Arrive to Punta Arenas, Chile on the flight of your choice today. Transfer independently to your comfortable hotel and overnight. If you love penguins, plan on arriving a day early and a trip to Magdalena Island's Penguin Colony can be arranged for you.
Enjoy the morning in the colorful port town of Punta Arenas at the end of the world before setting off for your drive to Torres del Paine National Park. On the way, stop at an enormous cave that once sheltered a prehistoric sloth, the Milodón. Arrive at the EcoCamp, a deluxe tent camp of large igloo-shaped tents built to minimize environmental impact while providing a comfortable setting. You'll find no noisy diesel generators or destructive septic systems. Instead, EcoCamp provides candlelight, feather comforters, composting toilets, and plenty of quiet to enjoy your spectacular surroundings.
Many travelers skip the Milodon Cave excursion in order to add a morning excursion to see the penguins on Magdalena Island, at an additional cost. Let us know if you would like to make this change.
Click here for detailed W Circuit hiking itinerary.
Look out for Andean condors as you begin a relaxed hike along the shores of Lake Nordenskjold this morning. Your path follows the Paso Los Cuernos trail under the Paine massif west towards the Refugio Los Cuernos. Your day is spent hiking between the turquoise lake to the south and the imposing mountains and vertical rock walls to the north and below the Cuernos (horns) of black slate that sit atop the gray granite of the massif. The views are magnificient from the refugio, nestled in the center of this landscape and protected from the Patagonian wind. The refugio provides clean dormitory style accommodations where you can swap stories with travelers from around the world.
Waking to a brisk Patagonia morning, prepare for one of your fullest hiking days. Your first trail takes you from Lago Nordenskjold to Camp Italiano and ascends Mirador del Frances. Your route follows undulating terrain of rich grasslands, sparse forest and the torrents off Frances River. Upon reaching the lookout point, you are treated to magnificent views of Frances Glacier and the lakes below. Descend in the afternoon to the charming Refugio Paine Grande on the shores of Lake Pehoe.
You begin today's hike through a dense forest to Mirador Grey. Here you're rewarded with views of the towering walls of Grey Glacier and floating icebergs below. This huge glacier represents the end of the Southern ice field. Depending on conditions, you might continue another few hours to the very walls of the glacier. Your pathway leads you through a rainforest very different from the equatorial Amazon and more akin to the Pacific Northwest's ecosystem. Along the way spot some of the 115 species of birds and learn a bit about this unique southern forest. In the afternoon, embark on the ferry and set off across the Lago Grey, passing amongst icebergs of fantastic colors and shapes. From the decks of the boat, you can appreciate the vastness of the glacier. Occasionally there are times when such large chunks of ice have fallen from the glacier that it is impossible to navigate the ferry too close. Disembark on the banks of Lago Grey and transfer back to the EcoCamp where dinner and drinks are waiting for you.
On either day depending on the best weather conditions you hike to the foot of the gigantic spires of El Paine (8 hours roundtrip). Weather permitting, witness the most famous sight of the Torres del Paine - the three granite monoliths reaching 9,400 feet - a testament to the massive glacial forces that carved them out of the earth. The other day is saved to walk to the Mirador Laguna Azul and then to the eastern side of Sarmiento Lake, a good spot to observe guanaco. Later you hike the Paso Las Cornizas with views of the Paine River, Pehoe Lake, and the Paine massif. Back at EcoCamp, enjoy a farewell dinner to celebrate the experiences of the past week and say your goodbyes to your wonderful hosts.
Early this morning, transfer to Punta Arenas for the late afternoon flight to Santiago (must be a flight departing after 3:00 pm from Punta Arenas).
With a few more days, you can add extensions to the Atacama Desert, Isla Chiloe, a cruise around Tierra del Fuego to Argentina, or rafting in the Lakes District. Transfers can also be arranged from Torres del Paine National Park into Argentina's El Calafate to continue your Patagonia travel adventures.
$100 single supplement
Supplement for night of Day 1 in Punta Arenas. Single accommodations not available in Torres del Paine
Discounted airfare possible if starting/ending in El Calafate, Argentina.