Torres del Paine National Park, located at the extreme south of the Chilean Patagonia, is home to some of the most fantastic displays of nature in the Southern Hemisphere. Encompassing ragged mountains, glaciers, glacial lakes, rivers, valleys, and wildlife, the 227,298 hectares UNESCO World Heritage Site makes for an impressive destination, drawing people from every corner of the globe.
While Los Torres, the three rock towers from which the park takes its name, is probably its most notable highlight, there are many hidden marvels that yet await to be discovered. An inviting getaway for timid nature lovers and daring outdoor enthusiasts alike, a trip to Torres del Paine National Park is a must when in Chile.
The main draw of the park are its three famous treks — the W Circuit, the O Circuit, and the Q trek. If trekking doesn’t interest you or you are going through a time crunch, there are plenty more ways to experience the park. Try kayaking; paddling down the Rio Grey and Rio Serrano is an exhilarating way to experience Torres del Paine. Kayakers can view Glacier Grey, Serrano Glacier, Serrano Waterfall, Balmaceda Mountains, and challenge Las Carretas rapids. Horseback riding through the fjords and the Serrano River to view the Serrano Glacier is also available. Mountain biking the remote and unmarked trails to see lesser-travelled sections of the park will appeal to the adrenaline junkies out there.
And if you are looking for a more low-key experience, book into one of the hotels in the national park and enjoy the sweeping views of the park from the comforts of your hotel room, and take short leisurely walks around.
- Southern Patagonian Ice Fields – the world’s second largest contiguous ice field which feeds four glaciers; Grey, Dickson, Zapata, and Tyndall.
- Glacier Grey – the largest and most impressive glacier in Torres del Paine National Park.
- Los Torres (The Towers) – the three granite peaks of the Paine Massif (Paine Mountain Range) and the most iconic sight upon which the park’s name is based.
- Cordillera del Paine – a small but impressive group of jagged mountains of which the famous Towers are the summit.
- Valle del Frances (French Valley) — an excellent viewing platform for some incredible glacier activity. You can even hear the glaciers shifting and see big chunks of ice breaking off. The scenery here is some of the best in park, surrounding trekkers with mountains, glaciers, forests, and waterfalls.
- Lake Pehoe - one of the most famous Lakes in the park, the view over the water of Cordillera del Paine and another famous rock formations, Los Cuernos (The Horns) is breathtaking.
- Accommodation must be booked WAY in advance. If you plan to visit in the peak summer season (December to March), it’s recommended that you book hotels, hostels, refugios (shared, dorm-like accommodation inside the park), even campsites, at least 6 months in advance. Even 9-12 months ahead of time wouldn’t be considered excessive. Torres del Paine National Park’s popularity is increasing every year. We hate to break it to those last-minute planners out there, but this means no spontaneous trips.
- Overcrowding can be a problem, especially during the peak months of December and January. These months are great times to go if you’re a social person who’s looking to meet people on the trail and enjoy the warmest weather. If you’d rather have more of the park to yourself, it’s best to go in less popular months.
A Torres del Paine tour is worthwhile anytime! Each season presents a different perspective of the park. Your preferences will dictate when you decide to visit, but see below for a mini-breakdown of the four seasons.
- Summer season (December – March) is high season and considered by many to be the best time to visit. The weather is at its warmest, the sun is shining, and summer has the lowest chance of rain. However, it’s also extremely busy.
- Spring season (late September – November) is also highly recommended. Temperatures aren’t as warm, but the sight of the park in bloom is spectacular.
- Fall season (April – June) brings the color displays of the foliage and is a photographer’s dream.
- Winter season (June – August) gives the best chance for clear blue skies and excellent views. But it is also the coldest and most sections of the park are closed down.
How long you stay depends on what you want to do. If you’re on a Torres del Paine trek, you’ll need anywhere between 5-10 days. If you want to tour the park by bus, then 2-3 days would be enough. If you want to discover the park via other means (kayak, bike, etc.), 3-4 days is a more ideal duration.
You can rough it or get the royal treatment; it’s up to you! There are free and paid campsites, refugios, inns\lodges, hotels, and several luxury options. Check out our list of popular accommodations in Torres del Paine National Park to find out more on this.
Permits must be purchased at the gate in Chilean Pesos and the permit cost varies according to the season.
- High Season (1st October – 30th April) Rates
- USD 32 for adults
- USD 9 for children between 6 – 16 years.
- Low season (1st May - 30th September) Rates
- USD 17 for adults
- USD 2 for children between 6 – 16 years.
- Pack warm clothes no matter what season you visit — the weather has a reputation for changing quickly.
- Expect strong winds in Spring and Summer. Those fancy water-resistant bag covers are known for being blown right off your back pack as you are trekking. Instead, protect your bag with a plastic bag liner.
- Don’t forget to bring your camera!
- Do bring a power bank to charge your camera and other electronics in a crunch.
- Reservation of any accommodation is must if you plan to stay the night inside the park.
- While the national park is well-marked and relatively safe to go on a solo trip, the unpredictable weather and infamous manmade forest fires are good enough reasons to opt for a guided tour.
There is so much to do and see in Torres del Paine National Park that you could spend months there and still not see it all. We guarantee a Torres del Paine tour will leave you more than satisfied, while simultaneously feeling like you have just whet your appetite. You do not want to miss it on your next Chile tour.