Torres del Paine National Park is a Chilean National Park encompassing a mountains, glacier, lake, and river-rich area in southern Chile. 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. She and her party were the first tourists to visit what is nowadays called Torres del Paine National Park.
Several European scientists and explorers visited the area in the following decades, 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 (Grey Lake National Tourism Park) and it was given its present name in 1970. The park was designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978
The national park (598.593,02 acres) is a popular hiking destination in Chile. 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, was set to begin in September 2005. Due to their feelings of accountablity for the blaze, the Czech Republic is concerned on restoration works of the affected area.
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