Trip Number: 13790A
Staff: Joyce Taira
- Trek the "W," one of the world’s classic walks, in Torres
del Paine National Park
- Hike and kayak through stunning scenery beneath a snow-covered volcano
- All meals, lodging, equipment, and gratuities
- In-country flight, airport transfers, and on-trip transportation
- Knowledgeable local guides
Photo: Jim Foster
Nothing says Chile like the wind-blasted monoliths of Patagonia, towering over
brilliant turquoise lakes and calving glaciers. Join us to explore this wonderful
area -- both the spectacular Lakes District, with its views of majestic snow-capped
volcanoes surrounded by native forest, and then the famous Torres del Paine
National Park, with its stunning mountains, lakes, and glaciers. This is mostly
an active hiking trip for those looking to explore this diverse and biologically
One-third of Chile is covered by the towering ranges of the Andes. In the north
is the driest place on Earth, the Atacama Desert, where some locations have
never recorded any rainfall ever. In Chile’s center is a 700-mile-long,
thickly populated valley, with most of Chile’s arable land. Torres del
Paine is considered by many to be the finest travel destination in all of South
America. Chile’s climate is as diverse as its geography. Aside from the
extreme climatic conditions of the Andes and the Atacama, however, the country
enjoys a comfortable temperate climate. Most Chileans are mestizos (a mix of
European and Native American), although you can still find pure-blooded Mapuche
Indians and direct European descendants.
Day 1: Arrive in Puerto Varas (pick-up from Puerto Montt airport)
and the day is free to explore the town until our welcome dinner this evening.
Day 2: Today we will hike up and around Osorno volcano where
we can enjoy fabulous panoramic vistas of Lake Todos los Santos and the surrounding
volcanoes, including the immense Tronador Volcano. The hike is about eight miles
(1,500 feet of elevation change) and we will end the hike by the lake and Petrohue
Lodge, our new home for two nights.
Photo: Jim Foster
Day 3: A half-day kayak trip on Lake Todos los Santos will
provide us with an unique opportunity to see the area from a different perspective
and hopefully to see wildlife and birds. While weather may be unpredictable,
our kayak routes will be in protected areas in calmer waters. Double kayaks
provide more stability and are suitable for the novice kayaker. An expert guide
will be with us at all times. Those not wanting to kayak can choose to stay
back at the lodge to read, relax, or take in the views.
Day 4: Today’s activity is an exciting rafting ride
in the Petrohue River, ending with a riverside barbeque. For those not wanting
to raft, we will arrange a guided hike by the river. In the late afternoon,
we will visit the famous Pumalin Foundation and listen to a short presentation
on land preservation in Chile.
Day 5: Today, we leave the Lakes district and fly to Punta
Arenas in southern Patagonia. Our new guide will meet us at the airport with
a private bus and we will drive to the ecocamp, our new home.
Day 6: Ready to begin our trek, we drive to the trailhead
on Lake Grey and take the boat across the water. From here, we walk to an overlook
of Grey Glacier, the Patagonian icecap and numerous mountain peaks, and then
begin our walk to Refugio Pehoe, our home for the night. We will hike about
six miles, with less than 1,000' elevation change. The Refugio is a mountain
lodge with dormitory rooms -- six to eight beds a room -- and shared bathrooms.
Mixed gender rooms are likely here.
Photo: Jim Foster
Day 7: From Refugio Pehoe, we hike along Lake Nordenskjold,
with a side hike up the French Valley (weather permitting). Our destination
is Refugio Cuernos with its delightful cabins by a waterfall. The length of
the hike is about 10 miles, with an elevation change of about 1,000 feet. There
is an optional five-mile hike that can be taken up a valley to view several
Day 8: From Refugio Cuernos, we hike over the Los Cuernos
Pass and continue along the edge of Lake Nordenskjold to Cascada Expediciones'
Ecocamp, where we will stay for the next three nights. The hike is about eight
miles with less than 1,000 feet elevation gain and loss.
Day 9: Today, we have an easier day, taking a nature hike
and then walking to Laguna Azul to observe local flora and fauna.
Day 10: Today’s hike, out and back the same way, is
probably the most difficult of the trip with over 12 hiking miles and more than
2,500 feet elevation gain and loss. The hike to the base of the Torres (towers)
is on a well-maintained trail with the exception of the last hour, which involves
hiking up a steep, rocky talus slope of about 1,000 feet elevation gain. However,
the views of the impressive granite monoliths will be well worth our effort.
Depending on the weather, we may need to adjust the order of the days in the
Photo: Jim Foster
Day 11: After breakfast, we transfer back to Punta Arenas.
We will have lunch in Puerto Natales, arriving in Punta Arenas by late afternoon.
We will have our celebratory dinner in the evening.
Day 12: After a leisurely breakfast, we will be transported
to the airport to get your flight back to Santiago.
Please note: This trip starts and ends in different locations.
Flights to and from the U.S. are usually overnight.
Plan to arrive at Puerto Montt sometime before mid-afternoon. It is easy to
get an overnight flight from the U.S. and get a flight to Puerto Montt leaving
a few hours after your arrival. The same applies when you fly out of Punta Arenas
after the trip. It can all be booked as one multi-city ticket from the U.S.
Plan to leave Punta Arenas after breakfast.
For those wishing to arrive early or stay late, Santiago is a wonderful destination
to visit and your leader can give you suggestions about what to do there.
United States citizens entering Chile for business or pleasure must have a
valid passport and visa. The passport must be valid for six months after the
departure date. Visas may be obtained at the port of entry upon payment of a
fee ($140 per person, not included in trip price). The visa is valid for 10
years or the life of the passport.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Jim Foster
We will be staying in hotels, lodges, refugios and an eco-camp. The eco-camp
is made of geodesic, yurt-like domes -- private double domes for sleeping and
large domes for eating and socializing. All structures are built on wood platforms
that are raised off the ground to minimize surface impact on the land. There
is a central washroom facility with hot showers and composting toilets. A wind
turbine provides most of the energy. While on the trek (nights six and seven),
we will stay in refugios with common eating areas and shared bathrooms. We will
be sleeping in dorm rooms on night six and in cabins on night seven. The rest
of the time, we will stay at local hotels and lodges in double rooms with private
All meals are provided in the trip price, from dinner on day one to breakfast
on day 12. Breakfasts are usually simple -- for example, cereal, bread, and
preserves, with eggs at some locations. Lunches will usually be brown bag, picnic-style.
Dinner will be hearty local fare -- lamb, steak, or fish with fresh vegetables
and salad -- served at the lodge where we are staying or at local restaurants.
The trekking segment of this trip is moderately strenuous and you must be
in good physical condition. Although our gear will be carried for us and you
will only need to bring water and lunch on our daily hikes, we will be hiking
approximately six hours per day on four consecutive days. You will need to follow
a regular exercise regimen (walking, running, cross-training at the gym, etc.)
for several months before this trip. Previous multi-day hiking experience would
be extremely beneficial, but strong novices who follow a good exercise routine
should be okay.
Photo: Jim Foster
The kayaking and rafting segment of this trip requires no prior experience,
but you should be comfortable being in a kayak or raft on water.
Equipment and Clothing
The weather is unpredictable in Patagonia and in the Andes. Indeed, wind gusts
in some areas pack such a punch that you can lean all your weight into the wind
and not fall over! While it's possible that we will have many days of sunshine
and temperatures in the 70s, you must be prepared for inclement weather with
full raingear (jacket and pants, no ponchos) and some warm layers. A good pair
of broken-in hiking boots is essential. The trip leader will send you a detailed
equipment list once you have been approved on the trip.
These are suggestions only -- some that the leader has read and other that
she has not.
- Rector, John L., The History of Chile.
- Collier, Simon and William F. Sater, A History of Chile, 1808-2002.
- Allende, Isabel, My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile.
This an other novels by Isabel Allende are about her home country, including
House of the Spirits and Inez of my Soul (which is a fictitious
account of the building of Santiago).
- Knuth, John R., My Chilean Wine Odyssey: A Week Touring the Wine Country
- Joelson, Daniel, Tasting Chile: A Celebration of Authentic Chilean Foods
- Any guidebook, such as Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, or Frommers.
- Jaramillo, Alvaro, Birds of Chile. The leader will bring bring
- Patagonia: The Wild, Wild South. National Geographic, January 2004.
- Chatwin, Bruce, In Patagonia.
- Bolano, Roberto and Chris Andrews, By Night in Chile.
- De La Parra, Marco and Charles Thomas, The Secret Holy War of Santiago
- Bolano, Roberto and Natasha Wimmer, The Savage Detectives.
Photo: Jim Foster
Despite Patagonia's outstanding and internationally recognized environmental
and cultural values, the area faces a number of threats from trans-national
companies intending to implement mega-industrial projects: large scale salmon
farming, mega-hydroelectric facilities, mining, plantations, and others.
Nine of the Global 200 Eco-regions extend into Chilean territory. The Valdivian
forests are the only temperate rainforests in South America and it is the second
largest of the five major temperate forest systems in the world. The forests
support some of the longest-lived and largest trees on earth. WWF and the Nature
Conservancy are currently focusing its conservation efforts in the Valdivian
Temperate Forests. Our Chilean concessionaire is the leading ecotourism operator
in the Chilean Patagonia region, and manager of the Eco-camp in Torres del Paine,
which has set the local eco-standard for years.
This trip requires a $200 per-person deposit. An additional payment of $300 per person is due six months prior to trip departure. International trip prices are subject to change and are based on double-occupancy or group accommodations as described above. Single rooms may not be available or may cost more than the listed price. If you have any questions regarding double occupancy, please contact the trip leader.
See the How to Apply for an Outing
section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the
trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing
up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing
approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical
Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on
the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to
the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and
notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
The Sierra Club accurately and fairly budgets and prices our trips. However, unforeseen costs such as devaluation of the dollar compared to other currencies and fuel surcharges assessed by our international providers may necessitate adjustment in trip price. We will make every effort to mitigate and absorb these fees. If a price increase is necessary, however, you will have 14 days after announcement to cancel without penalty.
Joyce Taira was born and raised on the island of Maui, and never fully realized how fortunate she was to come from such a beautiful place. Although many would never have left the island paradise, Joyce was in search of new adventures and moved to the east coast for college. Currently, she lives in San Francisco and works for the Sierra Club. Joyce is passionate about the outdoors, and thoroughly enjoys hiking, biking, and kayaking in the Bay Area. Additionally, she has traveled to many places outside of the U.S., and delights in experiencing new cultures.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips