Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Torres Del Paine National Park

Torres Del Paine National Park (Chilean National Park), Chile

Torres Del Paine National Park Torres Del Paine National Park image courtesy: nationalgeographic.com


Torres Del Paine National park is a UNESCO certified ‘World Biosphere Reserve’; which is also undoubtedly the most renowned, un-spoilt and remote places in the world. It is located 2500 km from Santiago; just 112 km northwest of Natales Chile. Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas remain as the nearest towns and act as stop-over spots for tourists to this national park. Facilities to the tourists visiting the National Park like boarding, lodging and shopping are available in both of these small towns.


Torres Del Paine National Park Torres Del Paine National Park Map courtesy: bigfootpatagonia.com

Republic of Chile is a long and very narrow strip of land in the western coast of South America; sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean in the west and the Andes Ranges in the east. Chile’s capital is Santiago from where there are 2500 kms ot Torres Del Paine National park is in the Patagonian part of Chile (a dry and barren plateau in the southern tip of Latin America) in the 12th region of Magallanes.

The stats

The Torres Del Paine National Park is 2,400 square km in area; its climate is not a pleasant one as there may be windy summer (between Dec to March) and very cold winter; temperature even at summer can be between 1 to 11 de Celsius and rainfall between 500 to 750 mm. The altitude highly varies (between 50 to 3000 meters). The whole park area comprises of mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers, along with its numerous endemic varieties of plants and animals. About 75 types of plants that are not endemic exist here as introduced by immigrants.

Paine Massifs

All these being true why one should spent time in such a remote area as glaciers, lakes and mountains are available in other locations which are easily accessible; may be a natural question. This park has some ‘Paine Massifs’ which can be perhaps one main reason (Massifs are vertical granite peaks standing as a cluster cut off from the mountain ranges).

These massifs represent a transition stage of a mountain gradually getting reduced in to a steppe; as per geologists these Massifs are 12 million years old! The highest peak is the 3050 meters high ‘Paine Grande’; Cuernos del Paine and Torres del Paine are also remarkable ones, the Cerro Catedral is one that looks like the facade of a cathedral!

How these massifs were formed

It might have taken millions of years for the formation of these massifs, the effects of glacier water’s corroding action on the rocks which took away the soft portions; what was left were the hard granite portions which stood firm against all corrosion and became vertical structures as the middle soft parts vanished. These present massifs can be compared to some left over hairs found on a bald head!

The Lakes

Torres Del Paine National Park Torres Del Paine National Park image courtesy: Tom Dempsey photoseek.com

Along with the Massifs there are numerous lakes in this location which are brightly colored due to the ‘rock flours’ dissolved in them.

Lago Dickson (fed from Dickson Glacier; 90 sq km in area),

Lago Nordenskjold (named after Swede explorer Otto Nordenskjold; surface are 28 sq km; fed from Paine River),

Lago Grey (fed from Grey River; 35 sq km in area,

Lago Del Toro (fed from Paine and Rio de las Chinas rivers; 200 sq km in area), Sarmiento (named after Spanish explorer Pedro Sarmiento; 90 sq km in area,

Lago Pehoe (source Paine and Skottsberg rivers; area 22 sq kms)

The above mentioned are some of the most beautiful lakes which vary in their colors from blue to green depending upon the rock-flour contents of the waters.


Torres Del Paine National Park Torres Del Paine National Park image courtesy: jamescairdsociety.com

These massive massifs stand as spires of some ancient heavenly structures and the expanse of the Patagonian Steppes located at the eastern side of the Grey Glacier (these steppes are winter deserts; the largest in America with temperatures not exceeding 12 degrees by some beautiful valleys like Valle del Frances, Valle Beden, Valle Ascencio, Valle del Silencio etc.


These snow capped massifs give birth to massive glaciers and flow as rivers across the park. Pingo, Grey, Dickson, Serrano etc are the most prominent among them; River Dickson has three waterfalls in its course Paine, Salto Grande and Salto Chicu. It is the River Serrano that ultimately drains the whole water in to the Ultima Esperanzo Sound (last hope sound) which is an inlet connected to Eberhard Fjord (fjord is a small creek).

Flora (plants) zones

Torres Del Paine National Park Torres Del Paine National Park image courtesy: wikipedia.org

The Torres Del Paine is divided in to four biologic zones like Patagonian Steppes (grass lands with bonsai trees that survive hard winds), Pre Andean Shrub lands (mainly shrubs like cushion plant, berberis etc grow here), Deciduous Forests (where trees grow) and Andean deserts (where trees are scarce but some of them like Escallonia rubra etc grow)

Fauna (animals and birds)

This area is very rich in its animal varieties Guanacos (a llama or cameloid) that grows to more than one meter in height; due to excessive hunting they were almost extinct but the national park’s activities have restored them from extinction, cougars (puma or panther) are also found. Foxes, condor (endemic), Chilean Huemul (an endemic deer) are also common. The most common birds seen are birds of prey (raptors), Horned Owl, Pigmy Owl, wood pecker, buzzard eagle etc.

Corporacion Nacional Forestal

This National Park; which was established on 1959 was an attempt to revive an ecosystem from depletion. In 1976 it was recognized by UNESCO as World Biosphere Reserve and at present is managed by Corporacion Nacional Forestal (National Forest Corporation) a Chilean government body that has been entrusted with the responsibility of guarding numerous rare animals as well as endemic plants from becoming extinct. So far the organization has proved its mettle by saving the animals from uncontrolled poaching.

A wonderful tour

There are many a wonderful things in this site for a viewer; its snow capped mountains, rivers, lagoons, waterfalls, massive massifs, exclusive plants varieties, animals and birds and so on. Of late has turned to be a favorite destination for lovers of ecology, adventure tourists and back-packers. There are definite paths for the tourists and specified camp-sites sot halt. Straying unauthorized is banned. It may take about 7 days for a backpacker to cover the entire sites. For lovers of nature these seven days will be worth a try!

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