Traveling to Patagonia: Top 10 Tips

by Janice Waugh /
Janice Waugh's picture
Mar 20, 2011 / 2 comments


Torres del Paine.

Solo travel.


10 Tips - and some great photos to inspire.

Traveling to Patagonia: Top 10 Tips.

Noemie on the trail to the Grey Glacier on the other side of the W.

Dramatic sky and clouds. Traveling to Patagonia: Top 10 Tips

Drama in every direction. I love how the house is dwarfed in the landscape.

Trail map to the towers Torres del Paine. Traveling to Patagonia: Top 10 Tips

Trail map to the towers at Torres del Paine

Traveling to Patagonia: Top 10 Tips

Noemie in the distance. Nature makes me feel my insignificance. Yet it is pure joy.

Valley in Patagonia. Traveling to Patagonia: Top 10 Tips

The valley was stunning.

Hiking trail with rocks torres del paine. Traveling to Patagonia: Top 10 Tips

The Towers is the grand prize of hiking Torres del Paine. The trail is a little rocky towards the top.

The Towers Torres del Paine. Traveling to Patagonia: Top 10 Tips

And, finally, the Towers of Torres del Paine


  1. Take the Navimag. Despite the fact that the ferry I was on hit an island (Read When Your Holiday Hits the Rocks ) I can’t recommend the Navimag Ferry enough. It was a beautiful trip and, over four days, it seemed that every solo traveler found a  partner to hike Torres del Paine with.
  2. Check the weather. The big prize is the towers so you want to plan your trek in hopes of seeing them on a clear day, not through clouds as is so often the case.
  3. Plan your hike. Decide how you want to experience the park. There is a free seminar every day at 3pm at the Erratic Rock Base Camp that may help if you’re not sure how to approach the park. Basically, you have a choice of:
    1. The Full Circuit
    2. The full W
    3. Parts of the W
    4. A bus tour (no hiking)
    5. The ferry to the Grey Glacier (no hiking).
  4. Take cash. Almost everything in the park is cash only so, unless you plan to hike every step of the way, carry your food and camp, you’ll need money. I hiked the two sides of the W and camped. I took 70,000 pesos ($140) and just made it out of the park. Here’s how I quickly used that money:
    1. Free – I got a ride to the Towers hike.
    2. Free – camping that night.
    3. 15,000 – park entry.
    4. 5,000 – shuttle from Towers trail back to main road.
    5. 5,000 – bus to Pehoe ferry.
    6. 11,000 – Pehoe ferry to Grand Paine refugio and camping.
    7. 4,500 – Camping at Grand Paine.
    8. 2,000 – Pisco Sours.
    9. 10,000 – a meal at the Grand Paine refugio. We thought we wanted real food after nuts and fruit but actually it was wasted money as we couldn’t eat it.
    10. 11,000 – when we took the Pehoe Ferry we thought we would return via the Grey Glacier ferry but that was too expensive. We could have saved 3,000 pesos by buying a return ticket if we had known we would return that way.
    11. 5,000 – bus back to Puerto Natales.
    Traveling to Patagonia: Top 10 Tips

    Claude is driving us into the park with his rental car. Noemie is taking my picture as I take hers. We were excited!

  5. Rent or bring hiking poles. Even young people use poles. They won’t only make the trek easier if you’re not a regular hiker, it will save your knees for later in life if you’re an avid hiker. I couldn’t believe how great they were.
  6. Plan your accommodation. I rented camping equipment from Erratic Rock I. Once you have your equipment, there is no need for reservations. If you don’t want to camp, you can stay in a Refugio, though I would make reservations in advance to ensure that you have a bed. If you really want luxury there is the Las Torres Hotel.
  7. What/where to eat. At the Refugios, you have the option of full board meaning that, in addition to giving you your breakfast and dinner, they’ll pack you a lunch for your day hiking. Anyone can go to a Refugio and buy a meal. At the Grand Paine campground there was a kitchen building with stoves and sink. At the campground near the Torres (and I’m assuming for most of the circuit) there were no restaurants or cooking facilities at all.
  8. Transportation from Puerta Natales to Torres del Paine. There are buses into the park every day at 7:30 and 2:30. It takes a couple of hours to get to the park.
  9. What to pack. When you’re hiking, you need to keep what you’re carrying to a minimum. Scale down your luggage and, if necessary, leave a bag at a hostel before you go to the park. For four days I wore/carried:
    1. 2 t-shirts
    2. 2 long sleeve shirts
    3. 2 pairs of pants
    4. rain gear
    5. two pairs of high quality hiking socks, underwear
    6. toiletries…
    7. camera, sunglasses, passport…
    8. nuts, dried fruit, etc.
  10. The option of flying. If you don’t have the time to take the Navimag Ferry, you can fly to Puerto Natales or Punta Arena. Before leaving on this trip I knew that I would have to fly back to Santiago due lack of time. When I priced it via LAN it looked like it would cost about $500. When there, I learned about SKY Airlines and booked for $178 all in.




Janice Waugh publishes Solo Traveler, the blog for those who travel alone. The blog offers solo travel stories, tips, safety advice and destination ideas as well as a couple of free ebooks including Glad You’re Not Here: a solo traveler’s manifesto.




Comments (2)

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    13 years 4 months ago

    j  - thanks so much for this inside look - esp the costs! it looks SO amazingly gorgeous.  


    Jessie Voigts, PhD


  • Jefff Cudwoth

    13 years 4 months ago

    I never considered a trip to Patagonia until I viewed your pictures. They are breathtaking and while I am not much of a hiker, I probably could make it up a couple of the hills, the smaller ones in the pictures. Thanks for the tips, in case I am ever in the area. 

    Jeff Cudworth, M.S.

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