The W Circuit at Las Torres del Paine National Park is one of the most famous treks in Patagonia, usually taking around five days and four nights to complete. Given its name because of the shape the trail takes from a bird's-eye view, W Circuit hikers will expect to see some of the most extraordinary landscapes in Chile. Here, we pick out five of the main attractions, from high mountains to deep valleys.
Rising majestically into the blue skies are three adjacent mountain peaks which are so impressive, the National Park takes its name from them. The awe-inspiring granite towers soar out of the turquoise lake and up to 2,500m above sea level. They were formed over time from glacial erosion, but now only one small glacier remains at the foot of the peaks. Getting to the base is no mean feat, but this stunning view makes it all worthwhile.
One of the top attractions halfway through the W Circuit is the the French Valley. This striking bowl-shaped hollow features a large hanging glacier named Glacier Frances, a river, and forests of beech trees and other plant species which change colour during the autumn. Each direction you look, peaks of the massif engulf your view.
Los Cuernos (meaning ‘the horns’) is another mountain competing with Las Torres for the best in beauty. What may give these peaks a slight edge are their unusual colour and shape. Different rock types create a multi-coloured effect, and their sharp, jagged horns, formed from years of erosion, are quite the spectacle. Hikers will come across Los Cuernos midway through their trek of the W Circuit.
Tumbling into the turquoise waters of Lago Grey (Grey Lake), Grey Glacier is one of the most impressive glaciers in the South Patagonia Ice Field. When hiking the W circuit, travellers have the chance to marvel at this 30m high and 6km wide landscape from the Grey Glacier Lookout Point, along with its floating icebergs and glacial moraines. If you want a closer look, there's also opportunities to take a boat ride, kayak tour or ice hiking excursion.
Last but by no means least, Paine Grande is the highest peak in Las Torres del Paine National Park. At 10,000ft high, the giant glacier at the top is usually lost in the clouds. Made up of four peaks, visitors will be able to see the mountain from areas including the Grey Glacier and the French Valley, and will regularly witness avalanches. This mountain is notoriously one of the hardest climbs in Patagonia.