Our loop through South America brought us to southern Chile at the end of May. Visiting Patagonia during the low season offered some extra challenges at times, but the quiet trails and winter beauty made it worth every second to us. Here are some important things to know before visiting Torres del Paine in the winter.
Pros & Cons to Visiting Torres del Paine in the Winter
All of the information in the sections below is simplified in this table. There are pros and cons to visiting in any season, so when you choose to go is really up to you!
We personally loved being there in the winter because we enjoy cooler weather and dislike crowds. To us, that was worth the little extra effort in planning our adventure here.
Temperatures: May through September are the coolest months in Torres del Paine with average temperatures ranging from 40˚F to 46˚F (4˚C to 8˚C) during the day, but dropping below freezing at night and on cooler days.
Winds: This area is also famous for its wild winds, some gusts reaching over 100 mph! However, winds die down a bit more May through September. We only encountered a short spurt of gusty winds at Glaciar Grey. We were glad that the air was pretty still during our time there.
Precipitation: Torres del Paine gets precipitation throughout the entire year, but September and October are often the driest months. Storms generally blow over quickly, but you’ll definitely want waterproof clothing.
While you may encounter snow if visiting Torres del Paine in the winter, heavy accumulation in the valley is infrequent. Snow will stick around longer at higher elevations and there may be icy spots along the trails.
Sunshine: You’ll likely have sunny days when visiting in the winter. We had plenty of sunshine with periods of cloudiness as clouds rolled over the valley. Morning fog will sometimes hang low in the valley but burn off as the day goes on. The sun rises after 9:30 a.m. and just before 6 p.m. during the winter months, so your daylight time in the park is shorter.
The weather in Torres del Paine is pretty unpredictable and is known to change rapidly. We were lucky to encounter sunny days with mild temperatures in the winter, but the winds and snow can cause trail closures. So, the best thing you can do when embarking on winter trips in the park is to monitor the weather in the days leading up to your planned excursion.
To & From the Park
When visiting Torres del Paine in the winter, options for getting to and from the park are a little more limited. The buses that run a few times a day in the high-season are the most budget-friendly option. However, they stop making regular daily trips to and from the park starting May through September. We have seen some information saying that a couple companies run one bus per day to and from the park in the winter, but when we were there, there were none operating. Click here for more info on bus companies and bus company contact info.
Though buses may not be a concrete option, tours and car rentals are still available in the low season. The road to the park is paved and well maintained. Though it is the most expensive, renting a car is a great option no matter the time of year as it provides the most flexibility.
Inside the Park
Within the park, transportation is a little more difficult in the winter as well. The buses running between trailheads/lodges were not operating, so it was nice to have the tour van take us to various spots instead of walking. Excursions, such as trips across Lago Pehoé and Lago Grey, decrease the number of excursions in the winter.
One of the great things about visiting Torres del Paine in the winter is that it is significantly cheaper. For foreign adults, the cost to get into the national park is generally CLP 21,000 per day and CLP 35,000 for a three-day pass, but this cost was halved during our visit in the winter. When buying your pass at one of the entrance stations, you must have your passport and pay in cash. Only Chilean pesos are accepted in the winter. Make sure you get your ticket stamped if you plan to be in the park the following days. Check the park website for more details and updated fees.
The entrance fee isn’t the only cost that decreases in the winter. Many tour companies, restaurants, and hotels in the area offer discounted rates in the low season.
Lodging & Camping
Many of the refugios/hotels in Torres del Paine close during the winter. While there are no huge crowds in the off season, you still should book your accommodation in advance if you want to stay in the park due to the limited options. Explora and Hotel Lago Grey are the only hotels we know of in the park that stay open all winter. Some lodges stay open to a limited capacity, such as allowing travelers to use the restrooms or purchase food, but not offering rooms for accommodation. We stayed in Puerto Natales and there were still quite a few hotel options available last minute in the winter.
If you plan camp and/or trek in the park, note that it is required to have a reservation at each campsite you want to stay at and it may be required to have a guide. Sites are run by three organizations: Fantastico Sur, CONAF, and Vertice. Bookings can be made in advance on their webpages. According to the Torres del Paine site, CONAF is currently not offering reservations and their reservation webpage is not available to obtain info on when it will be open for bookings again.
Some of the campgrounds and refugios close in the winter. CONAF sites are closed May through September, Fantastico Sur sites close from May through September or October, and Vertice sites are closed May through October or November. If you take a winter tour, campsite reservations will usually be organized for you.
Winter Activities in Torres del Paine
We absolutely loved exploring Torres del Paine in the winter. We were lucky to have great weather and the park was pretty empty. One huge plus to visiting during low season was the abundant wildlife. You’re more likely to spot a puma as the crowds thin out and they wander to the lower elevations of the valley in the cooler months. We also saw tons of different birds, a fox, and many guanacos.
Many of the park highlights are still accessible in the winter. You can drive to quite a few viewpoints and trailheads or take a day tour of the park. The trail to the famous Mirador las Torres is open too, and while some people recommend taking a tour here in the winter for convenience and safety, it is doable on your own. Contrary to the typical long line of hikers making their way to the mirador in the summer, we had this trail mostly to ourselves on a sunny winter day. This in itself made going here in the winter beyond worth it for us.
Note that even the attractions that claim to be open in the winter are subject to closures due to high winds and weather. Closures can even happen in the summer!
Extra Info & Tips
Here are a few extra logistics to keep in mind if you are planning on visiting Torres del Paine in the Winter.
Winter runs from June through August in the Southern Hemisphere. Shoulder months are May and September.
Extra Gear may be needed to hike here in the winter. Warmer layers, boots suitable for snow, and maybe even spikes/crampons may be needed. If you do not own or bring these items yourself, there are gear shops that rent out equipment in Puerto Natales. Some tours may provide certain gear as well, but be sure to check before the day of your excursion.
The park entrances open at 8:30 a.m. and close at 5:30 p.m. in the winter. There are three main administrative spots in the park. If you don’t buy your park ticket before reaching the park, you must purchase one upon arrival.
It is mandatory to have a guide for the W Trek. From May until the beginning of September, you must have a guide to hike the W Trek. There is punishment for those caught trying to do it on their own.
The O Trek is closed in the winter. This also means that the full Q Trek is not an option. CONAF is in charge of the closure and opening of this trail, so the exact dates aren’t often certain. But, the trail usually opens in November and closes at the end of April.