Before 2015 it was possible to visit Torres Del Paine national park and do the “W” circuit without a permit. You could rent all the camping equipment you needed from the local city, Puerto Natales, and then be on your way. The problem was that with no regulation on the camping, the latrines overflowed and rats became an issue with the leftover trash. Therefore now you need a permit in order to camp within the park.
The permits need to be reserved up to a year in advance. During the high season (November to the beginning of March, South American summer) the permits, and crazy expensive hotels, fill up quickly.
For those who don’t like to plan that far ahead, there is a way to do the main parts of the W trek without reservations. It will make for long days, but it is doable.
For a helpful map and informations about Torres del Paine hikes, try this map.
By the way, it should go without saying that visiting Torres del Paine is not cheap.
The W trail
The W trail is more or less made up of three desirable locations.
- The Grey Glacier (the left stem of the W)
- The French Valley (the middle stroke)
- and the Towers (the right stem)
It is possible to see Grey Glacier and the towers as day trips with the bus from Puerto Natales. I have done it. I believe it is possible to do the French Valley if you hire a car or taxi and arrive before the bus would to take the first catamaran. I have not done that hike.
Thus, I believe with three days commuting back and forth to Puerto Natalies, it is possible to do the W trial highlights.
Cost of Admission
It costs from $30 to $15 (high/off season) to get into the park for non-Chileans. Your ticket is valid for three-consecutive days. You must get your ticket stamped to re-enter. You must have your passport to get your ticket stamped. You must pay in cash at the park.
Busses to the park
There are several companies that bus to the park and the costs should be similar at all of them. You can buy tickets at the bus station in Puerto Natales (Terminal Rodoviario Puerto).
From Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine
|First Bus||Second bus|
|Departure from Puerto Natales||7:30||14:30|
|Stop at Laguna Amarga||9:45||16:45|
|Stop at Pudeto (Catamaran)||10:30||17:15|
|Arrival to Administration (Conaf)||11:45||18:00|
From Torres del Paine back to Puerto Natales
|First Bus||Last Bus|
|Departure from Administration (Conaf)||13:00||18:00|
|Stop at Pudeto (Catamaran)||13:30||19:00 (they will wait for the last catamaran to arrive)|
|Stop at Laguna Amarga||14:30||19:45|
|Arrival to Puerto Natales||17:00||22:00|
Hiring a driver to the park
I unfortunately do not have personal experience with this. I have heard though that it would have been cheaper for us (three travelers) to hire a car/taxi to take us to the park than it would of been to buy the bus tickets for three individuals.
You can buy food at the park in the hotel restaurants. They are expensive and resemble more a cafeteria at a ski resort than a restaurant. We made our own food in our Hospedaje the night before. This was a cheaper option, but after long days of bussing and hiking, none of us were in the mood to cook.
You can drink the water from the streams in Torres del Paine without the need of purification tablets or iodine.
History of the Park
The park was unexplored by white folk until 1870, before then there was a obviously indigenous people, but also a few German and British farming. In 1959 the Chilean government began to understand how special this piece of land they had was. It became part of the UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1979.
Is there other information you want to know? Let me know!