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Torres Del Paine Circuit Trek Day 1 Laguna Amarga To Campamento Seron







Horses in the grassy fields of Torres del Paine, backed by the snow-capped peaks of Patagonia.

Intro: After a 24-hour plane journey from the States and numerous bus rides, we were finally taking our first steps along Torres del Paine’s famous “O” circuit trek.

It seems crazy that less than a month ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do at the end of January. I had nearly three weeks off work (and Charlene had a handful of vacation days left) and at first contemplated either taking it easy at home and just doing a few day hikes, or maybe heading out of state…but to where?

It was winter season back in the States, so most of the national parks were too cold to visit and the roads to them were closed. Not to mention, after a somewhat disappointing trip to India at the end of November 2014 I wanted a break from doing any private/structured-itinerary tours.

I needed an alternative travel experience – one that would not only put me in touch with nature, allowing photography to be a top priority, but also give me the flexibility to plan it however I wanted. It didn’t take long for me to set my mind and heart on Patagonia, specifically Torres del Paine National Park and its “O” circuit trek.

After a few weeks of doing last-minute research, figuring out how to pack everything, booking plane tickets and hostels (and convincing Charlene to go with me), we were finally here: at the very beginning of our 9-day trekking journey through the stunning scenery of Torres del Paine.

Carrying out administrative duties at the Torres del Paine visitor’s center in Laguna Amarga.

Before we could actually suit up our heavy backpacks, extend our trekking poles, and take the first steps towards our camp for Day 1 (Campamento Seron), we had to take care of a few administrative things at the entrance. When we arrived at Laguna Amarga after our 2-hour ride from Puerto Natales, everyone got off the bus and headed over to the visitor center. Here we paid the park entrance fee (make sure you have Chilean Pesos in mint condition!) and watched a quick video about the dos and don’ts (namely NEVER start a fire, EVER) of trekking in Torres del Paine National Park.

Those that were planning to take the ferry ride to Refugio Paine Grande and start their trekking adventure there, or even further south and do the “Q” trek (adding an extra day to the “O”), got back on the bus and headed on. For Charlene, myself, and about a dozen other trekkers that were doing the circuit route or the “W” trek from east to west, we got our backpacks from the bus and hopped on another shuttle.

If you’re wondering what all these letters and directions mean, don’t worry about it for now. Remember that I didn’t know a single thing about Torres del Paine, much less any of its famous treks, a month before departing for Patagonia. There’s plenty of resourceful information online that I can refer you to if you’re curious. Or if you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll be more than happy to address them :).

The Buses Gomez bus that transported us from Puerto Natales to Laguna Amarga.

So out of the frying pan and right into the fire. Or rather, out of one bus and right back onto a shuttle. It was a few Chilean Pesos to take the shuttle from Laguna Amarga to the start of our circuit trek, Torre Central, which is named for the accommodation owned by the company Fantastico Sur.

Trekking backpacks loaded into the front seats of the shuttle bus that took us from Laguna Amarga to Torre Central.

We didn’t have to take the shuttle ride, but doing so saved us about a mile of walking on concrete road, which I’m sure Charlene greatly appreciated. For what it’s worth, no one in our group did that walk. Instead, we all stuffed ourselves and our backpacks into the shuttle, and took the 5-minute drive over to Torre Central.

Finally…we arrived at the beginning of our “O” circuit trek and could take the first steps of this 100km loop around Torres del Paine. The reason I say “our” is because there’s multiple places to start this route, and you can do it clockwise or counterclockwise.

When we arrived at Torre Central around 10:30AM, the sun was already high up in the sky and the weather quite warm. Without a cloud in the sky, we ditched our rain jackets and opted to go with thin, long-sleeve shirts.

Charlene all ready to hike at the start of the “O” circuit trek on our first day in Torres del Paine National Park.

We made sure our backpacks were on securely, got our trekking poles all set, Charlene put on her GoPro chesty gear (while I lugged my 5DM3 around my neck), and we checked the map to make sure we were going in the right direction for Campamento Seron. By the time we were ready to start trekking, everyone else from our shuttle was long gone.

The bus stop for the shuttle to Laguna Amarga that departs at 9AM, 2PM, and 4PM.

Some headed west to follow the “W” trek, while others made their way towards the hills in the north, which I assumed was the way to our camp. So much for NOT being the slowest trekkers, we hadn’t even hiked one step yet and were already the last ones leaving :).

The grassy fields and snow-capped peaks that greeted us on our first day’s trek to Campamento Seron.

As we followed the trail heading north, I was already feeling winded after only a few minutes of going uphill. My backpack was not only feeling quite heavy (at roughly 60lbs it was the most I’ve ever carried), but also uncomfortable. I figured the feeling would go away as I continued hiking, and decided not to worry about it for now (big mistake). Charlene was doing much better than me, walking ahead while I stopped frequently to catch my breath…I mean take a few photos :).

Not very long into our 12km hike to Campamento Seron, I was already feeling somewhat worried that we weren’t going in the right direction. It appeared like we were heading in a more easterly direction than north. So the first 20-30 minutes of our trek wasn’t off to the best start: I was feeling out of shape, the summer sun was beaming down on us, my backpack wasn’t fitting me correctly, and we weren’t quite sure if we were even hiking in the right direction!

Walking through one of the EcoCamp domed tent villages that are found throughout Torres del Paine National Park.

How were we going to make it through the next eight days if we couldn’t even get through the first? Luckily, we came across a few guys who were hanging out at an Ecocamp (those fancy dome-like lodges) who told us we were on the right track and to continue following the trail.

A sign indicating the way to Campamento Seron and reassuring us that we were hiking in the right direction.

I should also mention that I downloaded Rudolf Abraham’s “Torres del Paine: Trekking in Chile’s Premier National Park” eBook on my iPhone, and used its day-by-day description of the trek to ensure we were on the right track. The funny thing is (as we found out by the second day), there’s really no way to get lost in Torres del Paine!

Specifically for the circuit trek, there’s only one path, with signs/arrows present at any point there was a split in the trail. After hiking through the Ecocamp and a bit further along, we finally came across the “Campamento Seron” sign, just as Abraham mentioned in his book. I know it might not seem like a big deal, but for our sake, we couldn’t be more thrilled to confirm that indeed we were on the correct (and only!) trail.

As great as the feeling of being on the right path was, the annoyance of my REI XT 85 backpack weighing me down, particularly the waist strap digging deep into my upper thigh, started to really bog me down. I thought this was a good time to put my pack down, make sure all the straps were on tightly, and take the opportunity to snap a few photos of the horses nearby. The last thing I wanted was blisters or bruising, especially since we had literally just begun our trek!

Looking back down the way we had come towards Torre Central and the road to Laguna Amarga.

In regards to scenery: the first quarter of the trek (about 3km) from Torre Central to Campamento Seron was okay. We saw a few snow-capped mountains behind us, although the famous Los Torres peaks were no longer in view, with most of the surrounding environment low grasses, bushes, and trees…not very exciting.

Charlene carefully crosses a cattle grid along the trail from Torre Central to Campamento Seron.

The sun continued to beat down strongly on our heads, making us drink more water than we expected. We were told that there would be streams and rivers every few minutes, and wouldn’t need to purify it before drinking. However, about an hour into our trek, we had not come across a single drop. Safe to say, we were getting a tad bit worried.

A close-up look at one of the snow-capped peaks that loomed above us as we trekked towards Campamento Seron.

But as had happened earlier, just as we thought we were in trouble, we saw a few guys who pointed us in the right direction and we saw a small stream on the left hand side of the trail.

Since it was around noon and we were trekking through a forest with lots of shade, we thought this was the perfect opportunity for lunch. It was time for salami, crackers, dried fruits, and lots of cold, fresh water, straight from the steam! A somewhat-full tummy (but more so rejuvenated mind and body) gave us the energy to continue trekking to Campamento Seron.

Signposts along the trail to Campamento Seron indicating distances and national park rules regarding camp stoves and tents.

We passed by signs with elevation and distance plots on them every few kilometers, letting us know how close we were to our campsite. Remembering that it was summer time in Patagonia, and sunset wasn’t until around 10PM, I was thinking about the cloudless, clear blue skies and the harsh light that would cast down on every inch of our surroundings.

Already having a fit with my backpack, which was still digging into my waist and upper thigh area, I was dreading having lugged the tripod and other camera gear and not having been able to use them so far. However, I was optimistic that the scenery would get better in the following days, and I would be able to catch the late evening and early morning light for photos.

A broken bridge part way along the trail to Campamento Seron, with an alternative detour provided.

To say we were taking our time on the 12km trek to our camp would be an understatement. We (more like “me”, while Charlene steamed ahead at a good pace) were so slow that even backpackers that arrived on the later shuttles passed us (and I don’t recall passing anyone that was already ahead). But I wasn’t too worried about getting to Campamento Seron by a particular time, especially since I had already made reservations for a spot and we had plenty of daylight to hike.

Passing through a forest that provided a welcome respite from the hot summer sun in Torres del Paine National Park.

Much to Charlene’s credit, she was okay with me taking lots of breaks (probably every 20-30 minutes). Hey, it’s the journey and not the destination, right? Even if it’s an irritating (darn those backpack straps!) and super harshly-lit one.

Getting ever closer: a signpost indicating where we are along the trail to Campamento Seron.

By the time we got past the three quarter mark of the trek (about 9km), I was so done with the first day and ready to get to our campsite. The scenery had become a lot more interesting, however, as we crossed over several wide streams, came across a gaucho and a pair of horses, were surrounded by fields of tall golden grass, and the late afternoon light created a much more pleasing atmosphere. Even Charlene was in a great mood, with hardly any first day aches and pains :).

A wide angle shot of Charlene trekking through Torres del Paine on the trail between Torre Central and Campamento Seron.

However, that dreaded backpack of mine continued to be a thorn in my waist and thighs, with the straps brushing up against me every time I took a step. I thought I did everything I could to fix this problem, even removing all the items inside and rearranging them, loosening and tightening the straps, and shifting the pads around. Who would’ve thought that of all things to hinder my enjoyment of the trek, it would be this REI XT 85 backpack! Nevertheless, I was optimistic that it was just my body getting used to it and everything would be fine the following day.

A sign indicates the way towards Campamento Seron where we camped on our first night in Torres del Paine National Park.

On a much brighter note, as 6PM approached, over seven hours since we started trekking, we finally reached Campamento Seron – hooray! Even though everyone had arrived there before us, and the ground was packed with tents and dining tables overflowing with people eating dinner, I was glad we had made it through the first day of the circuit trek.

After a 12km day hiking, Charlene celebrates as we arrive into Campamento Seron.

Charlene and I definitely had our share of bumps and bruises, both literally and figuratively. This 12km of trekking was the longest, heaviest, and most adventurous one we’ve ever done together. I was very proud of her, and excited for what was to come the following days. Now if I could only fix this backpack issue…stay tuned for day 2!

Day: 1 of 9
Start: Laguna Amarga (262 meters)
End: Campamento Seron (174 meters)
Elevation change: -88 meters
Distance: 12 kilometers
Time: 7 hours, 10 minutes


  • 1: Make sure to bring freshly printed bills (if paying in USD) for your park entrance fees or risk having your currency turned away.
  • 2: It’s worth it to take the shuttle from Laguna Amarga to Torres Central (starting point the trek) for $5 USD/person.
  • 3: If you’re not sure which direction to go, refer to the map provided and ask for help.
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