At the Southern tip of the Andes in Chile lies Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most impressive sights in the Southern Hemisphere and home to some of the world’s most classic trekking routes. The park is located in Chile’s southernmost and largest region, Magellanes and Chilean Antarctica, where the main economic activities are sheep farming, oil extraction and tourism. The population density is sparse at 1.1 per km² but the region’s main city Punta Arenas is home to a sizable 120,000 people.
The park encompasses ancient forests, glaciers, lakes, rivers and fjords, and fauna including guanacos, foxes, pumas and a diverse array of birds. The park draws in approximately 100,000 tourists each year who visit the main attractions - Paine Towers, Los Cuernos, French Valley and Grey Glacier. The ‘W’ trek and the ‘O’ circuit are popular routes. The park’s coordinates are 50°S latitude and 73°W longitude.
The history of inhabitants in Torres del Paine dates back to over a thousand years ago, when the first indigenous groups arrived in the region. EcoCamp’s design is a tribute to the Kaweskar tribe’s dome-style dwellings and nomadic life in Torres del Paine. Europeans had set up camp by the late 19th century and this marked the end of the indigenous era and the start of Chilean ‘Baqueano’ exploration and tourism, with tourists ranging from British aristocrats to scientists and missionaries. In 1959 the National Park was created, and in 1970 it was given the name Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. Today the park is managed by Chile’s National Forestry Service (CONAF). Click to read about Torres del Paine's History in detail
Geography & Geology
The Torres del Paine landscape is dominated by the huge Paine Massif, also known as the Cordillera del Paine. Despite being part of the Andes mountains officially, the Cordillera del Paine is an independent mountain formation with its own unique characteristics. The origins of the Massif date back to 12 million years ago when the sedimentary layers of the earth were lifted up and were slowly worn down through glacial erosion until only hard resistant granite rock was visibly left. The jagged Torres are a classic example of the results of this process and the difference in colour between the sedimentary and granite rock in Los Cuernos del Paine is sharply contrasted. Click to read about Torres del Paine's Geography & Geology in detail
Flora & Fauna
Torres Del Paine has a diverse array of wildlife, with many species unique to the region. The park has four different types of vegetation and a vast number of different flora species growing. There are 15 species of mammals and the most commonly seen are the guanaco (Lama Guanicoe) and the Chilla and Culpeo foxes. The huemul (Andean deer) and the puma (cougar) are less often sighted. Birdlife is abundant, with over 115 species recorded including the Andean condor with its wingspan of up to 3.2 metres. Click to read about Torres del Paine's Flora & Fauna in detail
- Principal attractions in Chilean Patagonia: Torres del Paine national park, Grey Glacier Carretera Austral and Cape Horn
- Torres del Paine National Park was founded in 1959 and is located in the southernmost and largest region of Chile called Magallanes
- The main city of Magallanes is Punta Arenas with 120,000 inhabitants
- The main economic activities in the region are sheep farming, oil extraction and tourism
- The first tourists in Torres del Paine NP in 1880 described the Torres as ‘Cleopatra’s needles’, a reference to the three Ancient Egyptian obelisks re-erected in London, Paris and New York
- Torres del Paine’s coordinates are 51°S 73°W
Geography, climate & weather
The vast unbroken stretch of ocean to the west and south of the South American continent leaves the Patagonian Andes very exposed to the saturated winds that circle the Antarctic landmass. Also, the influence from the strong marine currents and South Patagonic Ice field make the weather hard to predict.
In Torres del Paine in spring or early summer fine weather may deteriorate almost without warning, bringing rains and eventually snow. Even in summer (December to march) you should come prepared to find cold, strong winds (up to 130 km/hr) and rainfalls. The summer’s average temperature is 11ºC/52ºF (24ºC max, 2ºC min). Rest assured, however, that just as quickly as the weather turns nasty, it can become pleasantly warm! Night-time temperatures will most likely range from –1°C to -5°C (30s and 40s F) depending on the weather.