planning for The Towers of Paine, Chile

Many call Paine in Patagonia the single best hike in the world.


We don’t refute that claim.

But organizing an independent hiking adventure in that far off part of the world can be frustrating. Management of the Park is convoluted & confusing. Two private companies (Andescape & Fantastico Sur) share responsibilities with the federal government & run the mountain huts (refugios). A third company Vertice Patagonia runs one large Lodge and campground. Pathagone has some role, as well.

Some of these companies have websites, but none are particularly helpful — unless you want to sign on for a guided trek.

In Dec. 2004 we finally had to travel to the jumping off point for Paine, tiny Puerto Natales, Chile. Once there (speaking to the many hikers everywhere in town) it turned out that independent hiking is simple. No reservations are needed of any kind — so long as you are tenting. Every campsite is first-come, first-served.

If you want to hike and stay in the huts, good luck. Those beds are generally taken by guided groups. And we have still found no way to book them in advance from abroad.

So … what to do.

The happiest hikers in Paine are carrying their own packs and tents. No hassles. That’s what we did. <photos>

The next best way to do Torres del Paine is to sign on with one of the major trekking companies. For example, Path@gone will take you 5 days, 4 nights staying in refugios for US$330 / person — a pretty good price. Email to get a quote from them for your own adventure. No hassles.

For more details, check Paine Circuit and “W” on

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