Hiking the O Circuit in Torres del Paine: Discover Patagonia
Puerto Natales bus station at 6:30 a.m.
Puerto Natales bus station at 10:00 p.m.
The O Circuit is the most complete route to explore all of the Torres del Paine National Park. The O circuit, unlike the W trek, also includes the northern part of the park. The level of difficulty is medium-high during most of the 8 days of the tour. Therefore, we recommend it to travelers with mountain experience.
The 8-day O Trek Torres del Paine is a self-guided tour. The trail is very well signposted, so it is very easy to follow. This tour includes everything necessary to enjoy this experience: transfers, accommodation, food, access, etc.
Each sector of the park hides unique places with views of the incredible nature of Chilean Patagonia. Among them you will see: the Dickson and Grey glaciers, the French Valley, the Mirador Británico and the Mirador Base Torres... Without a doubt, it is the best option hiking the O Circuit in Torres del Paine.
Are you ready to tour the deepest Chilean Patagonia?
The day the trek starts, you will have to go to the bus station in Puerto Natales to take a bus at 7:00 a.m.. This bus will take you to the access to Torres del Paine National Park, Laguna Amarga entrance. There you will have to register as a visitor in order to access.
From the same entrance to the park you will take a bus for a few minutes to the Cerro Paine Reserve Welcome Center. Get ready to start enjoying the spectacular views of Torres del Paine and the Almirante Nieto massif.
It is important to control the times, since that same day you will have a route of 6 to 8 hours to the Serón camping. A few meters from the Cerro Paine Reserve is the Central Refugio, where you will have to pick up your lunch-box. Once you have the food in your backpack, you can start the first trek of the O Circuit Torres del Paine!
Shortly after starting the trek you will cross a huge lenga forest with lichens called "barba de viejo”(old man's beard). Halfway through, you will pass through a spectacular valley covered with daisies with the Paine River on your right, which you will surround until you reach the Serón camping.
Remember that the campsite is equipped with everything you need. You will have access to the showers and dinner included. Moreover, your tent will be already set up at your arrival.
The day starts with a breakfast at the campsite. Breakfast is served between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. every day. Remember that each day at the end of breakfast you have to pick up your lunch-box to eat it throughout the day.
The first part of the route begins by skirting the slopes of Cerro Paine. This section is a route made up of small descents and ascents, its difficulty lies in the strong winds of the area.
The second section of the route begins with a descent to Paine lake. In the lake you will see an incredible landscape, reflecting in its waters the mountains that surround it. If the day is clear, you will be able to see the northeast summit of the Paine Massif, along with shapes like the "Indian Head", "Shield", "Cube" and Dickson.
Finally, you will arrive at the camp in the Dickson Sector, which has a campsite and shelter. As always, you'll be able to shower, dine and rest.
For the Howlanders team, we have to admit that this is the camp with the best views of Torres del Paine National Park. Camping Dickson is located at the foot of the Dickson, of glacial origin and next to the Southern Ice Field.
After breakfast and picking up your lunch-box you will start the trek to Los Perros. This is the shortest and fastest route of the 8 days of the Torres del Paine O Circuit.
In 5 hours you will have finished the trek, so it is a day to enjoy with more calm and appreciate the landscapes, one of the best in all Chilean Patagonia.
During a section of the route you will border Dickson lake with the glaciers in the background, breaking off small pieces of ice that fall into the lake. Little by little, you will leave the lake behind and enter a huge lenga forest.
Through the forest you will find one of the endemic species of the region, the Magellanic woodpecker. On the way, spend some time enjoying one of the best areas for observation. It is located in a small clearing in the Lengas forest, where you can see all the glaciers that surround the area.You won't regret it!
Little by little you will enter Los Perros sector, with its imposing glacier in the background.
Finally, you will arrive at Los Perros Campsite, located in the most isolated area of the park and with difficult access. This campsite does not have a refuge, nor a kitchen, it only has a campsite. Therefore, dinner will be more basic.
This is the most challenging but spectacular day. The route is the longest of all, 22 km of high difficulty. So you have to calculate the times well and leave early, as the route can take up to 12 hours.
The first part of the route is an ascent through a swampy terrain until you reach John Garner Pass.
On this stretch get ready to feel the strong Patagonian wind. The best reward? The Huge tongues of the Southern Ice Field that melt in the horizon with the clouds.
The route continues with a long descent on rocky terrain. You will bordering the Grey glacier until you reach its lake and access an area called "El Paso". There you will cross 2 hanging bridges over 50 m long with spectacular views of the glacier itself. Finally you will arrive at the campsite in Sector Grey, where you will have dinner and rest.
If you're still tired from the day before, don't worry. This day's route is much shorter and one of the easiest on the Torres del Paine O circuit. Our recommendation is to take the morning off to enjoy the Grey glacier. You can even do the kayak activity on the glacier.
*This activity is not included in the price, if you want to do it you just have to select it as an extra during the booking process.
After enjoying the morning on the Grey Glacier it is time to get going for today's route.
The most surprising thing about today's trek is that you will constantly have the imposing Cerro Paine Grande by your side. In addition, you will see the hanging glaciers and the highest peak of the Paine Grande Massif, with an altitude of 3500 meters above sea level.
During today's trekking, you’ll cross a forest of ñirres, cohigues and notros until you finally arrive at Sector Paine Grande.
This sector is located in front of Pehoe lake and next to the Cuernos del Paine. Get ready to sleep tonight in the largest camping and refuge area of the entire Torres del Paine loop.
The route starts softly until you reach the Italian camp. Once there, we recommend you take advantage of the ‘guardería’ to leave your backpack and have a lighter climb.
Crossing the sector Francés makes the trek more challenging. But it will be worth climbing the slope, just for the views that await you in the Mirador Valle Francés.
When you arrive, you'll have the privilege of seeing large ice slides from the glacier.
At this point on the route you must make a decision. If you are feeling strong and still have hours of sun ahead of you, we encourage you to continue the trekking to the Mirador Britanico. A hard route, but with the reward of an unimaginable sight of Torres del Paine O Circuit.
On the contrary, do not feel obliged to force yourself if you are tired or if the sun is just about to set. In that case, it's time to start the journey back.
Once you start the return journey and pick up your rucksack, you will continue a few kilometres to the French sector, where you will spend the night in one of the most welcoming refuges on the route.
It should be noted that in the French sector there are two camping/refuge areas, separated by two kilometers (French and Cuernos), they are very similar options and are assigned based on availability.
Take it easy on this seventh day of torres del Paine O Circuit. Since it is a shorter and easier trek, you don't have to leave early. Enjoy the flat path and the views of the Cuernos del Paine on one side and Lake Nordenskjöld on the other one.
When you arrive at the Central Sector you will notice that both the campsite and the refuge are bigger, since it is the entrance door to the W trek. We suggest you enjoy the wide common areas of the refuge and have a drink at its bar.
You can also enjoy the spa or the restaurant of the Hotel Las Torres (not included), located very close to the refuge, and where you will have a 20% discount.
Get ready for the most expected trek of all visitors to Torres del Paine National Park, the Mirador Base Torres.
The route begins by crossing the Ascencio River Valley and at a few hundred meters starts a 3 km climb to enjoy a beautiful view of the lakes and valleys offered by Paso de los Vientos.
From this point you’ll begin the descent, passing through the area of the Chilean Refugio. Where you’ll cross the greenish Lengas Forest until you reach La Morrena.
Again you’ll be able to leave your rucksack in a 'guarderia' so you don’t have to ascend loaded up to the spectacular Mirador Base Torres.
Climbing the rocky path that reaches the Mirador is the hardest stretch of the day, both for the slope and the final stretch, a path of stones. But don’t worry! When you get there you’ll see that the effort is worth it.
In the Mirador Base Torres you’ll be able to enjoy the views of the famous towers that gave their names to the National Park.
After having discovered one of the most impressive landscapes in Patagonia, you’ll return again to the Central Sector by the same route but in descent, which makes it much easier.
When you arrive at the “refugio” you’ll pick up your backpack to take the bus. The transfer leaves at 7:00 p.m. and will take you to Puerto Natales, where you’ll arrive at 10:00 p.m. to put an end to this incredible adventure in Torres del Paine O Circuit.
The 8 day Torres del Paine O Trek starts in the city of Puerto Natales. If you are traveling from Santiago de Chile the best option is to take a flight to Punta Arenas. And from Punta Arenas take a bus to Puerto Natales (3:15 hours). If you are traveling from El Calafate (Argentina), there are buses that connect directly to Puerto Natales in a 5 hour trip. Check out the requirements for entry into Chile at: https://chile.travel/planviajarachile.