Journeys worth taking

Tores del Paine, Chile

O-Trek Self Guided: with comfort

Patagonia

Counterclockwise in 8 Hiking Stages

Lodging

Inside Refugios where possible

Nights

7 nights

Trip Details

Self-Guided

Price

$2,000 USD per person

Transport

Private Transfers

Pygmy miles

2,760 miles

Experience
Experience
Itinerary
Pygmy miles
Accommodation
Practical info

Experience

Journey

What’s the difference between a W and an O? About 30 miles (50 km) and three days of world-class, challenging hiking in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

The O-Trek is not quite as well-known as its sibling hike, the W-Trek. At a total 76 miles (122 km) long, the O-Trek is a longer, harder, and more remote hike. It circles counterclockwise around the northside of the central Cordillera del Paine, adding three stages to the W-Trek’s five and linking the endpoints of the W. In addition to all the big sights of the W-Trek—Valle del Frances, Lago Nordenskjöld, the Torres—hikers on the O-Trek experience hidden gems like Rio and Lago Paine, Dickson Glacier and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Los Perros Glacier, and an up-close view of Glacier Grey. The trail leads through areas more undeveloped and further away from civilization than on the W-Trek. The climb over John Gardner Pass, for example, is tough and often wind and snow swept, even in the Patagonian summer. Those who tackle the O-Trek don’t need to be mountaineering experts, but some experience with multi-day treks is a big plus; a willingness to power through the tough spots is a must.

Because the O-Trek is associated with scary words like “long,” “difficult,” and “remote,” it is notably quieter and less busy than the W-Trek. The northside of Cordillera del Paine is the perfect place to discover and immerse yourself in the untouched wilderness of the Torres del Paine National Park. It is also the perfect place to escape (for a few days, at least) from the sometimes touristy frontside, and enjoy the camaraderie of backcountry camping. The terrain on the O-Trek may not always be so friendly, but the people certainly are. Hikers on the O-Trek are likely to go home not only with photos of beautiful sights, but also warm memories of the people they met along the way.

You will need stamina and resolve to trek the hardest stage over John Gardner Pass

Activities

Trekking

Trek one of the most famous and beautiful hiking routes in the world.

Wildlife Viewing

You may see guanaco, rheas (a large ostrich-like bird), south Andean deer or foxes on your visit to Torres del Paine.

Boat

Glide across the waters of Lago Pehoe.

Gastronomy

Drink a Pisco Sour made from the ice of Glacier Grey.

And also

  • See the towers at sunrise—a powerful and awe inspiring experience.
  • Stay in local refugios that offer a chance to connect with travelers of a similar spirit.

Optional Extensions:

  • 1 day extension for ice hiking, kayaking or horseback riding
  • 2 day extension to Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate
  • 5 day extension of Argentina—includes Perito Moreno Glacier and hiking to Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy in El Chaltén
  • Complete end to end vacation planning in Chile or Argentina

 

Place

Torres del Paine is a national park in the Chilean part of southern Patagonia. The park is located 70 miles (112 km) south of Puerto Natales and 194 miles (312 km) from Punta Arenas, the largest city in the region and where most travelers arrive. The peaks of the Paine Massif, the centerpiece of the park, reach up to 9,462 feet (2,884 meters). Exploring this remote region will bring you into the heart of Chilean’s unique biome, a mix of Magellanic subpolar forests, Patagonian steppe and Pre-Andean shrubland. The region is also the lair of a large set of mammals like guanacos, rheas(a large ostrich-like bird), south Andean deer and foxes, and big birds such as the Andean condor.  The weather is unpredictable and it’s often possible to experience four seasons in a single day. Especially remarkable is when snow that is produced above the mountains is pushed down to lower altitude, where the temperature is warm enough for a t-shirt. Quite a rare experience.

Itinerary

Track

Itinerary

Day-1

Las Torres base area to Campamento Serón (8.8 MI / 14.2 KM)

The counterclockwise trek begins in the Las Torres Base Area and heads north towards Campamento Serón. After crossing a small river bed and completing a short ascent, you will be rewarded with your first viewpoint, this one of Paine Massif and the lakes below. Be careful here, as the trail splits in two and the other fork is for horses only. You will share your trail with ATVs, so you might find conditions to be muddy. After almost two hours, the trail begins its descent to the Rio Paine, which you will follow all the way to camp. The trail is nice and flat along the river and you will walk through fields of daisies, but it is also a favorite hangout for mosquitoes.

Day-2

Campamento Serón to Refugio Dickson (11.4 MI / 18.3 KM)

Stage 2 is one of the longer stages on the O-Trek, but is one of the easiest. There is one climb about 30 minutes into the day’s hike. Halfway up, stop and look back at the landscape behind you. About 10 minutes later, you will reach the top of the Col, and a brand new landscape with a sprawling lake and mountains on both sides. Views are excellent from this part of the trail. Halfway to Dickson you’ll pass the Coiron ranger station, where you will have to sign in. Dickson glacier will come into view as you near the end of a stage. As you crest the final climb, you will be greeted with a panoramic view of the glacier, lake, and Dickson lodge.

Day-3

Refugio Dickson to Campamento Perros (7.1 MI / 11.4 KM)

Today is the shortest day of the O-Trek and fairly easy, but it boasts some beautiful views of the mountains of Torres del Paine. You will follow the river the whole day, starting with an ascent through forested areas. About an hour into the hike, there is a view of the backside of the massif; shortly after that, you will come to the Mirador Valle de los Perros, which gives you an unparalleled view of the valley. After this the trail flattens out until the final climb of the day, which offers another wonderful viewpoint of glacier and lake. You’re nearing the highest point of the trek, and temperatures will be cooler up here.

Day-4

Campamento Perros to Refugio Grey (9.1 MI / 14.7 KM)

This is the hardest stage of the O-Trek. You will be finishing the climb you started the day before, which means you start with a steep ascent. Forest gives way to clear ground, leaving you exposed to snow and wind. Keep an eye on the orange trail markers, as it is possible to lose your way. The summit of Paso John Gardner is windy and exposed, but right after there is an excellent bird’s-eye view of Glacier Grey. Descent is as steep as the ascent, but thankfully you will be in forest cover soon. You will eventually hit Campamento Paso, where you can shelter and rest. You will have to cross two high bridges before you get to Refugio Grey, so don’t look down if you’re afraid of heights!

Day-5

Hike from Refugio Grey to Paine (3.5 hours - 10.5 km / 6.5 mi)

Yesterday you walked along Glacier Grey; today you will walk along Lago Grey, which is fed by the glacier. The imposing glacier ice wall rises steeply from the lake, occasionally dropping pieces of ice into the water below. The trail today is undulating but not difficult and is a good recovery stage from the previous day’s punishment. You will be accompanied by floating icebergs calved from the glacier and treated to a number of excellent lookout points near the trail.

Day-6

Paine Grande to Dome Frances via Valley Frances (7 hours - 19.6 km / 12.1 mi)

This is the longest stage of the O-Trek. You will start off with a walk along Lago Skottsberg before turning due north and aiming yourself up the Valle de Frances. You can leave your nonessential gear at the Campamento Italiano, as this part of the trek is an out-and-back. To the left and above you on the path is the Glacier Frances, which frequently causes small avalanches that echo throughout the valley. The trail winds its way through forest and exposed terrain, allowing occasional views of Rio Frances. Stop for a rest at Campamento Britanico before the final push to Mirador Britanico, your reward for the day. Then turn around and head back down the valley and on to Domos Frances.

Day-7

Domos Frances to Refugio Chileno (5.5 hours - 15.9 km / 10 mi)

Today is another “recovery” day to make up for stage 6. This not-too-long hike snakes along the milky white waters of Lago Nordenskjöld all the way to the Las Torres Base Area with some pretty regular, but not exhausting, up and down hiking. Your first view as you leave the refugio is “the horns,” the jagged peaks of Los Cuernos. You will only need a few hours to make it to Hotel Las Torres, which is good, because you’ll need a few extra hours to rest up before your tough hike the next day.

Day-8

Refugio Chileno - Mirador Base Las Torres - Hotel Las Torres (5 hrs - 13 km / 8.1 mi)

The final day’s hike takes you to get an up-close and personal view of the mountains that give the park its name: the Torres del Paine. After stage 4, this is the hardest stage of the O-Trek. The day starts off with a steep elevation gain before reaching Refugio Chileno. The trail then flattens out for a bit before cranking up the elevation gain again. Things get challenging here, as there are some areas with loose rock which you will have to scramble over. Conditions are worse if there has been rain, which is always likely here. But the views of the towers make the climb all worth it.

Pygmy miles

Pygmy Miles Total

Challenge
Hiking
Bicycle
Sustainability
Miscellaneous
2000pygmy miles

Base Sustainability

Traveling in Patagonia requires a certain level of responsibility. By visiting the park and learning of Leave No Trace and fire prevention, you will help with conservation efforts to keep the park pristine for future travelers. Many of the refugios inside the park source electricity from off-the-grid methods and have implemented many green initiatives.

760pygmy miles

Hiking Distance

For every mile that you hike, you will receive 10 Pygmy Miles. Specifically you will receive 760 Pygmy Miles for hiking 76 miles in 8 days.

Total Pygmy Miles

2760pygmy miles

Accommodation

 

1st Night: Campamento Serón

Torres del Paine

Campamento Serón is the first stop on the O-Trek and boasts 100 campsites for hikers making the trek. The campsite is located near Rio Paine and nestled among the rolling hills at the feet of the Cordillera del Paine. Dinner out here in the wilderness is a three-course affair, so grab a seat at the table and rub elbows with your fellow hikers. The restaurant has some other food options available, too, if you need a snack for the trail.

2nd Night: Refugio Dickson

Torres del Paine

If you’re looking for peace and quiet, Refugio Dickson is the right place for you. The 6-person shared dormitories of the refugio are situated on the shores of Lago Dickson, which is fed by the Dickson Glacier, one of the offshoots of the massive Southern Patagonian Ice Field. Views of the glacier rising above the lake are spectacular. A daily fixed menu is available for dinner, breakfast, and boxed lunches, and snacks and coffee are available for purchase.

3rd Night: Campamento Perros

Torres del Paine

Campamento Perros is located deep within the Torres del Paine National Park, and is the last stop before John Gardner Pass. There is only room for camping here, and the tent sites are tucked away in the forest, safe from the blowing winds of the region. Bathrooms are communal and showers are cold and character-building. There is a minimarket here which will supply you with snacks, but if you want a real meal you’ll have to cart in your own food.

4th Night: Refugio Grey

Torres del Paine

Refugio Grey is a welcome treat after making it through the hardest stage of the O-Trek. The hot showers, full board, and stocked bar are the perfect recovery from a hard day’s hike. Sit back and relax on the common area couches with a cocktail of your choice. The refugio’s shared dormitories, for 4 or 6 people, are well placed, just minutes away from the vertical face of Grey Glacier. There is also an on-site massage therapist for those with very sore muscles.

5th Night: Refugio Paine Grande

Torres del Paine

Like Refugio Grey, Refugio Paine Grande offers shared dormitories, full board, hot showers, and a stocked bar for the weary hiker. The lodge, which can house up to 100 hikers, is set on the shores of Lake Pehoe, at the drop-off point for the lake’s catamaran. Sit back in one of the lodge’s many lounge areas and enjoy the views of the surrounding landscape.

6th Night: Domos Francés

Torres del Paine

Another night, another lake view, this time of the milky white waters of Lago Nordenskjöld. The Domos Frances are smaller than other accommodations, with just 3 domes that can hold 8 people each. Bathrooms are shared, but there is hot water for the showers. Dinner, breakfast, and packed lunch are available, and each bed in the domes has its own reading light and electrical outlet for charging batteries.

7th Night: Refugio Chileno

Torres del Paine

Located 2.5 hours from the base of the towers and 2 hours from Hotel Las Torres, Refugio Chileno is ideally located for those that would like to see the towers at sunrise, yet would like some creature comfort as well. The food is surprisingly good and there is quite a bit of it. There is capacity in the refugio for 32 people (four shared and mixed dorms of 8 people each) and plenty more camping spots.

(substitute for Dome Frances): Refugio Los Cuernos

Torres Del Paine

Refugio Los Cuernos is an alternative to Domos Frances. Like the Domos, the refugio offers mixed dorms for 8 people each, but also offers 8 double cabins with access to a hot tub. Camping is also available. Bathrooms are shared according to accommodation type, and a communal dinner for everyone staying on the premises is served in the refugio restaurant.

Remota (Optional)

Puerto Natales

Before or after the W-Trek, Remota is an upscale option located near Puerto Natales. All of Remota's rooms invite guests to rest body and soul. The relaxing aroma of the lenga wood together with the light radiating from the heat-reflecting windows and the magnificent views of the fjord of Last Hope create perfect setting for comfort. Remota offers 72 wonderfully appointed, spacious rooms, all en suite, which measure 360 square feet / 34 square meters.
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Hotel Las Torres (substitute for Chileno)

Torres del Paine

The 4-star Hotel Las Torres rewards O-Trek hikers with a level of luxury otherwise unseen on the trail. Enjoy the view of the Paine massif from your own hotel room, or from the bar and lounge with one of the hotel’s signature cocktails. Massage and sauna are available in the hotel spa, and the restaurant serves farm-to-plate meals with ingredients sourced from its organic garden.

Practical info

When

jan
feb
mar
apr
may
jun
jul
aug
sep
oct
nov
dec
not available
average
optimal

Most people complete the trek during the spring through fall months (it is possible to complete the trek in winter, but a guide is recommended). Peak travel is in January and February. Expect rain almost daily, along with sun, possible snow and high wind. In fact, just expect all four seasons in one day.

Self-guided

Self guided

This is a self-guided itinerary, but we can also arrange private guides. Let us know in your inquiry if you are interested in having a guide.

Pygmy Itinerary

Pygmy Itineraries

Pygmy Elephant Itinerary Includes:

  • Customization of Itinerary: Add, change, switch, choose, attach, remove, modify and customize EVERYTHING. We design your trip entirely around your needs, fitness and preferences.
  • Briefing and Pre-departure support: Ask all the questions you like! We provide a pre-hike briefing before you go via video conference. We also include you in our "Before You Go" email series that answers frequently asked questions. 
  • Price Transparency: We know how frustrating it is when you don't know where your money is going. That's why we break down your price per line item. It's only fair. 
  • Premium Gaia GPS membership plus GPX file: Navigate the trails with your free premium membership to Gaia GPS. We also provide a corresponding GPX file of your trek. You can download the maps on App to use for offline use, so don't worry about cell coverage!
  • Personalized Travel App: Combined with your Gaia App, you'll be armed to the teeth with tech to take on your trek. 
  • Customized Handbook: For those who are old school, we've got you covered with elevation profiles, maps and daily hike summaries. 
  • 24 hour customer service: if something goes wrong, we've got your back.
  • Pygmy Miles: Receive discounts off future travel with us. 
  • Never Lose Your Deposit Guarantee: If you must cancel for any reason, we will waive the deposit on any future Pygmy or From Scratch Itinerary of equal value.

Inclusions and Optional Add-Ons

 

In addition to the Pygmy Itinerary, the base Itinerary includes:

  • Private Transfers to the park and back to Puerto Natales
  • Seven nights accommodation in refugios (dormitory for five nights, camping with all equipment for two nights)
  • 7 dinners, 7 breakfasts and 7 box lunches

Optional add ons (we customize everything!): 

  • Guide ($200 per day + expenses)
  • Porters ($130 per porter, per day) 
  • Kayaking ($105 p.p.) or Ice Hike ($160) at Glacier Grey
  • Other activities in Puerto Natales including horseback riding, trips to Balmaceda Glacier and visits to Estancias. 
  • Torres del Paine Entrance Fee

Customization Options

We customize the tour to fit your budget and preference. We can customize the tour by:

  • Transport type and Location - We can change the pick up and drop-off locations as well. The prices will be different, however we can arrange a pick-up from Punta Arenas or El Calafate as well. There is a shared transfer to El Calafate that is relatively economical. 
  • Accommodation in Torres del Paine - We can also substitute in a private cabana at Refugio Los Cuernos for the dormitories. Additionally, we can substitute in Hotel Las Torres for Refugio Chileno. Furthermore, camping with all equipment is possible throughout the park, which is also a more economical option. 
  • Number of hiking days - we can increase or decrease the number of hiking days, depending on your fitness and motivation. 
  • Add on activities in Torres del Paine, Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales. - We organize a range of activities in the region including kayaking on Lago Grey, Ice Hiking on Glacier Grey, Navigation to Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers, Navigation to Isla Magdalena to see the penguins and more. 
  • Add on additional locations - We work extensively in El Calafate and El Chalten. We can add self guided hikes to see Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre as well as an ice hike on the Perito Moreno Glacier. Furthermore, we can help you organize a complete vacation in Chile (Atacama, Santiago, Lakes District, etc) or Argentina (Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Bariloche, Ushuaia, Puerto Madryn, etc). 
  • Hire a porter - The porter can carry up to 15 kg (33 pounds). They meet you on the first day and will transfer the contents of your bag into one of their own and then strap your bag(s) onto theirs. Normally, one porter is sufficient for two people.

Challenges Levels

Technical Ability

Level : Medium

Mental Strength

Level : Medium

Physical Conditioning

Level : High

  • Path is well marked apart from the ascent to Paso John Garnder. Previous hiking experience strongly recommended as terrain is rocky and uneven. In particular, John Gardner pass can have harsh wind and snow, which can obscure trail markers. Those without experience may be more comfortable in a guided hike.
  • Mental strength is rated at medium because of lack of creature comforts, snoring from fellow guests (bring earplugs!) and the unpredictable weather. 
  • The hiking is challenging, especially to Paso John Gardner, Valle del Frances and to the Towers Viewpoint. Only those in good physical health should book this trip. 

Optional Extensions

  • 1 day extension for ice hiking, kayaking or horseback riding
  • 2 day extension to Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate
  • 5 day extension of Argentina—includes Perito Moreno Glacier and hiking to Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy in El Chaltén
  • Complete end to end vacation planning in Chile or Argentina

Talk to our Adventure Expert

Our Managing Director, Andrew, has been to over 40 countries in his quest for the perfect adventure. He has biked the death road in Boiliva, trekked 500 miles across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago, cycled from Brussels to Florence and hiked the five sacred mountains of China. Pygmy Elephant is how he spreads his love for adventure and self discovery in the world.