Puerto Natales is the main gateway town to Torres del Paine National Park, in the Chilean Patagonia. Hikers come from around the world to marvel at the breath-taking nature the very south of Chile has to offer. The area boasts probably some of the best hikes in the world. In this post, we’ll explain how to get to Torres del Paine from Puerto Natales, and what activities visitors can do in and around the park.
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What is Torres del Paine famous for?
Torres del Paine is probably the most famous national park in Patagonia. It’s located in Chile, at the border with Argentina, at the very southern tip of South America. The closest town to visit it is Puerto Natales.
Torres del Paine’s proximity to Antarctica means cold or cool weather all year round, snow-capped mountains, grandiose glaciers, turquoise mountain lakes, great hiking routes and photo opps.
The park’s most famous view is the 3 fingers-shaped granite mountain with a lake in front, called Cuernos del Paine. Many hikers climb to get a glimpse of this unique view at the Base of Torres hike; but the other hiking routes and multi-day routes are also heavily frequented in the park, especially during the Southern summer, which peaks in Jan-Feb.
Torres del Paine is of course on our list of best National Parks in South America.
Besides Cuernos del Paine, other breath-taking lookouts are accessible by car or with a short walk, such as:
- Glacier Grey
- Lake Sarmiento
- Lake Pehoé
- Salto Grande waterfall
- Milodon Cave, which is a lesser-visited landmark, outside of Torres del Paine NP
Check out the hiking routes and other points of interest on the official Torres del Paine map (in Spanish).
What does Torres del Paine mean in English?
Torres del Paine is a mixed Spanish and Tehuelche name, meaning Blue Towers. “Torres” means ‘towers’ in Spanish, while “paine” is ‘blue’ in the indigenous language. The blue might refer to the shades that the rocks take in a certain light; or to the numerous blues throughout the whole area: the sky, the mountain, and the lakes.
Need more hiking inspiration? Check out our favourite treks in South America.
Entrance ticket to Torres del Paine National Park
It’s necessary to buy your ticket to Torres del Paine NP in advance. You can buy them on this official website, either in USD or in CLP. Paying in USD is advised for foreign nationals, as it’s tax-free.
How to get from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine?
The Park is located under 2 hours driving from the town of Puerto Natales. The most popular way of getting there is by bus, or as part of a tour. Bear in mind that, just like accommodation, bus options are limited in the low season (Apr-Nov), as fewer people visit Torres del Paine.
The cheapest way to do Puerto Natales–Torres del Paine is by bus. It’s also the most common among hikers, who then carry on onto the W trek, the O circuit, or the day-hike to Cuernos del Paine.
Several bus companies link Puerto Natales to the two entrances of the park (Laguna Amarga and Pudeto/Sarmiento) twice a day: early morning and early afternoon. When I was there in March 2022, buses left Puerto Natales bus station at 7 am and 2:30 pm.
The bus trip takes 1 hour 45 mins and costs 6000 CLP (7.5 USD) one way. Tickets can be bought the day before, or on the spot; but in the high season (Jan-Feb) it’s worth buying the ticket the day before, just to be on the safe side.
At Laguna Amarga, entrance tickets are checked. Then there’s a possibility to hop on a shuttle bus that transfers hikers to the trailhead at Las Torres. In March 2022, this bus cost 3000 CLP (4 USD) one way.
The shuttle bus back –from the trail end at Las Torres to the Laguna Amarga entrance– is timed according to the departure time of the buses back to Puerto Natales, early afternoon and in the evening.
If you’d rather explore Torres del Paine in an organized tour, you will start directly in Puerto Natales. So no need to worry about getting to the National Park. See tours below.
With a car
Renting a car could be a good option if you’re not interested in neither the W trek nor O circuit (since they are multi-day hikes), but you’d still like to go around and see the sights at your own rhythm. In that case, we recommend renting a car from rentalcars.com in Puerto Natales.
In need of more wonderful nature? Check out other National Parks in Chile.
How many days should you spend in Torres del Paine?
The answer depends on your interests, your physical ability and how much time you have on your hands (or rather, in your feet). It’s important to know that Torres del Paine is all about trekking and nature; these landscapes can be reached mostly through ascents and descents on rocky terrain.
Torres del Paine offers both multi-day hikes and day hikes. So it’s possible to spend just one day there, for example with a day tour (see section below). These allow to see the most beautiful parts of the park, accessible either by car or with a short hike.
Multi-day hikes in Torres del Paine
These trails give you more time to experience the beautiful wildlife, observe local flora, enjoy the sounds of the wilderness. You’ll stock up on that unique energy that we only get when we spend days in nature.
There are 2 different hiking routes: the W trek takes 4 to 5 days (depending on your walking speed); the O circuit takes 7 to 8 days. You’ll be staying on campsites, either in your own tent or renting one, or in huts along the way.
The W trek and the O circuit are among the best multi-day hikes in Patagonia.
This trail circles around Torres del Paine National Park in the shape of the letter “O”. Hence the name. It’s the most comprehensive trail in the park; but due to its length, the most challenging one as well. As I said, it takes 7 to 8 days, depending on your walking speed.
Half of the route runs on the same trail as the W trek (see below), and that’s the part that gets busy in some periods. Comparatively, the part which doesn’t follow the W trek is more remote, less frequented, and gives a backcountry hiking experience.
The route is well marked and there’s a clear goal of which campsite you need to reach each day. So it’s absolutely possible to do this hike without a guide.
This 5-day hike forms the shape of a “W” and runs partially on the O circuit’s route. It’s more trafficked compared to the O circuit; but it also offers the most stunning views in the park. Fast hikers can finish the trek in 4 days as well.
The advantage of this route is that, since it’s considerably shorter, your backpack should be lighter. And that’s not a detail to your back and your legs.
The route is well marked and there’s a clear goal which campsite you need to reach each day. So there again, it’s absolutely possible to do this hike without a guide.
Puerto Natales trekking
Day trips to Torres del Paine starting from Puerto Natales
If you only have one day to experience Torres del Paine, you can opt for the day-hike to Cuernos del Paine lookout, which requires a good physical condition as it involves a 1.5-hour ascent. Another option is to go on an organised day tour to see all the beautiful views which are accessible by car.
Day-hike to Cuernos del Paine / Base of Torres
This 1-day hike goes from Las Torres trailhead to Cuernos del Paine or Base of Torres, the most iconic view in Torres del Paine National Park, the 3-finger granite rocks. It’s a challenging hike with a 1.5-hour ascent at the end but with an extremely rewarding view. Many hikers climb up at night in order to see the towers in the golden sunrise light.
The best way to do this hike is to stay in a camping (Central or Chileno) or a hotel at Las Torres the day before, and either climb up to catch the sunrise or climb up later to enjoy the view during the day.
Day-tour in Torres del Paine National Park
Apart from pure hiking trips, there are picturesque Torres del Paine tours from Puerto Natales with hotel pickup. With the comfort of a vehicle, you will explore the area and see a diverse range of natural phenomena, wading also into lesser-visited parts of the national park.
Another area, amazing spots: Hikes around Bariloche, Argentina
How many days do you need in Puerto Natales?
Although Puerto Natales itself is hidden in the shade of both Torres del Paine and the more southern town of Punta Arenas, it’s a lovely, typical Patagonian town. It has more charm than the small settlement of Cerro Castillo, at the Northern entrance.
It’s located on the Last Hope Sound, on the shore of Almirante Montt lake, with a view of snow-capped fjords right across the port. It’s worth spending here 1-2 days before and/or after your hike (at least to rest from the effort!).
The town is also a good place to buy camping/hiking equipment; repair your tent (if it broke, like ours did); take out some cash (that’s very important as ATM’s in Patagonia are almost non-existent); and indulge in fresh, locally-sourced fish dinner.
Where to stay in Puerto Natales
Since there are no hotels in Torres del Paine (only campsites), most people stay at least 1 night in Puerto Natales. Especially before hiking, it’s best to have a hearty breakfast that will give you the energy you need for the trek.
Bear in mind that options in Puerto Natales hotels are limited in the low season (Apr-Nov) as fewer people visit Torres del Paine.
We recommend the below hotels/hostels, as they are comfortable, clean, relaxed, have good reviews, and all include breakfast, free Wi-Fi and a private bathroom:
★ Budget option: Hostal El Sendero – a hostel near the bus station. It has a very friendly owner and offers a hearty breakfast.
★★ Mid-range option 1: Hotel Vendaval – a hotel labelled as sustainable, with almost a 360° view of Puerto Natales and its harbour. It’s situated in the town centre, 2.1 km from the bus station, and offers a large buffet-style breakfast.
★★ Mid-range option 2: Hostal Boutique Factoria Patagonia – this hotel with a modern look is also labelled as sustainable. Right in the town centre, it provides a buffet-style breakfast too.
★★★ High-range option: Hotel Costaustralis – a chateau-style designer hotel, labelled as sustainable, featuring a wine cellar, bar, and restaurant with a typical Patagonian gastronomical menu. It has a buffet-style breakfast and a stunning panoramic view on the Andes mountain range.
Convinced about visiting Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine?
See our post on how to organize your Patagonia trip in 2022
Which hike/activity in Torres del Paine are you the most excited about?
Tell us in the comments below!