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- 1 Day 0. Start the W Torres del Paine route: How to get there (passing through Puerto Natales)
- 2 Day 1. Refugio Las Torres central
- 3 Day 2. Refugio Las Torres central viewpoint Base Towers (round trip)
- 4 Day 3: Refugio Las Torres to Refugio Francés or Refugio Cuernos
- 5 Day 4: Horn shelter – Mirador Británico (or not) – Paine grande shelter.
- 6 Day 5: Shelter / Lodge Paine Grande, Glacier Grey, Lake Pehoe, and Puerto Natales
This week we tell you at first hand how is the experience of trekking by the W Trek Route in Torres del Paine.
Before a great trip from Puerto Natales to Perito Moreno, now our partner and expert traveler, Javier Moliner, has traveled to the Chilean Patagonia to explain to us step by step this great experience: the W circuit.
Discover the whole route of the W Torres del Paine. The best recommendations, tips and many possible unexpected events that you should take into account before traveling to the spectacular Chilean Patagonia.
Day 0. Start the W Torres del Paine route: How to get there (passing through Puerto Natales)
The first stop on the W Torres del Paine route is Puerto Natales, which I had to “juggle” to get to. I will explain to you my route.
Arrival to Puerto Natales
In my case, I did not take a flight from Santiago, but I did it by the border crossing from El Calafate.
When I went to buy the bus tickets to the town, I was informed that there was no longer availability on the bus (here come the juggling). I decided to take an alternative route passing through Rio Turbio and the Dorotea Pass, to Puerto Natales.
For this reason, I recommend you plan your arrival to Puerto Natales in advance and book a direct route ticket. If you follow my advice, in about 3 hours (plus the time at the border) you will arrive without problems to Natales, as the Natalinos themselves call it.
When I got out of the car I was surprised by the wind, which prevents the sun from transmitting the sensation of heat, as a warning of what was waiting for me in the excursion to Torres del Paine. I hadn’t booked anything, so I didn’t know where to sleep in Puerto Natales.
But in a few minutes, in a coffee shop and for the duration of one coffee (to have Wi-Fi) I had already booked my accommodation.
Once I was sure I had a place to sleep, I went straight to the accommodation and left my luggage. I took advantage of the fact that it was early to go for a walk around town and shortly before 6 p.m. I was already impatiently waiting for the briefing to start at the operator’s offices.
Briefing before the route W Torres del Paine
For half an hour they explained to us how to organize ourselves during the 5 days we were going to be walking along the W Trek route in Torres del Paine. They gave us all the necessary documents to take the transports, the access to the National Park Torres del Paine and the refuges.
What to bring to Torres del Paine
I returned to my lodging in Puerto Natales to empty everything I didn’t need in my backpack (yes, they keep it in the lodging) and load only what is necessary to take to the Torres del Paine trekking. I’ll give you a quick summary:
- Thermal clothing as a first layer
- Good Gore-tex or waterproof
- A pair of cane boots
- A pair of sandals to rest in the shelter
- A refillable bottle
In addition to the obvious: underwear, trekking pants, personal hygiene, a towel if you don’t want to ask for one at the refuge, loose change in case you take something…etc.
But try not to carry too much luggage, it is 71 km and many times during most of the W Trek route you will have to carry your backpack on your shoulders, so the more comfortable the better.
At some points of the W Trek route through Torres del Paine, you will find luggage storage facilities. In others, you will be able to leave your backpack at the refuge, such as the day you walk in the refuge the Torres Central and the Mirador base Torres.
Day 1. Refugio Las Torres central
The next morning I started my journey. At 2 p.m. the bus leaves and takes you to the entrance of the park, next to “Las Torres” shelter. A big and comfortable shelter, with a good camping area for those who prefer that option.
After passing by the park access offices I took another bus that took me to the refuge, where I made myself comfortable. I shared a beer with a French boy of my age who I had just met and started looking at the map they had given us, getting ready for the next day. A little later we had dinner and went to sleep.
Day 2. Refugio Las Torres central viewpoint Base Towers (round trip)
I had breakfast on the 7 o’clock turn and before 8 I was already leaving the shelter, alone, wanting to disconnect, and with rain that made everything more interesting. Little by little I began to warm up, the sky cleared and the sun began to shine, which assured me a good view from the Las Torres viewpoint.
The towers of Torres del Paine
The final stretch of the ascent is hard, so there is a daycare center where you can leave your backpack to climb lighter, as the missing path seems almost like a flight of stairs. However, I was encouraged and the atmosphere was very positive, everyone walking to reach a unique moment.
When you arrive, no matter how much you have seen in pictures, the towers are surprising, enormous.
A block of granite that transmits a lot of strength and at its feet a lake that creates a unique postcard, although with the sky more cloudy than I would like, but that does not prevent me from seeing the towers.
I took it easy, enjoying the landscape. After taking several pictures, I took my time again to contemplate that landscape and start the descent again.
With a lot of desire, I didn’t stop walking until I passed by the Chilean Refuge, where I ate the lunch box that I picked up before leaving the refuge.
What is the weather like in Torres del Paine?
After this point, I checked the weather during the trekking Torres del Paine, and I can summarize it with just one word: ALL. The climate in this area is very variable.
The day started with 3 layers of clothes and I finished the last 2 kilometers in short sleeves, carrying the rest of the clothes in my backpack.
When I arrived at the refuge the plan seems to me simply perfect. Hot shower, cold beer (the first one included in the price), good dinner, and a comfortable bed.
Day 3: Refugio Las Torres to Refugio Francés or Refugio Cuernos
In my case, the refuge to spend the third night on the W Trek route in Torres del Paine was refugio Cuernos, as Refugio Francés was full. Believe me, it doesn’t matter if they assign you one shelter or another, they are all great and close.
This day I started walking with Thibault, the French guy I met the first day, and we were also accompanied by Ty, a guy from the United States. After a few minutes, we started talking about and enjoying the walk. As in the previous day, the rain accompanied us during the first hours and I can only say one thing: thank you inventor of Gore-Tex!
Much of the route runs along Lake Nordenskjöld, with spectacular views, said it was a landscape similar to that of New Zealand, so it will touch to go to see if it is true.
The rain did not stop. At that time we realized that it was not normal, and is that once every summer there are heavy rains and was then. For my part no problem, it’s not cold, so the rain makes everything more natural, more fun.
Crossing the river I already realized that it would be impossible to keep my feet dry. That moment I started to enjoy even more the W Torres del Paine route, walking along the roads that go down with a 15-centimeter sheet of water and with many people with a smile, a backpack and several liters of rainwater on their clothes.
I found the flask they gave us at the beginning of the tour very useful. It wasn’t very big, but luckily it isn’t necessary because you can recharge it from every big river you cross, an incredible feeling to be able to take a few minutes to rest and drink cold water directly from the river.
Arrival to Refugio Cuernos
Finally, and after several hours of walking in the rain (without any rush, it has to be said), we arrived at the Cuernos shelter.
This time the shelter was smaller and more welcoming, with incredible views and where we were served for me the best dinner: Patagonian salmon (my vegetarian tendency vanished the moment they gave me the choice of vegetarian option (vegetable omelet) or salmon. Sorry, Pachamama!
Day 4: Horn shelter – Mirador Británico (or not) – Paine grande shelter.
It didn’t stop raining all night. The exit from the refuge was a bit chaotic: we didn’t find Ty and we walked together Thibauld and me. Soon we met a Brazilian boy and walked together, but not the route we had planned.
What should have been the climb to the Mirador Británico, became a walk in the rain to the Paine Grande shelter.
For safety reasons, the ascent to the Mirador Británico was cut off, and the clouds would not have allowed us to see anything.
So after a stop at the French shelter, where my French friend was staying (the coincidence of the trips), I continued walking.
Soon I met some Chilean friends I had met the first day. To be honest, they were tired, sleeping in a campsite, carrying too much weight and the bad weather had undermined their morale, but there they were, like 3 champions!
The road was easier than other days and not having done the stretch to the Mirador Británico had subtracted kilometers and unevenness from our route, but the rain had added fun, difficulty and to be honest some cold.
Camping Paine Grande
This last night I had decided to sleep at Camping Paine Grande, and even though you can use the common areas of the Paine Grande campground, I had to use the showers at the campground.
When I arrived a very nice girl checked me in and accompanied me to my tent (a tent for some of our Latino readers).
It was a good tent, branded The North Face, with 2 foam mattresses and a The North Face sleeping bag that I didn’t get cold with that night.
After showering and resting in the shelter’s dining room, they started serving dinner. When the sky cleared, the rain stopped and I could finally see the landscape around us. I prefer not to describe it because for some reason I carried the camera during the 5 days of the W Trek route in Torres del Paine.
Day 5: Shelter / Lodge Paine Grande, Glacier Grey, Lake Pehoe, and Puerto Natales
Let’s be honest, sleeping in the tent is not the same. You don’t rest the same as in a shelter, but well, I still had some energy left.
When I arrived at the shelter’s dining room, where I had left my clothes all night, I realized that the rain I had collected since I left the Cuernos del Paine shelter was still on my clothes, and especially my boots, which were totally soaked.
Today’s route promised incredible landscapes, but it is too demanding to do it with wet feet and end up full of sores. There is also a tour on Glacier Grey where you can go trekking or walk on the ice and another tour where you kayak on Glacier Grey.
But I have to admit, those boots were too wet, so even if I am not proud, I have to admit: I did not walk.
Catamaran on Lake Pehoe
I stayed at the refuge, took the catamaran Hielos Patagónicos that crosses Lake Pehoé, from Lodge Paine Grande to Pudeto.
Upon arrival I took the first bus that took me straight to Puerto Natales. I walked to my accommodation (since I hadn’t walked to Glacier Grey. At least I had to clear my conscience by walking for 20 minutes, it didn’t seem like a bad plan, and I saved the 2,000 pesos the cab charges).
Where to eat in Puerto Natales
At the time I arrived at my hostel I picked up the clothes and all the things that were being kept for me. They told me where the laundry was in Puerto Natales; the closest one was Catch Laundry. They also told me where to eat: Restaurante el Bote. Good food at a good price and slightly expensive wines, as is a tradition in Chile.
My first dinner was at El Boliche, homemade food at a good price.
Where to sleep in Puerto Natales
There are many accommodations in Puerto Natales. None of them is cheap as they can be in other areas of Chile or in Argentinean Patagonia, but if you want some advice to know where to sleep in Puerto Natales I recommend you my hostel (which I would qualify as a hotel), Hostal de los Castillos.
A charming place, small houses, each one different and decorated with great taste. Good heating, comfortable bed and above all clean as I haven’t seen a hostel for a long time. TOP!
I rested like a child, not before buying my bus ticket to El Calafate, and from there taking another bus to El Chalten. Yes, I had missed the Grey Glacier, but in El Calafate the Perito Moreno Glacier was waiting for me.
From the W Trek route through Torres del Paine I take with me a unique memory that I hope to live again as soon as possible.
Have a good trip! (and good weather).