Destinations

The Ultimate Guide to the Torres del Paine W Trek (Updated 2019)

Trekking the W is the best way to see Torres del Paine National Park. Here's everything you need to know.

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Rugged mountain peaks. Stunning, blue alpine lakes. Jaw-dropping rock formations everywhere you look. There’s a good reason why the Torres del Paine W Trek is one of the most famous hikes in the world. Torres del Paine is basically what happens when you cram all of the beautiful things on earth into 181,414 stunning hectares, and the W Trek is the best way to see it in a short amount of time.

When I first did the W Trek without a guide in 2016, I basically fell head-over-heels in love with Torres del Paine and Patagonia in general. I’d never seen such incredible rock formations or stunning landscapes, and the entire experience was extremely humbling and rewarding.

For most of the time, I hiked solo or with people I met along the way (many of whom I am still friends with today!). The challenge of carrying everything I needed in my backpack and exploring the park on foot got me hooked on hiking. While I definitely made some silly mistakes, like forgetting to bring silverware and packing an oversized tripod, I learned so much from my trekking experience on the W that I’ll never forget.

Let’s just say that the W Trek miiiiiight have turned me into an adventure addict.

Trekking the W was such a deeply enriching experience for me that I decided to come back again in 2019 to hike Torres del Paine again, this time with my boyfriend. And, although the weather wasn’t ideal, we loved every second of our trek in Torres del Paine.

I learned after my two trips to Torres del Paine that there’s a lot of misinformation (or a straight up lack of information) out there on the W Trek, so I decided to create this complete guide to help you plan the most incredible hiking experience possible!

Hey, by the way: we made a downloadable version of this guide that you can use to plan your trip and take with you to the park! It’s full of packing lists, planning worksheets, and Torres del Paine travel guides with all the information you need for the W Trek. The best part: it’s 100% free! Just enter your details below so we know where to send it:

A view of glacier Grey from the trail with the author in the foreground holding her arms up.
Glacier Grey is one of the iconic sights on the Torres del Paine W trek.

Torres del Paine W Trek: What to Know Before You Go

While I do think that most people who are in reasonable shape can complete the W Trek, it isn’t just a walk in the park. You’ll need to come prepared for several days of hiking 8-15 miles, often uphill or on gravel surfaces, and you’ll need to have proper gear with you. 

But I really do think that the W Trek is accessible to people who are willing to prepare properly for it. If I could do it as a solo, first-time multi-day hiker, you can definitely do it too!

To help you get an idea of what to expect, here are a couple of FAQs about the Torres del Paine W Trek that I get often from readers:

When Can I Trek the W?

Typically, the main season for trekking the W is late October through March. During this time, all of the campsites, refugios, and ranger stations will be open, and you can hike on your own without a guide.

In the high season, the weather is super variable and can range from sunshine and light breeze to thunderstorms, sleet, and high winds. I have experienced all of the above in my 2 trips to Torres del Paine, and a lot of it has to do with luck.

This could be completely anecdotal, but we talked to a local who used to work in Torres del Paine and she said that the mildest weather occurs in November and in late February to early March. Use that information however you’d like.

For cold weather-loving hikers, the W Trek’s trails are actually open all year. However, you can only hike in the winter with a guide, so it will be considerably more expensive. 

Can I Do the W Trek Without a Tour Guide?

Absolutely, yes! A lot of people think that you need to go with a tour or a certified guide to be able to do the W Trek. This is not true — you can trek the W with a tour guide, but you certainly aren’t required to. The trails in Torres del Paine are super well-marked and easy to follow, and there are a decent number of hikers around to link up with or ask directions from. 

Both times I did the W trek, I did it on my own, carrying my own stuff and guiding myself. I had no problems whatsoever (other than over-packing, tripping over myself and forgetting to bring silverware) and would recommend DIY-ing the W Trek as a completely safe option for anyone who is reasonably fit and up for the challenge.

The mountains in Torres del Paine along the W trek with the author sitting on a rock in the foreground.

How Can I Prepare Fitness-Wise for the Trek?

I’m no fitness expert, so I can’t comment with any certainty or authority here. However, I will say that many of the people I met on the trail had never done a multi-day hike before, and there were people of all ages, body types, and fitness levels on the trails.

Personally, the W Trek was my first fully-packed multi-day trek, and that it was challenging but not impossible. The hardest part of the whole thing was the mental stamina required to hike 7+ miles a day for 5 days straight.

From my own experience, here are a few things I’d recommend doing before trekking in Torres del Paine:

  • Complete at least 2-3 full day hikes of over 8 miles
  • Be able to walk up to 15 miles in one day (this is especially important if you are doing a shorter version of the W trek)
  • Work out 3-4x per week (cardio and strength)
  • Recognize that mental stamina is equally as important as physical stamina on these long treks

How Much Does Trekking in Torres del Paine Cost?

If you plan far, far in advance, this adventure in Torres del Paine doesn’t need to cost too much money at all. Flights and hotel/hostel stays in Puerto Natales will likely be the most expensive parts of your trip.

Excluding our gear (which we brought from home), for the W trek, we each paid:

  • Campsites: 38,500 CLP (~$60 USD)
    • Grey: 5,000 ($8 USD)
    • Paine Grande: 6,000 ($10 USD)
    • Italiano: Free
    • Chileno (including full board): 27,500 for 2 people ($42.30 USD) *Single supplement applies for solo hikers
  • Food & cooking supplies: 39,000 ($60 USD)
  • Bus transportation (round trip) from Puerto Natales: 15,000 CLP ($23 USD)
  • Shuttle and catamaran to start and end the W: 25,000 CLP ($35 USD)
  • CONAF park entrance fee: $32
  • TOTAL COST FOR W TREK: ~$210 USD (~$52 per day)

If you need to rent gear or want to stay or eat in refugios, the costs will be significantly higher. Most refugios cost over $100 per person per night, plus the cost of food.

You could do it for even cheaper than we did by choosing a different campsite than Chileno (perhaps Torres Central, which is just $20 per night), and by buying cheaper food (we had mostly expensive backpacker meals from REI and some snacks from Puerto Natales).

While we were in Torres del Paine the latest time, we heard from fellow hikers that tours run up to $3,600 USD for the O Trek, and slightly less for the W Trek. If you prefer the comfort and convenience of a tour, we heard great things about the G Adventures O Trek and G Adventures W Trek tours. (Note that we don’t have any personal experience on these tours, we just met a big group of G Adventures folks on the trail.)

The author standing on a rock while holding her camera to her face in order to take a picture of the trail.
Torres del Paine national park has tons of scenic viewpoints all along the W trek.

Planning Your W Trek: Things To Organize In Advance

Given the increasing popularity of the W Trek, you’ll need to think several months in advance if you want to do it. For a November hike, this means getting your arrangements sorted by August or early September. The most importan

Choose Your Route

Before you can book your campsites, you’ll need to choose your W trek route. You can take one of two directions on the W Trek, and itineraries range from 3 days to 5+ days. Depending on how much time you have and how much walking you want to do each day, you can plan your route that way.

At the end of this post, I’ve included three sample itineraries you can follow to plan out your route. You can also download our free PDF guide to Torres del Paine to see all of the itineraries and routes in one place.

Book Your Torres del Paine Campsites and/or Refugios

If you’re doing the W Trek, you’ll need a place to stay each night of your trek. Luckily, there are various options based on your budget and comfort preferences. In general, there are two ways to stay in Torres del Paine: camping or refugios.

Camping involves either bringing your own gear or renting it at the campsites, sleeping in a tent, cooking in the kitchen areas, etc. It’s pretty similar to any other camping experience, except you’ll have hot showers, a convenience store, and running water in most campsites. You can read our entire, detailed guide on camping in Torres del Paine here.

Refugios are the more bougie accommodation options on the W (although I wouldn’t call them “luxury,” per se…). These usually consist of large cabins that have dorm rooms accommodating 4-6 people. Usually, the basic package only includes a bed, and you’ll have to provide your own linens/sleeping bag. For an extra fee, you can purchase a full meal service in the refugio restaurant and have your bed made with sheets during your stay. 

Only certain campsites have refugios — see below for details.

While trekking in Torres del Paine, I’ve chosen to camp both times because I love how it feels to wake up to fresh, crisp mountain air. I appreciate that the campsites had hot showers and indoor places to sit, and that was usually enough for me because I ALWAYS want to be outside! However, I have stayed in a few of the refugios as a break from camping (setting up and breaking down the tent and campsite gets tiring after a while!) and I definitely understand the allure.

There are 7 campsites and refugios on the W Trek that you can choose from:

  • Grey (Campsite & refugio)
  • Paine Grande (Campsite & refugio)
  • Italiano (Campsite only)
  • Frances (Campsite & eco-domes)
  • Cuernos (Campsite & refugio)
  • Chileno (Campsite & refugio)
  • Torre Central (Campsite & 2 refugios)

Honestly, booking campsites in Torres del Paine is a bit of a frustrating process and requires some patience. The campsite reservation websites break often, some of them are not translated into English, and with three different operators to choose from, it can get extremely confusing.

However, just remember that booking your accommodations is one tiny obstacle in the way of a totally epic and amazing trip!

For more detailed information, instructions, and insider tips on booking campsites in Torres del Paine, head over to our complete guide:

Click here to read our complete guide to Camping in Torres del Paine

Book Your Flights, Buses, and Puerto Natales Accommodation

You’ll need to make your way to the Patagonian city of Puerto Natales before heading onward to Torres del Paine for your trek. Puerto Natales is known as the “base city” for Torres del Paine, and is the place where you’ll run your last errands before embarking on your W trek.

Booking your flights and buses well in advance can same you a lot of money and hassle. Before you leave for Chile, I recommend booking (at a minimum) the following:

  • Round trip flights from Santiago (SCL) to Punta Arenas (PUQ)
  • One-way bus from Punta Arenas Airport to Puerto Natales
  • Accommodation in Puerto Natales

Here are some more details on how you’ll get to Puerto Natales, your base city for Torres del Paine:

To start, you’ll fly to Punta Arenas on either SKY Airlines, LATAM, or JetSmart. For the lowest fares, I recommend booking your flight at least 1 month in advance. You can compare flight prices on Skyscanner or a similar flight aggregation service.

There are several direct flights per day, but I strongly recommend flying in the morning so you can travel directly to Puerto Natales (3 hours by bus) when you land.

Next, you’ll catch a bus from the airport to Puerto Natales. While buses leave from both the Punta Arenas bus station as well, you’ll save yourself a taxi ride by booking a direct bus from the airport. Buses leave almost every hour and are operated by Buses Fernandez and Bus Sur. In my trips, I have used and recommend both bus companies.

You can book your bus to Puerto Natales in advance here (which I strongly recommend during the high season). When you arrive at Punta Arenas airport, go directly outside to the passenger pickup area, then take a left towards the first entrance. This is where the buses pick up passengers.

Once you’re in Puerto Natales, you’ll probably want to stay there a day or two so that you can prepare for your hike. From there, you can take a 7:00 AM bus any day of the week to Torres del Paine National Park. 

Getting to the start of the W Trek requires either one more shuttle ride or one more catamaran ride after you’ve arrived at the park. I’ll explain this a bit more in detail later in the post.

A photograph of the Torres and the glacial lake that it sits on underneath an overcast sky
Even with gloomy weather, the view at the end of the W trek in Torres del Paine is worth the effort.

What to Pack for the W Trek

The first time I did the W trek in Torres del Paine, I feel like I packed pretty well. But I did forget one extremely important thing: silverware. Yup, as you can imagine, I ate with my hands or borrowed forks from fellow campers, and it SUCKED.

While silverware may seem like an innocuous thing to forget, it’s a prime example of something that can cause you a lot of inconvenience and annoyance for the entirety of your trip.

Needless to say, packing for the W trek in Torres del Paine is not a process you want to skimp on. It can be a bit of a challenge because you generally want to minimize weight without forgetting anything important. To help you out with a starting point, here are the bare essentials you’ll need for your trek:

Personal Gear to Bring

  • A comfortable backpack: You’re going to be walking up to 13 miles (21 kilometers) per day, so you’re going to need the most comfortable backpack possible that takes the weight off your shoulders. If you’re planning on bringing your camping equipment with you, I’d recommend getting a 60-70 liter backpack. Both times I went trekking in Torres del Paine, I used my Osprey Ariel 65 and felt like a million bucks, so I’d highly recommend getting that one if you’re in the market for a new hiking backpack.
  • Two sets of clothing: For both the W Trek and the O Trek, we recommend bringing two sets of clothes – one for trekking and one for sleeping. Depending on your tolerance for cold, we’d recommend bringing several merino wool or synthetic layers that you can pull on and off depending on the weather conditions.
  • Thermal and waterproof shells: Because the weather is so unpredictable, you should have some comfortable outerwear to trek in and sleep in. For multi-day treks, I swear by my Patagonia packable down puffer and my Marmot rain jacket.
  • Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots: Even if the weather is nice during your entire trip, you should wear waterproof hiking boots while you trek. Why? Because you’ll need to cross muddy trails and cold streams nearly every single day. I’ve used these amazing waterproof hiking boots for over 4 years and I love them to death. Don’t forget a few pairs of thick wool trekking socks too!
  • Toiletries & a quick dry towel: One of the nice things about the campsites in Torres del Paine is that most of them have lukewarm hot water, which means you can take a nice, refreshing shower at least once every two days. Don’t forget your toiletries (I prefer the solid variety since, ya know, we’re in a national park and plastic isn’t cool) and a quick dry towel.

Critical Camping & Hiking Gear

  • A lightweight tent: I recommend the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 for all backpacking and camping excursions – it’s one of the lightest and most durable tents out there!
  • Sleeping bag and thermal sleeping mat: If you’re wondering what kind of sleeping bag to bring with you, follow two criteria: it should be a) lightweight and b) warm. I have a Kelty Cosmic Down that I bring basically everywhere with me and it was great for backpacking in Torres del Paine!
  • Lots of backpacker meals or lightweight food: We sampled a variety of backpacker foods and definitively decided that our favorite brand was Backpacker’s Pantry. They have tons of different flavors you can bring along with you (our favorite was the Three Sisters Stew), and all you need to do is add boiling water! 
  • Cooking supplies: You’ll need a packable cooking pot, stove, gas cannister, and silverware (yep, don’t forget silverware!!) to cook your meals. 
  • Eco-friendly soap and a quick-dry scrubber: Be sure to get eco-friendly soap (I love CampSuds) and a stink-free scrubber so you can clean your dishes after every meal.
  • Lots of recyclable plastic bags: Bring as many recyclable plastic bags as you can. They don’t give them away at stores in Puerto Natales, so I’d recommend bringing them from home. Not only can you use them to pack up your dry stuff and protect it from rain, but you can also use them to carry out your trash from the park. (DO NOT LEAVE THESE IN THE PARK!)
A camping tent sits on a wooded field in front of a towering and snowy mountain range.
Most of the campsites on the W trek have gorgeous views of the mountains.

Preparing for the W Trek: 1-2 Days Before

How to Get to Puerto Natales

Getting to Torres del Paine from Santiago is a long but simple journey: you fly to Punta Arenas, take a bus to the base city of Puerto Natales, and from there, you’ll take a final bus to get to Torres del Paine. Does this sound a bit stressful? Don’t worry, I’ll break it all down for you below:

  • Fly from Santiago (SCL) to Punta Arenas (PUQ).
  • Walk outside and take a left toward the first airport entrance.
  • Take the direct bus you booked on Buses Fernandez or Bus Sur from Punta Arenas airport to Puerto Natales.
  • When you arrive in Puerto Natales, walk (~10-15 minutes) or take a taxi (1,500-2,000 CLP) to your hotel or hostel.

Everything You Need to Do in Puerto Natales Before Your Trek

Once you’ve arrived in Puerto Natales, these are the things you absolutely need to do before heading to Torres del Paine:

  • Book your bus tickets to and from the park: Before you leave the bus station upon arrival in Puerto Natales, you’ll need to purchase bus tickets to and from the park. I recommend buying a flexible round trip ticket with Bus Sur that you can use any time on the day of your departure. 
  • Purchase your CONAF park entrance online (optional): There’s a kiosk at the bus station where you can purchase your CONAF ticket so you won’t have to do it at the park entrance. While this won’t really save you any time there, it’s good to do this in advance for the peace of mind!
  • Get cash: There are no ATMs in Torres del Paine, so I strongly recommend getting some cash for incidentals/emergencies in the park.
  • Buy food & gear: Look over your packing list, and if there are additional things you need before trekking in Torres del Paine, be sure to get them in Puerto Natales. Personally, I recommend getting some dried fruit at Itahue Frutos Secos and hitting up the grocery store for some snacks.
  • Wrap your clothes and sleeping gear in waterproof material: If there’s one thing you need to know and remember during your time in Torres del Paine, it’s that the weather can change in an instant. Like, one minute it’s sunny and blue skies, and the next minute the wind picks up and fat wads of cold rain are pelting your face. Because the weather is so unpredictable, be sure to wrap your clothing bags, sleeping bag, and sleeping mat in plastic or waterproof coverings to keep everything dry, even if your backpack gets soaked.
  • Screenshot or print all campsite reservations: Be sure to screenshot and/or print all of your campsite reservations, as the check in staff will require proof of your reservation every night!
  • Send important documents & itinerary to a trusted person at home: It’s always a good idea when traveling to give someone at home access to your documents (e.g., passport, PDI paper, travel insurance) as well as your itinerary, just in case you’re in trouble and need help from home. Also, make sure that your loved one also has a “code red” date; basically, they will agree to contact authorities if they haven’t heard from you by that date.
  • Check email & update your social media: Not necessary but, as there’s limited WiFi in the park, it’s probably a good idea.

Arriving in Torres del Paine: What to Expect

Arriving in Torres del Paine National Park is…well…kind of a sh*t show. You’ll get in with no problems, but not without waiting in tons of lines, filing lots of paperwork, and struggling to make sure you’re on the right bus to the right place at the right time. But, don’t fret! We’ve laid the entire process out for you step-by-step in this section.

How to Get to Torres del Paine from Puerto Natales

Most buses to Torres del Paine from Puerto Natales leave sometime between 7:00 and 7:30 AM. You’ll need to head to the bus station a day or two before to reserve your bus ticket.

There are probably half a dozen bus companies that service Torres del Paine. Erratic Rock will recommend Bus Gomez, but we disliked them for a number of reasons during our most recent trip.

Personally, I’d recommend going with Bus Sur, which always gave us really good service, ran on time, and was comfortable and clean. All buses leave from the Rodoviario Puerto Natales.

You’ll want to grab a ticket for the 7:00 AM bus so you can get in line for the entrance sooner. However, getting a 7:00 AM ticket doesn’t actually guarantee that you’ll get on the 7:00 AM bus (We know, we had 7:00 AM tickets and got booted to the 7:30, meaning we ended up being the last of the park entrants that morning…that sucked. Don’t try it.) To actually ensure you’re on the 7:00 AM bus, I recommend getting to the station no later than 6:40 AM.

A creek runs along a green mountainous valley underneath a clear sky.

Entering the Park: What to Do and Where to Go

Entering the park should be really straight forward because everyone has to do it, but unfortunately, entering Torres del Paine is a chaotic, disorganized mess. Hang in there, I promise that the park is worth the initial frustration!

First of all, remember what your bus and driver look like if you’re going to Pudeto. If you’re headed to Laguna Amarga, get your stuff off the bus and carry it with you in the line.

Once you (and all 10 other 7:00 AM buses) arrive at the entrance to Torres del Paine, a park ranger will enter the bus and give you instructions for how to proceed. Generally, this means getting in a long AF line, watching a short video about fire safety in the park, and then proceeding to buy your ticket.

Yes, you still have to wait in the long AF line if you bought your ticket online. (Insert sad face emoji here.)

You’ll see the line as soon as you arrive — it stems out onto a balcony in front of a small building and usually wraps around a couple of times (depending on how early you get there). First, you’ll wait in the line, then, you’ll head into the room with the safety video. The video is only ~5 minutes long.

Next, you’ll leave the video room and head into a second room with some cashiers, as well as some rangers that are giving away park maps. If you haven’t bought your ticket yet, this room is the place to do so, and as of March 2019, you could only pay in cash.

Once you pass into the second room, people who bought tickets online can skip past them to the final checkout place, where a ranger will hand you a park map and send you on your way. The park map is your BFF. DON’T LOSE IT. It has all of the trails, distances, and elevation stats spelled out nice and clearly for you. (Sometimes the map is a liar, but we’ll get into that a bit later…)

Pro tip: They don’t let you bring backpacks into the cashier room, so set yours down on the porch outside before entering or you’ll have to leave the line and get in the back. Yes, this happened to us.

If you’re heading to Laguna Amarga (Torres Central or Seron), you’ll bring all your stuff from the entrance and catch a local shuttle (3,000 CLP, cash only) to the trails. For those heading to Pudeto for the catamaran (Paine Grande or Grey), head back to your bus (I hope you haven’t forgotten which one was yours…?) and continue on to the pier.

Checking Into Campsites

There wasn’t a single campsite (CONAF, Vertice, or Fantastico Sur) where we needed to have our reservation printed out. I’d say it’s safe to have your reservations screenshotted or saved onto your phone for campsite check-in. You’ll usually also need to provide your passport(s) and put a tag onto your tent.

Generally, it’s a good idea to try and get to campsites earlier in the day so you can snag an awesome spot, but it’s not necessary. Just make sure you don’t arrive after dark.

A snowy mountain range is reflected on a clear blue lake.
The first glimpse of the W trek as you come across the catamaran is jaw-dropping.

3 Complete W Trek Itineraries: What to Expect

One of the nicest things about the W Trek in Torres del Paine (aside from, ya know, the most gorgeous landscapes in the world) is that you can customize your route to fit your schedule.

In the sections below, I’ve detailed 3 of the most popular itineraries (with day to day trail details) for trekking the W. You can follow them exactly or use them as a base to plan your own itinerary for the W Trek!

The Complete Version: W Trek in 5 Days

This was the itinerary the first time I visited Torres del Paine, and I loved being able to take the trails a little slower and enjoy the beautiful landscapes in the park for a day longer. If you have enough vacation days, I strongly recommend taking this route – you’ll get to experience the W Trek to the fullest without feeling rushed.

Additionally, I’m starting at Paine Grande and working counter-clockwise, but you can also do this itinerary backwards, starting at Torre Central and finishing at Paine Grande. Just flip the dates!

Day 1 of 5 – Paine Grande to Grey

You’ll start this day by arriving at the Puerto Natales bus station at 6:40 AM. Take the 7:00 AM bus from Puerto Natales to the Torres del Paine entrance, pay for your ticket, then catch your bus again to Pudeto. From Pudeto, go immediately to the line for the catamaran, which has limited space and leaves at 11:00 AM for Paine Grande.

At Paine Grande, you can eat a quick lunch at the provided picnic tables. Then, you’ll begin your hike up ~11 kilometers to Grey. For most hikers, the hike to Grey takes 3.5-5 hours. The first time I did it, it took me closer to 5 hours. 

The hike to Grey begins with a trail through a large canyon area. Then after about an hour, you’ll reach the mirador of Laguna de los Patos (literally “The Ducks Lake,” isn’t that so cute?!). Pass by that lake on the left and walk for a bit longer, through some rocky terrain full of incredible boulders. About 2-2.5 hours in, you’ll reach the Glaciar Grey mirador. This is the halfway point! If it’s not too windy, I recommend stopping here for a break and a snack to admire the gorgeous glacier below.

Next, continue on the same trail, where you’ll continue to see views of the glacier and the lake below. You’ll pass over a few small bridges, a couple of steep spots with running water (be careful of slipper rocks here!), and finally, after ~2 more hours, you’ll reach Grey. First, you’ll see the refugio, where you’ll check in if you are staying indoors.

If you’re camping, pass the refugio on your left and head to the camping check in, which is the next building over. You’ll set up camp in the Grey campsite across from the check in building, which has wonderful views of the surrounding mountains.

Overnight at Grey campsite or refugio.

A view of glacier Grey from a hilltop.

Day 2 of 5 – Grey to Paine Grande

This is a pretty easy day, so don’t leave in a rush to get back to Paine Grande. Actually, after you wake up, I recommend continuing up the trail towards Paso campsite. First, you can stop at the mirador of Grey Glacier near the campsite, which I highly recommend as it’s a really breathtakingly close view of the glacier and lake.

Next, continue on the main trail towards Paso. You can’t walk all the way up to the camp, but you can go to the stunning hanging bridges, which are totally terrifying to cross but are beautiful and picturesque to look at. There are three bridges between Grey and Paso, and I would really only recommend going to the second one (there’s not much more to see between the second and the third, IMO…).

Take 1-2 hours to explore the Grey area in the morning, and then before noon, head back down the same way you came towards Paine Grande. It should take you 3-4 hours to return back, as it’s mostly downhill. 

Once you arrive at Paine Grande, you’ll check in for camping in the back (the backside of the main building, near the tents). For the refugio, enter on the side nearest the catamaran entrance and check in at the front desk next to the cafeteria.

Pro tip: At Paine Grande, beware of foxes, which like to play rough with each other in the fields and steal food from gullible campers.

Overnight at Paine Grande campsite or refugio.

A boardwalk runs through a campsite on the W trek in Torres del Paine with two mountain peaks in the back.
On a clear day, you can see Paine Grande and the Cuernos from one of your first campsites on the W trek.

Day 3 of 5 – Paine Grande to Mirador Britanico to Italiano/Frances/Cuernos

You’ll really want to get an early start this day. Head out from Paine Grande early and, after ~2 hours of mostly flat terrain, you’ll reach the Italiano Ranger Station and campsite. Whether you’re staying here or not, you can drop off your big bag here for your hike in the Valle Frances; just make sure you don’t leave your valuables.

The hike up to Mirador Britanico is one of the more difficult stretches in the park. At first, it’s not so bad, and after about 1.5 hours, you’ll reach the first mirador, Mirador Frances. Here, you can see really beautiful views of Paine Grande mountain, as well as the surrounding rock formations in the valley.

However, the true gems are at Mirador Britanico.

Another 2.5-3 hours will bring you up very steep, sometimes muddy pathways to Mirador Britanico, a 360-degree, panoramic viewpoint of some of the park’s most amazing rock formations and mountains. I can’t even begin to describe in words how amazing it is, but here are a few photos that miiiiiight do it justice:

Dark green foliage covers the ground in front of rocky mountains.

After you’re done drooling over the intense natural beauty at Mirador Britanico, head back the way you came and set up camp in Italiano, or continue on to Frances or Cuernos to shorten your next day. 

Pro tip: If you’re hiking up to Chileno on Day 4 (which we recommend here), you should probably choose Frances or Cuernos for night #3. This will shorten the hike the next day, which is pretty long and grueling. 

Overnight at Italiano, Frances, or Cuernos. You choose!

Day 4 of 5 – Italiano/Frances/Cuernos to Chileno

I’m not going to lie — this day can be BRUTAL. But the reward of staying in a campsite that enables you to see the Torres at sunrise is, in my opinion, 100% worth the pain. The hike is long (over 20 kilometers) but mostly flat, although the last stretch is a steep uphill for ~3-4 kilometers. 

You’ll start the day at whatever campsite you chose to reserve the night before, and you’ll start walking. The trail on this day is beautiful, passing by Los Cuernos mountains and the pristine, blue Lago Nordenskjold. Eventually, you’ll reach a fork in the road with a battered sign that says “shortcut to Chileno.” TAKE THE SHORTCUT. If not, you’ll take a detour of several extra uphill miles, which you DEFINITELY do not want to do.

When I last took the shortcut, it involved crossing a hip-deep river (**although that may have changed since 2016…if you do it and cross said river, please let me know!). Then, you’ll slush around in damp shoes for another 6-7 kilometers, the last 3-4 which are steep, uphill, and full of day trekkers coming the opposite way from the Torres. 

Eventually, you’ll cross over a hill and see a large bridge crossing the valley river. Right across that bridge is Chileno camping & refugio. You’ll check in for both at the main cabin. And yes, the hot showers here are the best you’ll take during the entire trek, so enjoy it.

Overnight at Chileno. (And get to bed early because tomorrow is your earliest morning yet!)

Photograph of a light blue lake surrounded by dark green trees underneath a clear sky.

Day 5 of 5 – Chileno to Mirador Torres to Torres Central to Puerto Natales

Wake up at 3:30 AM (yep, you heard that right…) and check the weather. If it’s raining, go back to bed – it’s not worth going up to the mirador if it’s pouring or storming out.

However, if it’s clear or partly cloudy out, leave your tent pitched in your spot. Grab your head lamp and a few warm layers and head up the trail toward the Torres del Paine mirador. In the beginning, the trail is a gradual uphill, but in the last 2 kilometers or so, the uphill is super rocky and steep. 

Side note: I definitely had to physically climb some of the rocks on the last part of the trail. No shame!

For most hikers, it will take ~2 hours to get from Chileno to the mirador, but I’d budget 2.5 hours just to be safe. Once you get to the top, find a nice boulder, put on your warm layers, and wait for the beautiful red alpenglow from the sun to appear on the Torres. I was unlucky and it was too cloudy to see the red glow when I went:

The author stands with her arms outstretched at the mirador Torres, which is the last stop on the W trek in Torres del Paine national park.

…but if you’re lucky, you may be able to see something like this:

The rocky spires of the Torres are illuminated with an orange glow over a clear lake in the early morning.

I’d recommend hanging out here until 7:00 or 7:30 AM, then head back to Chileno to pack up your stuff and head down to Torre Central. From there, you’ll catch the shuttle to Laguna Amarga (the entrance), and then you’ll catch your bus back to Puerto Natales.

The Classic Version: W Trek in 4 Days

The 4-day version of the W Trek in Torres del Paine is perfect for time-strapped travelers who want to see it all. You won’t miss any attractions on this itinerary, although you’ll be doing a bit more hiking on the first day, since you’ll head to Grey and back in one day. The rest of the itinerary is the same as days 3-5 of the 5-day version (so we won’t repeat it here).

As in the 5-day itinerary, you can reverse this route as well, starting with Torres Central/Chileno and ending at Paine Grande.

A view of glacier Grey from the front, an iconic sight along the W trek in Torres del Paine

Day 1 of 4 – Paine Grande to Grey to Paine Grande

You’ll start this day by arriving at the Puerto Natales bus station at 6:40 AM. Take the 7:00 AM bus from Puerto Natales to the Torres del Paine entrance, pay for your ticket, then catch your bus again to Pudeto. From Pudeto, go immediately to the line for the catamaran, which has limited space and leaves at 11:00 AM for Paine Grande.

Unlike the 5-day itinerary, you’ll want to head up towards Grey as soon as you arrive at Paine Grande, especially if you want to walk the full way to Grey and back (8-9 hours round trip). Another option for this day is to hike up to the Glaciar Grey mirador (the halfway point to Grey campsite) and then turn around (4-5 hours round trip).

Either way, the trail is an out-and-back path, so when you’re ready to return to Paine Grande, you’ll just turn around and go back the way you came.

Overnight at Paine Grande campsite or refugio.

Days 2 to 4 – Same as 5-Day Itinerary

Days 2 to 4 of the 4-day version are exactly the same as the 5-day version above. However, in case you’re too lazy to scroll up in need of a summary, here it is:

  • Day 2 – Paine Grande to Mirador Britanico to Italiano/Frances/Cuernos: From Paine Grande, you’ll head to Italiano then leave your stuff at the ranger station for the day hike to Mirador Britanico. When you return, you’ll either set up camp at Italiano or continue on to Frances or Cuernos, depending on your energy levels and the amount of comfort you’re seeking. Overnight in Italiano/Frances/Cuernos.
  • Day 3 – Italiano/Frances/Cuernos to Chileno: You’ll spend the entire day hiking from your campsite to Chileno, passing by beautiful lakes and views of Los Cuernos. Overnight in Chileno.
  • Day 4 – Chileno to Mirador Torres to Torres Central to Puerto Natales: Rise and shine early in the morning (like 3:30 AM early) and hike up to the Mirador Base Torres for sunrise. Then, head down, grab your bags at Chileno, and hike down to Torre Central to catch your bus back to Puerto Natales.
A fox stands in the field in front of a tall mountain along the W trek in Torres del Paine
Can you spot a furry resident of the W trek in this picture?

The Condensed Version: W Trek in 3 Days

If you’re very strapped for time, you can still experience most of what the W has to offer. However, you’ll be hiking longer distances each day and stopping for less time at the landmarks. In this itinerary, you’ll cut out Grey Glacier and instead head directly to Mirador Britanico and Mirador Torres.

If you want to modify this route, I would still strongly recommend starting at Torre Central and Chileno. It’s a lot easier to hike Mirador Britanico in the morning, and the only way you can do this is in the clockwise direction.

Day 1 of 3 – Torre Central to Mirador Torres to Chileno

You’ll start this day by arriving at the Puerto Natales bus station at 6:40 AM. Take the 7:00 AM bus from Puerto Natales to the Torres del Paine entrance, grab your stuff off the bus, pay for your ticket, then catch a shuttle to Torre Central. From Torre Central, you’ll hike up ~4 hours to the Mirador Torres (if the weather is nice).

On the way to Mirador Torres, drop your bags off at Chileno, as you’ll be back later to camp here or stay in the refugio.

After Chileno, it should take ~2 more hours to get up to the mirador. The terrain here is fairly flat until the last 2 kilometers, where the trail becomes steep and VERY rocky. Hang in there, you’re almost to the top!

Once you get to the mirador, you’ll be treated with beautiful views of the Torres del Paine peaks as well as the alpine lake below. Hang out here for a while, then head back to Chileno, where you’ll spend the first night.

Overnight in Chileno.

A small cloud obscures the peak of a rocky mountain range.

Day 2 of 3 – Chileno to Cuernos/Frances/Italiano

On this day, you’ll hike from Chileno to Cuernos, Frances, or Italiano. You can choose which campsite/refugio you’d like to stay in (if you need help deciding, read this). The hike isn’t hard, as it’ll be mostly downhill, but it is rather long, so keep that in mind. It’s basically the reverse of Day 4 of the 5-day W Trek variation, which goes something like this:

  • Cross the bridge towards Torre Central, then hike 3-4 kilometers until you see a right turn towards Los Cuernos (ask a range or guide nearby if you have trouble finding it). Turn right at the fork and head towards Los Cuernos.
  • Hike over mostly flat terrain past Lago Nordenskjold and Los Cuernos.
  • Eventually, you’ll arrive at Los Cuernos. Keep going on the trail for Frances and Italiano.

Overnight in Cuernos/Frances/Italiano.

A rocky field in the foreground with snowy peaks of mountains in the background.

Day 3 of 3 – Mirador Britanico to Paine Grande to Puerto Natales

Again, this is the opposite of the itinerary in day 5 of the 5-day version of the W. However, if you want a summary, here it is:

  • Wake up early (~6:00 AM) and, if the weather is fairly clear, hike up to Mirador Britanico in the morning. If necessary, bring your bags and drop them off at Italiano on the way up.
  • Head back to Italiano, grab your bags, and head to Paine Grande.
  • Once at Paine Grande, take the 2:35 PM, 5:00 PM, or 6:35 PM catamaran (schedule here) back to Pudeto, then take your bus back to Puerto Natales. (Be sure to check the times that your bus company runs before buying your return bus ticket. Usually, you can buy tickets directly from the buses at Pudeto as well.)

Additional Resources for the Torres del Paine W Trek


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Kay is a full-time media professional located in Washington DC who takes every spare day of time to travel the world. In the last year alone, she's visited over 10 different countries and taken a dozen short trips in between. You can typically find her wandering the streets of a city, taking ridiculous self portraits, or hiking a mountain somewhere. Connect with Kay: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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