A native culture thousands of years in the making, pioneering exploration and dramatic landscapes, this is Chilean Patagonia. In southern Patagonia, you will find Torres del Paine National Park with its iconic peaks, mirror-glass lagoons and mighty glaciers. Not to mention the endless walking trails, adrenaline-packed outdoor sports and a rich cultural heritage. From Sir Francis Drake, Lady Florence Dixie to Charles Darwin, many have passed through these lands, though few have wanted to leave.
The Geography of Patagonia and Torres del Paine
Wider Patagonia covers nearly 400,000sq miles (roughly 1,000,000sq km) of unforgiving gorges, deep mountain lakes and the southerly ends of life on land itself. Torres del Paine National Park occupies 700sq miles (1,814sq km) of those varied landscapes. Amid the carpet of lush Pine and Lenga forests, Torres del Paine is home to no less than four giant glaciers: the Grey; Pingo; French and Dickson, all with their own picturesque glacial lakes and surrounding rock formations. Chilean Patagonia is generally more mountainous than its Argentinian neighbor, with the three iconic Torres spires ranking among the most famous of them all.
Flora and Fauna in Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine National Park is teeming with native plant species and perfectly well-adapted animal life. Swathes of Beech, Lenga and Coihue trees fill forests while Firebush, Winter’s Bark and Fuchsia shrubs line walking trails and occupy the plains. Orchids, Irises and Lupins hug the riverbanks and punctuate woodlands, blossoming during the warmer months along with countless naturally-sown herbs. Wildlife also abounds here, with the park hosting over 100 bird species, 30 different mammals, reptiles and infinite varieties of insect. Some of the better-known residents include Condors, Rheas, Patagonian Grey Foxes, Hawks and Eagles, Lizards, Flamingos and Frogs, among many more.
Birdwatching and horseback rides are a great addition to any itinerary, in among the adventure activities which Tierra Patagonia is well-known for. On these excursions you’ll discover many dramatic viewpoints, nesting sites and natural habitats easily explored in the company of our expert local guides.
Outdoor Adventures in Torres del Paine
Undeniably one of the world’s great destinations for all manner of outdoor activities, the Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia has it all. From gentle walks and photography tours to kayaking, biking, horse riding and hiking, there is an activity for everyone. There are two main reasons why this region is so sought after: one is the abundance of outdoor adventures across the varied terrain and mixed natural environments, and the other is the enjoyment of its natural beauty. Expend as much or as little energy as you desire, with a vast range of excursions and outings aimed to suit the interests and physical fitness of all ages and abilities.
The Ancient History of Torres del Paine
Tierra Patagonia has been a part of Chilean Patagonia since 2011, however, human inhabitation of what is now the national park stretches far beyond that. The Tehuelche tribespeople were one of the main groups who occupied these lands more than 1,000 years ago, adapting over time to the pressures of harsh winters and all too short summers. Evidence suggests that nomadic tribes of fellow hunter gatherers – such as the Selk’nam, Yaghan and Kaweskar – traveled between Torres del Paine and the neighboring Tierra del Fuego National Park, fishing in the lakes and foraging in the forests. Outside exploration of the region took hold in the late 19th century, as groups of pioneering Chilean cowboys from the north roamed and settled, as did European visitors from the early 20th century onwards, all of whom now play their own part in Patagonian history and heritage.
Estancia Culture of Torres del Paine
To live and prosper in Patagonia requires ingenuity and adaptability, with the estancias and working horse ranches of the region playing a vital part in the survival of its people, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. Here, skilled herdsman relied heavily on their relationship with the horses to farm and graze huge expanses of land. The gauchos group cattle and round sheep while also using the strength and dexterity of trusty steeds to access otherwise inhospitable grounds. Covering distance at speed was also essential, and it is for these reasons that the culture of horse ranches and estancias features heavily in the psyche of people here to this day. Leisurely, recreational rides are far more suited to the 21st century traveler, of which there are an endless number of trails and routes available for anyone keen to enjoy a taste of this traditional way of life.