Chile!
Farewell, Chile!

Today, you’ll transfer from Puerto Natales to the airport in Punta Arenas. 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 & Última Esperanza - 12 Days
Map of Torres del Paine & Última Esperanza - 12 Days