How to Get to Torres del Paine by Boat, Plane, and Bus
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As Torres del Paine National Park, the most popular destination in Chile’s Patagonia, is located in the southern stretch of Chile, it takes a while to figure out how to get there considering the sheer size of the region and various transportation options. It may appear difficult to get to if it is your first time visiting Patagonia, but in reality, it is not that hard. In fact, unless you take a plane, the entire journey to Torres del Paine is an adventure.
How to Get to Torres del Paine from the rest of Chile
Getting to Torres del Paine from the rest of Chile takes a significant amount of time. A glimpse of a map of Patagonia reveals that Patagonia covers an area of 402,794 square miles shared by Chile and Argentina.
There is no consensus on where Patagonia starts in Chile, despite that some resources state it begins in the Araucania region and goes down to the southernmost tip of the continent. Considering that Chile stretches 2,653 miles from the north to south and is the longest country in the world, traveling from the northern Patagonia or further to the south takes lots of time, money, research, and plans.
In this post, I will show you three different ways of getting to Torres del Paine. Find out how to get to Torres del Paine from other parts of Chile by plane, land, and boat independently and the combination of all.
Please note that to get to Torres del Paine, you need to first arrive in Puerto Natales, a city 153 miles north of Punta Arenas.
Plane – the fastest and cheapest
The easiest and possibly the cheapest way to get to Torres del Paine is by taking an airplane to Punta Arenas. LATAM and SKY are the only two airlines that fly into Punta Arenas from Santiago and Puerto Montt. They have regular flights and it costs from $40 one-way per person depending on the dates of your travel and the departure location.
There are daily buses transporting passengers between Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales for CLP $8000 one-way. You can book the bus early at the bus terminal or online to secure your seats.
I took a plane with LATAM airlines from Punta Arenas to Santiago, and the flight took three hours in addition to a one-hour stop in Conception. Even though getting between Santiago and Punta Arenas is the most cost-effective and time-saving option, you will miss the opportunity to see other parts of Patagonia and lots of great views. Therefore, I only recommend this option to those who have limited time in Patagonia and desperately want to trek Torres del Paine. If you have a flexible schedule, it would be better to take the boat and do some road trips.
Another common way to get to Puerto Natales is by boat. There are two options. You can take a four-day boat to Puerto Natales from Puerto Montt, or a 41-hour ferry from Puerto Yungay. Which one you choose to take depends on your schedule, your budget, and your travel plans.
Both ferries go through southern Patagonia’s landscapes and fjords, offering scenic and primitive views that are only accessible to ferry passengers, and there are a plenty of wildlife-watching opportunities too. It proves that a journey itself is more fun than a destination and it is one of the most popular ways to get to Puerto Natales for tourists.
The ferries have reclining seats, cabins, and offer complimentary meals, coffee, drinks, and entertainment opportunities. The waterways in Southern Patagonia tend to be rough and the weather is unpredictable with wind and rain. I recommend that you dress in layers, and bring a parka and boots to keep yourself warm.
There are bus companies that include transfers from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas. Pullman bus run this route for $83 per person and the total travel time is 28 hours. Cruz Del Sur offers this transfer also. The bus will go through Puerto Varas and Osorno where it cross to Argentina then continue south.
The bus does not leave every day so please be sure to check the online schedule or visit the Cruz Del Sur office in Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt for departure times and prices.
Passport holders from some countries have to apply for tourist visas to Argentina in advance and pay the reciprocation fee. For information about Argentina’s visa application and requirements, you can check it out here
2.Bus, ferry, and border crossing through the Carretera Austral
Carretera Austral provides an ultimate road trip experience. As this is the route I took, I can attest that there is no other place that can top the raw, remote, and wild beauty of this part of Patagonia.
Carretera Austral runs 770 miles from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins with only 100,000 residents. Construction of this highway began in 1976 to connect remove towns and villages that were previously only accessible by boat and air, which proved to be difficult owing to extreme weather conditions and turbulent waterways. The highway was opened to the public in 1988 and when I traveled there last year, a large part of the highway was still unpaved.
There is no direct bus taking you from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins, but local buses are available from town to town. It is not cheap and the logistics of this road trip is a lot more challenging than other options, but it has provided the most memorable experience of all my travels.
If you plan on taking this trip, you need to find somewhere on this road to cross the border to Argentina towards El Chalten. The most popular borders on this highway are Futaleufu and Esque, Chile Chico and Los Antiguos, and Villa O’Higgins and El Chalten.
I crossed the border in Chile Chico and took an overnight bus to El Calafate, and then another few hours’ bus back to Puerto Natales in Chile. There is also a weekly ferry taking you from Puerto Yungay to Puerto Natales.
Getting to Torres Del Paine from Puerto Natales
Once you are in Puerto Natales, it is very easy to get to Torres Del Paine National Park.
You can take the local bus from the bus station and then enter the park for the trek. The bus goes to Torres Del Paine a few times a day, but make sure to check the bus schedule and purchase your bus tickets in advance online or at the bus terminal.
You can also get to Torres Del Paine from Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas through a group tour. The tour company will pick you up from your accommodation and take you around the park for a day trip. You do not need to bring lots of things; all you need to do is to get picked up, get on the tour bus, and get off at the observation platform to enjoy the view. The tour includes roundtrip transport, a guide, and activities. Our tour group also went for an hours’ walk to the Lago Grey and got a glass of whiskey with Grey Glacier ice inside.
If you are looking for more adventure, you can trek the O and W circuit that offers you insights on the park and you may see hordes of guanacos on the way. Make sure to book your camp site five months in advance and get all your warm outfits and camping gear ready.
There are also many accommodations in Puerto Natales for you to stay there before and after your Torres Del Paine trek. I paid $20 per night to stay at Hostal Treehouse Patagonia that is a few minutes walk way from museums, restaurants and bus station. The room is spacious, and the owner is welcoming and knowledgeable about Patagonia and Chile.
If you plan to continue south from Torres Del Paine, you can go back to Puerto Natales and take the bus to El Calafate, Argentina and go from there, or take the three-hour domestic bus to Punta Arenas and then the 9 to 14-hour ferry and bus trip to Ushuaia.