The Torres del Paine National Park is located in Chile's Region XII, between the massif of the Los Andes Mountain Range and the Patagonian steppes, in Ultima Esperanza Province, community of Torres del Paine.
The compact Paine massif is all the more striking due to the approach being from the south east where the barren, flat pampas and gently rolling hills stretch out into Argentina. Ancient glaciers have carved the landscape into a mystical scene of soaring granite walls and spires, rearing above wind whipped lakes and backed by the chaotic glaciers of the icecap. This incredible scenery has overcome the atrocious weather to ensure that the trekking route that circumnavigates the massif is famous worldwide. However the weather has, in turn, overcome the superb world class climbing to limit the number of hardy souls that come to catch up on sleep, read loads of books and, if their incredibly lucky, get some mountaineering done.
The Torres del Paine National Park is open all year round and is administered by the National Forestry Commission (CONAF).
Its entry gates are about 115 kilometers from Puerto Natales.
The Sarmiento and Laguna Amarga entry gates are open from 8.30 a.m. to 8.30 p.m., all year round.
The most direct route is to travel to Punta Arenas , the largest town from which one can access the Torres del Paine area.
Daily Lan Chile (One World) flights to Punta Arenas , capital of Region XII, from Santiago , capital of Chile.
A 4:15 hour long flight from Santiago , with stopover in Puerto Montt.Punta Arenas ' airport is 20 km. from downtown Punta Arenas and 226 km. from Puerto Natales.
It is about 3100 km. overland from Santiago, or 2300 km. from Puerto Montt. The trip south from Puerto Montt is on the Argentinean side and crosses back into Chile via the Monte Aymond Pass, close to the Argentinean town of Río Gallegos and 192 km. from Punta Arenas.
There are no regularly scheduled buses from Santiago, but there are from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales (see buses); the trip takes more than a day.
Sailing from Puerto Montt(Highly suggested):
Making the trip from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales through the southern channels is another way of getting to know Chile and the natural setting of Chilean Patagonia.
Navimag vessels only sail on Monday, leaving at 2:00 p.m. and arriving in Puerto Natales at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday morning(Please note: NAVIMAG is a commercial company that ships goods to Patagonia, the ships are cargo ships that accomodateds passengers).
You do need a permit to climb in the park. To arrange this you need to get written permission from DIFROL, which is some kind of ministry for the border with Argentina, in Santiago. Don't believe anyone who tells you that you don't need this, trying to sort it out from Puerto Natales takes days. Front it up in Santiago with your passport and a letter from your National Alpine Institute saying you're not a complete idiot (in Spanish). Once you've got that permission, you need to go to CONAF, the Chilean equivalent of DOC, in Torres del Paine National Park and fork out US$100.00 each for which you'll get a typed letter saying you can go and scare yourself, silly.
You can get almost everything you need in Puerto Natales. Climbing gear is sparse so bring that from home or at least from Santiago where there are a few decent gear shops. Dayly food and muesli bars are also best brought from home if you want those.Bencina Blanca is the local white spirit which goes OK but seems to happily clog stoves.
(National Forestry Commission)
(For navigation from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales)
(Information about the Park)
On the treks or before the climb, you have only two choices: Tent or Refugios
- I recommend you carry a tent, if you possibly can.Tenting you have complete freedom to do what you want each day. No reservations of any kind are required.
- Getting a required reservation to stay in the crowded refugios (cabins) is difficult and relatively expensive. Moreover, there are not enough refugios to easily do the entire Circuit.(It is possible.)
There are designed area in the park where you can pitch your tent mainly located in strategic locations along the hiking paths. This does not exclude bivying at higher ground for climbing.
- If you decide on refugios or rental refugio tents — you need to reserve them. This can be a hassle in high season. Reserve in Puerto Natales as soon as you arrive at the Andescape or Fantastico Sur offices. So far it seems near impossible to do this on-line or by email.
Here is a list of the main camping areas in the park with info for reservation:
Lago Pehoé Camping
: located at Lago Pehoé sector with an access by the main road, 12 km from Administrative Headquarters.
Booking and information - Phone: (56.61)411355, Puerto Natales.
Season: December 1 to May 30.
Description: 32 sites with a maximum 6 person capacity, sanitary facilities provided with drinking water, table, bonfire, garbage cans, firewood (10 logs), hot water showers, a stand selling non perishable goods, water basins, and washing places.
Río Serrano Camping
: located at Lago Toro sector, 7 km from Administrative Headquarters.
Booking and information - Phone:(56 61) 411355, Puerto Natales.
Descripción: 23 sites with a maximum 6 person capacity, latrine type rustic bathrooms, table, bonfire, garbage cans, and firewood. Season: December 15 to April 15.
Laguna Azul Camping
: located at Laguna Azul sector.
Reservas e Información: C.C.A.F. La Araucana. Telephone: (56 61) 411157, Puerto Natales.
Descripción: Twenty 40 m2 sites with a maximum 6 person capacity, electric power, drinking water-equipped sanitary facilities, showers, hot water, rowboats for rent, camping stoves for rent, sale of non perishable goods, table, bonfire, garbage cans, and firewood. Season: October 15 to April 15.