The O Circuit
- Trekking & Hiking
Welcome to Patagonia! Your guide will pick you up at the Puerto Natales airport and transfer you to Hotel Big Sur. You will then have free time the rest of the day, take a walk around the small, brightly coloured town with it's delightful 'Costanera'. At 6pm, your guide will come to your hotel for a pre-trek briefing to prepare you for embarking on the 'O' Circuit.
This morning we will embark on our 'O' circuit trek. Our transfer will take us to the majestic Torres del Paine National Park. When we arrive at Las Torres, we will pass by the Welcome Center before starting our hike along the peaceful Serón Sector. This will take us through the Enchanted Valley, its name hailing from the unique and “enchanted” forms of granite towers standing tall amidst the shrubbery. Some of the towers yield surprising trees, perched on their crests and wedged in between, home to the impressive Condors soaring overhead. From here, we enter an old, native Lenga tree forest. Notice the trees covered by a special kind of lichen, known as “old man’s beard” (Barba de Viejo), which only grows in the purest of atmospheres. Amidst the shade of the trees lies our campsite for the night.
This long, yet unforgettable day will take us up and down the foothills of the Paine Massif mountain range with magnificent photo opportunities along the way of towering peaks crowned with fluffy, white clouds. To reach Lake Dickson we will descend down to the shore of Lake Paine, it's beautiful, green waters the forefront to a stunning backdrop of the surrounding peaks. A gentle stroll along the flood plains of the meandering riverbed will bring us to a remote campsite at Lake Dickson.
Make the most of the shorter trekking day ahead, by waking up early and revelling in the silence on the lakeside as the clouds pass over the snowy, mountain peaks. Once we have indulged in the surrounding scenery, we will continue on our adventure, taking us through another ancient Lenga forest, home to the handsome Magellan woodpecker. On the last stretch of the trail, we take time to marvel at the Los Perros Glacier as it hangs forebodingly above a serene, grey lagoon. Tucked away in the forest overlooking the lagoon lies our campsite.
Today will be the hardest but most rewarding day of the Circuit. We will leave Los Perros campsite early and zigzag through the forest’s humid terrain. The forest then depletes and gives way to a barren, scree-filled landscape. We ascend a steep, winding, rocky section to reach the remote John Gardner Pass. Having arrived here, the views over the Southern Patagonian Ice Field will take your breath away with its irregular peaks and turquoise glacial crevasses. We marvel at it's beauty before descending gradually along a balcony path to reach Lake Grey.
This is the part of the Circuit where the “O” meets the “W”. After a few very intense days, today we will enjoy a relaxing walk in the foothills of the mountains, amongst Antarctic beech (ñirre), Dombey’s beech (coigüe) and the Chilean firetrees (notro). Allow this short, yet gratifying trek to fill our senses whilst the incredible views of Mount Paine Grande, the highest peak in the region (3,050m) provides the backdrop to the day. Once we arrive at the campsite, kick-back and relax or take a leisurely walk along the peaceful shore of Lake Pehoé and marvel at it's alluring, turquoise waters.
The day begins with a wonderful hike into the Francés Valley. Along the way we divulge in the peace and quiet of nature, surrounded by majestic mountain peaks and wild vegetation. Savour in the serenity of the forests and the glacial streams, where we can fill our bottles with pure, fresh water, whilst marvelling at the majestic Los Cuernos Mountains looming overhead. The grand finale for today, finds us at a lookout with incredible views over the Francés Glacier and the lesser known peaks of the Paine Massif Mountain Range.
We will begin today by following the weaving path of the Arriero River, which offers great places to relax and refill our bottles with fresh running water. Prepare to be drawn into the beauty of the enormous summits that loom over the turquoise lake below and capture the incredible scenery on your lens ready to be flaunted to others back home. Lake Nordenskjöld is surrounded by amazing geographical contrasts and is home to many birds, so keep a keen eye out for Condors overhead. We will then continue along the base of the magnificent Mount Almirante Nieto and its hanging glaciers before setting up camp amidst the shrubbery at the valley mouth.
We start the day with a slowly ascending hike through the Patagonian pampas that begins to steepen as we enter the Ascencio Valley, hence the name. This gradually rises to reach the Los Vientos Mountain Pass - with its spectacular, panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and lakes. We will continue hiking, past the Chileno Mountain Hostel and through a native, Lenga forest before approaching the final stretch of our adventure. The path becomes more adventurous as it weaves over rocky terrain, lined with enormous boulders. Awaiting us at the end is the awe-inspiring view of the three iconic, granite towers standing tall over the glacial lagoon. What a way to end the trek!
From here, we make a steady descent back down the valley where a transfer will take us to our hotel in Puerto Natales.
Today we have a final breakfast and say goodbye to the group and guide before separating for our onward travels.
Whilst camping in Torres del Paine National Park, your meals will be prepared at the campsites using fresh and locally sourced ingredients. We will provide you with a dining tent in which to take your meals and all crockery, cutlery, tables and chairs are provided. Picnic lunches will also be prepared for you.
Argentine cuisine consists mainly of meat. More precisely, beef. Argentina is renowned for the quality of its steak and it is a meat lovers paradise. You will find grilled meats available everywhere including tripe, intestines and even udders. Meat aside, the cuisine is a mix of Spanish, native American and Italian influences so vegetarians can always fall back on dishes like gnocchi, pasta and pizza. In the large towns and cities, you will find all dietary requirements are catered for. You may also have the opportunity to sample “Mate”, a Paraguayan tea made from a variety of holly and typical drank from a “bombilla”.
If you have special dietary requirements please inform us when booking your adventure. We can cater for vegetarian and gluten free diets and you are welcome to bring along your own gluten free produce.
Whilst trekking, boiled and filtered water is available every morning for you to fill your bottles or bladder. We recommend you also bring a water filter or purification system to allow you to refill at refuges or springs. All drinks, including water, are your own responsibility through out the trip. We don’t recommend the use of plastic bottles which will need to be carried out and recycled.
In Torres del Paine National Park we will be camping. A 2-man tent is provided per two people along with a foam mattress and a sleeping bag. Tents will already be set up with mattresses and sleeping bags inside...some of them are even raised on special platforms! There will be shared bathrooms with flushing toilets and hot water at all sites except Camping Los Perros (cold water only).
Your meals will be prepared at the campsite and you will eat in the refuge 'restaurant' each morning and evening. All crockery and cutlery is provided. Packed lunches will be provided from the refuge kitchens each morning for you to take with you in your backpack.
Bag Weight: 15kg.
Please also be aware that on domestic flights in Argentina and Chile there is a maximum weight of 15kg on all checked luggage. If your main bag weighs more than 15kg you may be asked to pay excess luggage fees which will be your own responsibility.
We do not recommend the use of traveller’s cheques as they are often impractical. Bank cards are widely used for most things but it is best to use Visa as Mastercard is not commonly accepted. Your guide will show you the best places to change currency at the best rate. The official exchange rate offered by banks and ATMs is not good as these are controlled by the government and reflect the poor rate of the Argentinian peso. You will therefore find that it is best to take Euros or Dollars with you and exchange locally with "arbolitos" or use specific banks that offer 'Blue Dollar' exchange. See our Argentina Travel Guide for more information on this.
The amounts below will give you an indication of how much to tip. Please note that these amounts are for the entire group, therefore you should divide them by the total number of people in your party. You will be provided with a Tip Recommendation three weeks prior to departure with recommended tips based on the number of people in your group.
Guide: $20 US Dollars per day
Driver: $5 – $10 US Dollars per day
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