How to Travel Solo to Patagonia: Top 10 Tips

Woman hiking in Torres del Paine Patagonia

That’s me. Very, very happy on the side of the W that goes to the Towers. Patagonia.

This post is just one in a series of how to go and hike Patagonia solo. They have all been collected here in the Traveling Solo to Chile Guide.

Patagonia.

Torres del Paine.

Solo travel.

Heaven.

10 Tips

  1. Take the Navimag. Despite the fact that the ferry I was on hit an island (Read When Your Holiday Hits the Rocks ) I can’t recommend the Navimag Ferry enough. It was a beautiful trip and, over four days, it seemed that every solo traveler found a  partner to hike Torres del Paine with.
  2. Check the weather. The big prize is the towers so you want to plan your trek in hopes of seeing them on a clear day, not through clouds as is so often the case.
  3. Plan your hike. Decide how you want to experience the park. There is a free seminar every day at 3pm at the Erratic Rock Base Campthat may help if you’re not sure how to approach the park. Basically, you have a choice of:
    1. The Full Circuit
    2. The full W
    3. Parts of the W
    4. A bus tour (no hiking)
    5. The ferry to the Grey Glacier (no hiking).
Woman hiking in mountains with glacier in background.

Noemie on the trail to the Grey Glacier on the other side of the W.

  1. Take cash.Almost everything in the park is cash only so, unless you plan to hike every step of the way, carry your food and camp, you’ll need money. I hiked the two sides of the W and camped. I took 70,000 pesos ($140) and just made it out of the park. Here’s how I quickly used that money:
    1. Free – I got a ride to the Towers hike.
    2. Free – camping that night.
    3. 15,000 – park entry.
    4. 5,000 – shuttle from Towers trail back to main road.
    5. 5,000 – bus to Pehoe ferry.
    6. 11,000 – Pehoe ferry to Grand Paine refugio and camping.
    7. 4,500 – Camping at Grand Paine.
    8. 2,000 – Pisco Sours.
    9. 10,000 – a meal at the Grand Paine refugio. We thought we wanted real food after nuts and fruit but actually it was wasted money as we couldn’t eat it.
    10. 11,000 – when we took the Pehoe Ferry we thought we would return via the Grey Glacier ferry but that was too expensive. We could have saved 3,000 pesos by buying a return ticket if we had known we would return that way.
    11. 5,000 – bus back to Puerto Natales.

    Man drive car while woman takes picture.

    Claude is driving us into the park with his rental car. Noemie is taking my picture as I take hers. We were excited!

  2. Rent or bring hiking poles. Even young people use poles. They won’t only make the trek easier if you’re not a regular hiker, it will save your knees for later in life if you’re an avid hiker. I couldn’t believe how great they were.
Dramatic sky and clouds

Drama in every direction. I love how the house is dwarfed in the landscape.

  1. Plan your accommodation. I rented camping equipment from Erratic Rock I. Once you have your equipment, there is no need for reservations. If you don’t want to camp, you can stay in a Refugio, though I would make reservations in advance to ensure that you have a bed. If you really want luxury there is the Las Torres Hotel.
Trail map to the towers Torres del Paine

Trail map to the towers at Torres del Paine

  1. What/where to eat. At the Refugios, you have the option of full board meaning that, in addition to giving you your breakfast and dinner, they’ll pack you a lunch for your day hiking. Anyone can go to a Refugio and buy a meal. At the Grand Paine campground there was a kitchen building with stoves and sink. At the campground near the Torres (and I’m assuming for most of the circuit) there were no restaurants or cooking facilities at all.
Noemie in the distance

Noemie in the distance. Nature makes me feel my insignificance. Yet it is pure joy.

  1. Transportation from Puerta Natales to Torres del Paine. There are buses into the park every day at 7:30 and 2:30. It takes a couple of hours to get to the park.
Valley in Patagonia

The valley was stunning.

  1. What to pack. When you’re hiking, you need to keep what you’re carrying to a minimum. Scale down your luggage and, if necessary, leave a bag at a hostel before you go to the park. For four days I wore/carried:
    1. 2 t-shirts
    2. 2 long sleeve shirts
    3. 2 pairs of pants
    4. rain gear
    5. two pairs of high quality hiking socks, underwear
    6. toiletries…
    7. camera, sunglasses, passport…
    8. nuts, dried fruit, etc.
Hiking trail with rocks torres del paine

The Towers is the grand prize of hiking Torres del Paine. The trail is a little rocky towards the top.

  1. The option of flying. If you don’t have the time to take the Navimag Ferry, you can fly to Puerto Natales or Punta Arena. Before leaving on this trip I knew that I would have to fly back to Santiago due lack of time. When I priced it via LAN it looked like it would cost about $500. When there, I learned about SKY Airlines and booked for $178 all in.
The Towers Torres del Paine

And, finally, the Towers of Torres del Paine

  • Robert DeGray

    Thanks for the info, Janice, I will do just that.

  • Swetha Reddy

    Bargain Online for the best hotels at MyDeals247.com
    For more please watch the video..http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWigWICKsII

  • meggan green

    you have such a great blog and network — thanks!

  • Torsten Jacobi

    I
    recently went to Perito Moreno in Patagonia and was blown away by the

    experience! The best thing is that you can take this trip and a return

    trip to Iguazu from Buenos Aires for just 20,000 Starpoints transferred

    to LANPass.

    We posted about it here:

    http://www.mightytravels.com/13232755/top_5_why_you_should_visit_perito_moreno_patagonia_argentina.php

  • janice

    Hi Robert. Thanks for getting in touch but I’m afraid that you are far more adventurous than I. I stayed on the main trails. I would get in touch with the guys at Erratic Rock. As I remember they’re from the American north west so language is certainly not a problem. That’s where I would start my research.
    Have a fabulous time!
    Janice

  • Robert DeGray

    I’m going next year beginning in Jan, 2015.
    I am an experienced back-packer/rock climber, and yet, I have never been out side of the United States to do either.
    What do suggest in light weight food stuffs? Should I Bring Freeze food, or would it be cheaper to buy once I get there?
    I want to do the Paine/fitzroy and Cerro Torre base camp trips, but the hike up to the glacier beneath Cerro Torre will require a roped (hang and dangle) traverse to cross a river, and a roped, low angle glacier climb that employs belaying techniques. What I’m asking here is about how to find a partner. You mentioned the ferry? HELP!

  • Alden Tim

    A really well written article and a very useful guide from someone who has done it themselves.

    Car Rental Punta Arenas Airport

  • Sim Flurt

    Hiking is a fun, healthy, and affordable activity that is open to anyone. Anyone can get the most out of hiking and remain safe at the same time.

  • http://twitter.com/SophieR Sophie’s World

    Very pretty pictures – and an incredibly useful post about a part of the world I’m curious about, which I’ll probably do on my own, since my children aren’t that interested. Thanks for this. Also, a bit curious about the food at the refugio at Grand Paine… was it really horrible?

  • backpack45scb

    Nice and concise. Also, there are meals available at some of the backcountry locations. Seron, Dickson, Refugio Grey, Chileno all have meals, though if you want one, reserve as soon as they get there, as they are small and they need time to get stuff in the pot.

  • Cristina

    Hi Janice – Not sure if you’re still answering questions on this…but it sounds like travelling alone and hiking was easy. So safety was not a concern…I’m guessing you met lots of people on the trail and wasn’t concerne about twisting an ankle or something? We’re debating whether to join a group or to go alone – but we’d also like to meet people along the way. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/portal.viajero.1 Portal Viajero

    Nice tips! thanks for sharing

  • Miguel Muñoz Flores

    I’m pretty sure I’ll go there when my american friend come here to chile :)

  • solotraveler

    Hi Charlie,

    Erratic Rock rents just about everything. I would give them a call. They are great guys and will help you out.

    Have a good time,
    janice

  • charlie

    Hi. I am in Santiago right now trying to plan a hiking trip in Patagonia for next week. I was not planning on it when I got to Chile but I want to make it happen. I am a professional tennis player and I came to Santiago to play tournaments. But I love hiking and have the time to throw a trip together if I can. The only thing is I don’t have ANY hiking or camping gear. Are there rental places down there where I could get everything that I would need to the W? It sounds like you can stay in refugios or cabins or something but I’m afraid they may be all booked up at this late notice. I have no problem tenting, but again I don’t have a tent or stove or even the right backpack so I would need to rent or buy everything. Are there places that rent boots, backpacks, stoves, sleeping bags and basically the works. Even clothes? I am fine buying some things but I don’t think I would want to buy all that stuff seeing as I have most of it back home already.

    If I choose not to do the W or overnight camping are there day hikes you can do in Patagonia that make it worth the trip? I imagine not everyone is capable of trekking but they still want to come visit such a wonderful place. I would not be opposed to doing some long day hiking if there are good options to be had. Also is it necessary to book a tour? it sounds like there are tours that provide everything for you. I’m not usually into that kind of thing but wouldn’t be opposed if it was the best way to make this work. And can you start any day of the week or are there guidelines you have to follow. Basically any information you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Sorry for all the questions. great site though. very informative

    Best

    Charlie

  • silvina

    Thank you Janice. I discovered that it takes 12 hours from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas, and we are not going to spend two days on a bus… So we might stay in Ush the whole week or cross the Channel to isla Navarino. Haven’t decided yet. Thanks again for your advice!    

  • BK

    I came to puerto Aysen last year to retire.
    Came Solo.
    Ever been here?

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    I went to Punta Arenas because so that i could fly back to Santiago. I went to see the Penguins and hung out in the town for a day but it’s not a destination I’d send someone out of their way to.

    Tierra del Fuego – now I wish I had made it there!

  • silvina

    Thanks for the tips! I’ll certainly sign up for the newsletter. I usually travel solo but this time I’m going to Tierra del Fuego (Argentina’s territory) with 2 friends. We want to cross to Punta Arenas, in Chile. We can only stay two days. Is it worth it going to Punta Arenas for only 2 days? It’s a pity that now there’s a big fire in Torres del Paine…    

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  • solotraveler

    I’m glad it helped. Enjoy your trip Tricia

  • tricia whitley

    Hi!

    Those ten tips were excellent as I am
    planning a trip to Chile before I sail
    for the Antarctic. Didn’t want to go
    to the Patagonia due to the fierce winds
    in January but it seems as they take a
    back seat to all the other wonderful
    scenery. Couldn’t make up my mind to do
    the north or south of Chile. This helped.

  • Ms Traveling Pants

    Many of the pictures look familiar bc I hiked Torres del Paine in January. I have to say it was some of the most spectacular hiking I have ever done. I traveled alone but hiked with a group.
    See my pictures here:
    http://www.mstravelingpants.travel/blog/tudo-azul-in-torres-del-paine-patagonia-chile/

  • http://freshroads.com Tijmen

    Hiking in Patagonia has been on my dream list for a while now, hopefully next year I can finally go and hike there. Good to know it affordable as well to travel there :)

  • Stephanie

    great info – thanks to both of you!

  • http://careerbreaksecrets.com Jeff

    @Stephanie, there are daily bus services from El Calafate to Puerto Natales. The only issue for December is that it’s high season so the buses fill up quite. So, first order of business when you get to El Calafate is to buy your bus ticket. The companies are more local so it’s difficult to buy online ahead of time.

    Also, take some extra pesos with you to El Calafate. The ATMs are notorious for running out of cash, especially on the weekends.

    For hiking, it’s easy to meet people, at a minimum, along the way, if you don’t meet people beforehand.

    Enjoy!

  • solotraveler

    I met my hiking partner on the Navimag Ferry. Given that you aren’t taking that route, I would suggest that you attend the information session at Erratic Rock hostel – you’ll learn lots there and likely meet people. You can also stay at the hostel and meet people as well. If you don’t meet anyone, you don’t really have to be worried about safety. The trails are well marked and well traveled.

  • Stephanie

    I’m heading to Patagonia (& Antarctica!) solo for several weeks this December. Have you & your readers found it easy to meet companions for the W circuit hike? I don’t mind hiking alone but think it would be more fun and safe to have others along also.

    I’ll be going to Puerto Natales from El Calafate (haven’t figured how to do that segment of the trip yet so suggestions are welcome).

    Thanks for the post on Santiago – I’m looking forward to spending a few days there also!

  • solotraveler

    Very good point! Thanks Jeff.

  • http://careerbreaksecrets.com Jeff

    Don’t forget the sunscreen and lip balm! My lips and face got very sun and windburned on my hike.

  • http://mccooltravel.wordpress.com Charles McCool

    Thank you for the tips on Patagonia. Would love to visit and will some day. Good tip that the park only accepts cash.

  • Travel accessories

    Its very nice article for all beginners…Good stuff..

  • solotraveler

    Hi Michael, you might want to throw your question up on the Solo Travel Society page on Facebook as well.

  • Michael Ciota

    I am sitting in Barnes & Noble planning my trip ( an year or so) to Argentina( went there in April to study Spanish), Chile, Uruguay ( By the way Anibal is right Uruguay is very beautiful)
    I have so many questions about the first leg of my trip- from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia I will be traveling by bus Does anyone know if I can get a 30/60/90 pass and get on and off the bus. I don’t want to go straight through but want to stop wherever I want explore and then continue I would love to discuss this trip with anyone. My email is michael.ciota@gmail.com

  • solotraveler

    Thanks for the tip. Always good to have more info!

  • Matthew Cheyne

    I have a manilla folder full of stuff for the great South American trip I plan to do one day when I learn Spanish and save up or acquire a whole lot of money.

    I’m going to print out and keep this in my folder. I’m also going to add Patagonia to my list of destinations on top of Chile, Buenos Aires and Uruguay.

    Speaking of Uruguay, Janice if you’re into staying in a serviced apartment as opposed to a hostel or a hotel in Montevideo, I have heard incredibly good reviews about Punta Trouville Apartments and Suites. Do a Google search on them sometime. Prices are around $70 USD a night for a really good sized room with the obligatory air conditioning, views of the ocean, private kitchenette, free wifi and access to the gym which includes jacuzzi and a solarium. Its already a must on my list. Its situation in a safe neighbourhood called Pocitos, relatively close to central Montevideo.

  • Aníbal

    Hi Bob, my advice to Janice could work for you too!

    I recommend visiting Uruguay, and not because it’s my country, but because it’s truly beautiful :)

    Cheers

  • Bob Harter

    This is a great post. Thanks!
    We are planning a 40th wedding anniversary with four nights at the Explora Lodge. Haven’t an idea yet of what to do with the remaining 24 days of our trip to South America. Comments welcome.
    Thanks
    Bob

  • http://www.hikebiketravel.com Leigh

    Patagonia looks like such a great spot for a hiker like me to visit. Thanks for all the tips – which I will hopefully put to good use in the not too distant future.

  • http://solofriendly.com Gray

    Great,detailed information, Janice! I especially liked the breakdown of costs. Thanks.

  • Aníbal

    Aw well, hope to have you around next year then!

    Cheers!

    xx

  • solotraveler

    Hi Anibal. Thanks so much for commenting and thanks for the video. I hope to return to South America next year as there is so much more to do. Hopefully I make it to Uruguay.

  • Aníbal

    Hello Janice! Very nice to meet you (even though this is rather like a monologue haha).

    I’m from Uruguay and I’m currently reading LOTS of solo traveler’s blogs because I myself want to take the plunge into solo travelling. I’m so inspired by your experiences and articles I just want to jump to it right away.

    That being said, I am doing my homework, and that’s why I’m reading tons of information and travel tips from you, experienced travelers all around the globe.

    Since you’ve visited Patagonia, I would very much like to recommend you coming to my country, right next to Argentina :D I’m going to show you a video about it, but rest assure, it doesn’t do justice to what Uruguay has to offer!

    Here it is: http://uruguaynatural.tv/video/790455372001 (most of it is in Spanish, but focus on landscapes and stuff :D)

    Hope you liked it! And I sure hope you can pay visit someday.

    I’ll keep on reading you and other travellers to prepare myself for the big leap.

    Cheers!

    Aníbal

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