What: The W Trek is a world famous trekking route in the Chile’s national park called Torres del Paine. It takes 3 to 5 days to complete the entire trek which is about 70k/46 miles. Depending on hiking preference, how much time you have and how fit you are you can choose how many days to hike. Three nights would be a fast pace, four nights medium pace and five nights a leisurely enjoyable pace.
Getting to Torres del Paine: Torres del Paine is in the Patagonia region of southern Chile. Most travelers stay in the town called Puerto Natales, which is a 3 hour bus ride from the park. The bus leaves about 830am arrives at the park about 1130am and then you take another 30 minute transfer bus to the start of the hike. You can expect to start your first day hiking around 12pm.
Getting to Puerto Natales: Option 1 (Chile) – fly into Santiago, then catch a connecting flight to Punta Arenas and then bus 5 hours to Puerto Natales. Option 2 (Argentina) – fly into Buenos Aires, catch a connecting flight to Calafate and then take a bus over the boarder to Puerto Natales. Option 3 (boat!) – fly into Santiago, catch a connecting flight to Puerto Montt and then get on the Navimag ferry to Puerto Natales. This is a 4 night 3 day cargo ship that also carries passengers. By all means this is not a fancy cruise but it’s quite the experience. The rooms are very comfortable, the showers have ample hot water and the food is similar to a cafeteria. The ship also carries cows, so be prepared for whiffs of cow along the way. There is no booze allowed on the boat but sneaking it on to drink under the radar is not a problem. I recommend this option either getting there or leaving Puerto Natales.
Camping options: there are various degrees of sleeping options depending on how you want your trip to be.
Option 1 (cheapest, free) – camping and staying at free sites. You will need to bring all your supplies with you. The camp sites only have toilets and maybe toilet paper.
Option 2 (midrange for price) – camping at the paid refugio sites. It’s about 10 us dollars and you get a designated site, running water, hot shower and a warm place to cook. Here you can also rent tents and sleeping gear.
Option 3 (most expensive, about $100 – 150 us per night) – stay in luxury in a bed and eat at the refugios. There are private or dorm style rooms available and all meals included.
Route options: East to West vs. West to East
Both options are great no right or wrong but to help choose here are some of the main arguments. East to west you hike the hardest days are first but your packs are heavy full of food. East to west you walk towards the cuernos on day 2 as opposed to away from them. More people do east to west so bigger groups.
Gear you need to bring or rent there if you plan to camp: tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, hiking poles, head lamp, cooking stove, good hiking shoes, waterproof pants, waterproof jacket, 2 hiking pants, 2 long sleeves, 2 tshirts, 2 or 3 socks, gloves, hat, sunglasses, food and SUNSCREEN! The sun is very intense there and you will surely want to use protection on your face. You can rent everything you need in the town or even at the refugios along the way.
Food ideas: ration out your food so it lasts you the 4 days. Breakfast – oatmeal, dried fruit, nuts, honey, chia seeds. Lunch – salami, hard cheese, hard boiled eggs, olives. Dinner – pasta and soup packets, canned tuna pasta, rice. Snacks – trail mix, nuts, fruit