There is an official flag of Chile and there is the unofficial one, represented by the archetypal three peaks of Torres del Paine bathing their triumphant image in the turquoise waters of the lagoon.
Mirador Torres del Paine is the Mecca of the Chilean Patagonia, but you have to earn it, like all good things in life. The only way to reach the base of the towers is by hiking, be it one day-hike, or as part of W (4-5 days) or O (7-9 days) treks. The treks grant their name to the shape of the trail that reminds letters W and O.
Due to time constraints, I went for the one day hike, which turned out to be the highlight of my trip.
Mirador Torres del Paine hike difficulty
Mirador Torres del Paine hike is about 18 km long and it takes about 8-9 hours both ways.
Now, to appreciate the level of difficulty from my perspective, I take into consideration a few factors like the trail’s degree of steepness, the overall length, and your physical fitness.
I am an average fit person, so generally speaking the hike wasn’t too difficult for me. I mean, I saw families with kids there. The hike wasn’t very steep either, except for the last part, which is doable when you know that you are almost there.
The hardest part for me was the length itself of the trail. It’s A LOT for one day, uphill then downhill… At the end of it, I thought my feet would literally fail. If you do this hike as part of the W or O trek, you won’t walk that much.
Despite this, I would qualify this hike as medium-difficult. I highly recommend it. The view of Mirador Torres del Paine it’s so rewarding and even the physical pain in my feet that I felt at the end of the day, was a testimony of a little achievement. I did it!
How to get to Torres del Paine trail?
If you are on a budget, you can take the earliest bus from Puerto Natales, which leaves at 7:00 AM and arrives at Laguna Amarga (the first stop) after 1,5 h drive. Get off there and buy your entrance ticket to the park if you don’t have one yet. From here take one of the shuttles, which will take you to the beginning of the hiking trail (7km away).
To get back to Puerto Natales, you’ll have to take again the shuttle to Laguna Amarga and catch the bus at 7:00 PM. Here is the tricky part – if you don’t finish the hike on time, you will miss the last bus, as it happened to a few of the tourists there. They came back with us though.
Because I didn’t want to have this situation, I decided to go for a tour, which cost me 35 000 Chilean pesos.
You can also rent a car and go by yourself for even more flexibility. The automatic car should be around 100 $ a day. Not cheap, I know.
Do you need a guide for the hike?
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Mirador Torres del Paine hike, so I took a guided tour with Patagonia Adventures. I’m not a big fan of organized tours, but this one was good. Everyone walked at their own pace, so I didn’t have to stick to the group.
However, you can totally do this hike by yourself. The trail is well marked and in high season there are so many people that you have to be blind to miss it. I have never seen a hiking trail so packed with people. In some places, we had to queue to pass through some points.
One thing you should be aware of if you choose to do the hike by yourself is – time! Mirador Torres del Paine base closes at 16:30, so if you don’t reach there on time, you might have to go back from whatever point you are on your trail.
The hike itself
The Torres del Paine hike starts nice and easy with a 20 min flat walk. After that, you will come across a swinging bridge that allows only 2 people maximum crossing at the same time. I couldn’t believe the queue that was waiting to cross the bridge. But as I said, it was a very busy hike.
Once you pass the bridge, you will start soon walking uphill. As you go up, you will see a beautiful lagoon far away. Stop for a snack and admire the nature around you. The uphill hike should take you approximately 1h with a short portion of a slightly narrow and steep path. You should walk carefully here if it’s windy. When I did the hike, was a sunny day so I didn’t feel any danger whatsoever.
The first and the only proper stop of the hike is Refugio Chileno, which is an accommodation for those doing the W or O track. Here you can eat, use the bathroom, and simply chill whilst listening to the sounds of the turbulent river.
After passing Refugio Chileno, you will start the most pleasant and easiest part of the hike, as the trail passes through a forest. It was so good to be in the shade on that sunny day.
Once you finished with the easiest part, right after it, starts the most difficult and the steepest part. You will see a sign that says “45 min to Mirador Las Torres”. The path is full of large rocks. You have to be careful about your steps so you don’t twist your ankle. But don’t forget to look around, the views here are breathtaking.
And just when you think you can’t do it anymore, the long-awaited view will open up right in front of your eyes. Yep, it is like I saw it in the postcards! I was super lucky with the weather and got amazing pictures. I think I spent 1,5 hours there, having lunch, immersing myself into that exquisite beauty and simply breathing.
Walking back seemed pretty easy at the beginning, although it is harder to go downhill. But towards the end, I was really feeling the pain in my toenails and thought my feet would collapse. Somehow they manage to take me towards the finish, got myself a cervezcita (beer) and crash-landed on the grass. Felt the pain, the relief, the achievement, the gratitude, the joy… Everybody was there! What a day…
What I liked most in Torres del Paine hike?
The beeeeer! Needless to say, you got me…