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How to Hike Torres del Paine Independently
Torres del Paine is probably one of the most popular hikes you can do in Chile. When I first heard of Torres del Paine when I was researching places to hike in Patagonia, I always imagine that I would have to do a multi-day trek (W-Trek) but when I arrived in Chile, the trek was already fully-booked well before the hiking season begins, which is a big problem for most Patagonia hikes as it is very crowded and if you want to do the full trek, you will have to book months in advance.
What if I tell you that you don't really need to trek multiple days to see Torres del Paine and its iconic Patagonia 3 Towers? That is exactly what I did, hiking the Torres del Paine trail independently to this iconic location in one full day without having to book anything in advance.
Here is a backpacking guide to hike Torres del Paine in one day for those who want to see the 3 towers but are not so keen on fighting for a camping spot doing the multi-day trek. Let's hike!Table of Contents
- Torres del Paine Hiking Map
- Chile Travel Video
- When to Visit Torres del Paine
- Things to Prepare for Torres del Paine Hike
- Travel Insurance
- How to Get to Puerto Natales
- How to Get to Torres del Paine
- Torres del Paine Entrance Fee
- Where to Stay in Puerto Natales
- One Day Hiking Guide to Torres del Paine, Chile
- Further Reading for Chile
Torres del Paine Hiking Map
Chile Travel Video
When to Visit Torres del Paine
In my opinion, the best months to visit Torres del Paine are during the shoulder season which is around September to November and March to April. You will be competing less with the crowd while the temperature is still manageable (10 - 15 °C) and the colors of autumn/fall are in full-swing.
Patagonia is very crowded to the point that it is no longer fun anymore so try your best to avoid visiting during peak season (November - March).
Things to Prepare for Torres del Paine Hike
- Rain & Warm Jackets: The weather changes fast in Torres del Paine and even in the summer, it could be raining all day so have a nice warm waterproof jacket with you for the hike.
- Food, Snacks, and Water: The hike takes around 7 - 8 hours so you will need to pack your own lunch and enough water for the entire hike. I would recommend you buy everything in Puerto Natales supermarket before you start the trail, because, trust me, you will not want to know how much food cost at the Patagonia entrance.
- Good Sturdy Shoes: The trail is pretty easy and straight-forward but the weather can make it quite challenging at times so a good comfortable and sturdy shoes are recommended.
- Money: You will have to pay for the national park entrance fee which goes from 11,000 CLP to 21,000 CLP (15 - 30 USD) depending on the season. You can pay with credit card if you need to.
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Chile, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.
How to Get to Puerto Natales
Puerto Natales is in the deep south of Chile which makes it a little difficult to travel to, First you have to get yourself to Santiago either via Emirates, KLM, or Air France if you are coming from Asia or Europe. For the US, you can fly via American, Delta, United or LATAM airlines. Be sure to check out the prices on Skyscanner and Momondo for the best possible deal for your trip.
From Santiago, the fastest way is to fly to the nearest airport in Puerto Arenas which is 360 km away from Puerto Natales where all the accommodations are.
From Puerto Arenas, There are buses that go to Puerto Natales daily either from the airport or the bus terminal in the city. The cheapest bus operator is Buses Fernandez which runs almost every hour during peak season, takes around 3 hours and cost around 7,900 CLP (11 USD) one way.
Again, to ensure that there will be space available on the bus, please book the transportation way in advance especially during the peak season as everything gets booked fast.
How to Get to Torres del Paine
Once you are in Puerto Natales bus terminal, do not leave just yet. Head over to one of the bus counters (Bus Sur or Buses Gomez) and get a round-trip ticket to Torres del Paine for tomorrow. The current 2019 schedule is 7:00 AM, 7:15 AM, and 12:00 PM.
I would recommend you get the earliest one possible. The bus will leave from the terminal you bought the ticket in and it will take around 2 hours to reach the Torres del Paine national park.
To get back from Torres del Paine to Puerto Natales, you can choose between getting the one at 6:30 PM or 7:00 PM when you buy your ticket at the Puerto Natales terminal. Since the hike will take at least 7 - 8 hours, I would recommend you get the 7:00 AM and 6:30 PM tickets to give you enough time to hike and enjoy the scenery.
Torres del Paine Entrance Fee
As of 2019, foreigners will have to pay 21,000 CLP (30 USD) for a 3-days entry ticket during high season (October - April) and 11,000 CLP (15 USD) during low season (May - September).
Unfortunately, the cheapest option is 3 days pass no matter if you are only staying a day which is a shame because 30 USD for a one-day entry fee is not cheap.
Where to Stay in Puerto Natales
Always book accommodation in Patagonia at least a week in advance if you are planning to visit during the peak or even shoulder seasons. Everything gets booked ANNOYINGLY fast everywhere in Patagonia!
Budget - Hostel Last Hope - 19.33 USD/Night (Dorm)
Real cozy, perfect for a resting place after a long hike in Torres del Paine national park.
Mid-Range - Kaluve Patagonia - 63 USD/Night (Double/Twin Room + private bathroom + breakfast)
Internet access in Puerto Natales is manageable with wifi access in most hostels/hotels and data access with a local sim card maintains a 3G speed in the city area most of the time with Entel. For Torres del Paine, I wouldn't count on it as the internet access become scarce the further you travel inside the national park.
For more info: Chile Data Sim Card Wiki.
One Day Hiking Guide to Torres del Paine, Chile
Puerto Natales to Laguna Amarga/Park Entrance (2 hrs)
Prepare and pack everything you need the day before in Puerta Natales such as snacks, water, and lunch. It's cheaper than to go buy last-minute at the Estancia Cerro Paine.
Wake up as early as you can to catch the first bus (7 AM) leaving from Rodoviario Puerto Natales Bus Station. Unless you organize a taxi via your hotel, do not rely on grabbing a taxi off the street during that time because you will end up running to the terminal last-minute like me and a few other people with poor planning skills 😅.
Once you get on the bus, it will take you around 2 hours before you stop at Laguna Amarga where you will have to buy the ticket to the park. There will be a long line when you arrive so wait patiently.
Prepare 11,000 or 21,000 CLP (low/high season prices), get the form once you are in the ticket office and register with the detail of your plan and pay for the ticket.
Park Entrance to Estancia Cerro Paine (10 mins)
Once you are done, you can either choose to walk from the entrance to the trailhead which takes around 1.5 hours or just continue with the shuttle bus to Estancia Cerro Paine.
Once you are in Estancia Cerro Paine, here is your last chance to stock up some overpriced snacks before you hit the trail. From here, it's another 20 minutes walk until you arrive at the trailhead where you start your journey into Torres del Paine.
Estancia Cerro Paine to Mirador Las Torres/The 3 Towers Viewpoint (3 - 4 hrs)
The trail begins in a flat grassland by the Hotel Las Torres heading west for about 1 km until you start going uphill northward. You will be climbing for about 1 - 1.5 hour until it started to peak and then it is an easy stroll to the first refuge camp, Refugio Chileno.
You can rest for a bit here or push on heading north. From Refugio Chileno, the trail is pretty flat and are mostly under the trees which helps protect you against the crazy wind from the valley.
You will be walking along the river for about 2 hours, crossing a few bridges, gaining little elevation until the trail started to go west again.
From here on out, it's an uphill battle to the Mirador Las Torres which will take you around an hour to get up to the viewpoint. You will be hiking on a rocky trail, jumping from boulder to boulder, exposed to the Patagonian elements for the entire time so be sure to prepare for the wind and rain.
For about an hour, you should arrive at the lake with the iconic view of the 3 Towers (Las Torres) towering over you. I have seen all the photos of this place but it is nothing like being there in person, looking up at the famous peaks with your own eyes.
Spend about an hour up there, resting, eating lunch, and taking photos before heading back the same way. As with most mountains, the afternoon is where the clouds rolled in and so don't underestimate the difficulty of returning as the weather might get worse by the time you descend, which was the case for me.
It should take you around 3 - 4 hours to get back to Estancia Cerro Paine where you will have to get a ticket for the shuttle bus and wait until the bus arrives and get on the one before 6:30 PM so that you can catch the 6:30 PM bus back to Puerto Natales in time.
If you are interested in hiking the full W-Trek in Patagonia, check out:A Complete Guide to W-Trek in Torres del Paine, Patagonia.
Further Reading for Chile
I hope you found this Chile travel guide useful. If you are looking for more information about traveling in Chile, be sure to check out these articles below:
- Looking for a complete travel guide for Chile and Argentina? Here’s a 2 months itinerary for Chile and Argentina.
- If you want to visit Patagonia, Here’s a 2 weeks Patagonia itinerary for hikers and backpackers.
- Easter Island is one of the best experience you can have in Chile. It is expensive but with its unique culture, especially during the Tapati festival, you will not regret traveling to Easter Island. Here are the ultimate 5 days itinerary and a travel guide for Easter Island, including everything you need to know like how to get there cheaply, how much it will cost you and many more.
- You can also visit Puerto Natales in Chilean Patagonia and hike the Torres del Paine trail in one day if you don’t have 2 weeks to spare. Here is how to hike Torres del Paine independently in one day.
- You can also watch my Chile travel video here: "The Colors of Chile" travel video.
- To see all articles about Chile, visit Chile Travel Guide page.
- Looking for a place to go after Chile? How about Argentina or Bolivia?
- Looking for more travel guides for the South America? You can find more on my South America Travel Guide page.
- For more of my travel guides, visit my Destinations page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by Pete Rojwongsuriya, the founder of BucketListly Blog where we will follow his solo journey around the world as he experiences different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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