Nature and Tourism in Southern Chile:TORRES DEL PAINE NATIONAL PARKDeclared Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO in 1978, the Torres del Paine NationalPark, (located in the Chilean Patagonia) in internationally renowned as one ofthe most beautiful, unspoiled and remote places of the planet.
Their attractions reside on its spectacular mountain range, lakes, flora and fauna that make of this place an ideal destination for Eco-tourism and adventure.
The park is located 2500 km South of Santiago, the capital city of Chile. Despite its remoteness, this area has a pretty good tourist infrastructure. In the cities of Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales, almost mandatory stopovers on the way, you have a full fledge of choices of quality and price. Inside the limits of the park you can choose form campgrounds all around the park, nice hostels like Hostería Pehoe, Hostería Torres and Hostería Lago Grey, or a five star Hotel Explora.
Iceberg floating on the lake
Some reasons to visit the Park
The Corporación Nacional Forestal, CONAF, administers the park with a less than charming weather, you can find strong winds even during summertime (December through March). The mean summer temperature is 11 C (52 F) with a minimum of 0.8 C (33 F) and a maximum of 24 C (75 F). The average rainfall is 700 mm per year (27 inches) and altitude goes from 50m (166 ft) to 3000m (10.000 ft) above sea level.
Cuernos del Paine
Without doubt, one of the major attractions of the park is the Paine Massif, mostly composed of granite, and originated 12 million years ago. The highest peak is the Paine Grande (3050 m), although the most representative peaks are the "Cuernos del Paine" featured on most pictures of the park. The Torres del Paine are three sheer granite towers, that make a challenging and coveted prize for climbers.
En the southern extreme of the South Icefield, the park has many glaciers, lakes, lagoons and rivers. Among them we can mention the Sarmiento, Nordenskjold, Pehoe, Paine and Dickson, each one with waters of different shades of blue and green. The largest rivers that cross the park are the Pingo, Grey and Dickson. The latter having three spectacular waterfalls, Paine, Salto Grande and Salto Chico.
Sunset in the park
The park flora varies with the area and altitude. You will find from windy grasslands to coigue and lenga tree forests that grow smaller as you gain altitude resembling a natural Bonsai garden. There is a small bush called calafate that produces a berry that locals say you have to eat to return. Among the fauna inhabitants you will find guanacos (n Andean camelid), ñandús (American ostrich), condors, mountain lions, gray and culpeo foxes and a wide variety of birds.
To hike the park, there are hiking trails all around the park, with lodges, campgrounds, and transportation on most trailheads. Trails are safe and easy to follow, made for the average trekker, and if you want to push your limits, there are plenty of activities related to adventure like climbing, kayaking, rafting or glacier crossing. Any way you take it, it will stay in your memories forever.
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