Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine National Park (Parque Nacional Torres del Paine) is a national park
National park
A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or...

 encompassing mountains, a glacier, a lake, and river-rich areas in southern Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

an Patagonia
Patagonia is a region located in Argentina and Chile, integrating the southernmost section of the Andes mountains to the southwest towards the Pacific ocean and from the east of the cordillera to the valleys it follows south through Colorado River towards Carmen de Patagones in the Atlantic Ocean...

. The Cordillera del Paine
Cordillera del Paine
The Cordillera del Paine is a small but spectacular mountain group in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. It is located north of Punta Arenas, and about 1,960 km south of the Chilean capital Santiago. It belongs to the Commune of Torres del Paine in Última Esperanza Province...

 is the centerpiece of the park. It lies in a transition area between the Magellanic subpolar forests
Magellanic subpolar forests
The Magellanic subpolar forests are a terrestrial ecoregion of southernmost South America, covering parts of southern Chile and Argentina, and is part of the Neotropic ecozone...

 and the Patagonia
Patagonia is a region located in Argentina and Chile, integrating the southernmost section of the Andes mountains to the southwest towards the Pacific ocean and from the east of the cordillera to the valleys it follows south through Colorado River towards Carmen de Patagones in the Atlantic Ocean...

n Steppe
In physical geography, steppe is an ecoregion, in the montane grasslands and shrublands and temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biomes, characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes...

s. The park is located 112 km (70 mi) north of Puerto Natales and 312 km (194 mi) north of Punta Arenas
Punta Arenas, Chile
Punta Arenas is a commune and the capital city of Chile's southernmost region, Magallanes and Antartica Chilena. The city was officially renamed Magallanes in 1927, but in 1938 it was changed back to Punta Arenas...

. Bernardo O'Higgins National Park
Bernardo O'Higgins National Park
Bernardo O'Higgins National Park is the largest of the protected areas in Chile, covering an area of in both the Aisén and Magallanes and Antártica Chilena regions. The park is named after General Bernardo O'Higgins, first head of state of the Republic of Chile...

 is its neighbour to the west, while Los Glaciares National Park
Los Glaciares National Park
Parque Nacional Los Glaciares is a national park in the Santa Cruz Province, in Argentine Patagonia. It comprises an area of 4459 km². In 1981 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO....

 is located to the north in Argentine
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...



Lady Florence Dixie
Lady Florence Dixie
Lady Florence Caroline Dixie , before her marriage Lady Florence Douglas, was a British traveller, war correspondent, writer and feminist.-Early life:...

, in her book published in 1880, gives one of the first descriptions of the area and refers to the three towers as Cleopatra's Needle
Cleopatra's Needle
Cleopatra's Needle is the popular name for each of three Ancient Egyptian obelisks re-erected in London, Paris, and New York City during the nineteenth century. The London and New York ones are a pair, while the Paris one comes from a different original site where its twin remains...

. She and her party were the first tourists to visit what is now called Torres del Paine National Park.

Several European scientists and explorers visited the area in the following decades, including Bryce Bruce, Carl Skottsberg
Carl Skottsberg
Carl Johan Fredrik Skottsberg was a Swedish botanist and explorer of Antarctica.Skottsberg was born in Karlshamn, began his academic studies at Uppsala University in 1898 and received his doctorate and a docentship there in 1907...

 and Alberto María de Agostini
Alberto María de Agostini
Father Alberto Maria De Agostini born in Pollone, Piedmont was an Italian missionary of the Salesians of Don Bosco order as well as a passionate mountaineer, explorer, geographer, ethnographer, photographer and cinematographer.-Life:De Agostini lived as a missionary in Tierra del Fuego and...


Gunther Plüschow
Gunther Plüschow
Gunther Plüschow was a German aviator, aerial explorer and author from Munich, Bavaria. His feats include the only escape by a German prisoner of war in either World War from Britain back to Germany; he was the first man to explore and film Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia from the air...

 was the first person to fly over the Paine massif
In geology, a massif is a section of a planet's crust that is demarcated by faults or flexures. In the movement of the crust, a massif tends to retain its internal structure while being displaced as a whole...


The park was established in 1959 as Parque Nacional de Turismo Lago Grey (Grey Lake National Tourism Park) and it was given its present name in 1970. In 1977, Guido Monzino
Guido Monzino
Count Guido Monzino was a twentieth-century Italian mountain climber and explorer. In 1973 he led the first Italian expedition to climb Mount Everest.-Life:...

 donated 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) to the Chilean Government, and its definitive limits were established. The park was designated a World Biosphere Reserve
Biosphere reserve
The Man and the Biosphere Programme of UNESCO was established in 1971 to promote interdisciplinary approaches to management, research and education in ecosystem conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.-Development:...

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 in 1978.


The landscape of the park is dominated by the Paine massif, which is an eastern spur of the Andes
The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

 located on the east side of the Grey Glacier
Grey Glacier
Grey Glacier is a glacier in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, just west of the Cordillera del Paine. It flows southward into the lake of the same name.-Surroundings:...

, rising dramatically above the Patagonian steppe. Small valleys separate the spectacular granite spires and mountains of the massif. These are: Valle del Francés (French Valley), Valle Bader, Valle Ascencio, and Valle del Silencio (Silence Valley).

The head of French Valley is a cirque
Cirque may refer to:* Cirque, a geological formation* Makhtesh, an erosional landform found in the Negev desert of Israel and Sinai of Egypt*Cirque , an album by Biosphere* Cirque Corporation, a company that makes touchpads...

 formed by impressive cliffs. To west rise abruptly the colossal walls of Cerro Cota 2000 and Cerro Catedral. Cerro Cota 2000 is named for its elevation; its highest contour line
Contour line
A contour line of a function of two variables is a curve along which the function has a constant value. In cartography, a contour line joins points of equal elevation above a given level, such as mean sea level...

 is about 2000 m (6,562 ft). Cerro Catedral is named so because its east face resembles a cathedral
A cathedral is a Christian church that contains the seat of a bishop...

's facade. To the north stands the granite arête
Areté is the term meaning "virtue" or "excellence", from Greek ἈρετήArete may also be used:*as a given name of persons or things:**Queen Arete , a character in Homer's Odyssey.***197 Arete, an asteroid....

 called Aleta de Tiburón (English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

: Shark's Fin). To the east, from north to south, lie the peaks Fortaleza (Fortress), La Espada (The Sword), La Hoja (The Blade), La Máscara (The Mummer), Cuerno Norte (North Horn), and Cuerno Principal (Main Horn).

Silence Valley is where standing face to face the gigantic granite walls of Cerro Fortaleza and Cerro Escudo (Shield Hill) with the western faces of the Torres del Paine. Ascencio Valley is the normal route to reach the Torres del Paine lookout, which is located at the bank of a milky green tarn
Tarn (lake)
A tarn is a mountain lake or pool, formed in a cirque excavated by a glacier. A moraine may form a natural dam below a tarn. A corrie may be called a cirque.The word is derived from the Old Norse word tjörn meaning pond...

. The highest mountain of the group is Paine Grande, although its elevation has not been determined with precision yet.

The Southern Patagonian Ice Field
Southern Patagonian Ice Field
The Southern Patagonian Ice Field , located at the Southern Patagonic Andes between Argentina and Chile, is the second largest contiguous extrapolar extent of ice in the world...

 mantles a great portion of the park. Glaciers include the Dickson
Dickson Glacier
Dickson Glacier is located in Torres del Paine National Park of southern Chile. Geologically it is in the southeastern outflow from the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.-External links:*...

, the Grey, and the Tyndall
Tyndall Glacier (Chile)
Tyndall Glacier or Geike Glacier is one of the largest glaciers in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. It is located in the Torres del Paine National Park, Chile. The glacier has its main calving front in Geikie Lake and like its neighbor, Grey Glacier, it has been significantly retreating for the...


Among the lakes are the Dickson Lake
Dickson Lake
Dickson Lake is a glacially fed lake located in the northern portion of Torres del Paine National Park, in the Magallanes Region of southern Chile. The lake is fed by the glacier that shares its name and is drained by the Paine River....

, Nordenskjöld Lake
Nordenskjöld Lake
The Lake Nordenskjöld is a lake located in Torres del Paine National Park in the Magallanes Region, southern Chile. The lake is named after the Swede Otto Nordenskiöld who discovered the lake in the beginning of the 20th century. The outfall of Nordenskjöld Lake consists of a waterfall known as...

, Pehoe Lake
Pehoe Lake
Lake Pehoe is a surface water body located in Torres del Paine National Park, in the Magallanes Region of southern Chile. The lake is fed mainly by Paine River, but it also receives the waters of the outlet of Skottsberg Lake....

, Grey Lake, Sarmiento Lake
Sarmiento Lake
Sarmiento Lake is a lake located in Torres del Paine National Park, in the Magallanes Region of southern Chile. The lake is named after Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa who was a Spanish explorer. This lake also names one of the different areas in the National Park Torres del Paine. The lake literally...

, and Del Toro Lake
Del Toro Lake
Del Toro Lake is a lake located in the Magallanes Region, southern Chile. Also known as Lago del Toro or Lago Toro, its etymology comes from the lake's ability to generate 4 m swells due to a long fetch and high winds aligned with the long axis of the lake...

. Only a portion of the latter is within the borders of the park. All are vividly colored, most due to rock flour
Rock flour
Rock flour, or glacial flour, consists of fine-grained, silt-sized particles of rock, generated by mechanical grinding of bedrock by glacial erosion or by artificial grinding to a similar size...

 suspended in their waters. The main river flowing through the park is Paine River
Paine River
Paine River is a river located in the Magallanes Region of Chile. The river rises from its source in Dickson Lake, and flows east for nine km to Paine Lake. After flowing through the lake, the river runs for 15 km, first southward and then westward to Nordenskjöld Lake...

. Most of the rivers and lakes of the park drain into Última Esperanza Sound
Última Esperanza Sound
Última Esperanza Sound is an inlet stretching from the mouth of Eberhard Fjord to the outskirts of Monte Balmaceda, within the Magallanes Basin. This inlet, known within Chile as Seno Última Esperanza, has the characteristics of a tidewater river and drains an extensive basin...

 via Serrano River
Serrano River
Serrano River is a river located in the Magallanes Region of Chile. Its main tributary is Grey River. The Serrano Glacier is an attraction on the river. The waters of the Serrano River eventually reach Seno Ultima Esperanza.-Area prehistory:...



Much of the geology of the Paine Massif area consists of Cretaceous sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock are types of rock that are formed by the deposition of material at the Earth's surface and within bodies of water. Sedimentation is the collective name for processes that cause mineral and/or organic particles to settle and accumulate or minerals to precipitate from a solution....

s that have been intruded by a Miocene-aged laccolith
A laccolith is a sheet intrusion that has been injected between two layers of sedimentary rock. The pressure of the magma is high enough that the overlying strata are forced upward, giving the laccolith a dome or mushroom-like form with a generally planar base.Laccoliths tend to form at relatively...

. Orogenic and erosion
Erosion is when materials are removed from the surface and changed into something else. It only works by hydraulic actions and transport of solids in the natural environment, and leads to the deposition of these materials elsewhere...

al processes have shaped the present-day topography, glacial erosion being the main one responsible for the sculpturing of the massif in the last tens of thousands of years. A good example of the latter are the Cuernos del Paine, whose central bands of exposed granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...

 strongly contrast with the dark aspect of their tops, which are remnants of a heavily eroded sedimentary stratum. In the case of Las Torres, what once was their overlying sedimentary rock layer has been completely eroded away, leaving behind the more resistant granite.


Torres del Paine National Park is adorned with beautiful vegetation. Among them are
the evergreen Embothrium coccineum
Embothrium coccineum
Chilean firetree, Chilean firebush, Notro in Spanish , is a small evergreen tree in the family Proteaceae. It grows in the temperate forests of Chile and Argentina....

, which produces vivid red flowers grouped in corymbs, and Calceolaria uniflora, of striking shape and colors.
The park has 7 documented species of Orchidaceae
The Orchidaceae, commonly referred to as the orchid family, is a morphologically diverse and widespread family of monocots in the order Asparagales. Along with the Asteraceae, it is one of the two largest families of flowering plants, with between 21,950 and 26,049 currently accepted species,...

, including Chloraea magellanica.

In the park have ben recorded 85 non-native plant species, of which 75 are of European origin and 31 are considered to be invasive.

The park contains four vegetation zones: Patagonian steppe, Pre-Andean shrubland, Magellanic subpolar forests
Magellanic subpolar forests
The Magellanic subpolar forests are a terrestrial ecoregion of southernmost South America, covering parts of southern Chile and Argentina, and is part of the Neotropic ecozone...

 and Andean Desert. The vegetation of the Patagonian steppe is dominated by Fescue
Festuce is a genus of about 300 species of perennial tufted grasses, belonging to the grass family Poaceae . The genus has a cosmopolitan distribution, although the majority of the species are found in cool temperate areas...

 species (mainly Festuca gracillima), which are resistant to harsh winds and weather conditions that are typical of the Patagonian region. Some of the dominant plant species of the Pre-Andeanthisst shrubland are Mulinum spinosum (a cushion plant) and Escallonia rubra, which are frequently associated with other species, including Anathrophyllun desideratum and Berberis buxifolia
Berberis buxifolia
Berberis microphylla or Berberis buxifolia, common name the Magellan Barberry, in Spanish Calafate, is an evergreen shrub, with shiny box-like leaves. The Calafate is native to the south of Argentina and Chile and is a symbol of Patagonia.The bush grows to a height of . It has many arching...

. The Magellanic deciduous forest is home to various species of trees such as the Nothofagus pumilio and Nothofagus antarctica
Nothofagus antarctica
Nothofagus antarctica , is a deciduous tree or shrub native to southern Chile and Argentina from about 36°S to Tierra del Fuego . The southernmost occurrence is on Hoste Island, making it the southernmost trees on earth...

. Above tree line in the Andean Desert, Escallonia rubra, Empetrum rubrum and Senecio
Senecio is a genus of the daisy family that includes ragworts and groundsels. The flower heads are normally rayed, completely yellow, and the heads are borne in branched clusters...

take the place of Nothofagus pumilio trees.


Guanacos are one of the most common mammals found in the park. Other mammals include cougars, fox
Fox is a common name for many species of omnivorous mammals belonging to the Canidae family. Foxes are small to medium-sized canids , characterized by possessing a long narrow snout, and a bushy tail .Members of about 37 species are referred to as foxes, of which only 12 species actually belong to...

es and pumas. It is also home to the endangered Chilean Huemul.

The park contains breeding populations of 15 bird of prey
Bird of prey
Birds of prey are birds that hunt for food primarily on the wing, using their keen senses, especially vision. They are defined as birds that primarily hunt vertebrates, including other birds. Their talons and beaks tend to be relatively large, powerful and adapted for tearing and/or piercing flesh....

 species. and two others are likely reproducing here. Among them are Andean Condor
Andean Condor
The Andean Condor is a species of South American bird in the New World vulture family Cathartidae and is the only member of the genus Vultur...

, Black-chested Buzzard-eagle
Black-chested Buzzard-eagle
The Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle is a bird of prey of the hawk and eagle family . It lives in open regions of South America. This species is also known as the Black Buzzard-eagle, Grey Buzzard-eagle or analogously with "eagle" or "eagle-buzzard" replacing "buzzard-eagle", or as the Chilean Blue Eagle...

, Rufous-tailed Hawk
Rufous-tailed Hawk
The Rufous-tailed Hawk is a species of bird of prey in the Accipitridae family.The Rufous-tailed Hawk is found in southern Argentina and Chile, including the entire region of Tierra del Fuego....

, Cinereous Harrier
Cinereous Harrier
The Cinereous Harrier is a South American bird of prey of the harrier family. Its breeding range extends from the Tierra del Fuego through Argentina and Chile to Bolivia, Paraguay and southern Brasil; and across the Andes north to Colombia.The term cinereous describes its colouration...

, Chimango Caracara
Chimango Caracara
The Chimango Caracara also known as Tiuque is a species of bird of prey in the Falconidae family.It is found in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. It is a vagrant to the Falkland Islands...

, Magellanic Horned Owl
Magellanic Horned Owl
The Lesser Horned Owl or Magellanic Horned Owl is a large owl of the genus Bubo found in southern South America, extending north to the central Andes...

, Austral Pygmy-owl
Austral Pygmy-owl
The Austral Pygmy Owl is a species of owl in the Strigidae family.It is found in Argentina and Chile.Its natural habitat is temperate forests.-References:* BirdLife International 2004. . Downloaded on 24 July 2007....

, to name but a few. Other birds occurring in the park include the Chilean Flamingo
Chilean Flamingo
The Chilean Flamingo is a large species closely related to Caribbean Flamingo and Greater Flamingo, with which it was sometimes considered conspecific...

, Darwin's Rhea
Darwin's Rhea
Darwin's Rhea, Rhea pennata, also known as the Lesser Rhea, is a large flightless bird, but the smaller of the two extant species of rheas. It is found in the Altiplano and Patagonia in South America.-Description:...

, Coscoroba Swan
Coscoroba Swan
The Coscoroba Swan is a species of waterfowl inhabiting southern South America. It is the smallest of the birds called "swans", but still a large species of waterfowl, averaging 4.2 kg , 1 m long and 1.57 m across the wings...

, Black-necked Swan
Black-necked Swan
The Black-necked Swan is the largest waterfowl native to South America. Males are and weigh 4.5-6.7 kg ; females are and weigh 3.5-4.4 kg . The wingspan ranges from . The body plumage is white with a black neck, head and greyish bill. It has a red knob near the base of the bill and...

, Magellanic Woodpecker
Magellanic Woodpecker
The Magellanic Woodpecker is a very large woodpecker resident to Chile along the Andes, and to some parts of southwestern Argentina. This species is the southern-most example of the genus Campephilus, which includes the famous Ivory-billed Woodpecker.The Magellanic Woodpecker is 45 cm in length...

, Magellan Goose and Black-faced Ibis
Black-faced Ibis
The Black-faced Ibis is a species of bird in the Threskiornithidae family. It is found in grassland and fields in southern and western South America. It has been included as a subspecies of the similar Buff-necked Ibis, but today all major authorities accept the split...



The national park (598.593,02 acres) is a popular hiking destination in Chile
Hiking in Chile
Chile's unusual, ribbon-like shape — 4,300 kilometres long and on average 175 kilometres wide — offers a wide range of environments and climates for hikers, ranging from the world's driest desert — the Atacama — in the north, through a Mediterranean climate in the center, to a snow-prone Alpine...

. There are clearly marked paths and many refugios which provide shelter and basic services. Views are breathtaking. Hikers can opt for a day trip to see the towers, walk the popular "W" route in about five days, or trek the full circle in 8–9 days. It is a national park and thus hikers are not allowed to stray from the paths. Camping is only allowed at specified campsites and wood fires are prohibited throughout the park.

Visiting the park is recommended between late December and late February, during the southern summer. Not only is the weather more hospitable, but daylight hours are very long given the extreme southern latitude. Outside of this time frame, the weather becomes too extreme for the majority of the public, and daylight dwindles to only a few hours a day.
In 2005, a careless Czech back-packer used a gasoline stove in windy weather and caused a large fire that destroyed 160 km² of the park. Replanting, with assistance from the Czech Republic
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

, was set to begin in September 2005.
Due to their feelings of accountability for the blaze, the Czech Republic
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

is concerned on restoration works of the affected area.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.