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Geography and 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.

Valleys running between the mountains of the massif include Valle del Francés (French Valley), Valle Bader, Valle Ascencio (next to EcoCamp Patagonia) and Valle del Silencio (Silence Valley). The highest mountain in the massif is Cerro Paine, which is 3050m tall.
The major mountains are (heights may vary between sources):
  • Cerro Paine Grande (Big Paine Mountain) 3,050m
  • Cerro Paine Chico/Almirante Nieto (Small Paine Mountain) 2,650m
  • Torres del Paine (the Towers) - South Tower 2,500m, Central Tower 2460m & North Tower 2260m
  • Cerro Fortaleza (Fort Hill) 3,000m
  • Cerro Catedral (Cathedral Hill) 2,220m
  • Cerro Negro and Los Mezillos (Black Hill and the Twins) 2450m
  • Cerro Escudo (Shield Hill) 2,700m
  • Cuernos del Paine (Paine Horns) - Central 2600m, North 2400m, East 2400m
There are many large lakes lining the park, reaching up to 90km² in surface area. Many are an intense turquoise colour as a result of rock flour particles left from glacial erosion, making the water look milky.
  • Grey - A glacially-fed 32.6 km² lake
  • Nordenskjöld - A 28m² lake pouring into Lake Pehoe through waterfall Salto Grande
  • Pehoe - Fed by Paine river, running through waterfall Salto Grande
  • Dickson - Fed by Dickson glacier and drained by Paine river
  • Sarmiento - Surface area 90km², maximum depth 315m
  • Del Toro - 202km² with a maximum depth of 300m (only a fraction of the lake is in the national park) 
  • Southern Patagonian Ice Field - The second largest ice field in the world, at 16,800 km² in size it is part of the Patagonian ice sheet which remains from the last glacial period
  • Grey - In the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, 270 km² in size
  • Dickson - Southeastern outflow from Southern Patagonian Ice Field, 71 km² in size
  • Tyndall (Geike) - In the Southern Patagonian Ice Field 331 km² in size
  • Paine - Sourced by Dickson lake, runs through Paine lake, Nordenskjöld lake, Pehoé lake and empties into Del Toro lake
  • Grey - Outflow of Grey Lake, running 20km before merging with Serrano river
  • Serrano - Grey river is main tributary, flows into the Last Hope Sound inlet
  • Pingo - Runs into Serrano river
  • Paine - Located on Paine river between Blue lagoon and Bitter lagoon
  • Salto Grande (Great Falls) - Falls from Lake Nordenskjöld into lake Pehoe at a height of 65m²
  • Salto Chico (Small Falls) - In Lake Pehoe