If there is one hike you must do in Torres del Paine in Patagonia, it would be the Mirador Las Torres hike.
When you Google Search “Patagonia”, the images that will come up the most often is that of Las Torres, located in Torres del Paine, Chile. It is THE ionic hike in all of Chile and Chilean Patagonia. A trip to Patagonia is not complete without doing the Mirador Las Torres hike along the W Trek.
Las Torres mean “towers” in Spanish and indeed the mountains are named such because of the 3 granite towers. For those who are not familiar with Patagonia, it is a region that spans over both Chile and Argentina. Most people who visit the Chilean Patagonia will be visiting Torres del Paine. Those who trek in Torres del Paine will either do the entire W trek (5 days) or the O trek or a combination of Patagonia tours and day hikes. Since we were short on time, we didn’t do the entire W trek, instead we did a 9 hour day hike to Mirador Las Torres in Torres del Paine in Chile.
Things To Know Before You Go To Patagonia
- Best time to visit Torres del Paine: December – March (Summer in the Southern Hemisphere)
- Weather in Patagonia is unpredictable and extremely windy in Torres del Paine early summer (50-80 mph hurricane speed wind)
- The Las Torres day hike is long and steep (~8-9 hours round trip), so prepare food and water for the trek
- Dress in layers because of the unpredictable weather
- Bathrooms along the way at refugios (2 along the way)
- Camp sites available but need to book in advance (same for the refugios)
- Bring wide angle lens, you will need it for the Torres!!
Where to Stay in Patagonia (Chile Side)
There are a variety of options when it comes to accommodation near Torres del Paine.
For those on a budget: there are many refugios (hostels) and camp sites in Torres del Paine. There are a couple of Refugios right outside of the trail head called Refugio Las Torres and Refugio Torres Central. Even though you have to share rooms in a refugio, it’s not necessarily that cheap (compare to the rest of the world). Spaces are limited and food need to be imported in, so you will still end up spending quite a bit staying in refugios. The cheapest would be camping where you bring your camping equipment and food and stove (no open fire) to Torres del Paine.
For those who are willing to splurge to stay literally right next to the trail head, Hotel Las Torres may be the one for you (350+ USD per night) but it’s situated in an amazing location and the hotel offers many Patagonia tours within Torres del Paine.
For those who are willing to stay further, you can consider hotels and hostels in the town of Puerto Natales, about 2 hours drive from Torres Del Paine. There are daily buses you can take to Torres del Paine, or you can rent a car yourself or take a group tour. The advantage of staying in Puerto Natales is that there is a super market and a lot of restaurants; there are also cheaper accommodations compare to staying in Torres del Paine. We stayed at Hotel Vendaval, which was well located and brand new!
How To Get To Mirador Las Torres Trail
As mentioned earlier, there are several ways to get to Mirador Las Torres day hike in Torres del Paine even if you are not staying in the park.
Bus in Patagonia
Assuming you are staying in Puerto Natales, there are 2 daily buses on Bus Sur going to Torres Del Paine from Puerto Natales, one at 7:00am and another at 11:30am. The bus stops in 2 places in Torres Del Paine, one is Laguna Amarga (arrives after 1.5 hours) and the other stop is Pudeto (where the catamaran is, arrives after 2 hours). If you are hiking Mirador Las Torres, then you should get off at Laguna Amarga then take a shuttle on the trail head. The timing could be tricky so if you are thinking about doing this, definitely check with Hotel Las Torres on their shuttles to see which bus you should take.
There are also 2 buses coming back from Torres Del Paine to Puerto Natales on Bus Sur. From Pudeto 12:30 / 18:30 h. From Laguna Amarga: 13:30 / 19:00 h.
There are other bus companies that provide the same service, namely Bus Maria Jose, which stops at Laguna Amarga, Pudeto, and the administration office.
Rental Car in Patagonia
If you don’t like the hassle of trying to catch a bus or worry about missing your bus, then renting a car in Puerto Natales could be a good option. Rental cars generally cost about 100 USD a day and you have to fill up the tank upon returning, but it provides you with the flexibility of spending a little more time in the park. I used Rent a Car Newen and did not have any issues. There are several other ones in town and you can find them on Tripadvisor as well.
Tours and Private Transfer in Patagonia
We didn’t want to drive 2 hours to Torres Del Paine then drive 2 hours back after an 8 hour hike so we decided to book a private transfer. There are also hiking tours with guides if you are interested in that. It’s much more expensive than taking the bus but you will be well taken care of.
Torres del Paine Day Hike: Mirador Las Torres
Length: 18km (11.2 miles) round trip, 8-9 hours
Elevation gain: 3000 ft
Part 1: 75% Uphill, 25% Downhill
Start off the Mirador Las Torres hike nice and easy across the grassy fields of Hotel Las Torres. You will see signs pointing to Mirador Las Torres. There are a couple of hanging bridges that allow 1-2 person[s] to cross at one time.
After about 1km you start to go uphill. For about 40 minutes to 1 hour the uphill is gradual and wide. Looking back you can start to see the lakes near by and the entire landscape in Torres Del Paine.
Continue uphill the path will start to narrow and you will be going up and down a steep slope next to an exposed cliff. Take care when hiking here because it tends to be the windiest part of the hike. Slopes are getting steeper here but you start to go downhill until you come to Refugio Chileno, surrounded by a forest. Take a bathroom break here as the next Refugio will be another hour or two away.
Part 2: Stroll In The Forest
Once you hit Refugio Chileno, you start the easiest part of the hike. Walking in the forest is flat and calming, and also shields you from the hurricane speed wind and harsh sun. You will hike next to streams and crossing rivers on hanging bridges. For the most part there is no elevation gain although there are some small up and down along the way. Overall this is the easiest and most relaxing part of the hike.
Part 3: Steep Uphill Battle
After about 1.5 hour in the forest, you will come across another camp site with bathrooms to use. Literally at the end of the forest, you will see the sign that points to the left for “Mirador Las Torres: 45 minutes”. This is the start of the long and steep uphill path to the view point at the base of Las Torres.
Everyone had warned us about this steep uphill but honestly it wasn’t that terrible until the last 15 minutes. You start off on a path full of large rocks but the last 15 minutes were steep incline with loose gravels and no covers. It wasn’t too windy when we were hiking this part but in general this would be a very windy part since it’s completely exposed. Just when you feel like you can’t hike anymore, turn the corner and you will be amazed by the view in front of your eyes.
I had seen photos of the Torres but seeing them in person was another story. I was surprised at just how big they were! I didn’t bring my wide angle lens which was a complete fail, but we managed to capture the Torres and the lake. This view is probably the best in Patagonia so be sure to spend some time here while eating your packed lunch.
After lunch it’s time to go back down the way you came up. I thought going back would be faster and easier but that was not the case. The weather started getting much windier in the afternoon and we actually got knocked down to the ground near the cliff! It was quite a scary experience and being back in the parking lot never felt so good. Overall it was a very long hike with different landscape and extraordinary view at the base of the Torres. Would I do it again? Probably not! The uphill and the strong gusts of wind can definitely be tiring. But it’s much shorter if you are doing the W Trek because you don’t have to hike all the way down. It’s one of the best day hikes in Torres del Paine despite the rough weather and you will definitely enjoy the view.