Visiting Torres del Paine in Winter: Planning Tips & Logistics
By: Katherine Oakes
The winter season in Patagonia lasts from April through September and also happens to be the park’s off season. My husband and I visited Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia on our self-titled, honeymoon fun-venture, and found that the peaceful, quiet aura of Torres del Paine in the winter made it even more of an epic trip than we had imagined.
Turns out that even when the crowds grow thin and the temperature drops a trip to Patagonia in the winter doesn’t fail to deliver some of the most incredible outdoor adventures in the world.
From a park guide to packing lists, here is everything you need to know for how to plan a trip to Torres del Paine in the winter.
As it goes with all of the destinations shared on Bearfoot Theory, please remember to Leave No Trace. That means picking up any trash you see on the trail, practicing good trail etiquette, and being respectful to locals and other hikers.
What is Torres del Paine like during the winter?
In Patagonia (and all of the Southern Hemisphere) the winter season runs from April through September. During this time, Torres del Paine is quiet due to the colder weather, which on average hovers around 30-42 degrees Fahrenheit. The beautiful and rugged landscape causes the weather to vary and creates different microclimates in each area of the park.
If you’re wondering about the snow, there is some in higher elevations but very few areas receive heavy snowfall—some get none at all— just a thin layer of frost that at times can be a little slippery. The days are shorter in Patagonia during the wintertime but you will always catch the sunrise since it peaks over the horizon at approximately 9:30 am and sets around 6 pm, leaving you with plenty of light in between to enjoy the clear and sunny days.
Why visit Torres del Paine in the winter?
Patagonia is a massive region that spans across the border of Chile and Argentina. You’re better off focusing on this area of the park during your visit to Patagonia in the winter than trying to cover a lot of ground to really make the most of your trip. For a truly spectacular region that is home to many of the park’s most well-known landmarks, visit the famous Torres del Paine National Park located in Chilean Patagonia.
Despite the cold weather and shorter days, the winter in Torres del Paine is just as good a time to visit as the summer for three very convincing reasons.
You’ll have the park to yourself
This might be a bit of an exaggeration but there will be times when you’ll feel like the only ones on the trail. It’s the off-season, which means there are very few visitors and by proxy much less of an impact. This is a great chance to quietly observe the park’s famous fauna like condors, pumas, guanacos, and flamingos from a safe distance.
The wind speed drops
Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible to make it to the summit of certain mountains during the high season. Wind speeds can reach dangerously high levels that could be risky if you hiked too close to the top. During the winter this isn’t an issue and you’ll be able to make it to the peaks for unforgettable panoramic views of the park.
The weather is beautiful
Sure it gets chilly and you’ll need some extra gear to handle the snow and ice but the clear, sunny skies are one of the best reasons to visit Patagonia in the winter. In the lower regions, there can be a layer of fog that doesn’t always burn off but more often than not the winter sun is shining. Make sure you plan hikes that take you above the cloud line to climb out of the fog and enjoy the views.
What to Pack for a Trip to Torres del Paine in the Winter
The short answer is: Layers. To be prepared and stay safe for winter hiking in any area of the world (and in any season!) wearing the right layers is key. Thankfully it doesn’t get too cold but you’ll still want to pack clothing that is both insulating and moisture-wicking so you don’t get a chill after working up a sweat.
To make sure you’ve got all the right gear, here’s a checklist of what to bring if you are planning a visit to Torres del Paine in the winter:
What to Wear for a Winter Torres Del Paine Trip
All of our favorite individual items can be found in our Winter Weather Clothes & Guide to Winter Layering Basics.
Here is what to make sure not to forget:
- Lightweight and mid-weight base layers for top and bottom, such as a midweight t-shirt and long-sleeve plus leggings or thermal underwear. Our favorite companies are Smartwool, Patagonia, and Icebreaker for layering items.
- A winter jacket with a hood
- A windbreaker like this ultra lightweight and packable windbreaker from Cotopaxi that kept me warm on windy ridgelines and snowy valleys
- Optional fleece for layering on colder days. You can’t go wrong with a Snap T Patagonia pullover
- Hiking pants like these from REI are a great top layer over leggings
- Thick Merino wool socks (Darn Tough hiking socks are our favorite)
- Waterproof Hiking boots
- A thin pair of gloves
- Warm winter hat
Additional Hiking Gear to Pack for a Winter Torres Del Paine Trip
- Trekking poles for icy surfaces and uneven terrain long hikes
- Crampons, such as these by Hillsound Trail
- Daypack that is at least 21-35 Liters for stashing your extra layers, food, water and camera like the Stowaway Daypack from LL Bean that packs down to a small stowaway pack
- Reusable water bottle or hydration reservoir
- Packs of tissues
- Sunscreen like this Face Sunstick from Badger
- First aid kit
Read Next: How to Layer for Winter Hiking
The Best Hikes to do in Torres del Paine in the Winter
In the winter many of the hiking trails are still accessible in Torres del Paine, plus the low winds and clear skies make it even more breathtaking. It’s necessary to hire an experienced local hiking guide from the area to accompany you on all your trips into the park. This will not only make your experience more enjoyable and informative but safe as well. Do not try to attempt these hikes on your own during the winter in Patagonia.
Torres del Paine is chock full of incredible hikes, including some world-renowned trails and places of interest, here are our top 4 favorite hikes in the area.
Hike to the base of Torres Del Paine
Do the full-day hike (about 11 miles) to the base of the towers, the famous sky-high rock formations that give Torres del Paine its name. Without the swarms of people who will be there in the summer, you’ll get a rare opportunity to experience the area in near seclusion. Make sure you wear crampons, proper winter layers, and sunscreen and bring trekking poles along as the conditions can get icy.
Complete the W Trek
If you’re really up for an adventure, the W Trek can still be backpacked during the winter months either in sections or in its entirety — something you will absolutely need a guide for. This famous hike takes four to five days to complete and in the wintertime, the refugios (cabins) will be closed, so it’s necessary to go with a capable and experienced guide. There’s also the option to do portions of the trek to take in Torres del Paine from another angle.
Climb Mirador Ferrier
Depending on your guide’s experience and resources, you may still be able to kayak over to the famous Grey Glacier. However, on a clear day, you’ll certainly get a good view of the ice fields and glaciers from Mirador Ferrier. This trek is short but steep and will take you high up through any cloud cover that might be hovering down low up and up to the sunny, clear peak for panoramic views. Be prepared to hike through some snow near the top, so bring gaiters, sturdy boots, and trekking poles.
Explore the French Valley
In the wintertime, a trip over to the French Valley will keep you down in the fog but get you up close and personal with gargantuan-sized glaciers and glacier fields. Grab all your winter hiking gear, you’ll need it! A trek through the French Valley is like walking through a magical winter wonderland during this time of year (cheesy, yes, but so true). You’ll hike through frosty forests, over frozen rivers and get an unparalleled experience of the glaciers.
Where to Stay in Torres del Paine and Patagonia in the Winter
On our trip, we stayed at an all-inclusive hotel called, Explora. It was located in the heart of the park with hikes right outside our door and a glacier-fed lake that was perfect for the spontaneous, do-it-for-the-story plunge. It was down to earth but pretty pricey because, well, honeymoon. However, I’d certainly recommend it to anyone willing to pay more for the experience.
The good news is that there are a handful of hotels in the park that are fully operational during the off-season. The nearby town of Puerto Natales is a great lodging option for park visitors. It sits at the entrance of the park, an easy two-hour drive that is just as scenic and remote as the park’s interior. In Puerto Natales, there are plenty of budget-friendly hotels, hostels, and B&Bs, plus a fun town with bars, restaurants, and views of Torres del Paine.
For people who want the total immersion experience, contact a local guide to help plan your trip. There are many wonderful, experienced tour guides in the area (who speak excellent English and Spanish) and can make the necessary arrangements for a longer stay inside the park. Tours by Locals is a great way to connect with a knowledgeable, bilingual guide in the area who won’t charge you an arm and a leg. Or better yet, connect with my Chilean friend and experienced outdoor guide, Francisco Parada whose guiding company, Off Trail Patagonia takes visitors to some of the most rugged and adventurous areas of Torres del Paine.
Have you visited Torres del Paine in the winter? Do you have any questions or anything to add? Leave us a comment below.
The post Visiting Torres del Paine in Winter: Planning Tips & Logistics appeared first on Bearfoot Theory.