Torres del Paine is located 145 kilometers northwest of Puerto Natales, Chile. There is regular bus service from Natales; an open-ended, round-trip ticket costs $12.50. Most air traffic is into Punta Arenas via Santiago with regular bus service from Punta Arenas to Puerto Montt. Car rental is also available in Punta Arenas. ALTA, a new carrier, flies direct to Natales from Puerto Montt.
A unique option is flying to Puerto Montt (major connections from United, LanChile, and others) and continuing to Natales on a four-day cruise through the fjords of southern Chile on Navimag's "Puerto Eden." Dormitory accommodations (60,000 pesos) are the least expensive, but for a little extra sacrifice you can enjoy the pleasures of a cabin — you'll thank yourself later. (Navimag in Puerto Montt: Angelmo 2187, Phone (56-65) 253318-Fax (56-65) 258 540. Note: Navimag lacks North American service standards. You may save hours of frustration by booking directly through a travel agency such as the Puerto Montt-based Travelers).
When to go
Parque Nacional Torres del Paine is open year-round. The best time to visit, however, is during the austral summer — perfect for escaping those winter blahs. Late November through February are your best bets for good weather; most visitors come in December. No matter when you come, bring warm clothes and quality raingear. Weather is notoriously volatile; high winds and slashing rains can be followed by sun and short-sleeve weather.
The entrance fee is 5,500 pesos for foreigners ($1=410 pesos). Climbers pay an additional 40,000 per climber.
Lodging within the park ranges from luxury hotels to primitive campgrounds. Bus and boat service provide connections between major hosterias, or lodgings. More remote areas of the park are serviced by Andescape refugios, which provide basic food supplies, showers, fuel, etc. Hikers of the circuit are required to carry camping gear (tent and stove).
There are abundant accommodation options in both Puerto Natalas and Punta Arenas. Any good guidebook will give adequate listings. Budget accommodation can be found for $5 per person.
Several companies publish maps of the park, and they are readily available both in Natales and within the park. The best is by Zagier & Urruty, published in 1997. Maps give suggested hiking times for sections of trail within the park, but seem more suited to joggers. Remember, you're trying to relax.
Bradt publishes a guide to visiting South America's parks, containing information on neighboring parks as well. Assuming your visit to Chile will take you beyond Natales, you may want a more comprehensive guide such as Lonely Planet's Chile and Easter Island Travel Survival Kit. The South America Handbook, though covering the whole continent, has a very detailed section on the park. Numerous Spanish-language guides detailing the park's unique features are available in both Natales and Punta Arenas.