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Discover Chile's premier national park - a Cicerone guidebook

Cover of Torres del Paine
11 Aug 2016
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.1cm
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Torres del Paine

Chile's Premier National Park and Argentina's Los Glaciares National Park

by Rudolf Abraham
Book published by Cicerone Press

Guidebook to trekking Chile's 10 to 11-day Torres del Paine Circuit, one of the world's great treks. Also included are a shorter Half Circuit (4 to 5 days), further treks and day walks in the Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Parks, centred around Puerto Natales. Includes information on linking routes, travel and accommodation.

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Cover: Paperback - Laminated
Size: 17.2 x 11.6 x 1.1cm
Weight: 240g

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Guidebook to walking and trekking in Chile's Torres del Paine National Park and Argentina's Los Glaciares National Park, areas of Patagonia. Eight different walks and treks are described, including the 10-11 day Torres del Paine Circuit, one of the world’s great treks, as well as the shorter Half Circuit (4-5 days). The guide also includes other multi day treks and several day walks, as well as excursions from both Puerto Natales and El Calafate.

The 140km Torres del Paine 'O' Circuit in the far southern Andes is a long-distance trek of staggering beauty, as it circuits the Paine massif. This route typically takes 10-11 days to complete and is suitable for competent trekkers. While Torres del Paine National Park offers a remote wilderness, walking is easily accessible with clear trails, good public transport and regular mountain huts and campsites. 

The guidebook helps walkers and trekkers venture into Patagonia with confidence, and includes advice on getting to and around the regions, languages, visa, currency, accommodation facilities in the National Parks as well as useful guidance on what to take and expect on the treks. Full background information on the geology, history, wildlife, flora and cultures of the regions are also explored, resulting in an excellent companion guide to walking and trekking in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares.

  • Activities
    Walking, long-distance walking, hiking
  • Seasons
    December-April. January-February is high season, when most visitors arrive, so can be a little crowded. Overall March is best.
  • Centres
    Puerto Natales is the gateway to Torres del Paine, and also the base for short trips to the Balmaceda Glacier and Sierra Baguales. There are multiple bases in the national park itself.
  • Difficulty
    No technical difficulties, but the Torres del Paine Circuit is a long and, at times, remote undertaking from which there is no convenient exit point half way through. Sudden changes in weather, gale force winds and torrential rain can turn it into a far more difficult undertaking.
  • Must See
    The magnificent granite spires of the 'towers' (Torres), and distinctive, banded form of the 'horns' (Cuernos); vast glaciers (Grey, Tyndall and Dickson) spilling out from the largest sheet of ice in the southern hemisphere outside Antarctica; beautifully unspoilt southern beech or lenga forest; rich and varied animal and birdlife; remote valleys and immense, cloud-streaked skies.



November 2017

Unfortunately, as of 1 November 2017, it is no longer possible to walk from the Conaf Administration to Refugio Paine Grande – this route (Walk 1 / Stage 1) can now only be walked in reverse, ie as an exit from the W or Circuit, and not (as previously) as an entry point for the Q as described in the guidebook.

Also, Conaf have stated that the free campsite, Campamento Torres, requires mandatory booking in January/February (' You can book in Puerto Natales, at CONAF’s Provincial Office or in the park, at the Porteria Laguna Amarga entrance or at CONAF’s Campamento Italiano. Bookings must be done in person and are operated on a first-come first-served policy.') A local guide however described it as 'closed'. The author is currently trying to find the status of this campsite from Conaf.

(Thanks to Alison Bramhall for sending in this information)

April 2017

There have been two major changes to the regulations for hiking in Torres del Paine national Park, which apply to both the Circuit and the 'W'. As of 2016 it is now mandatory to book all accommodation before arriving in the park (easiest done through the two companies that run the campsites and refugios, Fantastico Sur and Vertice; and the Circuit can only be walked anticlockwise (ie the way it is described in this guide). 

Also the 'new' Camp Francés, mentioned in the guidebook, also has 3 geodomes, each sleeping up to 8 people – meaning that it is possible to do the 'W' without needing to camp. 

Thank you to Mirrlees Dolley for this information.


Geography and geology
Wildlife and plants
History and culture
Early exploration and mountaineering
Getting to Chile
Transport within Chile
Agencies and tour operators
Visas and arrival
Food and drink
Money and costs
Keeping in touch
About this guide
Trekking in Torres del Paine national park
Refugios, campsites and hotels
Transport to and around the park
Low-impact trekking
What to do in an emergency
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Walk 1: Torres del Paine circuit (the ‘O’)
Stage 1 CONAF Administración – Refugio Paine Grande
Stage 2 Refugio Paine Grande – Campamento Italiano
Stage 3 Campamento Italiano – Valle Francés (return)
Stage 4 Campamento Italiano – Refugio Las Torres
Stage 5 Refugio Las Torres – Campamento Torres
Stage 6 Campamento Torres – Mirador Las Torres (return)
Stage 7 Campamento Torres – Campamento Japonés (return)
Stage 8 Campamento Torres – Refugio Las Torres
Stage 9 Refugio Las Torres – Campamento Serón
Stage 10 Campamento Serón – Refugio Dickson
Stage 11 Refugio Dickson – Campamento Los Perros
Stage 12 Campamento Los Perros – Campamento Paso
Stage 13 Campamento Paso – Refugio Grey
Stage 14 Refugio Grey – Refugio Paine Grande
Walk 2 Torres del Paine half-circuit (the ‘W’)
Stage 1 Refugio Las Torres – Mirador Las Torres (return)
Stage 2 Refugio Las Torres – Campamento Italiano
Stage 3 Campamento Italiano – Valle Francés (return)
Stage 4 Campamento Italiano – Refugio Grey
Stage 5 Refugio Grey – Refugio Paine Grande
Walk 3 Salto Grande and Mirador Los Cuernos
Walk 4 Puente Weber
Walk 5 Mirador Lago Toro and Laguna Verde
Walk 6 Mirador Cóndor
Walk 7 Río Pingo and Mirador Zapata
Stage 1 Guardería Lago Grey – Campamento Zapata
Stage 2 Campamento Zapata – Mirador Zapata (return)
Stage 3 Campamento Zapata – Guardería Lago Grey
Other walks within the national park
Laguna Amarga – Portería Sarmiento
Laguna Azul and trail to Lago Dickson
Excursions from Puerto Natales
Excursion 1 Cueva del Milodón
Excursion 2 Balmaceda and Serrano glaciers (Bernard O’Higgins national park)
Excursion 3 Sierra Baguales
Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
Excursion from El Calafate
Excursion 4 Perito Moreno glacier
Walk 8 Cerro Fitzroy (El Chaltén) and Cerro Torre
Stage 1 El Chaltén – Campamento Agostini
Stage 2 Campamento Agostini – Campamento Poincenot
Stage 3 Campamento Poincenot – Laguna de los Tres (return)
Stage 4 Campamento Poincenot – Laguna Piedas Blancas (return)
Stage 5 Campamento Poincenot – El Chaltén
Appendix A Gateway towns and cities
Appendix B Accommodation within Torres del Paine national park
Appendix C Language notes and glossary
Appendix D Contacts and online resources
Appendix E Further reading
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