Torres del Paine National Park in Chile’s Patagonia will bring you so close to pristine panoramic nature that you instantly remember how humans remain an integral part of the natural world. And if this pandemic has left us with one intrinsic lesson, let it be the importance of getting back to nature!
Here, in the sweeping 181,000 hectares of Torres del Paine National Park, you will begin to forget the definition of “the daily grind” and start to focus on taking one step at a time. It’s no wonder that this is one of the most coveted hiking spots in the Andes!
There are plenty of options for a fulfilling day trip to the park from the closest nearby town, Puerto Natales. However, in this article, we would like to highlight the incredible variety of hiking trails and considerations for one of Patagonia’s most precious and protected areas.
Day hikes in Torres del Paine
We must first note that to take full advantage of the Torres del Paine National Park with limited crowds and the most breathtaking fall foliage, we recommend making this trip between March and April, at the end of the high tourist season. These months belong to the Austral Fall, which in Patagonia means an endless sea of bright oranges, deep reds, and festive yellows flowing through the forest.
With this autumnal effect in full force, Torres del Paine National Park is a day-hikers veritable playground. You have your pick of more than twenty routes total, as short as three miles and as long as twelve. One of the main advantages of sticking to some of the many day hikes is staying at one of the fabulous accommodations within the park and engaging with local Chilean culture as well.
Where to stay within Torres del Paine National Park?
Several hotels dot the Torres del Paine National Park, but the two accommodations worth mentioning for their sustainable innovation and rich cultural history are, respectively, Explora Patagonia and Hotel las Torres.
Since its founding in 1993, conservancy and sustainability have informed Explora’s every action and aspect of their interactive lodging experience in pristine nature. Throughout South America, Explora has seven properties total and three in Patagonia alone. Their Torres del Paine location is unique within the park in that it is nestled between Lake Pehoé and Paine River. Plus, their all-inclusive program includes 40 different excursions and the option to hike the W-Trek.
If you are someone who loves connecting directly with nature and with local culture, then Hotel las Torres is the perfect option for you. Hotel las Torres lies on a swatch of Torres del Paine National Park called Las Torres Reserve. This 2,200-hectare private reserve predates the national park and belongs to a Croatian family that bought the land in the early 20th century.
In 1979, the oldest son of this same family, Antonio Kusanovic Jercic, bought an estancia (ranch) called the Cerro Paine Ranch, where they continued to thrive working the land with over 600 cows. And in the 1990s, when word of Torres del Paine’s natural splendor, tourists began to arrive, Antonio and his wife Amor Eliana expanded their ranch to include a rudimentary lodging. These same quarters kept transforming and evolving into the now Hotel las Torres.
The all-inclusive program at Hotel las Torres includes 21 activities, from horseback riding to hiking. And with the fourth generation of the Kusanovic family still running the hotel, you are guaranteed an unfiltered look into the Chilean Patagonia local ranching culture.
Multi-day hikes in Torres del Paine
You can choose between three main multi-day treks within Torres del Paine National Park. These treks follow circuits that, from an aerial view, roughly create the shape of three letters, giving each trek its name. The W-trek is the shortest of the three at 62 miles and takes 4-5 days to complete, and the O-circuit is next at 83 miles and takes about 7-8 days to complete. Finally, the Q-trek spans 95 miles total and means a solid 8-9 days hiking.
Depending on the circuit, you will clock in about 8-12 miles per day, stopping at designated campsites to set up your tent, or make your hiking pack comfortable in domed yurts (in the case of the Francés Sector in the W-trek).
When you hike one of these multi-day treks with Kuoda, you will be with a local private guide who knows the area like the back of their hand and will keep essential details in mind. For example, the O and Q-treks can only be hiked counter-clockwise, whereas you can hike the W-trek in any direction. And each designated campsite has its own closing time, so you will not be able to start a new stretch of trail after said closing times.
What to pack for your hiking adventure in Torres del Paine?
First and foremost, you want to make sure you have a sturdy pair of hiking boots with plenty of ankle support and a super-tough sole; and this probably goes without saying for avid hikers, but you will want to break in these hiking boots well before your trip to Torres del Paine!
Hiking in Torres del Paine with Kuoda means that your hiking poles, tent, prepared meals, and sleeping bag will already be included, where necessary. However, some items you will want to make sure to bring with you are 1) a headlamp, 2) a sturdy (not super large) hiking pack, 3) a fleece, 4) a hard-shell jacket, 5) thermal underwear 6) sunglasses and brimmed hat 7) gloves and winter hat 8) hiking pants, 9) three pairs of socks, and 10) camp shoes (crocs are great for this)!
If you make Torres del Paine in Southern Patagonia your next hiking adventure in South America, we guarantee you won’t regret it. Not only is it one of Chile’s most coveted national parks, but also one of the world’s most captivating. Contact us today to start planning your next trip to Chile!