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The W trek in Torres del Paine – 2021/22 season

The W trek in Torres del Paine – 2021/22 season

The W trek in Torres del Paine – 2021/22 season

The W trek in Torres del Paine National park is a stunning route with some of the most beautiful landscapes in Patagonia. The trek is a good compromise between day hikes in Torres del Paine and the challenging O-circuit. The W route takes hikers to all highlights of the National Park including the Mirador Las Torres, Grey Glacier, and Pehoé Lake. In my opinion, the W trek is one of the best hikes in Patagonia. It’s a good combination of a great hiking experience, amazing scenery, good infrastructure, and a moderate level of difficulty.

The W trek route overview

  • Total distance – 100 km/62 miles
  • Required number of days – 4-5 days
  • Starting point – Paine Grande campsite (ferry from Pudeto) or Hotel Las Torres
  • Finishing point – Hotel Las Torres (bus to Laguna Amarga) or Paine Grande campsite
  • Highest point – Mirador Las Torres, 900m/2952ft
  • Permits – entrance fee – CLP 25 600/US$32. Advanced campsites booking is required for the W trek.  
  • Accommodation – campsites, refugios (hostels), hotels.
Sunrise at Mirador Las Torres, W-trek
Mirador Las Torres, W trek, Torres del Paine, Chile

Practical information for the trek

In the 2021/22 hiking season the W trek is open from 20th October 2021.

The W-trek is not a loop, it starts and finishes at different points.

The trek can be walked in either direction starting at Paine Grande and finishing at Hotel Las Torres or the other way around.

It’s possible to purchase Torres del Paine entrance tickets online.

The entrance fee at the gate can be paid only in cash in Chilean pesos, cards are not accepted.

You have to book campsites beforehand and have a booking confirmation printed or on the mobile phone.

It’s required to have a passport and a migration card (you get it entering Chile) with you on the trek.

Hikers are allowed to camp only at designated campsites.

Open fires are not allowed in the park – in the past, they caused terrible fires.

Hikers are allowed to use camping stoves only at designated areas at the campsites.

Drinking water can be found all over the park, it is considered of being good quality. We didn’t use any filters or purification systems on the trek.

Puerto Natales is the best place to be based before and after the hike. The town has many hotels, campsites, restaurants, shops, and gear rental places.

You can get more information about Torres del Paine including different route options, campsite bookings, etc. at Erratic Rock  (hostel/gear rental shop) there is a free daily talk at 3 pm.

You can combine the W trek in Torres del Paine with trekking in El Chalten. It’s the adventure capital of Argentina located 400 km north. There are many day hikes and a couple of multi-day routes with breathtaking scenery.

Distances and times on the W trek

When hiking in Torres del Paine always remember to pay attention to the time. Most of the trails (stretches) in n the park have a cut-off time. If you arrive at the checkpoint after that time you won’t be allowed to continue walking. Note! The closing times are not for the campsites but for the trails. The campsites are open till late.

Trail Distance Required time Closing time
Grey – Paine Grande 11km/6.8mi 3h30min 4pm
Paine Grande – Italiano 7.5km/4.6mi 2h30min 6.30pm
Italiano – Mirador Británico 5.4km/3.3mi 3h 3pm
Italiano – Francés 2km/1.2mi 30min 7pm
Francés – Los Cuernos 3km/1.8mi 1h30min 7pm
Los Cuernos – Central 11.6km/7.2mi 4h30min
Los Cuernos – Chileno 15km/9,3mi 5h30min.
Central – Chileno 5km/3.1mi 2h
Chileno – Mirador Las Torres 4,5km/2.7mi 2h30min 6pm
Distances and times between the campsites on the W trek

Travel insurance. The W-route is a multi-day trek in the wilderness. It’s not a dangerous hike but it has some parts through remote and difficult to access areas of the park. Having travel insurance for this route is a good idea. Like any other outdoor activity, hiking involves the risk of getting an injury, losing or breaking gear, and other unexpected situations that can spoil your trip. If you haven’t chosen an insurance company yet we can recommend our partners World Nomads. They work with travelers from all over the world and specialize in outdoor activities like hiking. You can buy an insurance policy online before or during your trip. It takes just a couple of minutes. The policy is very flexible it can cover your entire trip or only a part of it, e.g. only 5 days on the W trek. Get an instant quote right now! Important! Always make sure you carefully read the Terms and Conditions part.

How to book the campsites on the route?

The campsites on the W trek belong to three different companies; CONAF (National Forest Corporation) free campsite Italiano. Vertice Patagonia paid campsites: Grey and Paine Grande. Las Torres Patagonia (Fantástico Sur) paid campsites: Central, Los Cuernos, Francés and Chileno.

CONAF campsites Vertice Patagonia campsites Las Torres Patagonia campsites
Italiano Grey Central
Paine Grande Chileno
Los Cuernos
Francés
Campsites on the W trek

Paid campsites are bigger, have better facilities and are easier to book than the free campsite.

W trek campsites, Torres del Paine
Campsites on the W trek, Torres del Paine, Patagonia

Campsites on the W trek in the 2021/22 season

The campsites on the W trek can be booked online through the CONAF, Vertice Patagonia, and Las Torres Patagonia (Fantastico Sur) websites.

CONAF campsites. As of November 2021, the CONAF campsite (Italiano) can’t be booked online and there is no information when (and if) it’ll be open. Even when the free campsite Italiano was open it was quite difficult to book it. For this reason, our suggested W trek itinerary includes only stays at the paid campsites. If you manage to book the Italiano campsite you can always adjust it.

Vertice Patagonia campsites. Currently, both campsites (Grey, Paine Grande) on the W trek are open for booking. The price for camping with your own gear is US$9 per person (double occupancy). It’s possible to rent camping gear at the campsites; a tent (2-men) – US$29 per night, a sleeping bag – US$22 per person per night, a camping mat – US$7 per person per night.

Las Torres Patagonia campsites. All four campsites (Central, Chileno, Los Cuernos, Francés) can be booked online. But as of November 2021, the Los Cuernos campsite has very limited dates available. At the Chileno campsite, you can book only fully-equipped tents (the more expensive option). Los Cuernos is not a big problem as it’s just 3 km away from the Francés campsite. The Chileno campsite is the closest to the Mirador Las Torres if you can’t book it you’ll have to stay at Central and from there walk to the Mirador. Camping with your own gear – US$21 per person (double occupancy), fully-equipped tent – US$49 per person (double occupancy).

Our post, Torres del Paine campsites, contains a lot of information on the topic including a map of the campsites, booking tips, camping facilities, and more. The information in the post is updated for the 2021/22 hiking season.

How to get to Torres del Paine from Puerto Natales?

Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine (Paine Grande)

Step 1. Take a bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine (Pudeto ferry). The journey to Pudeto with one stop at Laguna Amarga takes 3 hours. Price CLP 10 000/US$12 pp.       

Bus Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine Bus 1 Bus 2
Leaves Puerto Natales 7.30am 2.30pm
Arrives at Laguna Amarga (park office) 9.45am 4.45pm
Arrives at Pudeto (ferry) 10.30am 5.15pm
Buses from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine

Step 2. Get off at Laguna Amarga entrance (first stop) to pay the park entrance fee – CLP 25 600/US$32.

Step 3. Get back on the bus.

Step 4. Get off at Pudeto (second stop). Buy a one-way catamaran ticket (the trek finishes at a different place).  Price CLP 20 000/US$25.

Step 5. Take the catamaran (ferry) from Pudeto to Paine Grande. The ride takes about 30 minutes.

Catamaran Pudeto – Paine Grande Paine Grande – Pudeto
Departure 1 9am 9.35am
Departure 2 11am 11.35am
Departure 3 2pm 2.35m
Departure 4 4.15pm 5pm
Departure 5 6pm 6.35pm
Catamarans from Pudeto to Paine Grande

Torres del Paine (Hotel Las Torres) – Puerto Natales

Step 1. Take a bus from Hotel Las Torres to Laguna Amarga. It takes 10min., price CLP 3000/US$4. It’s possible to walk this part, the distance is about 7km.

Step 2. Take another bus from Laguna Amarga to Puerto Natales. The journey takes 2h30min., price CLP 10 000/US$12.

Bus Torres del Paine – Pueto Natales Bus 1 Bus 2
Leaves Laguna Amarga 2.30pm 7.45pm
Arrives in Puerto Natales 5pm 10pm
Buses from Torres del Paine to Puerto Natales

It’s possible to do the W trek with a tour. It works out more expensive but on the other hand, you don’t have to worry about planning your itinerary, booking campsites, etc. You can combine hiking the W trek with visiting Santiago de Chile or board on a multi-day Patagonia hiking adventure.

W trek map with campsites, a ferry route, and a bus route
A map of the W trek and the campsites in Torres del Paine. 1 – Grey campsite; 2 – Paine Grande; 3- Italiano; 4 – Francés; 5 – Los Cuernos; 6 – Chileno; 7 – Central.

The W trek, Torres del Paine – a 5-day itinerary

As I already mentioned you can walk the W trek in either direction; from Paine Grande to Hotel Las Torres (Central campsite) or from Hotel Las Torres to Paine Grande. Whichever way you go you’ll start and finish your trek with one of the highlights of Torres del Paine; Gray Glacier or Mirador Las Torres. We started the W route at Paine Grande.

Day 1. Paine Grande campsite – Grey campsite, 11 km

Bus Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine (Pudeto entrance); ferry Pudeto – Paine Grande, 3-4 hours. Paine Grande campsite – Grey campsite, 11 km/6,8 miles, 3 hours

Cost: bus – CLP 10 000/US$12, entrance fee – CLP 25 600/US$32, ferry – CLP 20 000/US$25, camping at Grey campsite – CLP 7000/US$9.

Highlights

  • Pehoe lake
  • Grey lake
  • Grey glacier

Challenges

  • Several ascents and descents on the way between Paine Grande and Grey campsite.

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 to pay the park entrance fee. Tip! Try to be one of the first people at the office that you don’t have to wait too long you still have to get back on the bus. After paying the fee, getting tickets and maps get back on the bus and continue to Pudeto.

10.30 – get off the bus at Pudeto. Go to the ferry ticket office to buy a ticket to Paine Grande and find out about the departure time. Buy a one-way ticket you’ll finish the trek at a different entrance. Tip! If you have time before the departure you can go to Salto Chico waterfall.

11.00 – get on the ferry to Paine Grande.

11.30 – get off the ferry at Paine Grande.

Here you have two options; to camp at Paine Grande and walk to Grey glacier and back with a day pack or to walk with all your gear to the Grey campsite and overnight there. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages. If you camp at Paine Grande you’ll walk to the glacier without your backpack and you can do the W trek in 4 days but you’ll have less time to walk around and to go to the viewpoints. If you camp at the Grey campsite you’ll have more time to explore the area but you’ll have to walk with your backpack from and to Paine Grande.

11.30 – start walking toward Grey glacier, 11km. It’ll take you between 3 and 4 hours.

15.30-16.00 – arrive at the Grey campsite, pitch your tent, have lunch.

17.00 – walk around the campsite, go to the lake.  You can leave your stuff in the tent but we’d suggest taking valuables e.g. a camera, money with you. 

18.00-19.00 – get back to the campsite, have dinner, rest.

Pehoe Lake, W'trek, Torres del Paine
Lago Pehoé at Hotel Paine Grande, W trek, Torres del Paine

Day 2. Grey campsite – Paine Grande campsite, 20 km

Grey campsite – glacier Grey viewpoint – Grey campsite – Paine Grande,  20 km/12,4 miles, 7 hours

Cost: camping at Paine Grande – CLP 7000/US$9.

Highlights

  • Grey glacier
  • Grey lake
  • Pehoe lake

Challenges

  • A steep ascent to the Grey glacier view-point
  • A steep descent back to the Grey campsite
  • Several ascents and descents on the way from Grey to the Paine Grande campsite.

7.00 – get up, have breakfast.

8.00 – start walking towards Paso campsite, to the viewpoints. Leave your stuff in the tent at the campsite, take a day-pack with valuable stuff, water, and snacks.

9.30-10.00 – you’ll arrive at the viewpoint. There are several points from where you can see the glacier. From here we’d suggest starting walking back you still have to pack your tent and walk to Paine Grande.

11.00-11.30 – arrive back at Grey campsite, pack your tent, have lunch.

12.30 – start walking to Paine Grande.

16.30-17.00 – arrive at Paine Grande, pitch your tent, walk around.

19.00 – make dinner, rest.

Grey Glacier, W trek, Torres del Paine, Chile
Massive Grey Glacier from the viewpoint, the morning of the second day on the W trek in Torres del Paine

Day 3. Paine Grande campsite – Francés campsite, 19 km

Paine Grande – Italiano campsite – Mirador Frances – Mirador Britanico (in good weather) – Frances campsite, 20 km/11,8 miles, 8 hours

Cost: camping at the Francés campsite – CLP 17 000/US$21

Highlights

  • Skotsberg lake
  • French Valley
  • Mirador Frances
  • Mirador Britanico

Challenges

  • A steep ascent to Mirador Britanico from Italiano campsite
  • A steep descent back from the Mirador to the campsite

6.00-7.00 – get up, make breakfast, pack.

8.00 – start walking towards the Italiano campsite – 7,6 km, 2,5 hours.

10.30 – arrive at the Italiano campsite, leave your big backpack at the office and walk to the Mirador Frances – 2 km, 1 hour.

11.30 – arrive at the Mirador Francés, rest, have snacks. If the weather is good and you feel strong continue walking towards the Mirador Britanico – 3,5 km, 2 hours.

13.30 – arrive at the Mirador Britanico, rest, enjoy the view.

14.00 – start heading back to the Italiano campsite – 5,5 km, 2-3 hours.

16.30 – arrive at Italiano continue walking towards the Francés campsite – 2 km, 30 min.

17.00 – arrive at the Francés.

Skottsberg Lake, W-trek, Patagonia
Mirror-like Lago Skottsberg on the way from Paine Grande to Italiano campsite

Day 4. Francés campsite – Chileno campsite, 18,5 km

Francés campsite – Los Cuernos – Chileno campsite, 18,5 km/11,4 miles, 7 hours

Cost: camping at Chileno – CLP 17 000/US$21.

Staying at Chileno is currently the only option if you want to see the sunrise at Mirador Las Torres. Free campsite Torres that is just 800m away is closed in the 2018/19 season for maintenance. From Chileno to the Mirador is a 2,5-3-hour walk which means you have to start at 3.00-4.00 am in summer as the sunrise is between 5.30 (December) and 7.00 (February).

Highlights

Challenges

  • Several ascents and descents on the way to Chileno campsite

7.00 – get up, have breakfast, pack.

8.00 – start walking towards Los Cuernos – 5km, 2 hours.

10.00 – arrive at Los Cuernos, stop for rest and snacks. Continue walking towards Chileno campsite – 15km, 5,5 hours.

15.30 – arrive at Chileno, pitch tent, walk around, rest.

18.00 – make dinner, rest.

Nordenskjold lake, W hike, Torres del Paine
Lago Nordenskjold, the scenery on the way to Chileno campsite, W-trek

Day 5. Chileno  – Mirador Las Torres – Puerto Natales, 14 km

Chileno campsite – Mirador Las Torres – Hotel Las Torres, 14 km/8,6 mi, 5h30min. Bus Hotel Las Torres – Laguna Amarga; bus – Laguna Amarga – Puerto Natales, 3 hours.

Cost: bus Hotel Las Torres – Laguna Amarga – CLP 4000/US$5, bus Laguna Amarga – Puerto Natales – CLP 10 000/US$12.

Highlights

  • Mirador Las Torres – three sharp mountain peaks and the lagoon.

Challenges

  • A long and steep ascent to Mirador Las Torres
  • A long and steep descent to Hotel Las Torres

4.00-5.00 (depending on sunrise time) – get up, start going up to the Mirador – 4km, 2h15min.

6.15-7.15 – arrive at the Mirador. Enjoy the sunrise, spend some time resting, taking photos, exploring the area.

8.00 – start going down to Chileno – 4km, 1h30min.

9.30 – arrive at Chileno, get your stuff, start descending towards Hotel Las Torres – 5,5km, 1h30min.

11.00 – arrive at Hotel Las Torres, from here you can catch a shuttle bus to Laguna Amarga (confirm the departure time at the hotel) or walk – 7km, 2 hours.

14.00-14.30 – catch a bus from Laguna Amarga to Puerto Natales. We’d recommend checking the bus timetable at the park office at the beginning of the trek.

16.30 – arrive in Puerto Natales.

Sunrise at the Mirador las Torres, W trek
The most iconic view in Torres del Paine – the Mirador Las Torres as the sunrise

The W trek – a 4-day itinerary

If for some reason your time in Torres del Paine is limited you can walk the W trek in 4 days.

Day 1. Paine Grande campsite – Grey campsite – Paine Grande campsite, 22 km

Bus Puerto Natales Torres del Paine (Pudeto); ferry Pudeto – Paine Grande, 3-4 hours. Paine Grande campsite – Grey campsite – Paine Grande campsite, 22 km/13,6 miles, 6 hours

Cost: bus – CLP 10 000/US$12, entrance fee – CLP 25 600/US$32, ferry – CLP 20 000/US$25, camping at Paine Grande – CLP 7000/US$9.

Highlights

  • Pehoe lake
  • Grey lake
  • Grey glacier

Challenges

  • Several ascents and descents on the way from Paine Grande to the Grey campsite.

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 to pay the park entrance fee. Get back on the bus.

10.30 – get off the bus at Pudeto, go to the ferry ticket office to buy a ticket to Paine Grande.

11.00 – get on the ferry to Paine Grande.

11.30 – get off the ferry at Paine Grande.

11.30-12.00 – pitch your tent. Leave your stuff in the tent, take only valuables, water, and snacks.

12.00 – start walking to the glacier – 11 km, 2h30min.

14.30 – arrive at the Grey campsite, spend some time walking around.  If you have time go to one of the nearest viewpoints. Remember the stretch between the Grey campsite and Paine Grande closes at 4 pm after that time you’re not allowed to start walking so make sure you start heading back before.

Before 16.00 – start walking back to Paine Grande. In the summer it gets dark after 9 pm in Patagonia, on the way back you’ll have enough time to enjoy the view and take some photos don’t waste time on that on the way to the glacier.

18.00 – 19.00 – arrive at Paine Grande, have dinner, rest.

From the second day, follow the 5-day itinerary from Day 3.

If you still have some time to spend in Patagonia after completing the W trek, you can visit the Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate, Argentina.

The cost of hiking the W trek in Torres del Paine

Transport. Bus Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine  – CLP 20 000/US$25*, return. Catamaran Pudeto – Paine Grande – CLP 20 000/US$26, one way. Bus Hotel Las Torres – Laguna Amarga – CLP 4000/US$5. 

Entrance fee – CLP 25 600/US$32.

Accommodation. Camping with your own gear – US$40 (4 nights); two nights at Vertice Patagonia campsites (US$9×2), two nights at Las Torres Patagonia campsites (US$21×2). If you stay at fully-equipped campsites you’ll pay between US$50 and US$100 per person depending on the campsite and package.

Food. Cooking your own food – US$8-10 per person per day. Eating at the campsites’ restaurants – between CLP 12 000/US$16 for breakfast and CLP 30 000/US$39 for dinner.

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. You can rent a tent, a mat, and a sleeping bag at paid campsites. To rent a 2-men tent at the campsites costs US$29-39 per night, a sleeping bag – US$22, a camping mat – US$7. It’s more expensive than in the town but you don’t have to carry your camping gear with you.

Gear rental prices in Puerto Natales

Item Price per day, USD
Sleeping bag -9°C US$5
Sleeping pad US$2.5
2-men tent US$7
Cooking set (stove, pots, bowls. cups etc.) US$6
Headlamp US$2.5
Hiking poles US$3
Waterproof jacket US$5
Waterproof pants US$3.5
Hiking backpack US$6
Down jacket US$4
Gloves US$2
Gear rental prices in Puerto Natales

* You can check up-to-date currency conversion here.

The best time to do the trek

Weather-wise November to March are the warmest months, day temperatures are between 12°C and 15°C, nights are between 8°C and 10°C. Wind in Patagonia can be quite hectic, summer months, except February, are quite windy – November and January are the windiest months.

As for rain in January, March, and April you’ll get the most rainfalls, February is again quite a favorable month with the least rainfalls. From a weather point of view, February would be an ideal month for trekking in Torres del Paine and exploring the Carretera Austral if it wasn’t the busiest month in Patagonia.

Guided tour vs independent trek

Independent trek

Pros 

  • The W-trek has a lot of infrastructures; designated campsites with good facilities, hotels with restaurants and small shops – surviving is not a problem. 
  • The trail is well marked; many signs, maps, and people – you won’t get lost here.
  • Independent trek is cheaper.

Cons

  • You have to plan the hike, book campsites, etc.
  • Walking with a loaded backpack.
  • Setting a campsite; pitching tent, cooking, packing after a long walking day all by yourself. It’s not necessarily a disadvantage we love doing it but if you’re not a seasoned hiker it might be a pain.

Guided tour

Pros

  • Easy – no arrangements, bookings, gear rental etc. your tour company will do everything for you.
  • Walking with a day-pack.
  • No cooking, pitching and breaking down tent etc.

Cons

  • Takes away adventurous part of the hike.
  • More expensive.

Place to stay in Puerto Natales

Puerto Natales is the best place to be based before the trek, it’s not a big place but it’s quite geared for tourists, here you can find all you need to prepare for the hike: hotels, hostels, shops, gear rental places, pharmacies, ATMs, etc.

There are many accommodation options in Puerto Natales from budget campsites to fancy guest houses and apartments, here are our suggestions;

What to pack for hiking in Torres del Paine?

Here are some items that will be very useful on the W trek regardless of whether you’re planning to carry your own camping gear, rent it, or stay in refugios (indoor accommodation in the park). For more information on packing for Patagonia check our post Patagonia packing list.

Recommended books and guidebooks

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