Chapada Diamantina On A Budget

Everyone knows that Brazil has heaps of beautiful beaches. Nearly every city on the coast has one, but is there anything to do other than laze around on the magnificent beaches in Brazil? My answer is definitely. Perhaps the most obvious example is the Amazon surrounding the city of Manaus and covering about 40% of Brazil. The Pantanal close to the city of Bonito in the southwest of the country is also another interesting wildlife adventure. Brasilia, the capitol, is smack dab in the middle of the country where one can witness impressive architecture by Oscar Niemeyer, and there are some very nice colonial towns scattered throughout the country. The most popular are Paraty, Ouro Preto, Olinda, and Lencois.

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The colorful buildings and tight, cobblestoned streets make Lencois a very charming colonial village.

After our time in Rio de Janiero, we visited Lencois, a very small town about a 6 hour bus ride from Salvador de Bahia on the eastern coast. So why did we want to go here? Well for starters, we felt like we needed a break from the big cities and sandy beaches we had recently visited. We also love colonial towns and Lencois fits the bill perfectly. But, what really sold us was the fact that Lencois sits right at the edge of one of the country’s most famous national parks in an area known as Chapada Diamontina.

Lencois, itself, is a quiet, little town lined with colorful buildings, cobblestoned streets, and tour agencies. The tour agencies are trying to sell tours to Chapada Diamontina National Park, a strange, and timeless area of water wells, rock formations, caves, and ultra blue and red water. We visited some agencies to see what they had to offer and to get information on what types of tours were leaving in the next few days, but we felt the prices were much higher than expected. Since we were backpackers on a budget, it was time to get creative.

Note: When planning, we found this website and this map to be incredibly helpful. (as long as you can read a little Portuguese or can translate the page)

The deal in Chapada Diamontina is that all the locations can be quite far apart and some are a days drive away from Lencois. For this reason, Anna and I determined that because it was low season and there were not that many other people to split the cost of the tours, it was cheaper to rent a car, pay for gas, buy a map, and pay for local guides when we got to all the different sites. We rented a car (manual transmission, of course) from a place on the main plaza and drove to the attractions. We visited Gruta Lapa Dolce, Gruta da PratinhaMorro do Pai Inácio, Poco do DiaboPoco EncantadoPoco Azul and Cachoeira do Buracao.

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Nice Wheels eh?!

By doing it independently, we figured we saved half the cost of going through an agency and we still got to see all the spectacular scenery we wanted. To be honest though, Chapada Diamontina is so large that one could spend weeks here and still not see every waterfall, cave, and impressive natural formations. There are even opportunities to do multi-day guided treks inside the park, but we chose to do our own thing this time.

Day 1: The Northern Caves

On day one, we drove North and did a loop of some caves before returning to Lencois. Gruta Lapa Dolce is a 1 km long, pitch black, underground, cave with stalagmites (bottom) and stalactites (top), and all kinds of amazing cave formations. Our guide told us about the geology and history of the cave and pointed out the notable formations. We had fun guessing what the name of each was based on their appearance. During our time in the cave, it was only our guide, Anna, and myself down there. This was exactly the reason we came here. At one point, we turned off the flashlights they gave us and it was so dark that we could not even see our hands when touching our noses with them.

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Entrance to Gruta Lapa Dolce

Gruta da Pratinha was our second stop and is basically a cave and a natural swimming pool with some of the clearest water I have ever seen. When we walked into the warm water, there were all kinds of little fish that would wait for you to get in then start kissing your feet and legs. I assume they were just going after the bubbles we brought with us when entering the water, but it was a strange experience nonetheless. Pratinha was a nice place to cool off from the heat of the sun in a beautiful natural pool. You could explore the cave, swim with the fish, or zipline into the water for an extra cost.

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The clear waters of Pratinha

Morro da Pai Inácio is a lookout point North of the National Park. It is a plateau that is characteristic of the region and the view at the top is incredible. For a small fee, you can climb to the top of this natural rock formation and look out at the other rock faces jutting out all around you while you wonder how this strange landscape could have been made. It only takes about 15 minutes to get to the top and we would recommend it because you really get to see the unique geology of the region.

Poco do Diabo was our last stop of the day. Though it was a bit harder to find, despite being right off the main northern highway, we parked our car and started the 45 minute hike. The workers at the restaurant right next to the start of the trail were very friendly and helpful in giving us exact directions on how to get there. Poco do Diabo is a very beautiful, layered waterfall with reddish-brown water that you can swim in. It is contrasted by the slide-like Mucugezinho that is along the way to Poco do Diabo. Both are worth at least a quick visit or you can take your time enjoying the natural waterslide that is Mucugezinho and have a swim in the red water of “Devil’s Well.”

Day 2: The Pocos

On day two, we drove South from Lencois to Poco Encantado and Poco Azul. “Poco” in Brazilian Portuguese means (water)well, and “encantado” means enchanted. The reason for the name Poco Encantado became clear as soon as we entered the cave. After descending down some steep stairs, we were able to swim in an unbelievably clear-blue pool in a cave. We were the only ones there and it was just as enchanting as it was spooky. It was incredible to be able to see 17 meters (55 ft.) down. At the same time though, it was a bit nerve wracking looking into the water toward the darker end of the pool – who knows what kind of monsters live down there!

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Poco Encantado – our private, blue swimming cave

Poco Azul is further South from Poco Encantado, but is much larger and even more blue. We arrived just after the time in the afternoon when the sun comes streaking through at just the right angle to shine a ray of light and make the water even more blue. Even without the added sunlight, the water still had its amazing blue glow. Unfortunately, and probably thankfully, it is forbidden to swim in this ancient cave because soaps, shampoos, and other personal hygiene products that people use can alter the mineral make-up of the water.

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The minerals in the water make Poco Azul an outstanding blue.

Day 3: Buracao near Ibicoara

After the Pocos, we drove down to a town called Ibicoara where we spent the night. We arranged a guide for the next day to take us to Cachoeira do Buracao. When morning came, our guide directed us along a bumpy, gravel road for 1.5 hours. We parked the car, and began our hike along the river bed because the water had receded. Our guide said during summer months, it could be quite busy here, but because of the time of year that we visited, there was hardly any other people. Along the way, the guide pointed out some plants and small critters, and explained a little about the landscape.

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At the top of the falls…

Near the end of our hike, we started the descent down some rocks and ladders. We followed the trail to the left until the walls started to change. It was as if someone had made a canyon of stacked, flat boulders, and took the trail away. Or so we thought. The guide said we had two choices: hike or swim. Surprisingly, the water looked like Coca-Cola so we chose to hike it instead of swim. We then proceeded to hike across an aged wooden plank over the canyon water to the other side of the canyon wall. Carefully, we shuffled along the side of the stacked rocks using whatever we could for footholds and handholds. When we rounded the bend, we finally saw it.

Cachoeira do Buracao is one of the most unique waterfalls I have ever seen with its layered canyon walls, 85 meter (279 ft.) of height, ability to go behind the waterfall as well as jump off of the walls into the Coca-Cola water below. I guess that is why it is called “Big Hole Waterfall” in Portuguese. This was my favorite spot that we visited.

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There it is! Cachoeira do Buracao!

Though we only drove through a very small section of the National Park, as you can see, there are plenty of other features that make this area well worth visiting. Of the places we visited, my favorites were Lapa Dolce, Poco Encantado, and Cachoeira do Buracao. Hopefully next time we return, we can do some multi-day tekking into the interior of the National Park because there are plenty of other awaiting adventures in Chapada Diamontina!

I HIGHLY recommend visiting this place.

Florianopolis… Finally!

When Anna and I first started our South American Adventure on June 9th, 2013, we were initially going to arrive at our destination, Florianopolis, Brazil, in the beginning of August 2013. Well, August came and went, and we were still traveling. So did many more months. The reason being is we heard many travelers talking about so many awesome places that we decided to continue exploring other areas of the southern continent instead of heading straight to Brazil.

It was not until May 2014 that we crossed the Argentina/Brazil border and finally made it to our original destination of Florianopolis- a full 9 months later than initially expected. DSC05215It was well worth the wait. Floripa, as the locals call it, is a paradise. You see, Florianopolis is both a large city and an island with 42 beautiful Brazilian beaches. A bridge (that looks an awful lot like the Golden Gate Bridge) connects the island to the mainland, as well as the western side of the city to the eastern side of the city. Once on the island we were transported by bus from the city center to a beach bum’s wildest dreams: long stretches of beautiful beaches, trails through wild forest, glassy lakes, small towns with the right amount of nightlife, and every possible water sport you can imagine.

We made our way through Lagoa da Conceição, a central hub on the island, and found a hostel in Fortaleza da Barra. It was called Floripa Home Hostel and was one of the best hostels we have stayed in during our time in South America. After 11 months of travel, we have stayed in many places, but this was easily in our top five. It was a hidden gem (clean, low key, awesome views, nicely decorated), so we made it our home for the next week in order to explore the island from a central location. During the week to follow, Anna and I were able to enjoy five beaches on our own, plus four more with the help of my friend, Michelle, and her car. As our tour guide for the day, Michelle gave us a snapshot into local island life and also taught us a bit about Brazilian culture. This was extremely helpful because Floripa was our first stop in Brazil, and we knew zero Portuguese. Though similar to Spanish, it is still an entirely different language, but I suspect that knowing Spanish helped us to pick up Portuguese a bit faster.

Besides the normal relaxing on the beach activities like tanning or swimming, there are so many things to do on the island. These include sandboarding on the sand dunes, waterskiing, windsurfing, kite surfing, regular surfing, stand up paddle boarding, boating, wakeboarding, beach soccer, “frescobol” (beach ping pong), or just about any other water sport or beach activity imaginable. There are even lessons for nearly all of the previously mentioned sports. When you have had enough of the beach, you could head to any one of the small beach towns, like Barra da Lagoa, to grab a bite of Brazilian cuisine or wait until night time and check out the nightlife in Lagoa da Conceição. The island has everything you could want; from the low key, more natural beaches on the southern tip, to the luxurious beach destination for famous celebrities in the northern stretch of the island. Regardless, the easy-to-use buses can take you and your surf board to the majority of the beaches in Florianopolis.

I highly recommend exploring Florianopolis for at least a week to anyone visiting Brazil. Though we did not end up staying there as long as we originally thought, we certainly were happy we made it and can not wait to go back. After all, there are still thirty-three other beaches for us to discover!

 

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Iguazu Falls

Most Americans are famililar with Niagara Falls on the border of the US and Canada, but have you ever heard of the Iguazu Falls?
Iguazu Falls, or Foz do Iguaçu as it is known in Brazil, is on the border of Argentina and Brazil and close to Paraguay. Similar to Niagara, it seems humongous waterfalls are a good place to make an international border. This is also true for Victoria Falls in Africa, though I have not yet been.
When we arrived to Puerto Iguazu on the Argentinean side of the falls, it was raining hard. I can not remember ever seeing rain that hard for that long. It literally poured all day to the point that even rain gear was ineffective. I guess it was our welcome to the jungle. Despite the rain, we were able to meet up with our German friend, Leonie, who we WWOOFed with in Argentina. The timing worked out so that after she finished her time on the farm, she was headed to the falls during the same week that we were.
The day after we arrived, we caught one of the first buses to the famous cataratas from the main bus terminal in Puerto Iguazu and arrived just before the national park opened its gates for the day. The Iguazu Falls are impressive and easily accessible, in fact, they can be viewed two ways. They can be accessed from the Argentinean side via Puerto Iguazu, or the Brazilian side via the town of Foz do Iguaçu. On the Brazilian side, visitors are offered an overview of the falls whereas on the Argentinean side, there are kilometers of boardwalks that give you different angles of the falls. Iguazu is actually made up of many smaller waterfalls, but the largest and most famous is called the Garganta del Diablo (translated: Devil’s Throat).
We decided it was best to go see the Garganta del Diablo first before the park got overly crowded. The sheer amount of water going over the falls was mesmerizing. We stared at the millions of gallons per second tumbling over the falls for about 40 minutes. I think I can agree with Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “Poor Niagara!” after seeing this monstrosity.
We stayed in the park for a total of about 6 hours until we walked all the boardwalks we could find. The boardwalks are divided into the upper and lower decks so that visitors can walk above and below the falls. My favorite spot was the outlook on the lower deck where you could get the closest (read: wettest) to the spray from the falls.
I wish my pictures could do Iguazu justice, but until you visit this “must see” in South America, they will have to do. Enjoy!

Tips for Iguazu:

  1. Bring rain gear and a waterproof camera
  2. Be careful when walking. The walkways can be slippery.
  3. Sometimes the trails and island close so check when you enter.
  4. Be careful of the coatises and monkeys. Do not feed them and keep an eye on your belongings.
  5. The first train to the Garganta del Diablo won’t leave until about 8:15am so there is no need to arrive before then.

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Bonus: Just for curiosity’s sake, let’s compare the 4 “largest” waterfalls of the world: Angel Falls, Victoria Falls, Iguazu Falls, & Niagara Falls.

  • Angel Falls in Venezuala, is the tallest by height.
  • Victoria Falls is the largest sheet of falling water by height and width.
  • Iguazu Falls is the longest (by width) waterfalls (275 waterfalls).
  • Niagara Falls has the highest average yearly waterflow.

Torres del Paine Circuit Experience

Now that you have all the information you need after reading our Guide to Hiking in Torres del Paine National Park,  I thought I would give you a more subjective perspective of our actual experience in the park.

Let’s start with some small talk about the weather. After hearing the briefing talk by one of the owners of Basecamp before entering the park, we were fully prepared to encounter the typical Patagonian weather which may or may not consist of 4 seasons of weather in one day – sun, wind, snow, sun, rain, back to sun again. IMG_6832This sort of thing is not unheard of in the southern cone and should probably be expected basically year round, but for the most part, we had decent weather during our eight day hike.

During the first 4 days of our trek, we had absolutely fantastic weather -not a drop of rain, mostly clear skies, and low wind. Because we got sick, we took it slow for these days to enjoy the weather and try to recover quickly. The nice weather was especially good news on our fourth and longest day, when we hiked from the free Campamento El Paso to Refugio Dickson by way of the John Gardner Pass. Paso John Gardner was the most intimidating part of the trail for me. During our travels, we heard several stories of people not being able to complete the Circuit due to bad weather and consequent closures of “The Pass” making it impassable. The wind is the biggest factor, sometimes causing closures of a couple of hours, and other times closures for days. As you can imagine, this makes planning a lot more difficult. It’s not only the closing of the Pass that makes this section intimidating, but the physical aspect of getting there. When hiking from West to East on the back side of the “O”, it was a steep 2.5 hour climb up the highest (1200m) and possibly windiest part of the trail with a few ropes to help climb and poor footing towards the top of the forest. DSC04583After we broke through the upper border of the forest, we were greeted with strong sunshine and a slight wind, making us lucky enough to have nearly perfect weather to go over the pass. At the top we were even able to break and take some fun photos. Just like every mountain, the fun eventually ended and we had to follow the laws of gravity because as they say, what goes up, must come down…

Note: To remedy the steepness, some people choose to go the opposite way. This way has its own issues. Though not as steep, you still have to climb up to 1200 meters over about 5 hours. (Personally, I prefer the short and difficult route instead of the long and drawn out method.) For those that choose this way, the major problem then becomes what if you hike 3 days to get to the pass and it is closed for a few days. DSC04639Then you may not have enough food to afford to wait until it opens before continuing which means you are forced to hike 3 days back to the east side of the “W” on the same trail. Not the best situation to be in since you will be risking not seeing part of the highlights on the “W”. Some of the refugios have a small shop to buy food if you are running low, but it is mostly cookies and snacks instead of what I like to call “food with substance”.

After making it over the pass, it was all downhill from there, pardon the pun, as we hiked past Refugio Los Perros, the first refugio on the other side of the pass, until we arrived at Refugio Dickson. In total, it was 10 hours of hiking – our longest and most difficult day, but what I learned is that I would not recommend climbing the Pass and skipping a campsite on the same day. Despite these difficulties, I am very happy we did the whole Circuit instead of just the “W”. There were much less people on the back side and we met some really nice people that were hiking the same route. The next morning when we woke in Dickson, we could tell it was going to rain, which was fine since we had already made it over Paso John Gardner. Patagonia, bring it on.IMG_7363

Well, it did. It rained/snowed/sleeted on and off in between periods of sun for the next two days. As we hiked past the glaciers, lakes, forests, and seasonal swamps on the backside, we followed the advice we got from Base Camp and avoided putting on our warm, waterproof clothes, instead choosing to change hiking speed to regulate our temperature. From Dickson, we hiked to Seron where we awoke to snow the next morning then continued hiking through the muddy trails destroyed by the rain and horses which frequent the east side of the Circuit. We cheated a little bit by stopping for 2 hours in Hotel Las Torres where we ordered hot chocolate and french fries next to a crackling fire. Once we noticed how comfortable we were getting, we decided to keep hiking towards our next destination.DSC04678

Anna and I hiked up to the namesake attraction, the Torres del Paine, on our 7th morning. Most people went up before sunrise to see the towers turn red, but since we waited an extra hour, there was a lot less people when we were up there. When the clouds started to cover up the three torres del Paine, we went back down to our campsite, packed up, ate, and hiked to Campamento Italiano at the entrance to Valle Frances. We tried hiking up the middle part of the “W” (Valle Frances) on our final morning, but the downpouring rain prevented us from going all the way. In the heavy rain and wet clothes, we packed up the wet tent and literally ran the majority of the 7.5km from Campamento Italiano to Paine Grande, where we started. What was supposed to take 2.5 hours of walking, only took us 1.25 hours running through the flooded paths and rivers in our soaking wet clothes like we were in military training. Towards the end of the run, we also got a nice taste of the notorious Patagonian winds, which were almost blowing Anna over. It was quite fun, but I was glad it happened on our last day!IMG_7644

For us, the front side, the “W”, was very crowded compared to the backside, so I did not feel as isolated as I did on the back side. The easy accessibility to the park is also one of its biggest downfalls in my opinion, because it makes for a crowded trail.IMG_7123 However, the amazing scenery, giant rock formations, and glaciers make it worth visiting. Overall my favorite part of the hike was our last day running through the rain, mud and wind to our final destination. Anna even found her favorite spot in all of South America on the backside of the circuit, peering out over Glacier Grey and into Chile’s Southern Ice Field at the mirador just before Campamento El Paso. After visiting the park, I’d still recommend everyone to go despite the weather and crowded trails, because no matter what, it will be an unforgettable experience.

IMG_7110Be sure to read our Guide to Hiking in Torres del Paine before you go!

 

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Torres del Paine National Park Guide

Dubbed the “8th Wonder of the World,” Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine was Chile’s first National Park (created in 1959) and is also its most visited attracting more than 100 thousand visitors a year. Because of this, I thought it would be a good idea to write a guide to hiking in the park based on my personal experience.

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Why go?

  • It’s a unique hiking experience where you can do an 8-day “hardcore” backpacking trek or stay in lodges and not have to carry much.
  • Amazing scenery. Glaciers, condors, jagged pillars, green lakes, gigantic flat rock faces, not to mention a look at the world’s third largest ice field.
  • Torres del Paine is very far south.
  • Experience 4 seasons of Patagonian weather in 1 day.
  • Everyone can do it: from the veteran mountaineer to the first time backpacker to the day tripper, the park has something for every level.

To begin the guide, here is a map for all you planners so you can locate the points I reference in my post. This is the same map you will receive as you enter the park. There are many out there, but I found this one to be the most helpful – plus it was free.

Map:

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Before you go:

  • Summer is High Season. That means that from December through February, the park is very busy. November & March are a little colder, but have less people.
  • Make it a priority to go to the briefing talk at Basecamp (next door to Erratic Rock Hostel) which happens everyday at 3pm. It lasts for about 1.5 hours, and they are very real with you. They give you some of the most valuable information you will recieve and go over everything from the different routes (W, O, Q), getting to and from the park, what clothes you should wear, what food to bring, what to expect about the weather, and answer any questions you might have.
  • Make a plan. Though things might change depending on the weather or other circumstances, it is best to start with a well thought out plan of where you will stay each night, even you do not follow it.
  • Make a grocery list to plan your food.
  • Renting equipment can be expensive, especially if you are planning on doing the whole circuit, but it is better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.
  • Stay at Erratic Rock Hostel the night before you leave for the park because they cook you an amazing breakfast (omelette, homemade bread, peanut butter, cereal, yoghurt, real coffee).

Getting there:

  • The best way to enter the park if you are looking to do a multi-day trek is to take a bus. You can buy your bus tickets for between $10,000-$15,000 Chilean Pesos (CLP) from the bus terminal.
  • Most buses leave at 7:30am or 7:50am. There are also a few buses that leave in the afternoon during the high season.
  • All forms of transportation in the park (bus, micros, catamaran) are synced so one will not leave until all the others get there.
  • Upon entering the park, EVERYONE is required to watch a safety video and pay the park entrance fee ($18,000 CLP for foreigners).
  • After you watch the video, you have three options on where to begin. Use the map above for reference.
  1. Your first option is to transfer from the big bus that took you to the park entrance and hop on a microbus that will take you from where you pay the entrance fee (1st bus stop) to Hotel Las Torres for $2,500 pesos each way.
  2. Your second option is to stay on the big bus for another 30 minutes and get off to take the catamaran at Pudeto. This is the most popular option in summer, but also the most expensive. The catamaran cost $12,000 pesos each way unless you buy a round trip ticket ($19,000) right away. The 20-minute catamaran ride takes you from Cafe Pudeto to Refugio Paine Grande. Some people like this option for the return trip to relax, but it offers many of the same views as from inside the park.
  3. The third option is to take the big bus to the third and final stop, the Visitors Center & Administration. From here, you can do the tail of the “Q”. This is the cheapest option because it entails a 3-5 hour hike across the flat plains in towards the park instead of taking transportation. It is cool to walk in and see the whole park in front of you. This is the route we took.

Routes:

The “W” (~4 days) “The W” is by far the most popular route. It is named that way because of the rough shape the route takes on the map. The trek takes you to see the highlights of the park. The “O” (6-10 days) “The O” or the Circuit, is “The W” plus the backside of the park. Many people say that the backside is the more beautiful part, and there is also less people. The “Q” (7-11 days) “The Q” is the Circuit plus an extra 3-5 hour hike from the Administration office (third and last stop on the bus) to Refugio Paine Grande. What we did:  The “Q” in 8 days/7 nights Day 1: Puerto Natales – Administration – Refugio Paine Grande (16km, 3.5 hrs) Day 2: Refugio Paine Grande – Refugio Grey (10km, 3.25 hrs) Day 3: Refugio Grey – Campamento Paso (6km, 3.5hrs) Day 4: Campamento Paso – John Gardner Pass – Refugio Los Perros – Refugio Dickson (20km, 8.5 hrs) Day 5: Refugio Dickson – Refugio Seron (18km, 5 hrs) Day 6: Refugio Seron – Hotel Las Torres – Campamento Las Torres (21km, 5 hrs + 1hr break at Hotel Las Torres) Day 7: Campamento Las Torres – Refugio Cuernos – Campamento Italiano (24km, 4.5 hrs) Day 8: Campamento Italiano – Refugio Paine Grande – Puerto Natales (7.5km, 1.25 hrs running/walking in rain)

Equipment:

  • Backpack. Duh! If you are doing the Circuit, I recommend at least 60L so you can carry everything and share the weight of community gear and food.
  • Two pairs of shoes. I hiked in tennis shoes, but many people wear hiking boots. Regardless, they will get wet even if they are waterproof. Some comfortable sandals are recommended for camp.
  • ONLY two (2) changes of clothes – One “stink suit” that you will hike in EVERY day & one clean/dry outfit to be worn only once you have reached camp.
  • Trekking Poles are optional. Winds can be strong, hills can be steep, but not everyone likes carrying the extra weight. I did not bring them.

Our Costs (per person)*:

$10,000 CLP – Transportation to and from the park
$18,000 – Park entrance fee
$4,800 – Camping fee for Refugio Paine Grande
$4,000 – Camping fee for Refugio Grey
$4,000 – Camping fee for Refugio Dickson
$4,000 – Camping fee for Refugio Seron
$12,000 – Catamaran from Refugio Paine Grande to Pudeto

Total: $56,800 CLP (~$114 USD / 8 days = $14.25 USD per day) + food & gear

*Prices in low season (March 2014)

My Recommendations & Tips:

  • The “W” is the highlights trail which means there is always a lot of people. The back side of the Circuit is much less crowded.
  • In my opinion, the catamaran is way too expensive and not worth the price.
  • The free campsites are: Campamento Italiano, Campamento Las Torres, Campamento Paso, & Campamento Las Carretas. All others are paid sites.
  • If you can, bring all your own gear. Renting gear can get expensive. Depending on your length of stay, you might be able to save money by buying the item instead of renting (sleeping pad, rain gear).
  • The park is beautiful, but I never felt like I was in unexplored wilderness.
  • If you want to get up before sunrise to see the Torres del Paine turn red, it is better to camp at Campamento Las Torres than Refugio Chileno. First of all, because it is a much shorter hike from Campamento Las Torres, and second, Las Torres is free and Chileno is paid.
  • If you need to skip a campsite on the circuit, I recommend doing it on a different day then the day you go over Paso John Gardner. For example, skip Refugio Dickson and go from Los Perros to Seron if you need to make up for lost ground.
  • As a safety net, try to plan an extra day into your trip (this means food too) in case the weather conditions are terrible, a section of the trail is closed, you get sick, etc.
  • Be prepared to encounter 4 seasons of weather in the same day. I’m serious!
  • Useful Websites: National Park’s Website, WikiTravel, WikiVoyage, WindGuru

Read Our Torres del Paine Circuit Experience.