I stayed at Refugio Paine Grande in Jan 2011 for one night and I got a very good night’s sleep there. I was sharing a room with 3 other hikers, whereas at the other refugios it’s usually 5, and there were two well built and spacious bunk beds. The room itself was a good size, carpeted and comfortable with shower rooms just down the corridor. When I first went to my room I found a towel and a small bottle of shampoo and a bar of soap on my pillow, which I was really grateful for!
We arrived at the refugio on day 4 of our 5-day W circuit trek, having started the day at Refugio los Cuernos and hiking the French Valley. The refugio is tucked behind the hills on the north-west corner of Lago Pehoe, which is a brilliant blue colour. Although the refugio isn’t much to look at from the outside, (like a big, brown, wooden box), it’s the biggest of the refugios on the circuit and there are rooms with sofas for relaxing, a large cantine, a bar with fantastic views of Paine Grande and a shop with lots essentials and t-shirts with slogans such as ‘I trekked the W Circuit and survived’…
There is also a campsite here, which although doesn’t look very sheltered, is actually a nice place to stay save for the noisy Patagonian wind, strongest in summer. Campers are also able to buy hot food such as burgers from the refugio’s cantine, whilst the main meal on the menu is reserved for guests at the refugio.
The meal we had that evening was probably the best I’d had in the park and there was lots of it. I had vegetable soup for starters, ceviche, a typical seafood dish of raw seafood marinated in citrus juices & spiced with chillies, and chicken and rice. The wine was also reasonably priced and was the nicest of the wines that I had tried in the other refugios. After dinner I was also able to use the internet on one of the two computers that they offer, which cost $2000 clp for half an hour (the equivalent of £2.50). Although the price was extortionate, it’s pretty impressive that they could provide internet in such a remote place as this.
On day 5 of the W Circuit, we set off at 8am as we had to catch the boat at Refugio Grey at 1 o’clock. Some people I spoke to were setting off at 6 in the morning just so that they could walk up almost as far as Paso John Garner to look down over Glaciar Grey and walk back down to catch the boat across Lake Pehoe. The breakfast we had that morning was the same as those we’d had at the other refugios; scrambled eg, toast, coffee, squash and cereal, but it certainly felt nice to be in a big sunny cantine, looking out at the lake.
The refugio was damaged during the fire in Torres del Paine over New Year 2011, but it is set to be refurbished over summer 2012. All in all, I’d definitely recommend staying at this refugio whilst you’re in Torres del Paine. It’s one of the more expensive refugios because of the high quality food and service it offers, but I would honestly struggle to find fault with it, apart from the fact that it isn’t the stereotypically ‘cosy’ or an ‘authentic’ mountain lodge, it’s more like a hotel. There are lots of guided W Circuit and Full Circuit trips that stay at this refugio, for a selection of them see;
The other great thing about this refugio is that there is the possibility of getting a private or 4-person room, but this is also subject to availability of course. Usually your guide will try and get you the best room possible on arrival, and local operators are usually able to give you a better rate than you would get if you were to go direct.