Hiking

The ultimate guide to hiking the Torres Del Paine W Trek, Chile

The W Trek in Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile, is one of the world's greatest multi-day hiking trails. Conquering it requires careful planning and preparation – and here's how.

Hiking the Torres Del Paine W Trek was one of the most challenging and yet rewarding experiences of our lives. It’s simply mesmerising to see so many of Patagonia’s magical lakes, mountains and glaciers crammed into one place. With careful preparation, we completed the legendary route with very little hiking experience, and if we did it… so can you! This complete guide covers everything you need to know about tackling the W Trek from start to finish.

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Torres Del Paine W Trek: a brief overview

Torres Del Paine National Park is situated in Chilean Patagonia, the southernmost region of South America. Riddled with towering mountains, granite towers, pristine lakes and vast glaciers, it is a place of extraordinary natural beauty.

The W Trek is a hiking circuit that takes in some of the park’s most stunning features. Consistently ranked as one of the world’s greatest multi-day hiking trails, people travel thousands of miles for the challenge.

The trail gets its name from the shape of the path it follows. It can be done from west to east or vice versa, arcing around the south of the park and pivoting inwards at the middle to form a W. Each prong of the W is marked by an iconic natural landmark: Grey Glacier at the west, the towers of Las Torres at the east, and Mirador Británico in the middle.

A longer and tougher alternative trail, the O trek, follows a complete loop of the park. This takes about twice as long, and requires more hiking experience.

The Chilean town of Puerto Natales is the closest settlement to Torres Del Paine, located about 70 kilometres away. With plenty of shops, places to eat and accommodation options, it’s the ideal base for before and after the W Trek.

The Torres Del Paine W Trek is one of the world's greatest multi-day hiking trails
The Torres Del Paine W Trek is one of the world’s greatest multi-day hiking trails

Guided vs self-guided: pros and cons

The first decision you need to make when planning to hike the W Trek is whether you will go independently or take a guided trek. This table shows the main advantages and disadvantages of each option:

 GuidedSelf-guided
Pros:Logistical arrangements are sorted for you, such as accommodation during the trek and transfers into and out of the park

All of your meals are provided

You will meet other people and share the experience with a group

You are accompanied by experienced guides who know the park and the route

Depending on the tour provider, there may be porters to carry your gear

Medical help is immediately on hand if you need it
You can take the trek at entirely your own pace (although your nightly stops need to be booked in advance)

You have flexibility to take detours or adjust the route to your own preference

You can save a lot of money by making your own arrangements

Sorting your own food gives you the choice of what to eat
Cons:It's usually more expensive

You have to stick to the schedule of the guided trek
You need to book your own accommodation

You have to carry your own gear

You also have to carry your own food if you're not staying at full board accommodation

You need to sort your own transfers into the park

If you get injured or ill, it may take longer to receive attention

When we did the Torres Del Paine W Trek we were quite new to hiking; our only experience of a multi-day trek at that point was the Inca Trail. We opted to try the W Trek self-guided, mainly because our time in Patagonia was part of a one-year backpacking trip and we needed to keep our costs down.

We managed to completed the hike successfully. It was no easy feat, however. According to my smartwatch, in four days of hiking I covered 124 kilometres, walked 168,000 steps and climbed over 1,250 floors.

It helped that we got lucky with the weather. Patagonia has a reputation for ferocious winds, and Torres del Paine gets 700mm of rain a year. Located near the end of the civilised world, it’s pretty cold as well. Fortunately we got four days of mostly sunshine, which made it a lot easier for hiking independently. 

The planning was not straightforward either. Despite the popularity of the route, it’s surprisingly difficult to find accurate information, and much of the advice out there is geared towards experienced trekkers. On top of that, the companies that run the campsites and maintain the park are notoriously uncommunicative.

With this in mind, below we have compiled all the details you need for self-guiding the W Trek just like we did. Everything is covered: how much it costs, how to train for it, prepare for it, pack for it, and ultimately, how to conquer it.

If you have concerns about trying it unguided and you are willing to spend a little more on the experience, then you can consider taking a guided trek. It removes all of the logistical hassle, and you will have the constant support of a team of expert guides. Which brings me to our recommended tour company…

Guided W Trek with G Adventures

G Adventures run a variety of trekking tours in Patagonia, including the W Trek. After our fabulous experience hiking the Inca Trail with G Adventures, they will always be our first choice.

The G Adventures W Trek package includes accommodation on the trek, transportation, meals, and a team of mountain guides and porters. You can find out more and make a booking here. Make sure you check out the impressive reviews from people who have done it – they tell a story of their own.

If you want to take the experience a step further, you can also book a Torres Del Paine full circuit trek (the O Trek) with G Adventures.

How long does it take to hike the W Trek?

In brief, these are typical times for different paces of hiking:

  • Elite hiker: 2–3 days
  • Average time: 4 days
  • Taking it slowly: 5–6 days

If you are going self-guided, there is no specified amount of time to complete the W Trek. Elite hikers can do it in as little as two or three days. We managed it in four full days of hiking, with four nights’ camping and a morning return ferry on the fifth day.

But it’s ok to take longer, and many people stretch it over five or six days. It’s completely up to you. Have a look at the distances and terrains I describe below, and decide what you think will be comfortable for your experience and ability.

When is the best time to hike the W Trek?

The hiking season in Torres Del Paine runs from October to April. We did the W Trek in early season, at the end of October into the beginning of November. This is the spring ‘shoulder season’ when the hiking conditions are improving and there aren’t too many tourists around yet.

If you visit around the beginning or end of the season it’s slightly riskier with the weather, but the route will be quieter. It’s also easier to secure campsites and other accommodation in advance.

High season from December to February will give you the best weather, but it will also be busy. The autumn/fall shoulder season in April–March gives the bonus of seeing the park’s landscapes in beautiful red-orange foliage.

Hiking gear: what to pack

If you are planning to hike the W Trek as part of a longer trip through the region, our Patagonia packing list details all the essentials you need to take.

We had a tricky task in choosing the right clothing and equipment, as we weren’t just buying it for the W Trek – we were backpacking across four continents. Everything we took we would need to carry and use during our entire one-year world travel. (Unless we wanted to throw things away or pay a fortune to ship it home – which we didn’t.)

It’s prudent to buy your main hiking gear before you travel to Patagonia. While there are a few budget hacks in the area (more on that below), in general it’s an expensive place. You will save money by arriving already prepared.

Good hiking boots are essential for the Torres Del Paine W Trek: be prepared to walk through water
Good hiking boots are essential for the Torres Del Paine W Trek: be prepared to walk through water

You should begin with the three fundamental items of trekking gear: boots, jacket and backpack. Sometimes you can get away with cutting costs, but if you go cheap on these you will probably regret it:

  • Good hiking boots are essential. A lot of time on the W Trek is spent wading through streams, mud pools and rivers, so your feet need to be well protected. You should avoid spending less than $100 on hiking boots. Check out our guide to the best hiking boots to help choose a pair that suits you.
  • A hiking jacket for the W Trek needs to be waterproof and windproof to combat the temperamental weather. A 3-in-1 jacket is a versatile and flexible option. It combines an inner fleece with an outer shell, which you can wear separately or together to suit the conditions. This setup is also great for general travel. My 3-in-1 jacket is the North Face Tri-Climate, while Lisa’s is Jack Wolfskin.
  • A good backpack is vital for the W Trek. A hiking bag needs to be light, strong and well fitted to your back. It’s useful to have a bag with lots of compartments so you can easily access what you need. Look out for a good waist strap and a hole for your water dispenser pipe too. The Osprey Aether 70 ticks all those boxes, and worked out great for me on the W Trek. Check out our guide to the best backpacks for a range of options.
A good backpack with a waterproof cover will help get you through the W Trek
A good backpack with a waterproof cover will help get you through the W Trek

Aside from the ‘magic three’, we also recommend bringing:

  • Decent quality gloves, plus a neck scarf and warm hat – temperatures go well below freezing, especially in early season when we did it;
  • Walking poles – vital for the constant ups, downs and loose terrain;
  • Lightweight t-shirts – it’s vital to keep the weight down when you need to carry all of your gear around the circuit;
  • Hiking socks – important for keeping your feet dry and warm;
  • A good tent – while most of the campsites in the park are reasonably sheltered, you still need something that can handle a lot of strong winds. We use a 3-person tunnel tent by Urberg, a new Scandinavian outdoor brand, and it’s been brilliant. Tents of similar quality from more established brands cost three times as much.
  • If you are planning to prepare your own meals on the trek, then you may also need a camping stove.

If you don’t want to lug all this stuff around on your travels, you can hire most of it from Puerto Natales (the town near Torres del Paine), but it’s an expensive way to do it.

Insurance for the W Trek

If you’re planning to hike the W Trek, you should strongly consider getting travel insurance to cover yourself in case of accident or injury – especially if you are going self-guided.

It’s unlikely to happen, but if you suffer an accident while trekking in Torres Del Paine and need to be airlifted to receive medical care, the costs could be devastating if you are not adequately covered.

We recommended World Nomads for insuring activities like the W Trek. They provide excellent customer service and high-quality insurance packages tailored towards adventure activities, including hiking insurance. You can get started using the quote tool below.

Training for the W Trek from scratch

These simple steps will help you train for the W Trek:

  1. A few months before the W Trek, start light training with regular walking, including at least one full-day walk/hike per week.
  2. Once you feel comfortable, look for some local hiking routes you can access easily, ideally two days with an overnight camp.
  3. A few weeks before the W Trek, try a slightly longer multi-day hiking route (two or three nights).
  4. As the trek get closer, keep up regular daily walking and – if possible – a couple of full-day hikes a week.

If you can’t quite fit all of that in, don’t worry – set yourself a framework to build up your hiking distance and try to stick to it. Arrange some camping trips, preferably when it will be below 5°C at night, so you can become conditioned to staying outdoors in a more challenging climate.

As with any big physical challenge, the principle is simple – start small and build it up. Just before we started the W Trek, we overheard some guys who had just returned from the circuit describing someone in their group as “all the gear, no idea” – we didn’t want that to be us! Putting the time in to prepare will make sure you’re not.

When we began our training – which was initially for the Inca Trail – we were both working full-time jobs Monday to Friday, so we had to fit our hikes in whenever we could. If you’re in a similar situation, make the most of the weekends, and look for ways to increase the amount of walking you do each day. If you work in an office block, for example, take the stairs instead of the lift – little things like this make a big difference over time.

We used our training to explore hiking spots in the UK, our home country – most notably the South Downs and the South West Coastal Path. This helped us to build up distance, experience camping overnight and expose ourselves to some more challenging terrain. The UK in February can be just as cold as Patagonia in October!

Training hikes in Patagonia

If you’re passing through other parts of Patagonia before arriving at Torres Del Paine, then you will have ample opportunity to get your legs working.

A few weeks before the W Trek we did some preparation hiking in Bariloche, Argentina
A few weeks before the W Trek we did some preparation hiking in Bariloche, Argentina

A week before taking on the W Trek we flew down to Ushuaia – the world’s southernmost city – which turned out to be the perfect training spot. Here, we took beautiful day hikes around Tierra Del Fuego National Park and Glaciar Martial.

If you are travelling from the other direction, another great option is El Chaltén. This scenic mountain village is surrounded by fantastic hiking routes. Check out our El Chaltén trekking guide for some of the best options.

About a month before we took on the W Trek, we spent a week exploring Argentina’s Lake District. There are some excellent day hikes to try in this region, such as the Cerro Llao Llao trail in Bariloche and Cerro Piltriquitrón in El Bolsón.

How to get to Puerto Natales

The closest international airport to Puerto Natales is in Punta Arenas, the largest city on the Chilean side of Patagonia. There are daily flights to the city from Santiago, and then it’s a three-hour bus journey up to Puerto Natales, costing about $12.

If you’re travelling from the Argentina side, you can fly to El Calafate and then take a bus across the border. It’s a similar distance, but the border crossing makes the journey about five hours in total, and a one-way bus ticket typically costs $30.

Check Skyscanner to compare the best flight prices.

If you’re doing the W Trek midway into a trip through Patagonia, then it’s simple to reach Puerto Natales by bus. Check out our guide to getting around Patagonia by bus for all the information you need.

Accommodation before, after and during the W Trek

Booking campsites for the W Trek

There are three different organisations that run the campsites in Torres Del Paine. Three campsites – Torres, Paso and Italiano – are managed by CONAF, the park authority. You can book online with them here. All other campsites can be booked via the private agencies Vertice Patagonia and Fantastico Sur.

The following are the campsites on the W Trek from east to west:

  • Campamento Torres – free camping, CONAF
  • El Chileno – paid camping and refugio, Fantastico Sur
  • Torres Central and Torres Norte – paid camping and refugio, Fantastico Sur
  • Los Cuernos – paid camping and refugio, Fantastico Sur
  • Camping Frances – paid camping, Fantastico Sur
  • Campamento Italiano – free camping, CONAF
  • Paine Grande – paid camping and refugio, Vertice Patagonia
  • Grey – paid camping and refugio, Vertice Patagonia
  • Campamento Paso – free camping, CONAF (this site is north of Grey Glacier and not a typical stop on the classic W Trek but an alternative option on the west side)

You can see their locations within the park on this map:

Most people will tell you to book campsites a few weeks in advance for the W Trek, and it’s usually good advice. We did have the frustration of finding some sites half empty and advertising prices cheaper on the spot than we’d paid online. Having said that – it’s better than arriving without a booking and finding it full.

If you’re doing the trek in early season like we did (October / early November), you can probably get away with booking the bigger open-field campsites, like Paine Grande and Grey, when you arrive. For the smaller campsites, like Chileno and Frances, definitely book well ahead.

Camping Chileno is one of the smaller campsites in Torres Del Paine National Park
Camping Chileno is one of the smaller campsites in Torres Del Paine National Park

Where to stay in Puerto Natales before and after the W Trek

For the two nights immediately before the trek we stayed at Hostel Lili Patagonicos in Puerto Natales, which was superb. It was probably the best hostel we experienced during five months in South America.

The staff were brilliant in giving us advice and tips about the trek, and the beds were large and comfy.  The breakfast was excellent, too. They even served it from 6am, which meant we could have some before getting our early morning bus into the park.

It’s best to book in advance, as the best hostels get filled quickly. For more places to stay before and after the W Trek, check out our guide to the best hostels in Puerto Natales.

Premium accommodation options inside the park

Inside Torres Del Paine National Park are various rustic and luxury accommodation options, from chic hotels to traditional Patagonian estancias. They do not come cheap, but when better to treat yourself than at the end of an exhausting multi-day trek in the most stunning place on earth?

We have compiled the most beautiful places to stay in Torres Del Paine for an extra-special treat before or after the W Trek. Some hotels and estancias run tours and guided treks in the park – see the the article for more information.

Final preparations: tips for food and packing

Tax-free shopping in Punta Arenas – stock up cheap!

On our way up to Puerto Natales, we stopped off for a day in Punta Arenas. Here we found an absolute gem for stocking up for the trek. The city has a tax-free area called Zona Franca, a shoppers’ haven that has significantly cheaper prices than elsewhere in Patagonia.

Zona Franca has several big supermarkets and gear shops with excellent deals. We spent a good few hours here grabbing trekking food, useful gadgets and the last few bits and bobs of equipment we needed.

Food for the W Trek

If you are going self-guided, there are different options for planning and managing your food. At certain refugios along the route you can book full board accommodation, which means that you get three meals for every day you stay (usually a three-course dinner, a hearty breakfast and a lunch pack-up box). The alternative is to bring your own sustenance and prepare meals on the campsites.

We went for a half-and-half approach. We booked two nights in full board, and catered for ourselves on the other two.

For our ‘main meal’ on self-catered days – in the absence of a camping stove – we took tuna packs, lentils, beans and some tinned veg to mix up together. To keep the weight down, we bought zip-lock bags to decant the food into from tins before we set off – this really helped with packing space too.

We stocked up on snacks for the W Trek to keep our energy levels up
We stocked up on snacks for the W Trek to keep our energy levels up

For breakfasts, we brought porridge and milk powder, so we just needed to add water and stir. We also packed some fruit purée packets for a bit of flavour and to give us some extra energy.

Finally – and most importantly – trekking snacks. It’s a good idea to put together a separate bag of trail mix for each day; we used a concoction of nuts, dried fruit, chocolate M&Ms and jelly sweets. Dipping into this every half hour or so kept us going nicely. Also bring some cookies, wafers, cereal bars, and other high-energy snacks.

Cable ties: a brilliant trekking hack

We brought a bag of cable ties with us on a whim, but they became an unexpected necessity. They can be a lifesaver if things break!

Cable ties came to our rescue when we had to pitch our tent on wooden platforms in the park’s campsites. They can also be handy for fixing your bags if you get any rippage when out in the wilderness.

Cables ties came to our rescue when we needed to pitch our tent on wooden platforms
Cables ties came to our rescue when we needed to pitch our tent on wooden platforms

Accessing the W Trek: getting in and out of the park + entrance fees

During the hiking season from September to April, buses run at least twice daily from Puerto Natales main bus station into the national park. You can find the latest bus information on the park’s website, or check the bus companies’ sites at Bus Sur and Buses Gomez.

You can usually book a bus ticket a day or two in advance in Puerto Natales. We did this through our accommodation; you can also buy tickets at the bus station. In the 2019/20 season a return ticket is 16,000 Chilean pesos (about $22.50).

The bus takes a couple of hours to reach Pudeto for a ferry to the west side of the circuit, and then another hour or so to reach the CONAF administration office on the east side. Upon entering the park you need to register with your passport and watch a short information video. The entrance fee is 21,000 pesos / $29.50 during high season (October to April) or 11,000 pesos / $15.50 during low season (May to September). 

From the CONAF office on the east side, you can either walk 7 kilometres to reach the start of the trail, or pay 3,000 pesos / $4.50 for a shuttle bus. We did the latter – no need to make it any longer than it already is!

To get back from the west side at the end of the trek, you can take a ferry from Paine Grande to the return bus pick-up point at Pudeto. The ferry costs 18,000 pesos / $25 per person one way, or you can buy a return for 28,000 pesos / $39 (an option for day hikes / shorter overnight trails on the west side).

Ferries run two, three or four times a day depending on the time of year. You can check the latest schedules here.

If you are finishing the trek on the west side, there is an option to walk five hours from Paine Grande to a different pick-up point to avoid the ferry cost. However, it’s extremely unlikely you will want to do this, and the ferry ride is a beautiful, relaxing way to end the experience.

W Trek route options

You can trek the W in either direction, from west to east or east to west. Both are popular, and on our hike it seemed there were roughly the same amount of people going in each direction. The following suggested routes are typical itineraries for each direction.

West to east: three/four nights

  • Day 1: take the morning ferry to Paine Grande and start there. Hike to Glacier Grey and return to Paine Grande for an overnight camp.
  • Day 2: hike from Paine Grande into the French Valley and up to Mirador Británico. Hike back down and camp at either Italiano, Frances or Los Cuernos.
  • Day 3: hike along the north shore of Nordenskjöld Lake and camp overnight at Camping Chileno.
  • Day 4: hike up to Base Las Torres for the iconic view of the towers. then you can either hike out to Hotel Las Torres and take the shuttle to the CONAF office for a return bus, or camp overnight in Torres Central or Norte, then return in the morning.

East to west: three/four nights

  • Day 1: take the bus to the CONAF office and the shuttle up to Hotel Las Torres and begin the hike. Reach Camping Chileno around midday, set up camp and have lunch. Then hike up to Base Las Torres and back to camp in time for dinner.
  • Day 2: hike along the north shore of Nordenskjöld Lake and camp overnight at Italiano, Frances or Los Cuernos.
  • Day 3: hike up to Mirador Británico, back down and then across to Paine Grande. Camp there for the night.
  • Day 4: hike from Paine Grande to Grey Glacier and arrive at the viewpoint at midday. Then hike back to Paine Grande. You should be able to make it back for the last ferry departure; if not, camp overnight and take a morning ferry back. Alternatively, you can continue hiking north from Grey Glacier and camp overnight at Paso. This section includes a spectacular suspension bridge over the glacier. The next day you can hike from Paso back to Paine Grande and take the ferry back to Pudeto.

Our experience trekking from east to west

We chose to trek from east to west, and in the end we were very pleased with our route. The spectacular view of Grey Glacier at the west end was a rewarding finish, and it was nice to round it off with the ferry ride back from Paine Grande afterwards.

I describe our experience below. It’s still worth reading this if you’re going in the opposite direction, as you will get a sense of what to expect along the way.

Day 1: Las Torres return hike from Camping Chileno

We entered the park by Hotel Las Torres around 10:30am. From here we walked to Camping Chileno, arriving around lunchtime, and pitched our tent for the night.

Like many of the campsites in the park, Chileno has wooden platforms for tent pitches. If you bring your own tent like we did (rather than paying for an on-site tent hire), it can be tricky to pitch. We got by with the help of our emergency cable ties.

The section from Hotel Las Torres to Chileno was probably the least scenic of the full trail. However, there were still some lovely views of the valley, Lago Nordenskjöld in the distance and surrounding mountains.

After lunch, at about 2pm, we set off for the return hike to the famous towers of Las Torres. In total this took about five hours – we arrived back for dinner around 7pm.

We were unfortunate to have cloudy weather for our hike up to Las Torres, obscuring our view of the towers
We were unfortunate to have cloudy weather for our hike up to Las Torres, obscuring our view of the towers

The first hour or so of the hike to the towers passes through lush woodland, before you reach the start of the ascent. The final section is a tough climb of about 400 metres, but it’s worth it for that classic image at the top. The three towers rise imposingly above a blue-green lagoon.

Unfortunately for us, cloudy weather obscured the peaks from view, but it was still an awesome scene. We stopped for a rest, snacks and photos before making back to Chileno.

Day 2: Camping Chileno to Camping Frances

Our destination for the second day was Camping Frances; a long, strenuous all-day hike from Chileno. Once you emerge onto the edge of Lago Nordenskjöld, however, the views are stunning all the way.

After enjoying breakfast, we set off about 9am. We stopped several times during the day by the stunning waters of the lake to conserve our energy and eat snacks.

Day 2 of the east-to-west circuit follows the shores of the beautiful Lago Nordenskjöld
Day 2 of the east-to-west circuit follows the shores of the beautiful Lago Nordenskjöld

It was early evening by the time we reached the campsite. We set up for the night on a wooden platform pitch and got an early night, in preparation for another long day.

Day 3: ascend to Mirador Británico and hike to Paine Grande

We found the third day to be the most testing and difficult by far. After eating some porridge, we set off at 7:30am.

The hike to Mirador Británico is effectively the middle prong of the W. At Camping Italiano, the beginning point of the ascent, you can leave your bags with a ranger at the campsite office. This makes the hike much more manageable.

It’s a tough hike up to the viewpoint, with rough terrain and some steep sections. On the way up we saw (and heard!) ice crashing off the mountain face away in the distance. It was amazing to behold.

Enjoying the view at the summit of Mirador Británico on day 3
Enjoying the view at the summit of Mirador Británico on day 3

The final view at the top is a spectacular panorama of the granite towers and snow-capped peaks, with Lago Nordenskjöld shimmering like a blue-green mirror in the distance.

From the top, it’s a long slog back down and onwards to Camping Paine Grande. We arrived a the campsite around 6pm, thoroughly exhausted.

We had full board for the first night at Paine Grande. Our three-course meal washed down with a beer was extremely welcome. One day to go.

Day 4: return hike to Grey Glacier

Our final day of hiking completed the W Trek circuit. In a long day’s effort, we made the return hike to Grey Glacier. We set off at 8:30am with lightly packed day bags, leaving unnecessary heavy stuff behind. By mid-morning we reached the first lookout, and we made it to Refugio Grey by lunchtime.

From here it was short walk to a close-up viewpoint of the glacier. Part of the colossal South Patagonian Ice Field, it is an incredible sight! We ate our lunch here and savoured the moment, before heading back towards Paine Grande. We arrived back by early evening, victorious but shattered.

A stunning view of Grey Glacier awaits at the end of the east-to-west trail
A stunning view of Grey Glacier awaits at the end of the east-to-west trail

Day 5: return ferry and bus to Puerto Natales

We enjoyed a relaxing morning at the campsite before taking the 11:30am ferry to the bus pickup point at Pudeto. There was an earlier ferry at around 8am, but we decided to have some time to rest before returning.

All that remained was a final moment to appreciate the park’s astonishing scenery as the ferry carried us away.

We made it! On the ferry back towards Puerto Natales we had one final glimpse of the magical landscape
We made it! On the ferry back towards Puerto Natales we had one final glimpse of the magical landscape

Coping with mental and physical endurance on the W Trek

Navigating the distances throughout the W Trek can be quite challenging when the information provided along the route is often misleading or contradictory.

On the second day, for example, we passed a sign saying we were 11km from Camping Frances. Two hours later, we passed another sign saying the same thing! It felt like we had stood still, even though we had put in several kilometres of hard graft.

Confusing signage like this crops up regularly on the trail, and it can be soul-destroying when you’re carrying a heavy load and you think you’re nearly at your destination.

All you can do is keep going. To make it as easy as possible to get through the day, make early starts. This will allow you more time to go at your own pace and have plenty breaks.

What we spent on the W Trek self-guided

We spent approximately $600 in total on costs directly associated with the W Trek for two of us. This included campsites, food and drink, park fees, and transport in and out of the park.

It does not include hiking gear, equipment, or our costs for staying in Puerto Natales either side of the trek. For reference, our hostel in Puerto Natales was CLP 12,000 (around $17) each per night.

Our costs for the W Trek were distributed as follows. Costs are shown in US dollars based on the exchange rate at the time. Check xe.com for the latest exchange rates.

It’s remarkable that our two full-board food packages at Camping Chileno and Paine Grande amounted to nearly half our total spending. However, we still see this as a necessity, because it would have been too much for us to carry any more of our own food. If you feel you can carry some extra weight, this is a potential way to make the trek cheaper.

These are some example unit costs for one person hiking the W Trek self-guided in 2019/20:

  • Bus transfers in and out of the park: $22.50 return
  • Park entry fees: $29.50
  • Shuttle bus to starting point: $4.50
  • Ferry transfer: $25
  • Camping platform on a Fantastico Sur site: $25 one person / $64 two people
  • Full board catering at a Fantastico Sur site: $80
  • Half board catering at a Fantastico Sur site (dinner and breakfast): $56
  • Camping pitch on a Vertice Patagonia site: $9
  • Full board catering at a Vertice Patagonia site: $50
  • Individual meals at a Vertice Patagonia site: breakfast $15.50, lunch pack-up $16.50, dinner $25
  • Pre-packed food for self-catering: $10–15 per day

Celebrate the achievement in style!

We were intensely nervous before the W trek, and got little sleep the night before we started. But we found out that you don’t need to be an elite trekker to do it. Read up, seek advice, get prepared – you’ll be fine.

One final tip. If you complete it, you will probably want to celebrate (and relax for a while, of course). You can’t go wrong with some barbecued Chilean Lamb with craft beer at El Asador Patagonico in Puerto Natales. And then maybe a couple of pisco sours at the pub across the square. You’ve deserved it.

Treating ourselves to some Chilean lamb BBQ at El Asador Patagonico after completing the W Trek
Treating ourselves to some Chilean lamb BBQ at El Asador Patagonico after completing the W Trek

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Everything you need to know before hiking the Torres Del Paine W Trek, including planning, preparation, transport, accommodation, routes and more. #wtrek #torresdelpaine #torresdelpainewtrek #patagonia #hikingpatagonia

43 comments

  1. Thanks for the inspiration! I too am not an elite hiker so it is really refreshing to hear that people of all skill levels can do this amazing hike!!

  2. I think this time next year I’ll be a bit like you. I’ve just started doing walks/rambling on the weekends but with no gear or anything yet. So maybe next year ill be fully equipped and climbing some mountains like you!

  3. Wow! This is one of the most epic hikes in the world. What an insightful post with amazing photos. I plan to visit this region one day, and you’ve given me a serious case of wanderlust!

  4. WOW! Awesome trek I must say. Always loved trekking and camping in such peaceful places surrounded by natural beauty. Although you had a cloudy day but still had a great time which you could not deny.

  5. Have heard so much about Torres Del Paine but this is the first time that I actually saw the beauty of it through your photographs. I am no great hiker but your trek inspires me to give it a try too.

  6. What a thorough and great post with beautiful pictures. Sounds like you had an amazing time. What a gorgeous, quiet, interesting location.

  7. I’m not sure if I will make it there, but this post surely a complete guide for ones who want to hike the W trek at Torres Del Paine for the first time. You even put suggestion of training before someone goes there. Great info!

  8. We love to experience treks that span over days and have done a few in Himalayas. Torres Del Paine looks exciting! I like it when you give an estimation of the time it might take… like someone could take 2-3 days but you took four! On one of our treks, locals indicated 2-3 hours and we took 8 .. haha! So, that experience helps us to plan accordingly !

  9. As some one who’ve never trekked, I find this post so useful! Thank you 🙂
    inmywayaroundtheworld.blogspot.com

  10. I don’t love hikes though but i die for such views. The article here is so well formated and i am sure planning for it is itself an experience.

  11. Wow, this is such a wonderful hike. The views are so splendid and i a sure the planning phase must have been an experience in itself. Very informative article

  12. Visiting South America is on top of my travel list since long time due to exorbitant flight cost from India. Chile would be top of my south american trip whenever it happen. Hopefully, some day!

  13. Brilliant, brilliant piece guys. Enjoyed the read and packed full of great info. I’m heading to South America at the end of October and will definitely keep this hike in mind!

  14. That’s a beautiful track, beautiful views and lovely atmosphere. And you made a very detailed guide. Well done.
    I think I will get a bit lighter camera if I go there 🙂 Waiting for new mirorless to come.

  15. This is one of the best guides I have seen. It is so thorough and practical! Thanks so much for taking the time to put this together!

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