The O circuit in Torres del Paine National Park is an incredible hiking adventure. The scenery on the route is fantastic: turquoise lakes, waterfalls, bizarre mountains, stunning viewpoints, a massive glacier, and diverse wildlife. The route takes hikers to the highlights as well as to some off-the-beaten-track parts of the park. Hiking in Torres del Paine you get an opportunity to explore one of the most beautiful places in South America. I could easily say that the O trek is one of the best hikes in Patagonia.
The O circuit route overview
- Distance – 120 km/74 miles.
- Required number of days – 7-8 days.
- Starting and finishing point – Central campsite (Laguna Amarga entrance).
- Highest point – John Gardner pass – 1220m/4000ft.
- Permits – no special permits needed, the park entrance fee is paid at the gate. Advanced campsites booking is required for the circuit.
- Accommodation – camping, refugios (indoor accommodation).
If you don’t have enough time to do the O Circuit you can walk the W trek that takes 4-5 days or do a couple of day hikes in Torres del Paine.
Besides Torres del Paine there are plenty of other incredible places to visit in Patagonia. If you don’t feel like planning your own adventure, booking bus tickets and hotels you can always join one of the exciting G-Adventure tours e.g. hiking Patagonia in-depth or End of the Earth. They have an all-inclusive Torres del Paine Full Circuit tour as well in case you don’t want to hike on your own.
Practical information for the trek
Park entrance fees can be paid only in cash in Chilean pesos, no other currencies are accepted.
You can buy your entrance tickets to Torres del Paine online.
In the 2021/22 hiking season the O circuit is open from 1st November.
The O trek can be walked only counterclockwise (from Central campsite to Serón to Dickson etc.).
Hikers are allowed to camp only at designated campsites. Wild camping is not allowed in the park.
Campsites on the route must be booked beforehand.
Take a printed booking confirmation, a passport, and a migration card with you on the trek.
Open fires are not allowed in Torres del Paine.
Using a camping stove is only allowed at the campsites.
Drinking water can be found throughout the park (rivers, creeks, streams), it’s said to be of good quality. We didn’t use any filters or purification.
You can get more information on Torres del Paine at a daily free talk at the Erratic Rock hostel/gear shop. The talk is usually at 3 pm.
If you’re looking for adventurous and off-the-beaten-track things to do in Patagonia traveling the Carretera Austral might be just what you need. The southern route through Chilean Patagonia offers many exciting activities in the most beautiful corners of the region.
Distances and times on the O Circuit
Most of the trails (stretches) on the O Circuit have a closing time if you arrive at a check-point after the indicated cut-off time you won’t be allowed to continue walking any further.
|Stretches||Distances||Time to complete||Cut-off times|
|Central – Serón||13km/8mi||3 hours||–|
|Serón – Dickson||18km/11mi||6 hours||3 pm|
|Dickson – Los Perros||12km/7,4mi||4h30min.||5 pm|
|Los Perros – El Paso||8km/5mi||6 hours||2 pm|
|El Paso – Grey||7km/4,3mi||4 hours||3 pm|
|Grey – Paine Grande||11km/6,8mi||3h30min.||4 pm|
|Paine Grande – Italiano||5,5km/3,4mi||2h30min.||6.30 pm|
|Italiano – Mirador Británico –
|11km/6,8mi||5 hours||3 pm|
|Italiano – Francés||2km/1,1mi||30min.||7pm|
|Francés – Los Cuernos||3,5km/2,1mi||1h30min.||7pm|
|Los Cuernos – Central||11km/6,8mi||4h30min.||–|
|Los Cuerno – Chileno||15km/9,3mi||5h30min.||–|
|Chileno – Mirador Las Torres||4km/2,4mi||2h.15min.||6pm|
|Chileno – Central||5,5km/3,4mi||1h30min.||–|
Travel insurance. The O-circuit is a multi-day trek with some parts through remote and difficult to access areas of the National park so having travel insurance for this route is a good idea. Any outdoor activity involves the risk of getting an injury, losing or breaking gear, and other unexpected situations that can spoil your trek. It’s always advisable to have travel insurance that can cover you in case if something goes wrong. We recommend our partners World Nomads. They work all over the world and specialize in outdoor activities like hiking. You can buy travel insurance online while traveling it takes a couple of minutes. Their policy is very flexible it can cover the entire trip or only the hiking part of it. Get a quote right now! Note! Always make sure you carefully read the Terms and Conditions part.
Suggested tours and activities in Patagonia
If you like hiking and wilderness you might enjoy exploring trekking routes in El Chalten, Argentina. There are several day-hikes and multi-day routes that can be done independently.
How to book the campsites for the trek?
The campsites on the O-trek belong to three different companies. CONAF (the National Forest Corporation) – free campsites Paso and Italiano. Vertice Patagonia paid campsites: Dickson, Los Perros, Grey, and Paine Grande. Las Torres Patagonia (Fantástico Sur) paid campsites: Central, Serrón, Francés, Los Cuernos, and Chileno. Paid campsites have better facilities and are easier to book. They have more camping spots than the free campsites.
|CONAF campsites||Vertice Patagonia campsites||Las Torres Patagonia campsites|
|Paine Grande||Los Cuernos|
The campsites in Torres del Paine can be booked online through the CONAF, Vertice Patagonia, and Las Torres Patagonia websites. You have to have your booking confirmation printed or on your mobile to show at the park entrance.
The two free CONAF campsites (Paso, Italiano) can’t be booked online there is no information on when (and if) they’ll reopen. The CONAF office in Puerto Natales, Manuel Baquedano st. 847. You can inquire about campsites there. Even when the free campsites were open it was very difficult to make a reservation. For these reasons, our suggested itinerary for the O Circuit includes only paid campsites.
All Vertice Patagonia campsites are open and can be booked through their website. Important! For the O Circuit, it’s impossible to book a separate campsite with Vertice Patagonia. It’s only possible to make a reservation for 3 or 4 campsites together. E.g. you can book Dickson, Los Perros, and Grey or Dickson, Los Perros, Grey, and Paine Grande. It means that even if the free campsite Paso (between Los Perros and Grey) is available for booking it doesn’t make sense to stay there. It’s better to walk from Los Perros to the Grey campsite (you have to book and pay for both anyway).
Las Torres Patagonia (Fantastico Sur) campsites are open and can be booked online. Note! Currently, it’s possible to book only pre-set tents (a more expensive camping option) at the Chileno campsite. Chileno and Los Cuernos campsites have very limited open dates. If there is no availability on your dates instead of Los Cuernos you can stay at Francés instead of Chileno at the Central campsite.
For more information check our post on the campsites in Torres del Paine. There you’ll find updated information (2021/22 hiking season) on each campsite, a map of the campsites, booking tips, and more.
The O circuit in Torres del Paine – a 7-day itinerary
Day 1. Central Campsite – Serón campsite, 13 km
Bus Puerto Natales – Laguna Amarga; bus Laguna Amarga – Central campsite (Hotel Las Torres), 3 hours. Central campsite – Serón campsite, 13 km/8 miles, 3 hours
Cost: bus Puerto Natales – Laguna Amarga – CLP 20 000/US$25 (return), entrance fee – CLP 25 600/US$32, bus Laguna Amarga – Hotel Las Torres – CLP 4000/US$5 (one way), camping at Serón – CLP 17 000/US$21.
- It would be an easy walk if it wasn’t for heavy backpacks loaded with gear and food for 7 days.
7.00-7.30 – catch a bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National park.
9.30-9.45 – get off at the first stop Laguna Amarga; register, pay the entrance fee, get a map. Tip! Try to be among the first people at the office otherwise you’ll wait in a queue for a while.
10.00 – catch a bus to Hotel Las Torres. Confirm departure time at the office.
10.15 – get off the bus at Hotel Las Torres, the starting point of the O trek, and begin the walk towards Serón campsite. Stop for lunch/snack at Las Torres or on the way.
13.30-14.00 – arrive at Serón campsite, pitch your tent, walk around, chill.
Day 2. Serón campsite – Dickson campsite, 18km
Serón – Guarderia Coiron – Dickson campsite, 18km/11 miles, 6 hours
Cost: camping at Dickson – CLP 7000/US$9.
- Our friends saw a puma in the morning just a few hundred meters from the campsite.
- Paine Lake
- Dickson Lake
- Walking through an opened windy area between Serón and Coirón.
7.00 – get up, make breakfast, pack.
8.00 – start walking towards Dickson.
10.30 – arrive at Guardería Coirón – 8,5km. Here you show your permit (booking) and register in the park book. You can have lunch here – there are tables and benches.
11.00 – continue the walk to Dickson – 9,5km.
14.00 – arrive at Dickson campsite.
Day 3. Dickson campsite – Los Perros campsite, 12 km
Dickson campsite – Los Perros campsite*, 12 km/7,4 miles, 4h30min.
*As I already explained in the paragraph about the campsite in Torres del Paine it’s possible to book only 3 campsites together (Dickson, Los Perros, and Grey). You can’t book only Dickson and only Dickson and Grey. You have to stop at Los Perros even if the free campsite Paso (the next after Los Perros) is open and available for your dates. For the 2021/22 season, the Paso campsite is not open anyway.
Cost: camping at Los Perros – CLP 7000/US$9.
- Los Perros lake and glacier
- An ascent from the Dickson campsite.
8.00 – Today you can take it easy it’s a short walking day. You can get up later and enjoy breakfast, slowly pack, and start walking.
9.00-9.30 – start walking towards Los Perros campsite – 12km/7,4 miles, 4,5 hours. The ascend starts from Dickson and continues all the way to Los Perros. It’s not as steep and challenging as the next day’s ascent over the John Garner Pass.
13.30-14.00 – arrive at Los Perros campsite. You have plenty of time to pitch your tent, make food, enjoy the scenery, and rest.
Day 4. Los Perros campsite – Grey campsite, 15 km
Los Perros campsite – John Garner Pass – Paso campsite – Grey Campsite, 15 km/9,3 miles, 8-9 hours
Cost: camping at Grey campsite – CLP 7000/US$9
- Views of the Grey Glacier from John Garner Pass
- Grey glacier
- Grey lake
- Suspension bridges
- John Gardner pass – a steep and long ascent, about 900m
- A steep descent from Paso to Grey campsite
7.00 – get up, have breakfast, pack. It’s better to start early to arrive at the Paso checkpoint before 3 pm. Prepare gloves and beany – it’s very windy on the top of the pass.
8.00 – start the ascent from Los Perros to John Garner pass – 900 m up.
10.30 – arrive at the top of John Garner Pass. Spend some time enjoying the view over the Grey Glacier.
11.00 – start descending to the Paso campsite.
13.00 – arrive at the Paso campsite. Rest, have snacks, enjoy the views.
13.30 – continue walking towards the Grey campsite – 7 km/4,3 miles, 4 hours, a steep descent.
17.30 – arrive at the Grey campsite.
Day 5. Grey campsite – Francés campsite, 18,5 km
Grey campsite – Paine Grande* – Italiano campsite – Frances campsite, 18,5 km/11,4 miles, 6,5 hours
*You can extend the suggested itinerary by one day and stay at Paine Grande. This way you’ll split one day in two; Grey – Paine Grande (11 km/6,8 mi) and Paine Grande – Francés (7,5 km/4,6 mi). It might seem unnecessary but if you want to walk to the Mirador Britanico it’s a better option. To walk to the Britanico viewpoint and back to the Francés campsite takes between 5 and 6 hours, 13 km with a very steep ascent.
Cost: camping at Francés campsite – CLP 17 000/US$21.
- Pehoé Lake
- Skotsberg lake
- French Valley
- Several ascents and descents on the way from Grey to the Paine Grande campsite
7.00 – get up, make breakfast, pack.
8.00 – start walking to the Paine Grande campsite – 11 km-6,8 mi, 3,5 hours.
11.30 – arrive at the Paine Grande campsite. Rest, have lunch/snack.
12.00 – continue walking toward the Italiano campsite, 5,5 km/3,4 mi, 2,5 hours.
14.30 – arrive at the Italiano campsite. Rest, continue walking towards the Francés campsite, 2 km/1,1 mi, 30 min.
15.00 – arrive at the Francés campsite.
Day 6. Francés campsite – Chileno campsite, 18,5 km
Frances campsite – Los Cuernos – Chileno campsite*, 18,5 km/11,4 miles, 6 hours
*If Chileno campsite is not available for booking you can camp at the Central campsite, it’s about 14,5 km from the Francés.
Optional. In the morning before continuing to the Chileno campsite you can go up to Mirador Francés and maybe to Mirador Britanico. Leave your backpacks at the campsite and take only valuables. It’s quite a walk, about 12 km return all the way but you can turn around at Mirador Francés which is about 6 km return. It’s a steep ascent to the viewpoint.
Cost: camping at Chileno – CLP 17 000/US$21.
- Several ascents and descents on the way to Chileno campsite
7.00 – get up, have breakfast, pack
8.00 – start walking to Los Cuernos – 5km, 2 hours.
10.00 – arrive at Los Cuernos, there is a shop and restaurant here, you can stop for snacks and rest.
10.30 – start walking to Chileno campsite – 15km, 5,5 hours.
15.30 – arrive at Chileno, pitch tent, walk around, rest. If you want to see the sunrise at Mirador Las Torres better go to bed very early you’ll have to get up at 4.00-5.00 to walk all the way up in time.
Day 7. Chileno campsite – Mirador Las Torres -Central campsite, 14 km
Chileno campsite – Mirador Las Torres – Chileno campsite – Central campsite, 14 km/8,6 miles, 5h30min. Bus/ walk Central campsite – Laguna Amarga, 7 km, 2 hours. Bus Laguna Amarga – Puerto Natales, 2,5 hours
Cost: bus Hotel Las Torres – Laguna Amarga – CLP 4000/US$5, bus Laguna Amarga – Puerto Natales – CLP 20 000/US$25 (both ways, paid on the way to).
- Sunrise at Las Torres – definitely one of the main highlights of the trek.
- Very early get up
- A long and steep ascent to Mirador Las Torres
- A long and steep descent to the Central campsite
4.00-5.00 (depending on the sunrise time) – get up, start going up to the Mirador – 4km, 2h15min. Leave your stuff at the campsite, take only valuables and a camera.
6.15-7.15 – arrive at the Mirador. Enjoy the sunrise, walk around, take photos, snack.
8.00 – start descending back to Chileno – 4km, 1h30min.
9.30 – arrive at Chileno, pack your stuff, start going down to the Central campsite (Hotel Las Torres) – 5,5km, 1h30min.
11.00 – arrive at Hotel Las Torres, catch a bus to Laguna Amarga (confirm the departure time at the hotel) or walk – 7km, 2 hours.
14.00-14.30 – get on a bus from Laguna Amarga to Puerto Natales. Check the bus timetable at the park office.
16.30-17.00 – arrive in Puerto Natales.
The cost of hiking the O Circuit in Torres del Paine
Transport. Bus Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine – CLP 20 000/US$25, return. Bus Hotel Las Torres – Laguna Amarga, return – CLP 8000/US$10 (each way paid separately).
Entrance fee. CLP 25 600/US$32
Accommodation. Camping with your own gear – US$90 (6 nights). 3 nights at Vertice Patagonia campsites (3xUS$9); 3 nights at Las Torres campsites (3xUS$21). If you stay at fully-equipped tents or refugios you’ll pay between US$50 and US$100 per person.
Food. Make your own food – between US$8-10 per day per person. Eating at the campsite restaurants – between CLP 12 000/US$16 (breakfast) and CLP 30 000/US$39 (dinner) per meal.
Gear rental (optional) – to rent camping gear (tent, sleeping bag, cooking stove, etc.) in Puerto Natales will cost you between CLP 13 000/US$16 and CLP 20 000/US$25 pp. per day, depending on what you rent. To rent a 2-men tent at the campsites costs US$29-US$39 per night, a sleeping bag – US$22, a camping mat – US$5. A good thing about renting at campsites is that you don’t carry camping gear from place to place, making your backpack significantly lighter.
Total: the most budget hiking option for the O Circuit (camping with your own gear, cooking for yourself) – US$220 (+US$30 for extras) per person for a 7-day trek.
Check here the current conversion.
How to get to Torres del Paine?
The O circuit starts at Hotel Las Torres (Laguna Amarga entrance), to get there from Puerto Natales;
Step 1. Take a bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine (Laguna Amarga). It takes about 2h30min. Price CLP 20 000/US$25 return. Keep your bus ticket for the way back.
|Bus Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine||Bus 1||Bus 2|
|Leaves Puerto Natales||7.30am||2.30pm|
|Arrives at Laguna Amarga||9.45am||4.45pm|
Step 2. Get off at Laguna Amarga entrance, go to the park office to pay the entrance fee – CLP 25 600/US$32 and get a map.
Step 3. Take another bus from Laguna Amarga to Hotel Las Torres (the starting point of the O), the departure time is linked to buses from Puerto Natales. Price CLP 4000/US$5, one way, takes 10 min. As an option, you can walk this stretch, about 7km, 2 hours.
Getting back from Torres del Paine (Hotel Las Torres) to Puerto Natales
Step 1. Take a shuttle bus from Hotel Las Torres to Laguna Amarga – CLP 4000/US$5 or walk this stretch. Check for departure time at the hotel reception.
Step 2. Take a bus from Laguna Amarga to Puerto Natales.
|Bus Torres del Paine – Puerto Natales||Bus 1||Bus 2|
|Leaves Laguna Amarga||2.30pm||7.45pm|
|Arrives in Puerto Natales||5pm||10pm|
Joining a group vs hiking independently
- It’s much cheaper.
- It’s more adventurous.
- The route is well-marked and easy to follow; distances, names, altitude profiles, etc. you don’t need a guide to show you the way.
- In season there are many hikers on the trail even if you walk alone you won’t be lonely.
- You have to plan the hike, book campsites, buy food, etc.
- You’ll be carrying a heavy backpack for a week.
- Setting a campsite by yourself; pitching tent, cooking, packing/unpacking after a long walking day. We love doing it but for some people, it’s more pain than fun.
- Easy – no arrangements, bookings, gear rental etc. your tour company will do everything for you.
- Walking with a day-pack, your luggage will be transferred from campsite to campsite.
- No cooking, pitching tent, packing etc.
- Quite a bit more expensive.
- Takes away the adventurous part of the hike.
The best time for hiking
Patagonian summer from December to February is the warmest time with day temperatures between 12°C and 15°C when the night temperature is between 9°C and 12°C. November – January, and March get quite a lot of wind – the biggest problem for hiking and camping in Patagonia. February is the least windy summer month. It’s the same with rain out of all summer months February gets the least rainfall.
Out of the weather point of view, February is definitely the best month for trekking in Torres del Paine. The main drawback of hiking in February – the parks are crowded, it’s the busiest month for the park with most visitors coming here. It means you must book campsites long in advance to make sure you get a spot on planned dates. If the campsites on the route are fully-booked you can do one of the alternative multi-day treks in Patagonia e.g. Cerro Castillo Circuit or hike to O’Higgins Glacier if you want to explore a more off the beaten path route.
Places to stay in Puerto Natales
Puerto Natales is probably the best place to be based before and after the trek. It’s the closest town to the park, tourist infrastructure here is quite good – many hotels and hostels, a couple of gear shops, rental places, restaurants, tour companies, and one or two supermarkets. You can get there by bus or hitchhiking from different places in Patagonia.
In Puerto Natales, you can find hotels, hostels, campsites, restaurants, supermarkets, gear rental places, pharmacies, ATMs, and an information office.
Items we love taking with on a hike
We have a detailed post on hiking and camping gear for Patagonia where you can find more information.
Recommended books and guidebooks
In the last couple of years regulations in Torres del Paine changed a lot if you buy a trekking guide make sure it’s an updated edition.
If you prefer reading e-books don’t hesitate to join Amazon Kindle Unlimited to get access to thousands of e-books and audiobooks. Even if you don’t have a Kindle device you can read or listen to books on your phone or tablet using a free app. The first 30 days are free.
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