There is no wrong way to experience Torres del Paine. Certain people are looking for the classic backpacking experience of an Original W Trek, with four nights spent out at the campsites and refugios along the trail. Others are seeking the amenities of a traditional luxury hotel and will feel most at home with Explora or Tierra as their base. But if you are someone wanting to combine nature and comfort in equal parts, then glamping in Torres del Paine may be best for you.
Having had the opportunity to experience Torres del Paine many ways over many years, its glamping options have emerged for me as the ultimate Goldilocks happy medium; not too spare, not too grand. Just right.
During my most recent trip to Torres del Paine, I was lucky enough to enjoy a week’s glamping in and around the national park to really get a sense of the properties available and the experiences they provide. While I appreciate that glamping isn’t for everyone, I’d encourage anyone to consider these two main contenders, EcoCamp and Patagonia Camp.
Opened in 2001, EcoCamp comprises 33 geodesic domes of various sizes. Nestled among the trees close to the eastern entrance of Torres del Paine National Park, the domes look out onto THAT iconic view of the towers – the “Torres” of Torres del Paine, which gave the park its name.
With trails from the doorstep allowing easy access to the W Trek and ‘Base of the Towers’ hike, it’s hard to beat the location if you want to be in the heart of the action. Scattered throughout the camp, you’ll find Standard, Superior and Suite Domes (three with a loft) that range from $1,840–$3,040 USD per person for four nights all-inclusive in high season. Amenities vary, from more functional domes to beautifully appointed spaces with electricity, private bathrooms and wood-burning stoves.
A quick stroll along winding boardwalks takes you to several separate communal domes, which house the reception and shop, dining areas and bar, a lounge for nightly briefings, and yoga – all with a casual, convivial atmosphere. There is even a small dome where you can schedule a massage, for an added fee. EcoCamp has no WIFI – part of the appeal for some – but there is a desktop computer in the reception lounge, which can be used on request.
Breakfast is served as a buffet, and each morning you’ll be provided with plenty of fixings to pack your own lunch for the day. A nightly three-course dinner is included in your stay, along with bottomless house wine. The bar draws travellers together at the end of a hard day’s trekking to rest up and share stories before lacing up their boots the next morning.
EcoCamp’s guides think of this space as their home and will welcome you into it with all the warmth of an old friend hosting you in their own living room. They will enhance your experience and your excursions more than you may imagine, and are a big part of the camp, joining for meals and evening drinks. Any all-inclusive holiday can run the risk of feeling insular, but at EcoCamp, your local guides will have you feeling fully immersed in the Chilean culture from the moment you arrive. By the time you have to leave, you won’t want to say goodbye!
Who is EcoCamp suited to?
Location is always going to be a factor. At EcoCamp, you really are in the thick of it, which is a decision-maker for anyone keen to maximize the time they have to be out adventuring. With its Luxury Camp W Trekprogram, EcoCamp is also the only place in the park that offers you the chance to combine a comfortable glamping experience with two nights out on the trails – the best of both worlds!
For all its comforts (and there are many), EcoCamp still very much embodies the spirit of a trekker’s hostel; it’s lively and convivial, and the bar is bustling with music and travellers – some of them may even provide live entertainment with their singing and dancing! The dining is communal, so you’re often sitting with other guests as well as your guide. If you’re looking for casual and friendly accommodation with a buzzing atmosphere and the chance to socialize, choose EcoCamp – whether you’re visiting as a solo traveller, a couple, or a group.
My top tip
If budget allows, splurge for the Superior or Suite Dome. While the Standard Dome is a cozy and comfortable way to enjoy all the benefits of EcocCamp at a lower price point, it is very much the stripped-down option, with no heat, electricity or en suite bathroom.
If you’re craving a simple set-up and plan on spending limited time in your dome, that may not bother you – after all, you’ll be out exploring all day, and will really only be using your dome to sleep. That said, although it’s only around 20 yards to the communal bathroom, be sure to ask yourself if getting out of your warm bed and bracing the elements in the middle of the night is something you’re up for!
On the shores of Lake Toro, just 15 km from the main entrance to Torres del Paine National Park, is a hillside scattered with white structures. This is Patagonia’s original luxury glamping experience and the views sweep across teal and navy waves to the towering Paine Massif beyond.
Patagonia Camp comprises 20 Mongolian-style yurts with central heating, en-suite bathrooms and private terraces as well as a restaurant, bar and lounge, a souvenir shop and a bilingual reception (Spanish/English). WIFI is available in the main communal space, although many choose to stay disconnected during their stay and immerse themselves in the environment; the yurts are designed to allow guests to enjoy listening to the wind and rain or the birds singing in the surrounding forest.
When wandering through the glampsite, you’ll find four categories of yurt; Deluxe, Deluxe + Jacuzzi, Suite, and Family. Prices for four nights in the high season range from $3,410–$4,360 USD per person for double occupancy and $4,110 USD per person for quadruple occupancy in the Family Yurt.
In the restaurant, you can tuck into fresh local produce such as king crab or lamb with fresh vegetables from the local garden, before relaxing at the bar and enjoying a classic Pisco Sour or a glass of organic wine. Twice a week, Patagonia Camp also arranges a traditional Chilean Asado dinner, using the barbeque pit on the property; guests can delight in an appetizer outside, and then make their way into the dining room to help themselves to a buffet. Full disclosure: I tried every one of the desserts, and there were a lot of them!
Patagonia Camp’s guides are some of the best in the business, boasting an incredible knowledge of the park’s flora, fauna, hikes and history. Each night they will meet with you to talk through your preferences and priorities for experiencing the park, and to brief you on the various excursions that are available so that they can determine which will suit you best.
Unlike EcoCamp, guides do not fraternize with the guests at Patagonia Camp in the evenings, so they won’t join you at mealtimes, and if you spot them at the bar, they’ll be drinking water!
Who is Patagonia Camp suited to?
Patagonia Camp offers an upscale hotel experience but in a luxury yurt. It is, for lack of a better word, fancier! You have the charm of the boutique yurts, with their handmade furniture and textiles, but you are also extremely well taken care of. If you like the look of the national park’s luxury hotels – such as Tierra Patagonia or Explora – but they don’t fit within your budget, then Patagonia Camp is an especially good alternative.
The camp caters best to families and couples rather than large friend groups. Solo travellers searching for a dose of peace and solitude would also feel at home.
As Patagonia Camp is situated on the periphery of the park rather than inside it, this does mean that there will be more time spent in transit when embarking on your daily excursions. However, what it lacks in convenience it makes up for in serenity. Its lakeside location makes for an ideal spot to retreat after a long day on the bustling trails, and only Patagonia Camp guests have access to its network of trails on this private peninsula.
My top tip
Most of us – myself included – are visiting Torres del Paine with the express purpose of experiencing its trails and scenic viewpoints, which remain some of the most stunning in the world. But if you have the time, it’s worth building in an extra day of your stay simply to take in all that Patagonia Camp has to offer: wander to the nearby waterfall, lounge in your robe, relax your muscles while drinking a glass of wine in your private jacuzzi.
If you still want to do something active, there is a short kayaking excursion you can enjoy right there on the lake; if you’re lucky you may even spot the resident condors who’ve built their own Deluxe Yurt (okay, nest) on a small islet just off the peninsula.
My parting thoughts
At the risk of sounding reductive, choosing between EcoCamp and Patagonia Camp isn’t about them, it’s about you. Both options have delicious food, incredible guides, and a variety of excursions that will allow you to experience the highlights of Torres del Paine from a comfortable home base.
When it comes down to it, it’s about the atmosphere that you’re most comfortable in, and the type of travel experience that you most enjoy.
If you would like to be a little bit more pampered after a day’s exploring or hiking on windy trails, Patagonia Camp would be the better choice; it’s a more refined experience, with small touches that make you feel cared for and looked after, such as the sunscreen dispenser by the door when you head out for your day, or the earplugs and sleep-masks at the reception desk to help you get a good night’s rest.
Even the lowest category yurt at Patagonia Camp still has an en suite bathroom, a robe, heat, electricity and a private seating area. So if you want the upscale glamping experience and don’t want to compromise on the amenities, Patagonia Camp is your best option.
Alternatively, if you prefer a more laid back style, and your priority is to be inside the park, then you cannot go wrong with one of EcoCamp’s domes. While it is possible for Patagonia Camp to arrange fly fishing and horseback riding for a supplemental fee, EcoCamp does have the edge for travelers who are looking to do more than hike, with its pre-designed Multi-Sport program and potential puma tracking extensions. Plus, there are worse ways to wake up than with that view of those iconic Torres!
If you’re still not sure which option would suit you, please do get in touch and we can figure it out together – I am grateful for any excuse to keep talking about my stays at EcoCamp and Patagonia Camp (and my colleagues here at Swoop are tired of hearing about it!).
Finding the spot that’s best for you is important – and we will find it! I can tell you right now, the only thing you’ll regret about glamping in Torres del Paine is having to come home!