El Calafate to Torres del Paine by car
A car is the best way to see Torres del Paine. We stopped when we wanted, and saw many beautiful sights. And while we did, the tour busses just drove past. When a tour bus did stop, often they scared away the animals.
You do not need a 4x4 to get to to Torres del Paine from El Califate. A normal car will do fine. A 4x4 would only be needed if you want to take the unpaved roads during wet weather.
It is about 300 km, from El Calafate to Torres del Paine. It will take about 5 hours in good weather.
To start: Take highway 11 east out of El Califate. Turn south on highway 40. ( About 5 km after you turn, the road will climb a steep hill. Stop at the viewpoint to have a look northward - it is a great view. )
If the weather is dry: About 30 km more, and highway 40 will go to the right, and highway 5 will continue straight ahead. Turn right onto 40. The sign for your turn is small. Watch closely or you will miss it.
Continue on highway 40 southwestward for about 70 km. Some of the road will be rough here; it is not paved, but just go slowly and you will be ok.
If the weather is wet: stay on highway 5 southward into a little town called Esperanza then go west on highway 7 for about 20 km until it rejoins highway 40. This is longer, but better in bad weather.
When highway 40 gets near the Chilean border, watch for the signs. ( The name on the border crossing is Cerro Castillo, I think. However, knowing this will not help you much because the signs are very poor.) You will be going south on 40 at this point. You have to turn right to go through customs. The sign is near an intersection of two highways, and it looks like the sign says to turn right on the other highway. But turn right about 100 yards before the main intersection. It will look like a road into some farmer's goat pasture, but it is the road into Chile. Go up the hill, and around the corner, and you will come to a small building on the left side of the road. There will be a chain across the road. Stop in front of the chain, park, and walk into the building. They are nice to tourists.
They will handle your paperwork and drop the chain for you. Then you drive about 1 km until you see several buildings on the right. One of them is Chilean customs. They were friendly too.
A few tips:
1) The signs in Chile are no better than the signs in Argentina. Get a good map before you go. For a basic map, look at google maps.
2) I recommend paying for lodging inside the park if you can afford it, otherwise you will spend half your time driving back and forth between your hotel and the park. We stayed at the Hosteria Lago Grey. The view was magnificent, and the food was great.
3) Don't try to bring fruits or vegetables into Chile.
4) Fill up your gas tank whenever you can. It is a long way between gas stations.
5) In the park, be careful when going around blind corners. Sometimes guanacos will stand in the road.
From Punta Arenas airport and Puerto Natales
You can arrive to Torres del Paine National Park by boat from Puerto Natales, and previously Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales by coach.
If you are arriving at Punta Arenas airport, you don't need to go downtown Punta Arenas. You can catch the bus to Puerto Natales in the airport.
Buses Fernandez make a first stop at Punta Arenas airport about 15 minutes later than departure time, and then they go on toward Puerto Natales.
You can buy the ticket at the information desk in the airport.
Travel time from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales is 3 hours.
If you plan entering the park with the cruise and the zodiac, that's an
absolutely amazing way - the most expensive (about 130$ as 11/2008) but if you cann afford it, it's worth the while.
The only company that operates that cruise is "Turismo 21 de mayo", their offices
are on a side street from Puerto Natales main square 'Plaza de Armas'.
Puerto Natales lives from tourism, so any hotel or travel agency will be glad to help you in designing your route and making your bookings in Torres del Paine.
Don't worry because of your luggage in the sailing: the first boat is a big one, and while you travel in the Zodiac your luggage will be transferred by van to your destination point.
Or if you are returning to the same hotel in Puerto Natales, you could leave
part of your not needed lugagge at the hotel's locked baggage room.
Here you can find lots of info about the park, how to get there, acommodation,
- National/State Park
transportation in Puerto Natales
If you have planned to take the boat trip for Puerto Montt you have to book your trip well in advance. If you haven't yet, you can go to Comapa and do it before you go to Torres.
For transportation to the Torres you can take the local bus or you can book it with a travel agency together with any other package you wish to book for your stay on the Torres.
The hotel owners can usually help booking it for you in their name, of course with a commission from the office but it is still cheaper sometimes. Ask prices first at the travel agencies and then book wherever you like. A reliable one is Comapa on Bulnes street 533.
- Hiking and Walking
- Sailing and Boating
A el Calafate - To The Calafate
En la agencia Baquedano Zamorano de Puerto Natales , sacamos el billete para ir desde la Posada Río Serrano hasta El Calafate en autobús
Nos costó 40USD y tardamos una hora hasta la frontera , otra hora para cruzar la frontera de Chile y cuatro horas para llegar a El Calafate , por carreteras asfaltadas
In the Baquedano Zamorano Agency in Puerto Natales , we took the ticket to go from Posada del Río Serrano up to El Calafate by bus
It cost 40 USD and it took us one hour up to the border , one hour to cross the Chilean border and four hours to reach El Calafate , in asphalt roads
Busstop from P.Natales to Torres del Paine
Transportation to PN Torres del Paine is usually from P.Natales via Villa Cerro Castillo (not to be confused with Villa Cerro Castillo in Región Aisen !).
There are 6-7 bus operators in P.Natales, which run one or more daily busses into the park (usually at 7 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.).
The trip along the 120 km of unpaved road takes around 4 - 5 hours (and is 6 - 8 USD, depending on the bus operator).
As usual during "longer" trips, the busses stop for restroom and shopping (water, soda, etc).
The stop is usually at Villa Cerro Castillo, a small station close to the border of Argentina.
Already here, the endless range of the area is visible.
The picture was taken close to the little shop at Villa Cerro Castillo - to the northwestern part of PN Torres del Paine.
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
Storyin Glacier Grey
ship tour every morning and afternoon about 3 hrs , 60 USD round trip , 30 USD one way to Refugio Grey( not gerentee to see the glacier ) , + mini bus to Hosteria Lago Grey about 6 USD .
- Budget Travel
- National/State Park