Location: Magallanes Region – Chile
360 Km north from Punta Arenas
112 Km north of Puerto Natales and 5 hours from El Calafate, Argentina.
Declared a World Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO in 1978, Torres Del Paine National Park is composed of 242.000 hectares; Torres Del Paine presents an overwhelming landscape which includes granite mountains, glaciers, rivers and typical Patagonian flora. The main attraction is Paine Massif, (younger than the Andes mountain range), which incorporates, among others, the magnificent and famous Torres, Los Cuernos, Paine Grande Mount, Fortaleza Hill and Almirante Nieto Mount.
Each year thousands of travellers venture into the park and around the Paine Massif, where you will find trails and hiking circuits with the principal highlights being the “W Circuit” (62 Km) and the “Big Circuit O” (120 Km).
It is also possible to cover just some of the trails without needing to complete the whole Circuit, the main one being without a doubt the ascent to “Base Torres”, an icon of the National Park and a real must if you visit Torres del Paine.
For those who don’t wish to walk, it’s also possible to visit Torres Del Paine National Park by the main vehicular route and stop off at the various lookouts, like Salto Grande (waterfall that connects lakes Pehoe and Nordenskjöld), Nordenskjöld Lookout, Glacier Grey Beach with its amazing icebergs and glacier in the distance, Paine Waterfall sector, with each place offering us a different perspective of the magical Massif.
W Circuit – Trekking: This Circuit is 62 km long and goes for 5 days and 4 nights, and takes its name from the way in which the main lookouts (Grey Glacier, French Valley and Base Torres) are connected. You can in fact complete the circuit without carrying a heavy load, as there are mountain lodges (Refugios) equipped to offer lodging and food, where the only things you will need to bring are your clothes, personal items and of course, some delicious chocolates.
Big Circuit “O”: This circuit is 120 km long and goes for 10 days and 9 nights, with a display of incomparable attractions, with views of glaciers that are impossible to reach from other parts of the park such as: Los Perros Glacier, Dickson Glacier and the magnificent Southern Patagonian Ice Field (John Gardner Pass). The Big Circuit is for those travellers who have already got experience in hiking and includes the W Circuit along its trajectory.
Flora and Fauna – Torres del Paine
Torres del Paine NP contains diverse flora and fauna, subordinate to the weather conditions, which makes it unique and delicate, and represents the strength of nature and how it reveals a land of extreme contrasts.
26 species of mammals and more than 100 bird species make up the fauna of Torres del Paine National Park, including the Condor, Chilean Blue Eagle, Ñandú (Patagonian ostrich), Bandurria, Caiquén, etc. Guanacos are without a doubt one of the most common mammals in the National Park, where we can also find the Andean Fox, Patagonian Fox, the Skunk and the running Puma (Cougar).
The National Park contains 4 sub-zones: The Patagonian Steppe, the Pre-Andean Bush, the Magellan Deciduous Forest and the Andean Desert; each one of these is made up of different plant species.
Patagonian Steppe: Predominantly in the eastern part of the National Park, in places with little precipitation (rainfall) strong winds, where the “Coirón”, typical of the Patagonian Pampa or grasslands, can be found. The Coirón is a small “bush” composed of various species of grass. We can also find: Mata Verde (Chiliotrichum diffusum), male Neneo (Anarthrophylum desiderátum), which possesses brilliant orange flowers in the spring, Mata Negra (Junellia tridens), among others.
Magellan Deciduous Forest: is the type of forest that is found all over the region of Magallanes and southern Patagonia, and within Torres Del Paine National Park it can be found in the French Valley, along the Base Torres trail, in the Grey sector and across most of the northern part of the Paine Massif. Typical species of trees found here include: Lenga (Nothofagus pumilio), Ñirre (Nothofagus antarctica), Coigüe (Nothofagus betuloides) and Canelo (Drimys winteri).
Pre-Andean Bush: it is made up of species adapted to conserve water and resist the strong Patagonian wind; they are found mainly along river banks and lake shores and include: Fire bush – Ciruelillo or Notro – (Embothrium coccineum), Chaura (Gaultheria mucronata), Siete Camisas (Escalonia rubra) and the classic Calafate (Berberis buxifolia).
Andean Desert: made of species resistant to low temperatures and heavy rainfall. Here we can find: Frutilla del diablo (Gunnera magellanica) and Llaretilla (Azirella trifurcata).