Torres del Paine National Park

Torres del Paine National Park

Infobox_protected_area | name = Torres del Paine National Park
iucn_category = II

caption = Cuernos del Paine from Lake Pehoe
locator_x =
locator_y =
location = Magallanes Region, Chile
nearest_city = Puerto Natales
lat_degrees = 51
lat_minutes = 0
lat_seconds = 0
lat_direction = S
long_degrees = 73
long_minutes = 0
long_seconds = 0
long_direction = W
area = 2,400 km²
established = 1959
visitation_num =
visitation_year =
governing_body = Corporación Nacional Forestal

Torres del Paine National Park is a Chilean National Park comprising mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers. The Cordillera del Paine is the centerpiece of the park. It lies in a transition area between the Magellanic subpolar forests and the Patagonian Steppes. The park is located 112 km north of Puerto Natales and 312 km north of Punta Arenas. Bernardo O'Higgins National Park is its neighbour to the west, while Los Glaciares National Park is located to the north in Argentine territory.


Lady Florence Dixie, in her book published in 1880, gives one of the first descriptions of the area and refers to the three towers as "Cleopatra's Needles".Cite book | author = Dixie, Florence, Lady | title = Across Patagonia | year = 1880 | edition= Available at [ the internet archive.] ] She and her party were the first tourists to visit what is nowadays called Torres del Paine National Park.cite web | url = | title = History of the park | accessdate = 2008-03-13 | work = Official website | publisher = National Forest Service ]

In the following decades, several European scientists and explorers visited the area, including
Otto Nordenskiöld, Carl Skottsberg and Alberto María de Agostini.

Gunther Plüschow was the first person to fly over the Paine massif.

The park was established in 1959 as "Parque Nacional de Turismo Lago Grey" (National Park of Tourism Grey Lake) and it was given its present name in 1970.The park was designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978. [ UNESCO] - Park description at UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve]


The landscape of the park is dominated by the Paine massif, which is an eastern spur of the Andes located on the east side of the Grey Glacier, 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 formed by impressive cliffs. To west rise abruptly the colossal walls of "Cerro Cota 2000" and "Cerro Catedral". The former is named for its elevation (the highest contour line is about 2,000 m) and the latter is named so because its east face resembles a cathedral's facade. To the north stands the granite arête called "Aleta de Tiburón" (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. The highest mountain of the group is "Paine Grande", although its elevation has not been determined with precision.

Much of the geology of the Paine Massif area consists of Cretaceous sedimentary rocks that have been intruded by a Miocene-aged laccolith. cite journal | author = Uwe Altenberger, Roland Oberhansli, Benita Putlitz, et al | title = Tectonic controls and Cenozoic magmatism at the Torres del Paine, southern Andes (Chile, 51°10'S) | journal = Rev. geol. Chile. [online] | month = July | year = 2003 | volume = 30 | issue = 1 | pages = 65–81 | url =
accessdate = 2007-10-15
] Subsequently, orogenic and erosional processes have shaped the present-day topography, being the glacial erosion 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 nicely exposed granite 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.

Southern Patagonian Ice Field mantles a great portion of the park. Glaciers include the Dickson, the Grey and the Tyndall.

Among the lakes are the Dickson Lake, Nordenskjöld Lake, Pehoe Lake, Grey Lake, Sarmiento Lake and Del Toro Lake. Only a portion of the latter is within the borders of the park. All of them characterize vivid colors due, in most of the cases, to rock flour suspended in their waters. The main river flowing through the park is Paine River. Most of the rivers and lakes of the park drain into Última Esperanza Sound via Serrano River.



Torres del Paine National Park is adorned with beautiful vegetation. Among them arethe evergreen "Embothrium coccineum", which produces vivid red flowers grouped in corymbs and the "Calceolaria uniflora", of striking shape and colors. The park has 7 documented species of Orchidaceae, including the "Chloraea magellanica". cite journal | author = Domínguez, Erwin | coauthors = | title = Catálogo preliminar de la familia Orchidaceae del Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, XII Región, Chile | journal = Chloris Chilensis | date = | volume = | issue = | pages = | url =
accessdate = 2007-11-01

In the park have been recorded 85 non-native plant species, of which 75 are of European origin and 31 are considered to be invasive. cite journal | author = Domínguez, Erwin | coauthors = Arve Elvebakk, Clodomiro Marticorena, Aníbal Pauchard | title = Plantas introducidas en el Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Chile | journal = Gayana Bot. [online] | month = December | year = 2006 | volume = 63 | issue = 2 | pages = 131–141 | url =
accessdate = 2007-11-01

The park contains four vegetation zones: Patagonian steppe, Pre-Andean shrubland, Magellanic deciduous forest and Andean Desert.

Patagonian steppe

The vegetation of this zone is dominated by Fescue species (mainly "Festuca gracillima"), which are resistant to harsh winds and weather conditions that are typical of the Patagonian region.

Pre-Andean shrubland

Some of the dominant plant species of this biotic zone are the "Mulinum spinosum" (a cushion plant) and "Escallonia rubra", which are frequently associated with other species, including "Anathrophyllun desideratum" and "Berberis buxifolia".

Magellanic deciduous forest

The Magellanic deciduous forest is home to various species of trees such as the "Nothofagus pumilio" and "Nothofagus antarctica".

Andean Desert

Above tree line, "Escallonia rubra", "Empetrum rubrum" and "Senecio skottsbergii" take the place of "Nothofagus pumilio" trees.


Guanacos are one of the most common mammals found in the park. Other mammals include Cougars and Foxes. It is also home to the endangered Chilean Huemul.

The park contains breeding populations of 15 bird of prey species and other two are likely reproducing here. Among them are Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard-eagle, Rufous-tailed Hawk, Cinereous Harrier, Chimango Caracara, Magellanic Horned Owl, Austral Pygmy-owl, to name but a few. cite journal | author = Jaksic, Fabián | coauthors = Iriarte, J. Agustín and Jiménez, Jaime E. | title = Las rapaces del Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Chile: biodiversidad y conservación. | journal = Rev. chil. hist. nat. [online] | month = June | year = 2002 | volume = 75 | issue = 2 | pages = 449–461 | url =
accessdate = 2007-10-01
] Other birds occurring in the park include the Chilean Flamingo, Darwin's Rhea, Coscoroba Swan, Black-necked Swan, Magellanic Woodpecker, Magellan Goose and Buff-necked Ibis.


The national park (with an area of 2,400 km²) is a popular hiking destination. 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 in the whole park.

In 2005, a careless Czech backpacker camping illegally used a gas stove and caused a fire that destroyed 160 km² of the park. Replanting, with assistance from the Czech Republic, was set to begin in September 2005. [ [ Chile fire cause for regret] - The Prague Post Online]


External links

* [ Patagonia Webcam and maps from Paine and Puerto Natales]
* [ Patagonia Expedition Race]
* []

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