Given the sheer amount of work that went into getting ready for Patagonia, I thought I’d write a more detailed summary of what we did, how we did it, if anyone ever wants to go! There are many ways to do the W trek, and we picked probably one of the cheapest ways to do the W trek. There is also absolutely no need to pay exorbitant fees for a package tour, if you’re comfortable carrying your own bag / gear / food.
The trails are all marked with orange markers, and there are plenty of people around. It’s hard to get lost on the W trek. Super long post ahead, bear with me!
The itinerary (Starting from Punta Arenas airport):
Arrival in Torres del Paine, if flying into Punta Arenas:
- Buses pick up at the Punta Arenas airport (check their schedules, you may need to wait a while). Alternatively, you could take a taxi into Punta Arenas to the actual bus stations
- Check your flight arrival time, as well as the latest bus schedules. The latest buses leave PA for Puerto Natales around 7pm at night (total of a 3 hour bus ride)
- I still have yet to figure out how to make reservations for the buses online, but they are ~22USD
- Once you arrive at the Puerto Natales bus station, buy your return ticket to Torres del Paine first for the next morning
- Stay overnight in Puerto Natales (best bet is probably hostels, we stayed at Yagan House, which was amazing! The showers were clean, and they fed us great breakfast the next morning).
- They also have some gear for rental, but there are additional rental places further down the street for other gear as well
- If you click on the hostel’s website, they have rental prices of gear to provide you an estimate of what exactly you need
- There are also restaurants and supermarkets nearby to pick up additional gear and food
Follow along on the map here.
Day 1 (~72USD):
- 7am bus departure from Puerto Natales (purchase ticket the night before when you arrive in PN!)
- 1-2 hour bus ride will take you to the entrance of Torres del Paine (~20USD for a round trip shuttle. Don’t lose your return ticket!).
- You have the option of getting off at this stop and switching to a smaller shuttle that will take you to Hotel Torres (one end of the W trek)
- We continued on the shuttle to Lago Pehoe (other end of the W trek)
- Regardless, all the shuttles will stop here to register you into the park – you need your passport and CLP 18,000 (~25USD) to pay for entrance into the park
- At Lago Pehoe (bottom left of the map), get off the bus ASAP and head over to get yourself a spot in line. The boat will not fit everyone getting off the shuttles and will leave you behind.
- Only runs at 9:30am and 12:00pm in the morning – that’s a long time to wait if you miss the boat!
- ~30 minutes, on a very windy lake – but it is very beautiful, and a wonderful introduction to the W trek!
- Boat costs ~20USD one way, there is no need to buy a return ticket
- Arrival at Refugio Paine Grande! No need to hang around, start walking towards Camp Grey (sleeping accommodations for the first night)
- ~11km walk
- Will take 3-4 hours, depending on how fast you walk
- This is a super windy section of Patagonia – you’ll be smacked by the extremities of the weather really early on!
- Stop somewhere along the way to eat lunch, but would definitely recommend looking for somewhere sheltered and less windy
- Refugio / Camp Grey: Click on the title for details of the location and latest pricing, but a camping spot should be around 7USD per person
- The campsite also has rentals for sleeping mats, tents, etc for a price, as well as food
- We went at the tail end of peak season so were fine not making a reservation, but given the increasing popularity of Patagonia, it doesn’t hurt to make a reservation online
- There is an indoor kitchen space with sinks, and bathrooms. There are no showers for people camping at this location!
- Tip: Find a tent spot with shelter around – the weather at Camp Grey can get pretty extreme, and we saw someone else’s collapsed tent the next morning
- Leave the bags / tents at the campsite in the morning (probably with the tents still set up so people don’t steal your bags)
- Head North (when facing the mountains go left), and wander for maybe 30-40 minutes, unless you’re really into glaciers. But the rest of the day is a really tough walk, so conserve energy!
- Once you’ve headed back, you want to start walking pretty much right away!
- The walk: 11km from Camp Grey to Camp Paine Grande, and then 8km from Camp Paine Grande to Camp Italiano. Some of us really struggled
- We originally planned to stay at Camp Paine Grande, but it’s one of the windiest camps there. Some people told us they couldn’t stay in their tents overnight, and had to pack up and go wait it out in the toilet
- Camp Italiano is a free campsite, just remember to register when you arrive. As it’s also smaller, would recommend making a reservation (reserve here)
- It’s also buried in the trees, so there is little wind and it’s actually a pretty quiet campsite
- Tip: Italiano can get quite crowded, so head to the kitchen area to stake out a good spot to eat for dinner early on
Day 3 (~14 USD):
- Leave your bags at camp (as with the previous day) and head up!
- It’s about a 2-3 hour walk up to the Mirador – The viewpoint is amazing, and bring a daypack with water / lunch!
- The walk down is much faster
- It’s a really short walk from Camp Italiano to the next campsite – Camp Los Cuernos (2.5km, ~1 hour)
- Remember to book – it’s a crowded campsite. The campsite is set up on wooden platforms
- ~13-14USD per person depending on the season
- This is one of the nicer campsites, and a great place to rest up at the halfway point. There is a bar with beer and wine for sale, and also showers!
- They also offer food service (dinner, packed lunch, breakfast) that you need to book ahead of time, in case you’re tired of eating camp food that you carried
- Tip: Be careful when figuring out the hours for the showers, they stop providing hot water around 10pm from what I remember. Also… if you want to take a nicer shower, people don’t tend to notice if you stroll in and take a shower next to the bar (which is usually reserved for people staying in the refugios)
- Another long day with the backpack
- Trek path: Camp Los Cuernos to Camp El Chileno (~14km) to Camp Torres (~3km), for a total of ~17km
- The trek itself is mostly flat for the first half, until you start the ascent to El Chileno and Torres
- El Chileno is run by the same group who runs Los Cuernos, so they have a bar, restaurant, etc if you need to stop for anything
- If you’re going at peak season, you may want to consider making a reservation for Camp Torres. It’s a free campsite, but if you want to see the sunrise at Torres del Paine, this is the camp to stay at. Unfortunately, it’s also a pretty small campsite (Reserve here – same link as Italiano)
- Tip: There is a divergent path between Cuernos and El Chileno – one of them leads down to Hotel Torres, and the one heading left leads up to El Chileno. Make sure you take the right one, otherwise it will be quite a hike up!
Day 5 (5USD):
- Check the sunrise time with the posting at the ranger office at Camp Torres the night before, and estimate a 45 minute – 1 hour hike to get to Torres del Paine the next morning
- Leave your tent and bags, but may want to consider bringing some snacks and water up with you
- It’s super windy and cold up there, so dress warmly
- Head back down when ready, but try not to dawdle (around 3 hours)! The hike to the finish is all downhill (you’ll pass a lot of day trippers hiking up from Hotel Las Torres), and they don’t tend to be very nice about getting out of the way of backpackers
- Buses leave from the Torres del Paine entrance (where we registered on the first day) at 2:30pm, use your return ticket!
- To get from Hotel Las Torres to the TdP entrance, there is a mini shuttle that leaves Hotel Las Torres around 2pm (~5USD)
- Alternatively, there is an option to walk – (~1hour, 7.5km). It did not look appealing to walk, as we were very exhausted
Total cost of transport, lodging : <150USD (depending on exchange rate)
- Hiking backpack (50L and up)
- Water bottle – doesn’t need to be very large, there’s quite easy access to water everywhere. I would not recommend bringing a water pack. There are streams every 20-40 minutes, and it’s easier to fill a water bottle
- The below you can rent at rental places in Puerto Natales for a few dollars
- Sleeping bag
- Rain cover (for purchase)
- Headlamp / flashlight – to be fair, I was lazy and just used my iPhone light
Cooking & Food
This is really up to you and your food preferences, but here’s a sampling of what we brought
- Gas stove / Jet boiler – if you plan to cook anything warm. Some people carried legit pots and pans up the mountain, but we ended up only using the jet boiler, because we just needed hot water for our instant noodles / instant food
- Fuel canisters for the gas stove / jet boiler – you can’t bring these on airplanes, but you can pick them up at any rental place in Puerto Natales for a few dollars. For gas stoves you may need more than 1 (check with the rental people), but for the jet boiler we only used 1 all trip (7 people in total). We ended up leaving all of our extra canisters at the Camp Torres kitchen
- Bowls & cutlery
- Instant food: noodles, or freeze dried camping food like chicken teriyaki rice. We had a variety of things from Mountain House, and they were quite delicious.
- Protein (things that won’t go bad): Tuna, salami, protein bars
- Snacks: Trail mix, cheese, energy gels, energy bars, crackers, chocolate (I had some extra Reese’s and a random guy looked at them so longingly I shared them with him – he was very grateful)
- Other things to bring to keep yourself happy: hot chocolate powder, pocari sweat powder, some pisco for celebration
The sun can come out, it could snow, rain, etc all in one day, and temperature differences are very drastic throughout the day
- Ski jacket (preferably the two layer type that has a wind breaker and fleece separated)
- Rain poncho
- Base layers – I would recommend a variety. Sometimes we were good with just a t-shirt, sometimes we really needed thicker layers at night / climbing Torres del Paine
- Pants – Yoga pants or trekking pants. The trail is pretty clear, so it’s personal choice
- Hiking boots
- Flip flops – for use at camp
- Hat – I recommend a beanie, it’s really windy and my friend lost his cap because it flew off
- Underwear – depending on your own preferences
Hygiene & personal care
- Wet wipes & hand sanitizer
- Shower wipes – if you follow the itinerary above, there will be a place to shower in the middle of the trek
- Ziploc bags to keep everything stored and dry
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Roll of toilet paper
- Small towel
- Travel size shampoo & body wash (for hostel & shower in between)
- First aid kit
- Bug repellent (depending on season) – we didn’t encounter any bugs in late March
- Water purification tablets – optional, the water there is clean enough to drink straight from the stream
- Battery pack – my phone was on airplane mode the whole time because there’s no signal or wifi anyway, but I also brought a DSLR for photos
- Hiking poles – Not necessary, but some people like to have
- Vitamin C, cold medicine, etc
This post contains affiliate links to the products, although the opinions are entirely my own.