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, and ice fields
  • See Grey Glacier, the only expanding glacier in the park
  • Spot unique wildlife, such as guacanos, pumas, and birds of prey
  • Hike to turquoise Nordenskjöld Lake, surrounded by 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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