This past winter, when the constant snow and dipping temperatures of Boston kept me cooped in my house , I planned to go to Patagonia to enjoy the nature’s finest . And what better than W trek , one of the most iconic hikes of patagonian region. Patagonia is a backpacker’s wonderland and the Torres del Paine W trek in Chile, encapsulates some of the most dramatic parts of this amazing natural wonder. They say that you can never be too prepared for Patagonia. And yes hiking the W trek in Torres del Paine does require a fair amount of planning and coordination. You can find all you need to know about gear list , W trek essentials, bookings etc here on my previous blogpost. I decided to write the day wise break down of W trek to essentially bring to you all that you can expect from each day of this 5 day adventure – to help you prepare better :). So fasten your seat belts , as I take you through Torres Del Paine – Classic 5 day W trek.
How to reach Torres Del Paine ?
I have broken down the journey to Torres Del Paine in 2 steps :
Step 1 : From Santiago to Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales:
If you are coming from North America or even Europe , mostly the international flights will land in the capital city , Santiago. From there either you can take a flight to Puerto Natales or fly to Punta Arenas. Keep in mind that flight to Puerto Natales will be expensive but if you have time crunch that might be your best option.
If you fly to Punta Arenas , from the airport itself , you can take bus to Puerto Natales. There are 2 companies that run bus service between Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales – Bus Sur and Bus Fernandez. The bookings can be made online here and here . It will take 3 to 4 hours to reach to Puerto Natales.
Note: Peak or No Peak season , I will advise to book the tickets in advance.
Step 2 : From Puerto Natales to Torres Del Paine:
The bus will drop you at the main bus terminal and there you will find many counters for different bus companies offering tickets to Torres Del Paine. All buses leave at the same time in the morning 7:30 am or afternoon 2:30 pm and the ticket price is pretty standard 15000 Chilean pesos ( about 22 USD) round trip. There will be three options in terms of pickup and drop between Puerto Natales and Torres Del Paine , you will want to buy the one that leaves you at Pudeto and picks you in return from Administration entrance.
I will advice to take morning 7:30 am bus to Torres Del Paine. It will take about 2.5 hours to reach to park entrance and then an extra hour to reach to Pudeto. At park entrance you will be required to pay the entrance fees in cash 21000 chilean pesos ( 31 USD) in high season and about 11000 chilean pesos (17 USD) in low season. Once your registration is complete , your bus will take you to Pudeto from where you will take catamaran to Paine Grande. During high season the catamaran leaves from Pudeto at 09:30 a.m., 12:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. and will take around 30 minutes to reach Paine Grande. The tickets will cost about 30 USD one way and must be bought on boat itself in cash. More information and updated catamaran schedule can be found here .
Itinerary for 5 Days – 4 Nights W trek:
So you have reached Puerto Natales and all set to start the trek. Here is all you need to know :
Day 1 ( Puerto Natales – Refugio Grey) :
Take morning 7:30 am bus from Puerto Natales Bus terminal to Pudeto . From Pudeto you will catch catamaran to Paine Grande. Try to get on to catamaran a little early to secure a safe spot on the upper deck to enjoy the views of lake . If you have enough time , you can make a detour to a waterfall nearby but before you leave for that , check catamaran timing. In 30 minutes or so – catamaran will leave you at Refugio Paine Grande. Use restrooms at the camping site of Paine Grande as you will not find any restrooms before Refugio Grey.
From Paine Grande start hiking to Refugio Grey. You will get several streams of water to refill the water , so you do not have to stock up on that. While hiking up – you will enjoy the views of Lago Grey from several lookout points. Once you reach Refugio Grey , leave your stuff there and head towards Paso. Before Paso , you will see a former campsite and a platform near it to enjoy the view of glacier from up close. Spend some time admiring the icefield and head back before it tuns dark . Do not go all the way till Paso , it is quite uphill.
Congratulations you are done with Day 1 of the trek , so rest well at night and enjoy your time in Refugio grey.
Note : Day 1 hike will be about 19 km and will take 5-6 hours depending on if you go to Paso lookout .
Reservation for Refugio Grey can be done here .
Day 2 ( Refugio Grey – Paine Grande):
Today you will be tracing back your steps to Paine Grande. You can move at your own pace as you will have plenty of time. Enjoy morning breakfast at Refugio grey and leave for Paine Grande by 9:30 am. You will reach the refugio at Paine Grande by lunch time. In the evening you can enjoy sunset by the lake Pudeto and if lucky can catch some fox and other wild animals in action.
Have an early dinner and sleep well as you will have a real early start to the day very next morning .
Note : Day 2 hike will be about 11 km and should take 3- 4 hours.
Reservation for Refugio Paine Grande can be done here .
Day 3 ( Refugio Paine Grande – Valley Del Frances – Los Cuernos):
Day 3 is when the things will start getting tough. It is a long , tedious , exhausting yet a very rewarding day . You will need to start early at about 7:30 – 8 am max and head to Campamento Italiano. It will take you about 2- 3 hours depending on number of stoppages you make to reach to Italiano. Leave your big bagpack in the camp area and pack a daypack with lunch , jacket and some snacks. Trust me you will need all of them. Hike from Campamento Italiano to Mirador and then all the way up to Britannico is really really tough. Carry your hiking poles as the whole terrain is very rocky. It will take about 3 – 4 hours to go up till Britanico and back to Italiano.
Grab your big backpack from Italiano and head towards Los Cuernos. It is another 2 -3 hour hike to Refugio Los Cuernos. You will reach your destination by 6 or 7 o clock. Enjoy your dinner in Los cuernos , have a beer and relax. You deserve it.
Note : Total hike on Day 3 is about 28 km. Trust me you will feel every inch of it . Do not make the mistake of carrying big bagpack to Britannico. Leave it in Campamento Italiano camp area. And don’t worry about safety of your stuff , everybody does the same
Reservation for Refugio Los Cuernos can be done here .
Day 4 ( Los Cuernos – Torre Central) :
Take your time , enjoy your breakfast and head towards Torre Central. The whole hike is very scenic and has beautiful views of Lago Nordernskjöld. It will take you about 4 hours to reach Refugio at Torre Central . When you reach , you will have plenty of time to play some games in common areas , enjoy drinks and nearby areas of refugio. Sleep early on Day 4 as a grand finale awaits on Day 5.
Alternative : If you really want to enjoy sunrise at the towers of Torres Del Paine , then from Los Cuernos head towards Campamento Torres. It is the closest campsite to the towers but will be a 20 km walk from Los Cuernos and that too uphill. This campsite is very small and gets filled very early , so book this campsite as early as possible. From this Campsite , the towers are only 1 km away but the hike is very very steep.
Note : Of all the refugios I stayed in , Refugio Torre Central was my favorite. You can make the bookings here.
Day 5 ( Torre Central – Towers – Torre Central)
Yes today is the final day and all your effort will be rewarded with the spectacular views of the towers of Torres Del Paine. Take your day pack from Torre Central and start early about 7:30 am. The hike till Campamento Torres is medium in terms of difficulty level . But last kilometer uptill the base of towers is the toughest part of this 5 day hike. It is rocky , steep and the elevation gain is so sudden that you might feel short of oxygen. Once you reach , take your time and enjoy the view of towers. Savour your victory moment and have your lunch before you start your descend.
Pace yourself on your way back so that you may reach Torre Central by 5pm. This way you will have some time to relax before you catch the shuttle to park entrance from where you will get your bus back to Puerto Natales. The shuttle from Torre Central has limited seating , so get your tickets as soon as you reach back to secure the place. If you miss the shuttle – the walk till park entrance is another 7.5 km
That is it . You Did it . After these 5 days you will feel tired ,sore , battered and bruised but then hiking the W trek will also leave you with endless memories , some great new friends and above all an experience that no other experience can top . If you are planning this adventure and you need any help , leave me a comment below and I will be happy to help. Thank you so much for stopping by.
Have you done W trek? Care to share your experience?