Review of the Refugios on the W Circuit in Torres del Paine: Refugio Los Cuernos

Nestled in the rolling hills on the dazzling blue Lago Nordenskjold is Hosteria Los Cuernos. It’s completely hidden from view as you trek towards it from the east of the park and you only see it properly once you cross the river and it’s on top of you. What’s special about this refugio is that adjacent to it is a sheltered camping area, (if you don’t want to stay in a dorm) and several pretty white little cabins near a waterfall.

The Italian couple that were in my group had decided to upgrade to a private cabin when they booked the tour and they commented that even though the cabin was quite simple, with 2 single beds and a porch to hang wet clothes, it was definitely worth doing for a bit of privacy and more importantly, access to the communal hot tub outside! However, bear in mind that there is no ensuite, you have to use a toilet which is located outside. If you’re travelling in Patagonian summer that’s fine, but if you’re there during the colder months of March/April, this isn’t really recommendable.

A night in a Los Cuernos Cabana for 2 people full board costs $116.000 Chilean pesos or approx £150. However, local operators normally get discounts on the price of refugios, it costs USD $80 USD per single occupancy or $40 USD per double occupancy to upgrade if you go on a guided trip like I did.

The refugio itself is a lot smaller than Paine Grande or Las Torres, and means that you rub shoulders with lots of other hikers in the dining room which also doubles up as the bar. There’s also a couple of board games and a hammock, or if you don’t fancy staying in the refugio, you can walk down to the lake or a waterfall, just a couple of minutes away. The only downside to the refugio is that the area outside the refugio is a bit messy & building material was piled up at the side of the lake, but you can avoid walking around that part of the lake and instead walk a bit further afield. Alternatively you may just want to have a nap like many people did. The rooms themselves were shared dorms, more mountain lodge style than some of the other refugios, with up to eight bunk beds, 2 of which were really high up with no railing to stop you falling out, so if you’re a restless sleeper, best avoid it. Outside the rooms in the corridor there’s a wood burning stove, which was a great place to leave any wet clothes to dry.

Although there were a few cons to staying at Refugio Los Cuernos, we only stayed there for a night and I was enjoying the trek so much that the negatives didn’t really matter. Plus, this refugio is right in the middle of the W Circuit, so it gets quite a lot of visitors and considering this, it really is in good nick. Furthermore, the evening meal was filling, we ate at 7:30pm and it consisted of vegetable soup with rice and beef and lots of Chilean bread (pan amasado). You’ll no doubt be so hungry at mealtimes that you’ll really enjoy some good hearty food in the evenings. The atmosphere in this refugio was great, some campers ate in the refugio and everybody sat on long tables together and chatted. All in all I’d say this refugio is good and perhaps one of the most sociable refugios – particularly good if you’re travelling alone.

N.B Campers could miss refugio Los Cuernos and carry onto Campamento Italiano at the start of the French Valley. However, this camp is not very well protected from the wind, it’s extremely busy and not very tidy so I wouldn’t recommend it.