The Torres Del Paine O Trek delivers some of nature’s most dramatic landscapes. This multi-day hike allows you to spend more than a week adventuring in true wilderness.
Expect to see spectacular glaciers, emerald lakes, ancient forests, and tranquil rivers. It’s no surprise that this is not only one of the most popular hikes in Chile, but also famous across the globe!
The hype is definitely worth it!
In this article, I break down everything you need to prepare for and undertake this amazing hike. It’s time to check Torres Del Paine’s O Trek off your bucket list.
The O Trek Torres Del Paine: Know Before You Go
O Trek In Torres Del Paine - Location
Located on the southern tip of South America, the Torres del Paine National Park was made a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978. This pristine wilderness hosts some of the most diverse flora and fauna in the Americas.
The Torres Del Paine Full Circuit is situated in Chile near the southern tip of South America. The park itself is located 112 km north of Puerto Natales and 312 km north of Punta Arenas.
When is the best time to trek the Torres Del Paine Full Circuit circuit?
The Torres del Paine national park can actually be hiked all year round. This makes it one of the most accessible trekking regions in the world. However, this and other self-guided hiking is only open from October-April.
To give you a sense of the season, we have written an overview of each below. It’ worth also reading our article on the when to hike Torres Del Paine.
Spring - September to November
This is a great time of year to visit the park if you want warm, clear weather but without the crowds. Although not quite as warm as the summer months, the skies are often clear and you'll get stunning views across the park.
This is also the best season to see the region’s blooming flora. Spring is the breeding season for wildlife. Who doesn’t love baby animals?
Summer - December to March
This is the high season. Although the hiking trails in Torres Del Paine are at their capacity now, the weather is also at its warmest and you'll get the clearest days for your trek.
If you're the active type, then summer is also the period when you can book other activities. You can horse ride, go kayaking or mountain biking.
Fall - March to June
My favourite season. The landscape comes alive with colour and the trails start to empty out as days become colder. It's often windy, but the spectacularly beautiful views are worth it!
Winter - June to August
Although the majority of refugios are closed during this period, this season has the benefit of being the quietest. If you want to do the O Trek in Winter, you will need to go with a guide.
Without independent trekkers, the trails are almost empty. This is the coldest period though and you will certainly experience near-freezing nights and high winds.
How difficult is the Torres Del Paine O Trek?
The Torres Del Paine full circuit trek is not considered a difficult route. Torres del Paine’s full circuit is around 130km/ 80 miles and should take you 7 days. Those who wish to hike slower can extend it to 9 days.
The circuit is considered a fairly good entry-level trek. The elevation remains relatively flat and trekkers generally stay near sea level.
Therefore, unlike some of the more famous treks in Nepal, altitude sickness is not an issue on the circuit. The trail is very well signposted, making it near impossible to get lost. Water can be found throughout the circuit and ranger stations are dotted along the route.
A solid level of fitness is still required. You will need to be fit enough to walk several hours a day carrying your belongings.
Personally, I found the most difficult part of the O Trek is carrying a heavy bag. You can make the trek easier by staying in refugios or buying meals and renting all camping equipment at the sites. This way you would only have to carry clothes and a few other essentials.
This form of ‘slack packing’ is much more expensive. Ultimately the level of comfort will depend on your budget.
If you are looking to do a shorter hike and still see the highlights of Torres Del Paine, consider doing the W Trek. There are also some day hikes in Torres Del Paine that cover parts of the O Trek trails.
You may also like: complete guide to Fitz Roy hikes
Are permits required for the Torres Del Paine Full Circuit Trek?
Yes, a permit is required to enter the park. Permit costs around $49 for more than 4 days (which the O Trek is). According to the CONAF website, you need to buy tickets online, 24hrs before entry. Although, I got away with booking the night before so they may not be too strict about this. Better to be safe than sorry and reserve early!
You can simply show park officials your permit on your phone (remember to download it!). The park officials will also need to see that you have booked your accommodation in advance.
Accommodation And Food On The O Trek Torres Del Paine
There are 11 campsites in the park which are run by three different companies. Currently, you can book campsites through Vertice Patagonia and Las Torres.
Campsites cost between $10-$25 (Site only). Both companies also have the option to rent camping gear.
As well as tents, there are also options to stay in dormitories, cabins, and refugios. You can book these with the same companies mentioned above. I suggest using only one company to book your entire trek, for simplicity's sake.
At the camps, you will find bathrooms, shops, and even small restaurants. You may need to pre-order your meal so check beforehand.
Note: As of 2022/2023, the free CONAF campsites are closed for renovation. It is unclear when these will re-open. It’s better to budget in paying for all your sites.
If this has changed, please drop us a comment.
How Far In Advance Should You Book The O Trek, Patagonia?
Torres Del Paine treks are not something you can decide to do last minute. It's recommended to book at least 6 months in advance, especially if you plan to visit during the peak season (November to March).
It is almost impossible to find vacant campsites a few weeks before. Weather conditions can also affect availability and camps are sometimes closed for maintenance.
My travel style is usually going where the wind takes me, but this is one trek worth the extra planning! The O circuit is often the cherry on top of a Patagonia backpacking adventure.
How much does the Torres Del Paine Circuit Trek cost?
The cost of a Torres Del Paine Circuit Trek varies depending on when you book flights and when you trek (out-of-season tends to be a little cheaper).
If you use a trekking agency, using local operators is cheaper than an international outfitter. The best choice for budget travelers is to do this trek without a guide.
You should budget for the following key expenses:
- Tour Agency: ~$800 for a cheap local agency to ~$2,500 for a pricey Western trekking agency.
- Tips: ~$10-20
- Visa, Vaccinations, Insurance etc:~$300-$500
- Equipment (buying and hiring):~$500-$800
- Return flights to Punta Arenas: ~$1,500
- Misc (additional food, unplanned travel/hotels etc): $50
Total Costs: $2,500 – $5,000
You could hike the Torres Del Paine O Trek trek independently for less than $400. This price includes food, park entrance, and camping. Be sure to book early!
Food can be purchased from refugios throughout the park, however, it is very expensive. It would be cheaper to prepare beforehand and buy ingredients for camp meals in Puerto Natalensis.
Torres Del Paine O Trek - Essential Gear List
Trekking the Torres Del Paine Full Circuit requires a certain amount of essential pieces of trekking clothing and equipment. The Torres Del Paine Full Circuit Trek is a multi-day trek that travels through a number of landscapes.
Many pieces of equipment can be rented at the campsites. However, the free, CONAF campsites do not offer equipment. If you want to save money, We recommend bringing the most important pieces of gear with you.
Other than a tent and sleeping bag. Some essentials to pack for this trek include:
- Camp stove
- Camping utensils, bowl, and mug
- Good boots or trail shoes
- Weatherproof trekking jacket
- Beanie or neck scarf and gloves (for those icy winds)
- A lighter/ matches
I also recommend a power bank, although you will be able to recharge your phone at most of the camps. Having a portable device is much more convenient.
We have written a detailed trek gear list that covers everything you need for multi-day treks.
Hiking The O Circuit In Torres Del Paine - Route Guide
The Full Circuit takes hikers on the standard 'W' Trek before continuing around the backside of the park to Refugio Dickson. Trekkers then climb over John Gardner Pass before descending back down to Campamento Grey.
An Important Note On The John Gardner Pass
The John Gardner pass is often closed due to bad weather and it is always advised to add a few extra days to your itinerary to accommodate this.
When the pass is closed the best option is to hike back to Campamento Los Perros and stay there for another night or two.
Torres Del Paine O Trek Map
The best map we have found for the Torres Del Paine Full Circuit the Torres del Paine Waterproof Trekking Map by Sergio Zagier.
The map provides a compressive satellite relief, contour lines, shelters, timed trails, camping and inns.
8-Day Torres Del Pain Circuit Trek Itinerary
Below is some detailed information on what to expect, day by day on the Torres Del Paine O Trek. This is the typical itinerary that is generally followed by tour operators.
You can use the information to do this trek as an independent O hike. Trek length for each day can vary greatly depending on the weather, available campsites, and your own trekking experience.
Day 1: Puerto Natales - Campamento Serón (12 km)
You leave early from the town of Puerto Natales. The first buses leave just after 7 or you can hire a transfer service. Take your transportation to the Torres Del Paine park administration office which lies at the southern end of the national park.
You will probably arrive around lunch. By the time you sort out the admin elements (permits etc.), aim to get your hike underway before 3 pm. You begin by trekking for several hours before you bed down at Las Carrettas - one of the free camping grounds (if this is available).
Day 2: Campamento Serón – Refugio Dickson (18km)
You have time to sleep in a bit or enjoy the campsite. Aim to get hiking sometime around 10-11 am. The first part of the trail takes you along a river path before ascending up and over a small pass. There will be heavy winds near the top and you'll need to be careful with your footing. In the afternoon you'll arrive at lake Dickson where there is a campsite. Relax here and take in the beautiful lake and surroundings.
Day 3: Refugio Dickson – Campamento Los Perros (11 km)
Today is a short trek so it’s okay if you start later. The trail leads uphill through a forest and you'll get fabulous views back over lake Dickson. After crossing the river several times you'll come to Mirador Britanico. Here you get incredible views of both Los Perros and Glacier lake! From here your campsite is just a short 20-minute walk.
Day 4: Campamento Los Perros – Paso (12 km)
Make sure you leave early - around 6 am - to get the most out of the long day ahead. Today is one of the most difficult parts of the trek as it encompasses crossing a fairly high pass. Start the day trekking uphill for 3 hours as you make your way through a lovely forest before coming out onto an open rocky terrain.
There will be orange path markers along this point. Pay attention to the skies if the weather is coming in. You will need to turn back if it becomes severe.
When you reach the highest point of the pass you'll be greeted with a stunning panoramic view that sticks as you continue over the trail. There will most likely be tremendous amounts of wind. You may need to crouch at the top just to stop from falling over! After lunch, you'll arrive Campamento Paso where you stay the night. If you have the energy, explore this gorgeous area.
Day 5: Campamento Paso – Refugio Grey – Paine Grande (21 km)
Get up early as you have a long day trekking ahead! You begin by hiking downhill for 4-5 hours with incredible views of Grey Glacier as you descend. After a long morning, you'll reach Refugio Grey. This is a good spot to have lunch. After lunch, continue downhill for 2-3 hours until you reach Paine Grande, the camp for the night.
Day 6: Valle del Frances – Los Cuernos (22,5 km)
This section is one of the tougher and longer stretches of the Torres Del Paine Circuit Trek. Try to leave around 8 am and head towards Campamento Italiano. The trek will take you several hours and you'll get a nice breather when you arrive. Once in camp, leave your main bag there and continue with your day pack and lunch to Mirador Frances.
The Mirador is roughly a two-hour walk away. Take your time to enjoy this viewpoint before you head back down to Campamento Italiano. Retrieve your main pack and then continue on. You still have a few hours of walking to Los Cuernos campsite where you stay the night.
Day 7: Los Cuernos – Campamento Torres (20 km)
This is the final real trekking day! After a leisurely breakfast, you should head off around 9 am towards Campamento Chileno. Your trek begins on flat ground as you make your way along the Lago Nordernskjöld.
After a few hours, you'll come to a sign saying “shortcut to Chileno”. Take the shortcut and walk for several hours until you reach the Refugio Chileno. You can have lunch here. After lunch, you will walk uphill for an hour until you reach Campamento Torres. Leave your bags (but take your camera) here and head upwards for 45 minutes until you reach the Torres! Have a well-deserved break whilst you take in this iconic sight. I advise you hit the sack early as you'll need to be up before sunrise the following day.
Day 8: Torres – Puerto Natales (10 – 15 km)
Even if it’s tough, rise early (around 5 am) to get the sunrise views at the Mirador of the Towers! Sunrise happens around 6 am in summer and there is just a short walk to the viewing and picnic area.
If you’re lucky with the weather, you will get to witness one of the most beautiful sunrises on our planet! Watching the sunrise is one of my biggest highlights when trekking Patagonia.
If it's raining in camp, don't give up - the weather is often very different up near the viewing area. Also, the weather here can clear up fast. After your sunrise moment, head back down to camp and pack up all your gear.
From camp, you head down to the Hotel Las Torres. This will take roughly 3 hours. From there you can either walk to the park entrance (7km/ 4.3 miles, 1.5 hrs) or take a minibus for a small fee ($10).
The minibuses leave at 2 pm to be on time for the 2:30 pm bus back to Puerto Natales from the entrance. You are going to be EXHAUSTED at this time, it’s worth paying that extra $10 for the bus!
Frequently Asked Questions About Torres Del Paine Full Circuit
Is the Torres Del Paine trek dangerous?
Generally speaking, hiking in Torres Del Paine is safe. The only concern along the route is the weather. Patagonia is famously windy and produces frequent storms that often make trekking quite dangerous. Always be aware of the weather forecast and, if traveling with a guide, follow their lead and advice.
Can I camp anywhere on the Torres Del Paine O Trek?
No. You may only set up a tent in the established campsites. Most of which charge a fee.
Can you do the O Circuit without a guide?
Yes, you can hike the O circuit in Torres Del Paine without a guide. Independent hiking is allowed through all seasons except for Winter (beginning of May to end of September). Read more about self guided hiking in Patagonia here.
Is altitude sickness a risk on the O trek in Torres Del Paine?
There is almost no risk of altitude sickness on the Toress Del Paine Full Circuit Trek.
The highest point reached is under 700 meters which is far too low to bring on altitude sickness.
For more information, read our comprehensive guide to altitude sickness.
What guidebook do you recommend?
The one guide book that stands above all other is Trekking Torres del Paine: Chile’s Premier National Park and Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park by Rudolf Abraham. The guide book covers eight major trails within the park including the Full Circuit and the ‘W’ Trek. Maps, tips and detailed information is provided for each trek and the book is a must for trekkers hiking solo.
Other guide books available include Fodor’s Chile: with Easter Island & Patagonia (Travel Guide), Backpacking in Chile: Travel Guide & Trekking Guide for Independent Travelers and Torres del Paine (Chile) 1:50 / 100,000 Trekking Map, GPS, waterproof by Trekking Chile.