When visiting Torres del Paine most people hike either the popular W trek, the O circuit, or take a day tour on a bus through the park. At the time of our visit none of these options appealed to Mark or me. The W trek required camping and we didn’t have gear, the O circuit was already closed for the season, and the bus tour saw the park only from a distance.

We figured there must be a way to see the park’s highlights up-close on the trail without camping in the cold or trekking with heavy packs. Looking at a map and noting the limited shuttle and ferry times–since it was shoulder season–we created an itinerary that only required day hikes while staying in warm refugios. Doing it this way still allowed us to visit Mirador Torres del Paine and Glacier Grey without any major trekking.

The only main destination we missed was French Valley, which is located in the middle prong of the W trek. It was the one place far enough away that it would’ve forced us to camp or have required a long day of trekking.

Glacier Grey in Torres del Paine

Here was our 5-day itinerary for day hiking Torres del Paine:

Day 1 – Take bus to Torres del Paine from Puerto Natales for 2-hour ride. Get off the bus and grab all luggage at main park entrance of Laguna Amarga to pay visitor fee. Transfer to the shuttle bus outside ranger station, then get dropped off at Refugio Torres Central. Enjoy rest in the afternoon. Take a nature walk near Hotel Las Torres.*

Day 2 – Hike with a small daypack to beautiful Mirador Torres del Paine. Return to Refugio Torres Central and rest in the evening.

Day 3 – Catch shuttle bus outside the refugio to return to the park entrance of Laguna Amarga. Transfer to the same bus used to get into the park the first day. Ride to the following stop for the catamaran on Lago Paine. Ride the ferry across the lake and enjoy spectacular views. Stay in Refugio Paine Grande by the ferry port. Take a walk in the evening on the trail toward French Valley and watch sunset. Return to Refugio Paine Grande for the night.

Day 4 – Hike with large packs to Refugio Grey. Visit the viewpoint of Glacier Grey, just a 10 minute walk from the refugio. Rest in the evening. Delicious dinner. Try the Calafate Sour.

Day 5 – Hike back to Refugio Paine Grande to catch the ferry across Lago Paine. Catch the same bus waiting at the ferry port to return to Puerto Natales by late afternoon. 

Sign post in Torres del Paine

*Note: This itinerary can be done in four days if the hike to Mirador Torres del Paine is done on the day of arrival, which we saw many people do. For us, we were glad we waited because the weather was clearer and warmer the next day.

For food we packed oatmeal and fruit for our breakfasts, snacks for the hikes, sandwich stuff for lunches, and Top Ramen for dinner.  All the refugios had hot water that they let us use for free, and we did buy two dinners and a bag lunch from the refugios–but be warned, they are expensive!

About The Author

Britnee traveled around the world with her husband on a shoestring budget for a year. A few of her favorite destinations include Scotland's Isle of Skye, Chile's Torres del Paine, Bolivia's Salt Flats and Nepal's Annapurna Circuit.

3 Responses

  1. Ericka


    I plan on going to Torres Del Paine sometime soon and also doing day hikes like you recommend. However, staying in a refugio sounds appealing but I think people will still need to bring a tent with cold weather sleeping bags because the refugios are very crowded in peak season and there’s always a chance there won’t be room for everyone.

    • Mark Johnston

      We booked all of our refugio stays ahead of time, so we knew we wouldn’t need a tent. You can do so at http://www.verticepatagonia.com. If you only book one, I’d highly recommend Refugio Grey as it was one of our favorite accommodations that whole year! However, I’m sure camping would be equally as enjoyable in that stunning landscape.