The Torres del Paine National Park is one of the top 3 attractions in Chile along with the Atacama Desert and Easter Island. Torres del Paine is a hiking paradise in Patagonia. The park has a lot of lakes and mountains. Granite mountains, but also mountains with snow and glaciers. The park is usually visited coming from the city Puerto Natales in Chile. But also tours coming from El Calafate in Argetina are possible. Either as a day tour, early in the morning there and back in the evening or you stay in the park afterwards.
Prices for the park can be found here: http://www.parquetorresdelpaine.cl/en/tarifas-de-ingreso
Please note that you have to pay in cash when buying tickets in the park.
The most famous hiking trail is the W-Trek. This is a several day hike in shape of a W through the park and takes usually 4 days. The extended version is the O-Trek. This also includes the back of the mountains, but needs more days.
If you want to hike one of the trails in the Patagonian summer (Jan/Feb), you should think about it early enough, because the campsites along the trail are fully booked months in advance. In case you didn’t get one of the spots, you can also do day hikes, especially on the W-Trek.
If you are travelling by car, remember that the next gas station is in Puerto Natales. There is none in or near the park. So fill up your car to the maximum before you start to the park and keep at least a quarter for the way back. If you want to drive from Argentina with a rental car, your rental car company will have to organize some papers for the border crossing. This usually costs an extra fee and you need to inform then early enough.
When you cross the border, be sure to follow the regulations. While everything is relaxed at the border Argentina to Brazil or Paraguay, in Chile your luggage will be checked. If you have fruits, eat them before or throw them away. In case you take it with you and did not declare it at the border, it will be expensive. If you have declared it, you still have to throw it away. Even one apple can become quite expensive.
Especially in the Patagonian summer not only the trails are fully booked but also the surrounding hotels are immensely expensive. I myself was too late for the W-Trek and because of the very high prices also around I decided to go hiking for a few days in El Chalten instead of Torres del Paine. But at least I wanted to see a part of the Park, so I decided to do a day trip to Torres del Paine from El Calafate.
Day trip from El Chalten
We started early at 7 a.m. After collecting all the tourists, we headed south on Routa 40. Some parts of the route were a gravel road. That the tour becomes a real experience, we had a flat tire on half of the way. But this is probably the exception rather than the rule. After the tire was changed, we went on to the border.
Stamping out of Argentina and driving 5min further and to the Chilean border. For the entry we had to fill out a customs declaration, which we already got in the bus. At the border it also took a little bit longer until everybody had their stamp and the luggage was X-rayed. None of us had an apple anymore, so everything was fine.
Then we went on to the Torres del Paine. We started with 2 photo stops still outside the park. One at the Laguna Amarga and one at the Paine waterfall. After that we went through the Laguna Amarga entrance into the park.
Our guide had collected the entrance fee before. We had the choice to pay in EUR, USD or Pesos and got the change accordingly.
In the park we first visited the viewpoint Lago Nordenskjöld and then the viewpoint Pehoé. Afterwards we did a 1,5h hike and visited the viewpoints Cuernos and Salto Grande. You can find a map of the Torres del Paine National Park here: http://www.parquetorresdelpaine.cl/en/mapa-oficial
With this, the visit of the Torres del Paine was unfortunately already over for us and we were on our way back.
Leaving Chile and getting the passport stamped, which took quite a long time. Entering Argentina with getting another stamp but without luggage control. Shortly after 9p.m. we were back in El Calafate.
More information about the tour: https://southroad.com.ar/ingles/lugares_calafate_9.php