The Cerro Castillo Trek: An Alternative to Torres del Paine
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If you are planning a Chile tour you would be crazy to miss the Cerro Castillo trek. Located in the lesser known Cerro Castillo National Reserve, Cerro Castillo or 'Castle Hill' is a mountain adorned with sharp basalt cliffs that make it look a bit like a castle. Described by some as the ‘new Torres del Paine’, completing this trek is certainly no easy task, but is an incredibly gratifying experience. Those who take it on will have a range of different landscapes to admire as they walk, from gentle green hills to magnificent craggy, basalt cliffs, dusted with snow.
Those willing to undertake the Cerro Castillo trek can expect vivid turquoise lakes, dense pine forest, irregularly-shaped mountain peaks and some exceptional panoramic views. Be sure to charge your camera up and take a spare battery pack before you head off, you’re going to want to capture this.
Now that you’ve decided you want to do this circuit, here are some key facts you should know before you head off.
|Start/end locations:||Start and finish in Villa Cerro Castillo|
|Trek difficulty:||Very difficult. Only those with substantial trekking experience and a good level of fitness should attempt the Cerro Castillo trek.|
|Trek duration:||Between 3–4 days (62km)|
|Remoteness:||Very remote. This trek really is in the middle of nowhere.|
|Best season:||December – February, during the southern hemisphere summer. The trek can be done outside of this window but the closer to winter you go, the worse the conditions will be and the less pleasant the trek.|
|Permit required:||No, but there is an entry fee of 5,000 pesos for the park.|
Cerro Castillo trek standard itinerary: 4 days
Day 1: Leave Villa Cerro Castillo and get to Las Horquetas either by bus or private car. From here, the national reserve entrance is about 13km of easy, flat walking. When you get to the entrance, pay the entry fee and then walk 2 more kilometres until you get to Campamento Portezuelo. Camp here. There is also an option to camp at the very entrance of the park but very few people choose to camp there because of the lack of water source.
Day 2: From Campamento Portezuelo you will then walk for about 4km before climbing the El Penon pass, which reaches a height of 1676m. After completing the pass, it is just under 2 hours to the El Bosque campsite and another hour from there to Laguna Castillo campsite. You can choose where to camp. Laguna Castillo tends to be a more popular choice because of its proximity to the lagoon.
Day 3: Take some time to admire the beautiful Laguna Castillo before heading off. After some ups and downs, you will eventually get to Campamento Neozelandes. From here you can check out the Glacier de Circo – a magnificent glacier.
Day 4: Today is nice and easy, with just a few hours of downhill walking back to Villa Cerro Castillo. Challenge completed.
Alternative itinerary: Cerro Castillo hike
If a four-day hike seems like a bit much for you or you’re running low on time then don’t panic. There is still a way for you to experience the Cerro Castillo. Not many people are aware of this but there is actually a day hike you can do in Cerro Castillo. The day hike takes around 6 hours and shows you some of the highlights of the Cerro Castillo trek.
The ascent can be pretty tricky, especially given the sections of exposed cliff that have high winds and nothing but loose rocks to walk across. Nevertheless, at the top you will get to see the stunning lagoon (Laguna Cerro Castillo) and it will make all that precarious walking worthwhile. Naturally, the descent is much easier.
You will first need to fly from Santiago down to Coyhaique. LAN and Sky Airline provide regular flights for this route. From Coyhaique, catch a bus heading south towards Cochrane and tell them you want to get off at Villa Cerro Castillo. This is where you will base yourself and buy your supplies before starting the trek.
Good to know
- Be sure to bring plenty of sun cream and bug spray. You will need both of these things whether you do the full trek or just the day hike. For more information, read our guide to equipment needed when trekking.
- While you don’t need a special permit, you will need to pay 5,000 pesos to enter the national park.
- Having a basic level of Spanish will help you a lot, particularly if you want to do this trek without a guide, as you may need to ask for directions and plan your route in the town before you set off.
- The weather can change in a heartbeat so prepare for blazing sunshine and torrential rain as well as strong winds and potential sleet.
- The only accommodation option is camping so make sure you have a strong tent that can withstand the extreme conditions.
- The infrastructure hasn’t been fully developed yet so you will need to be as independent as possible.
The Cerro Castillo Trek is one of Chile’s, or perhaps, one of Patagonia's most formidable trekking routes. It is tough and exhausting, but those who can cope with it will reap the benefits. Glorious scenery, fresh mountain air and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment are just some of the perks of this trek. This is sure to be an experience of a lifetime.
Since Patagonia is notorious for unpredictable weather, do check up on the best time to visit Patagonia before planning your tour. Click on the link for more information on tours available in Patagonia. You can also include the trek to your custom trip to Chile. Contact our local travel expert to do just that!