Torres del Paine National Park, Magallanes, Chile
GPS: -50.941769244524, -73.405846965411
Torres del Paine National Park is one of the largest protected natural areas in South America. Almost uninhabited by humans (an average of one inhabitant per square kilometre), it is located on the southern tip of the Andes Mountains, at the foot of the Chilean Patagonian Steppe. In its northern part, Torres del Paine National Park is the territorial extension of Los Glaciares National Park, established in Argentina. It has several glaciers, some of which are part of the immense Southern Patagonian Ice Field (the third largest ice field in the world after Antarctica and Greenland, covering more than 15,000 km²).
Discovered by Magellan in 1520, this region of Patagonia was inhabited for thousands of years by the Tehuelche (or Aónikenk) and then the Mapuche peoples, before becoming a vast land of pastures devoted to cattle breeding. Only explored since the end of the 19th century, Torres del Paine National Park is a protected area that was founded in 1958 and covers more than 2,400 km². It was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO twenty years later. For a long time, this territory was considered to be the end of the world, as evidenced by a sign in front of which hikers like to take pictures.
Rising to an altitude of almost 3,000 metres, this park of wide open spaces stretches around the Cordillera Paine mountain group. Its sharp peaks stand alongside wide glacial valleys teeming with a multitude of ecosystems. Every year, more than 150,000 visitors from all over the world come to discover the wilderness of Torres del Paine National Park through majestic walking trails, multi-day adventure hikes and remote unexplored mountains. They enjoy the striking contrasts between blue-green lakes and high granite cliffs in an environment untouched by human activity. Off the coast of the Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica Region, karst islands in Western Patagonia hide one of the last unknown lands on the planet. Scattered in the Pacific Ocean, they were visited by the Kawésqars, a nomadic Amerindian people who are considered to be on the verge of extinction since the arrival of the first European settlers. The harsh environment of these uninhabited archipelagos abounds with limestone mountains, concretion caves, glaciers, waterfalls and Magellanic subpolar forests. It is only since the beginning of the 21st century that these remote islands of the modern world have been the subject of international expeditions and scientific studies.