When we decided to go to Patagonia it was a little tough to find a straight answer to “How do we get there?”. We thought about renting a car and driving but that would take too long. We thought about booking a full tour that arranged everything for us but we are self sufficient travelers so we figured we could figure it out ourselves. So, with a little help from Google we figured out where we needed to go and what the best way to get there was. I’m sure there are many ways to get to Patagonia but I’m going to tell you about how Spencer and I got there because that’s the only way I know how. If anyone has other ways then please tell us about it in the comments!
Santiago to Punta Arenas
We landed in Santiago from NYC so after some sight seeing and a lot of eating we took a flight down to Punta Arenas. Apparently during the winter season this is the closest airport. We’ve heard that in the summer there is an airport right in Puerto Natales (closer to the park) but during our visit it wasn’t an option.
We flew from Santiago with Sky Airlines which is a small carrier. We ended up flying with Sky during our entire stay in Chile. They’re a great inexpensive airline – very basic but well organized and clean – for three one way flights we paid about $300 each. I called them a few times from New York to check baggage details and such and they were super helpful on the phone. You have to pay for your baggage separately so if you book through them make sure you pay for your luggage beforehand.
Our flight took off at 6:30 am and landed at 11:00 am. The flight is actually about 3.5 hours but at the time of our travel there was an hour time difference between Santiago and Patagonia.The reason we took such an early flight is because we wanted to get to Puerto Natales while there was still light out. We had a 5:00 pm orientation with our tour guide and wanted time to see a little bit of the town before sunset.
Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales
Once you get to Punta Arenas, you have to find a way to get to Puerto Natales. Getting to Puerto Natales from Punta Arenas takes about 3 hours by bus and although it sounds daunting after a long flight it was one of the most pleasant experiences on a bus I’ve ever had.
We decided to use Bus-Sur to travel between Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales. They had good reviews and the price was reasonable. You can very easily book your ticket on their website and pay around $11.00 each way. The bus picks up right at the airport so just make sure to book your flight around the time there’s a bus scheduled to leave so you’re not waiting too long. Our bus was around 30 minutes late but it did come. So if you’re waiting for a bit don’t despair! They will show up.
The people working for Bus-Sur were also just wonderful. They gave us blankets at the start of the ride in case we got cold and they kept coming over to clean the fog off the windows so we had a clear view out the window. Every time we passed a squad of Guanacos the driver slowed down so we could all take a close look. Side Note: I forgot my hat on the bus and the people at Bus Sur were so accommodating that someone was able to send us to the bus depot, locate the bus we were on and then let us on the bus to find my hat!
When you get to the Bus Station at Puerto Natales you can take a reasonable cab to your hotel. There is a cab line and the cab drivers are pretty much waiting at the station for anyone who needs a ride.
Puerto Natales to Torres Del Paine National Park
Getting to Torres Del Paine National Park from Puerto Natales is actually quite easy but you will need to drive there. We booked our whole hike through Chile Nativo and part of the what we got in our package was transportation to and from the Park. They picked us up at our hostel, Erratic Rock, and drove us to the park. Keep reading to learn about our actual hike with Chile Nativo and the package we purchased.
Chile Nativo…worth it?
Before committing to Chile Nativo we briefly contemplated doing the W trek on our own. We knew a few people who did Patagonia a few years before us. They got to Chile, rented all their gear and then headed to do the trek by themselves. At the time of our trek we didn’t own a lot of hiking gear and were hesitant about how much we would be able to carry. We also had no idea what to expect or knew how strenuous the hike would be so we decided to take a guide with us.
When we first started searching we were a little worried because it seemed like the park closed at the end of May/early June…this was right around the time we were going. All this said the park does technically close at the start of Chile’s winter but you can enter the park as long as you have a guide with you. So, we were somewhat forced to take a guide and it ended up working perfectly.
From the moment we started to communicate with the Chile Nativo crew they were very responsive and helpful. We were able to book our hike and trip with them with just a little over three weeks. They gave us many options for routes, dates, distance and prices. We ended up doing the Winter W Trek (5 days, 4 nights) which set us back around $3,000 for both of us. Their website was very clear and told us exactly what we would be doing day to day. I read a few reviews that spoke about this guide “Maurizio” who was “amazing” and I secretly hoped he would be our guide…spoiler alert he was!
A few weeks before the hike they told us there was another person interested in joining the group and asked if it was okay. We talked about it and agreed it would be nice to have 4th person to balance out the group. To this day we talk about how lucky we were to have ended up with Amber – she was an amazing hiking bud!
When you sign up with Chile Nativo you want to make sure you read everything you are signing up for. I mean this in the best possible way as you’re signing up to do a pretty intense hike! This is what we go for our money:
- Transportation to and from the Park – key if you don’t have a car!
- Entrance fee to Torres del Paine National Park – we heard that its very hard to figure out how navigate the website to do this so we were happy they took care of this for us.
- Four nights in a mountain hut (sharing rooms bunk bed style) heating, showers & hot water. – again, not easy to book refugios if you’re not familiar with the area/website.
- All meals indicated in the schedule (B: breakfast, BL: box lunch, D: dinner) – not talking instant meals here, this means real eggs for breakfast, a box lunch with sandwich, fruit, nuts, snack, etc. and a real meal for dinner complete with home made bread.
- Guide (English-Spanish languages)
- Any additional nights – trust we wanted to stay longer
- Medical expenses – luckily for us we had zero expenses but also Amber is a nurse so we lucked out!
- Insurance of any kind
- Personal expenses
- Alcoholic drinks – there are many opportunities to buy alcohol at the refugio if you need a little sip to unwind after a long hike.
- Porters to carry personal belongings for 4 days (available upon request, USD$ 150 per day, with a maximum of 15K per porter, usually good to share one in between two hikers) – honestly no need for a porter, if you hop on over to my “What You Need To Pack” link you’ll see that you don’t need to carry a whole lot.
- Gratuities for Guide – after you have hiked this trek with your guide you will want to thank him any way possible, tip your guide! He has kept you safe and out of harms way!
So, overall, do I feel like booking our trip through Chile Nativo was worth it? ABSOLUTELY! We had the best experience with our guide and we learned so much about the area than we would have had we hiked the whole thing alone. We got the best treatment and were able to appreciate Patagonia much more than we imagined possible.