The W trek is the most famous trek in Patagonia. If you are interested in doing the whole trek and seeing the most amazing views but you don’t have much time, this is how to do it in 3 days. However, I must warn you - it is exhausting, difficult to plan and quite risky! In this post, I will describe the first day of the trek - getting to the Torres del Paine National Park, stopping at Paine Grande Camping, trekking to the Glacier Grey and back to Paine Grande Camping site for the night.
How to get to Torres del Paine National Park
In order to get to Torres del Paine National Park, you must first arrive in the town of Puerto Natales. To reach Puerto Natales, take a bus from the main city in Patagonia - Punta Arenas (which is interesting in itself). There are many flights available from the Chilean capital - Santiago.
The bus from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales takes around 3 hours, and from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park (Laguna Amarga Entrance), it takes approximately 2 hours. There are quite many buses from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales daily. However, the bus for Laguna Amarga Entrance departs only twice a day.
When we arrived at the bus station in Puerto Natales, the buses had been almost sold out - we had nearly missed the entire trip. Make sure you book the bus early.
From Laguna Amarga Entrance to Paine Grande Camping
The bus from Puerto Natales stops at Laguna Amarga Entrance. You will have to watch a short documentary in the tourist center about how any type of fire is forbidden in the park (as quite recently there was a huge fire caused by tourists - you will see many dead trees on the way). Then, you pay the entrance fee (which is quite high - slightly above 30 USD) and sign your name on the registration card. You can find the up to date fees on the official website: https://www.fantasticosur.com/en/trekking-in-torres-del-paine/torres-del-paine-rates/
We also bought the ferry tickets to the Paine Grande logde - they cost more than 25 USD one way. For up to date fees and schedule, please see their official site:
The registration can take quite a while - even up to 1 hour. Then, the bus continues to Pudeto where the ferry port is. We were lucky that morning, we were able to see all the beautiful peaks of The Paine "horns," both from the bus and from the boat.
When we boarded the ferry, the fun began - we could feel we were in Patagonia for real because of the unbelievable wind. It was virtually nearly impossible to stand on that ferry. Bear in mind that the photos look deceivingly calm - but it was not the case! Also, believe it or not - all the amazing photos of the mountains shown here were taken from the bus and the boat - which means to see the best Patagonian landscapes ever, no hiking is required! (The only part you will need to trek to see is the Mirador Torres del Paine - the three towers and blue glacier lake are not visible from anywhere on the road).
From Paine Grande to Glacier Grey
We arrived at Paine Grande in the afternoon and after the check-in procedures (which also took quite a lot of time), we went to our tents. It was very cold and windy, but we were extremely excited. The accommodation in Torres del Paine is exceptionally expensive - for the tents (including sleeping bags) and food (lunch dinner and breakfast) we paid nearly 125 USD per person (and you share the tent with another person). A bed in the Paine Grande Refugio hostel is even more expensive. Don’t forget to book it in advance! You have to prepay in full and there are no amendments or refunds allowed. The canteen/bathrooms/showers/ are available for all prepaid tent users too. If you have your own tent and food, you can sleep for free in specially designated places though.
It was already 2 pm and the trek to Glacier Grey takes 3.5 hours one way. Nevertheless, we decided to do it. If you do not want to rush and have more time, you can add another day by staying in Refugio Grey on the way to the glacier.
Right when we left the Paine Grande lodge/camping site, the weather changed suddenly. The clouds covered the peaks so we could no longer see the beautiful mountains and sleet started to fall. The wind was getting stronger and stronger and we could barely walk.
We passed the woods, walked along Lago Gray and noticed the first glimpse of Glacier Grey. However, at that point, the weather conditions turned so bad that rain and sleet hitting our legs felt like needles in extremely high winds. It was impossible to stand. It got so bad that we had to lie on the ground so we were not blown away from the cliff.
At that time, we decided to return to the Paine Grande campsite. We only did slightly more than a half of the trail. When the weather is nice - it must be amazing. But it is something you cannot take for granted in Torres del Paine. You should be happy when you are able to see anything!
But at least we could say that we did see the Glacier Grey. We returned completely soaked and ordered food. It was surprisingly good (and overprices), but after other experiences with food in the mountains (like in the Annapurna trek in Nepal), that was something unexpected.
For the rest of the evening, we relaxed in the canteen area and then went to the tents to sleep. The wind was extreme all night and sometimes it felt as though we were in a blender - almost as if the tent was about to be blown away. But you have to get used to that in Patagonia!
Day 2 and 3 will come soon.
Author: Tom @ Adventurous Travels
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