Torres del Paine, Chilean Patagonia

The 'W' Circuit - 58 km, 5 days

The second day's walk on the W circuitCHILE'S TORRES DEL PAINE 'W' CIRCUIT WALK is one of the best known walks in Chilean Patagonia. This walk takes you through some of Patagonia’s finest wilderness areas. the walk is 58 km long and makes the Patagonian wilderness accessible to the average walker. The scenery: icebergs, glaciers, towering mountains and the famous Torres del Paine (Towers of Paine) make this a wonderful walking holiday.

The trail begins at Lago Grey and continues along the lake and up the Vallee Frances before continuing to the Chileno Valley and the Torres del Paine (Towers of Paine).

RUDOLF ABRAHAM has written a Cicerone guidebook ‘Torres del Paine – Trekking in Chile’s Premier Park’, which is a useful illustrated book, with line-drawings, detailed maps and route directions.

THE TORRES DEL PAINE 'W' ROUTE is 58 km long and for those contemplating this trail for their walking holiday in Patagonia, some planning is required. The path is well marked, but the Patagonian weather is unpredictable and needs to be catered for.

Cuernos of Paine Aficionados agree that the unique physical formations of the Paine (pronounced pie-nay) complex with its glacier lakes, profusion of animals and well-defined paths offers some of the best wilderness walking in the world.

The uncommon sensation of being in one of the world’s most remote and untouched areas is an experience to be savoured. Although it can be cold and wet, memories of this Great Walk will last long after your clothes have dried out.

GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE WALK: Torres del Paine ‘W’ Circuit: Starting from Refugio Grey, the 58 km trail wends its way along a ‘W’ shaped route, ending up at the base of the Paine Towers. There are some ascents and descents along the way, but it’s generally an accessible walk.

General walking route of the Torres del Paine W circuitSOME HIGHLIGHTS: Grey Glacier, the refugios, the Cuernos (mountains), Vallee Frances with its snow covered mountainsides, the Chileno Valley and the Torres del Paine.

WALKING ROUTE PLANNER: The number of days required depends on how fit and how quickly or leisurely you want your walking holiday to be. Work out the average number of kilometres you are prepared to do in a day, taking into account the landscape and the refugio in which you will end your day. We did the walk in 5 days.

LUGGAGE TRANSFER: This service is available for guided walkers and can be organized through a number of tour operators on the ‘guided’ itineraries. Independent walkers need to carry their own gear.

YOUR TORRES DEL PAINE ACCOMMODATION: This is in refugios and must be booked in advance. There is the option for camping as well. Bring your own tents.

FOOD: Most walkers take advantage of the great meals provided by the refugios’ staff. Determined walkers can cook their own in the campsites.

WHEN TO GO: There is a short summer season - December to February.

WALKING GEAR: Good walking boots and socks are critical. Your shoes should have been broken in. Also important is what rain gear to take. Make sure it’s made from a breathable material.

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ITINERARY for The 'W' Circuit - 58 km

The following is an outline of the 5-day walk itinerary that we chose. We decided on this itinerary because of the reasonable distances and the available accommodation.

  • Where to Start: Puerto Natales, Chile.
  • How to get there: A bus or mini bus will take you to the National Park’s entrance. From there you will be transferred to Hostel Lago Grey and then taken by ferry across Lago Grey to Refugio Grey.
Walking Itinerary: 5 days
  • Day 1. Bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park. Ferry along Lago Grey to Refugio Grey.
  • Day 2. Walk to Paine Grande (lodge) (11km 4hrs).
  • Day 3. Walk to Camp Italiano (7.6km 2hrs). Walk (round trip) to Camp Britanico (11km 5hrs). Walk to Refugio Cuernos (5.6km 2.5hrs).
  • Day 4. Walk to Refugio Chileno (12km 5hrs).
  • Day 5. Walk to base of Torres (round trip) 4hrs. - your destination! Walk to Hosteria Torres 2hrs. Take bus back to Puerto Natales.
  • How to get back from Hosteria Torres: A bus will transfer you to the Park entrance, from where you take a bus back to Puerto Natales.
Our Take:
This is Chile’s premier Patagonian walk. The mountains, glaciers and lakes on this 58 km journey through Patagonia are inspiring, so remember to bring your camera. Be prepared for rain, wind and wonderful walking. The path is usually walked from Refugio Grey to Refugio Chileno. This is a once in a lifetime Patagonian experience. Couple this walk with a general visit to South America and you have a great journey ahead of you.
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