Torres del Paine National Park On a Budget
SightsThe Torres del Paine is full of sights that will take your breath away! Some of the must see areas in the park include the Three Towers, for which the park was named after. You can climb to the top of the towers, about 3,000 feet high, which includes a hike through an old canopied forest and scaling the exposed area of the tower. For more incredible views, go to the Mirador las Torres, a beautiful lookout that includes a hike over rivers, through lush greenery, and past waterfalls. It is a fairly long hike but well worth it for its stunning views of the Torres and the surrounding area. For something a little more relaxed, take a boat ride on the Lago Grey to visit the Grey Glacier. Pieces of the glacier have fallen off into the lake, making for an exciting, and sometimes noisy, boat ride.
Entrances and Nearby CitiesTorres del Paine is a fairly large park with the three most common entrances being Laguna Amarga Gate, the Pudeto Gate, and the Administration Office of Villa Monzino. The Laguna Amarga is one of the more popular gates, as many buses from Puerto Natales will stop here first.
The closest city, about a two-hour drive away, is Puerto Natales. Here, you'll find countless restaurants, grocery stores, and lodging options. This is a great place to stay if you plan on doing day trips to the park.
ActivitiesThe best option for exploring the Torres del Paine is to take a multi-day trek via one of the many well marked trails. The most popular multi-day trek is called the W Circuit which runs west to east through the park and takes about 4 to 5 days. On this circuit, you'll see all of the major sights of the park including some of the best campsites in the area.
If you prefer daytrips, you can start at the Laguna Amarga gate where you take a minibus to the Hosteria Las Torres, hike the Campamento Torres, and see the Mirador Torres. Or, you can start at the Pudeto gate then take a sightseeing boat tour on the Lago Grey to view the Grey Glacier.
Keep in mind, there is an entrance fee for the park which must be paid in cash using Chilean currency, no cards or other currencies are taken. This is just a one time pass, meaning if you take day trips, you will have to pay the entrance fee every time you go back into the park. But, if you are doing a multi-day trek through the park, you only pay the fee once.
Food and DiningYou'll want to bring as much food as you can carry as campsites will only have some prepackaged food available at very high prices. Even for those on day trips, be sure to bring lunch, snacks, and water to sustain you for the entire day. When you need to stock up, head to Puerto Natales where you'll find grocery stores, specialty stores, and plenty of restaurants.
TransportationOne of the best ways to get into the park is from the city of Puerto Natales which offers daily buses to and from the Laguna Amarga gate. Other options include going through a tour company whose buses will drop you off at one of the gates to the park, and getting in by car. You can rent a car from one of the larger cities in Chile, then take a scenic drive to the park where you can safely leave the car while you go on your trek.
Once inside the park, you'll find a catamaran which runs from the Pudeto Gate entrance to Refugio Paine Grande which helps save time when doing a day trek. Minibuses run from the Amarga gate to the start of the Torres Trail, which is the main trail of the park. Finally, you can travel via boat between Lago Grey and Refugio Grey in order to see the Grey Glacier.