Torres del Paine is a must-visit destination in Chile because it has so much to offer to any traveler, from avid hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to photographers and even families with kids. With abundant wildlife, stunning views, and varying trails and activities, people travel from around the world to experience the park. While we could have spent weeks exploring here, we had limited time, so a Torres del Paine day tour was a great way to see some of the park’s highlights.
Options for Seeing the Park
There are so many amazing things to see in the national park, and if you’re trying to cover a lot of ground in a day, we recommend taking a Torres del Paine day tour or driving yourself. We would have loved to have driven ourselves, but there were variables that lead us to choose a tour.
Firstly, we were there in the winter when buses to the park and shuttles within it were not operating. We were unsure of road conditions and closures in the winter and thought it was easier to go with a tour. Our guide and driver were great and they knew of all the spots to take us to for a great overview of the area.
Lastly, during our year in South America, we did not have car insurance and the cost to rent a car and obtain insurance in Chile was significantly more expensive because we were under 25 years old.
We aren’t trying to deter you from renting a car to see the park and we’d definitely opt for this if we went back now! This is a great option and offers a lot of flexibility. Furthermore, plenty of people opt for this option and the main roads through the park were paved and well-maintained. If you want to rent a car, there are a few agencies in Puerto Natales.
Buses and shuttles are an option in the summer, but getting to certain locations within Torres del Paine will take longer due to shuttle schedules and the fact that they may not drop you at all of the exact locations that you would be able to see on a tour or while driving yourself.
Torres del Paine Day Tour Cost & Park Fees
An advantage to visiting Torres del Paine in the winter is that both tour costs and the park entrance fee were cheaper than during peak season in the summer.
The fee for foreigners is about $35 US dollars, or around CLP 27,700. When we visited in the winter, the day ticket cost was halved to about $17 US dollars, or CLP 13,500*. The price and exchange rate have fluctuated a bit recently with changes in the value of currency, so check the Torres website for up to date info on pricing. This ticket covers 3 days in the park. Bring your passport because it is required upon ticket purchase at the park.
Update: Since the pandemic, tickets must be purchased online in advance from the CONAF webpage. Additionally, we don’t think the park offers the winter discount anymore.
Whether you go by bus, tour, or private car, you’ll have to stop at the entrance to the park to show your tickets. We had gone with the same tour guide the previous day to hike to Mirador las Torres and so had the rest of our small group, so on the day of our driving tour, we did not have to stop at the entrance since passes cover 3 days in the park.
Torres del Paine Day Tour Cost
There are many tour companies in Puerto Natales. We went with Turismo Carfran for the driving tour and the hike to Mirador las Torres. Our guide was great, the van was nice, they picked us up at our hostel, and our group was fun and not too big, all making for a convenient and enjoyable tour. The Torres del Paine day tour ran us about USD$50 per person.
Tours will likely cost more during the summer and you may want to book in advance during busier months. We walked around town, visiting various companies to check out costs, timing, and what the tour included. Some companies have this information online and have an email or Whatsapp number to book or contact if you have any questions.
Torres del Paine Day Tour Overview
Difficulty: Easy – minimal walking and you don’t have to do any extra walking you don’t want to do.
Duration: Full-day tour – 9-11 hours for the tour, including drive time to and from Puerto Natales.
Restrictions: Drones and pets are not permitted in Torres del Paine.
Stops on the Torres del Paine Day Tour
Our tour van picked us up before dawn in order to make the most of the limited winter daylight hours. We drove for about an hour and a half, making one stop before entering Torres del Paine. Daylight was just beginning to show as we hopped out of the van in a small town just outside the park. There was a little shop with a café inside, where our group could grab souvenirs and a coffee and snack or use the restroom before we ventured into the park.
Our first stop within Torres del Paine was Laguna Amarga. We had stopped here the day before, but on this day, we had more time to get out, walk around, and shoot photos. It was also a bit lighter out than it had been the day before. It was a calm morning and the reflection was stunning!
Lake Overlook and Mirador Salto Grande
We drove further into the park, soon stopping at Mirador Lago Nordenskjold. We saw some guanacos (cousin on the llama) on the way! This was our first real look at the Cuernos del Paine, and the rugged peaks over the lakes with the early morning light took our breath away.
Just down the road, we stopped at Mirador Salto Grande. This stop had a short walk from the parking area to the waterfall overlook. The view was stunning with the vibrant blue water flowing through the valley with snowcapped peaks and lakes all around. There are some stairs and little paths in the area offering varying viewpoints of the waterfall. Some of the group also walked to the nearby hill to get a great view of the Cuernos.
The valley is scattered with lakes, and the next one we came to was Lago Pehoe. We stopped along the road and walked a very short ways to get a beautiful view over the lake, the lodge below, and the mountains. Hosteria Pehoe can be seen on an island, a bridge connecting it to the land below the road. It was all so picturesque!
Our lunch spot was also on Lago Pehoe. We drove around the lake a little farther to Restaurant Pehoe. There were picnic tables outside where we could enjoy our packed lunch. Fall colors surrounded us and a caracara hung out close by to see if it could sneak a little of someone’s food. We had the option to buy lunch at the lodge, but it’s pretty pricey, so we were happy to have brought our own to enjoy outside.
After lunch, the group all boarded the van and we continued towards Lago Grey. We made a couple viewpoint stops along the way. The stop at Lago Grey was the longest walk of the day, beginning at the hotel there and ending at Mirador Lago Grey.
We walked a short ways over the river and through trees before reaching the dark rocky shores of the lake. The view of the lake and Cuernos del Paine is jaw-dropping. The group walked the shore, admiring the view and ice chunks that had floated all the way from the glacier. Like the rest of the stops this day, our group had this place nearly to ourselves. Another pro to visiting in the winter.
In the summer, there is a boat that cruises the lake for a better view of Glaciar Grey, which sits on the far end of the lake from where we were walking. It was not operating when we went in the winter. If you want a closer look at the glacier, there is a trail that runs along the east side of Lago Grey to Refugio Grey and Mirador Glaciar Grey.
Our guide led us up a small hill at the far side of the beach to Mirador Lago Grey. Some of the group chose to stay at the beach. This overlook is a great option if you don’t have the time or energy to hike to Mirador Glaciar Grey. We didn’t experience much wind all day, but wow was it windy up there!
This was our last big stop in the park, so we all took our time to take it all in before heading back to the van. On our way out of Torres del Paine, we stopped at one more roadside overlook high up on a hill. We took some photos of the peaks before heading to our last stop, the Cueva del Milodon.
Cueva del Milodon
Cueva del Milodon is a national monument not too far from Puerto Natales. Upon its discovery, this cave displayed evidence of a long history, from early human activity in Patagonia to the even older Mylodon, or giant sloth.
The monument is separate from the National Park, so it cost us about $3 USD extra per person to enter. Now, the website lists the price at CLP 9,000 (about $11 USD). Our guide gave group members the option to stay at the van, but we were there, so we thought we might as well see it!
Check the Cueva del Milodon website for updated hours and prices and the link to buy tickets. Additionally, check with your guide to see if you need to buy tickets online in advance, or buy them from the CONAF website ahead of time if you plan to visit on your own.
After paying the entrance fee, we walked the short and flat trail to the cave. The cave is pretty large and there is a loop that leads through it. No headlamps or extra equipment required. There is also a replica of the giant sloth whose remains were found here. While it wasn’t the highlight of the day for us, it was definitely interesting to learn a little about the history of the area.
After our group explored the cave, we were transported back to Puerto Natales in time for dinner. While there is so much to see in Torres del Paine that can’t all be experienced in a day, this day tour was overall a great option for hitting some of the park highlights.