Hike in some of the most stunning landscapes in the Western Hemisphere, located at the extreme of the South American continent. This itinerary will be sure to challenge even experienced hikers, and offers stunning views of sharply-defined peaks, azure lakes, and vast ice fields.

Highlights

  • Enjoy picturesque sights of Torres Del Paine National Park
  • Explore diverse landscapes: steppes, forests, mountains, and ice fields
  • See Grey Glacier, one of the largest and the only expanding glacier in the park
  • Spot unique wildlife, such as guacanos, pumas, and birds of prey
  • Enjoy breathtaking view of the French valley and hike to the turqouise-colored Nordenskjöld Lake, both surrounded by soaring granite peaks. 

Overview

Torres del Paine National Park is one of the most spectacular parts of the Patagonia region and the southern Andes. Located at the southern tip of the Americas, the park is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and one of the most visited in Chile. This itinerary will cover the striking pointed peaks and massive glaciers of the Paine Massif and Southern Patagonia Ice Field, along what is popularly known as the "W" route based on its shape. In less than a week, you will trek through almost 37 miles (60 km) of trails and stay at a variety of lodges and shelters (refugios) overnight.

This tour is best suited for trekkers with hiking experience, or physically-fit adventurers who are willing to practice hiking trails with demanding conditions. Unless otherwise stated, it's best to start each day early around 9 am to cover as much ground as possible.

Note that the park requires an entrance fee which varies in price depending on whether it's the high season (October to April) or low season (May to September). Crowds are larger during the high season, which also overlaps with pleasant summer weather in the Southern Hemisphere. Accommodations and transportation on the first and last days are included.

Brief Itinerary

Day Destination Overnight Duration
Day 1 Arrival in Santiago de Chile Santiago  
Day 2 Santiago to Patagonia: Torres del Paine National Park Torres del Paine  
Day 3 Las Torres (Trek) Refugio El Chileno  6 hours
Day 4 Los Cuernos (Trek) Los Cuernos Shelter 4-5 hours (6.8 mi/11 km)
Day 5 French Valley (Trek) Paine Grande Shelter 10-12 hours (15.7 mi/25.3 km)
Day 6 Grey Glacier - Puerto Natales (Trek & Boat Ride) Puerto Natales 8-9 hours (13.7 mi/22 km)
Day 7 Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas & Departure    

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Santiago de Chile

Santiago

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: Santiago to Patagonia: Torres del Paine National Park

French Valley in Torres del Paine National Park

Today is mostly a travel day, as you have a few transfers before arriving at the ultimate destination: Torres del Paine National Park. This is one of the most iconic and beautiful protected areas in Patagonia.

In the morning a driver will pick you up for the transfer to Santiago's airport, where you'll catch a flight to Punta Arenas, a city located deep in Chilean Patagonia on the shores of the Strait of Magellan. You'll then transfer from the airport in Punta Arenas for the three-hour drive to Torres del Paine, stopping en route in Puerto Natales, an attractive city situated on the Esperanza Sound. Here you'll enjoy a hearty local lunch complete with views across the water to the snowy peak of Mt. Balmaceda.    

You'll then continue on to Torres del Paine. On the remainder of the drive, you'll likely spot some of Patagonia's famed wildlife, including guanacos (a type of camelid similar to a llama) and rheas. You'll then enter the park and transfer to your hotel. 

Know that sunset usually occurs around 11 pm in the Patagonian summer months. So even though you'll arrive at your destination later in the day, you'll still have ample time to admire the surrounding mountain scenery. You certainly won't miss the iconic triple peaks of the Paine Massif, part of the Cordillera del Paine. They rise sharply into the sky like jagged horns, hence their nickname, the Cuernos del Paine (Horns of Paine).

Day 3: Trekking to Las Torres Base

Guacanos in Torres Del Paine National Park

Wake up and begin your first day of trekking. The first 4.5-hour stretch offers stunning views of Lake Nordenskjöld and Mount Almirante Nieto (2,670 m), following a steep trail until Refugio El Chileno. Then, continue on through temperate lenga forests for another hour to the base of a moraine, where you will finish off the day with another challenging ascent. After 45 minutes of climbing, you will reach one of the most breathtaking vantage points in the park, at the base of Torres del Paine.

Take a moment to soak in the scene, with the mountains of Torre Sur (2,850 m), Torre Central (2,800 m), Torre Norte (2,600 m), and Cerro Nido de Cóndor (2,352 m) in the background. Continue to a nearby lodge for shelter. If space is not available, a 2-hour trek may be required to return to Refugio Las Torres.

Day 4: Trekking to Los Cuernos Refuge

Lake Nordenskjöld and nearby mountains

Today's trail cuts through the base of Mount Almirante Nieto, part of the Paine Massif. After half an hour of walking, complete with great views of Lake Nordenskjöld, you will reach a shortcut to your right that leads towards Los Cuernos Refuge.

For the next 4-5 hours, hike through hanging glaciers, local flora, and rugged mountain scenery. Once you arrive at the base of Los Cuernos, you will have completed today's trail. Recover and rest in one of the park's most serene locations, then retreat to your lodge for tomorrow's rigorous trek.

Day 5: Trekking to French Valley

Viewpoint at French Valley

One of the itinerary's most challenging hikes, the trail to French Valley, will start with two hours of ascents and descents near Lake Nordenskjöld toward Campamento Italiano, a forested campground from where the trail enters the valley. Due to the intense inclines, it's best to start an hour early and bring only the bare necessities (such as food, water, and layers) in a smaller backpack.

Next, a one-hour ascent will take you up to another viewpoint, where you can appreciate a fantastic view of the hanging glacier and possibly even minor avalanches. The trail then continues until you reach another campground, Campamento Británico.

After another 20 minutes, you will arrive at Mirador Británico, today's final lookout point and one of the most jaw-dropping in the entire circuit. Admire the peaks and glaciers of Paine Grande, Cerro Hoja, Cerro Máscara, Cerro Catedral, Cerro Aleta de Tiburón, and Cuerno Norte before returning to Campamento Italiano and then to the Pehoé sector.

Day 6: Trekking to Grey Glacier and return to Puerto Natales

Catamaran at Grey Lake.

On your final day of trekking, you will be able to see one of the largest and most iconic glaciers in the park's ice fields, Grey Glacier. The route to the outlook goes through the western side of the Paine Massif and also provides views of Grey Lake, which contains the glacier, as well as nearby mountains. If you'd like, you can leave your backpack in the storage room at Refugio Paine Grande for the day.

Once you reach the first lookout point, after a 1.5-hour hike, you will reach the main lookout right in front of the glacier. Get a full view of the miles of floating icebergs and expanding jagged ice formations, then return back along the same route towards Pehoé Lake. Finally, head to the adjacent pier by 6 pm and depart on a scenic Catamaran ride at 6:30 pm for a ride across Pehoe Lake to the Pudeto sector. A bus ride will have you back in Puerto Natales by 10 pm. 

Day 7: Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas & Departure

Channel of Last Hope in Puerto Natales
Channel of Last Hope in Puerto Natales

It's time to say goodbye to Patagonia and Chile. In the morning, you’ll take a private transfer 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 "W" Circuit Trek - 7 Days
Map of Torres del Paine "W" Circuit Trek - 7 Days

Recent traveler photos

Recent Trip Reviews

Related trips planned by kimkim specialists

Torres del paine "w" circuit trek - 5 days, Chile - Dec 30 - Jan 5, 2019

Traveler: Gabrielle S. - Local specialist: Erin Wiley

Hi Erin

We have recently returned from our travels, which included our W trek co-ordinated by your team from 31 December – 5th January 2019.

Overall – we thoroughly enjoyed our opportunity to experience Patagonia and the wonderful places we visited during our time in Puerta Natales and Torres Del Paine National Park.

We would particularly like to give mention our guide Sophia. She was simply outstanding. Her experience, and the knowledge she could share with us ensured that we... read more

Hi Erin

We have recently returned from our travels, which included our W trek co-ordinated by your team from 31 December – 5th January 2019.

Overall – we thoroughly enjoyed our opportunity to experience Patagonia and the wonderful places we visited during our time in Puerta Natales and Torres Del Paine National Park.

We would particularly like to give mention our guide Sophia. She was simply outstanding. Her experience, and the knowledge she could share with us ensured that we had the best possible time on the trek. She is clearly very well-known and respected by her peers that we met along the way as well, and certainly we cannot recommend her highly enough for her skills, humour, practical sensibilities and care she took to ensure we had the best possible time. Sophia was also not advised that one of our group had a Cheese allergy.

We experienced many different weather scenarios along the way – snow on the walk to the towers and blazing sun on our way to Frances. Wind in the French Valley and gale force 80+kmh gusts heading to Glacier Grey. Throughout our entire time we felt confident that Sophia had our back and put our safety first.

On day 4 – we were meant to walk to Refugio Grey and catch the boat to go to the Glacier before return to the bus pick up point. This could not occur due to the fierce wind on that day, and indeed we watched the ferry turnaround as it was unable to continue on the lake in the extreme weather that was in play that day. As such, we returned to Paine Grande and caught the ferry across Lake Pehoe to pick up the bus transfer there. We assume as a result there is a refund due to us for the Grey Glacier boat tour that we unfortunately could not enjoy. Can you please advise details on the likely refund for this portion of our travels.

On a more serious note, we also need to provide feedback on the planning and execution of our trek. What we had discussed with us prior to departing NZ, and also during our briefing with Emily in Puerta Natales was not the trek experience we had and as such we planned poorly for some aspects of our trip which could have mitigated had the correct information been provided. As travellers, we are all very experienced and well rounded people who can manage what is required through careful research and planning. We are not a group of people who try to wing-it. We like to be sure we are careful and well informed on what we need to have with us to ensure our safety.

During our time corresponding with you, we started out with a plan to stay in the Refugios during our time on the trek. As there was limited space available – you suggested an alternative itinerary which saw us camping – the first night out of the park, an hours bus ride away at a camping site, then camping Frances on night 2, camping at Paine Grande night 3. We had expectations that this indeed was our itinerary until we received our paperwork and itinerary from Emily late Nov/Early December before we departed NZ. This shows that instead we were back on track with the original plan – that we would be in refugios, we would be staying at Los Torres on night one, Cuerno on night two, and Paine Grande night three. We queried this as we wanted to be sure we packed appropriately for camping versus refugios, and it was confirmed that we would have beds as per the itinerary. We met with Emily and had a detailed briefing with her upon arrival in Puerta Natales on Dec 30th – again querying our accommodation details, and having it confirmed that we were in Refugio accommodation as per the itinerary. So no need for camping style preparations, we would be in the refugios.

The morning of departure we met Sophia, and embarked on our journey in the bus. She mentioned our camping arrangements prior to departure, and we met Daniel our lovely driver as he would be driving us to the offsite location etc. You can imagine we were all quite shocked to hear that now we are back to the Camping plan as per our previous correspondence with you. Mentally and indeed from a gear perspective – we had all prepared for our time in refugios. During the first hour of our journey to the national park, we all took time to reflect on this new development, and indeed at our coffee stop – we sat Sophia down and explained that we are quite taken aback by the news that we are camping as only 36 hours prior – we had sat with Emily, in the Dittmar offices, and confirmed a completely different itinerary. Sophia could see we were all a little concerned about what we were doing, so took the time and went through step by step with us, the camping plan, the fact Rodriguez would be cooking for us on the first two nights and breakfast mornings, and ensured we had all the details about what were actually booked for.

Our first day was particularly long, in part due to the snow and cold, and the fact we were prepared for a day of around 18km, when in fact it was more like 23km. We arrived at our camping site on night one, and there were no tents for us. It was 10:30pm, we were freezing cold, the shower block had no power, and potentially we had no bed. With no power, we showered in the dark, in the hope we would warm up a little. Thankfully Sophia clearly managed to call in some favours for us and was able to get two domes for us to sleep in, and we squeezed our party of 7 into domes designed for 2 people each and through exhaustion all slept fitfully on night one. The team at this camping site found some sleeping bags, but due to their thin-ness, also rustled up some blankets and cushions as make shift pillows, and found some sleeping matts for the extra bodies that needed to camp on the floor. It wasn’t a great start to our trip, as we are sure you can appreicted. But at his point we realised how invaluable having our guide Sophia would be. Night 2 and 3 – tents were ready for us when we arrived so that was reassuring to us all.

As a group of travellers, we are resilient and we will roll with the punches. Indeed this is what we did during our time. We had to make the best of our situation. And we did, and so did Sophia.

However as far as the organisational skills that went in to preparing us for this guided tour experience, we would like to express our abject disappointment. We were not prepared for the trek as well as we should have been. We paid well for a guided all-inclusive experience, as we wanted to do our best to have no surprises (within all reasonableness). The team at Dittmar let us down by being ill prepared with the wrong itinerary. It was potentially dangerous as we did not necessarily pack the right level of clothing and accessories for the camping accommodation we ended up with.

As such we feel that it’s very important that we bring this to your attention, to try and eliminate this kind of error for your future travellers. We would be interested to hear about Dittmar’s willingness for some compensation for the group as well, as I am sure you can appreciate where we are coming from around what we felt we paid for versus what we ended up being delivered.

Finally, we would like to reiterate that Sophia made our time on the W trek, special and memorable for us all – and for that we are eternally grateful to her. She was the consummate professional always and it is a credit to her for her ability to assess and manage every day and we absolutely enjoyed the scenic splendour. Our thanks to Rodriguez too for looking after our cooking for us(very tasty and muchly needed!), and to Daniel for looking after our transportation.

We look forward to hearing back from you with you feedback.

Kind regards

Gabrielle Satherley and friends

Torres del paine "w" circuit trek - 5 days, Chile - Dec 27 - Dec 30, 2018

Traveler: Tyler B. - Local specialist: Erin Wiley

Erin and Emily were very knowledgeable, skilled, and helpful. We booked a 4 day W-Trek in Torres del Paine and we received help with booking or good recommendations about every aspect of the trip. On top of this both ladies are very pleasant and friendly, making it easy to ask questions. We had one miscommunication, which was taken care of immediately (on Christmas eve no less). Alexandra was 27 months pregnant, so we had a lot of questions. Erin took the time during a phone conversation to... read more

Erin and Emily were very knowledgeable, skilled, and helpful. We booked a 4 day W-Trek in Torres del Paine and we received help with booking or good recommendations about every aspect of the trip. On top of this both ladies are very pleasant and friendly, making it easy to ask questions. We had one miscommunication, which was taken care of immediately (on Christmas eve no less). Alexandra was 27 months pregnant, so we had a lot of questions. Erin took the time during a phone conversation to describe the trek to us in such detail that it made us feel comfortable with undertaking the endeavor. All in all stellar service!