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Torres del Paine National Park

Torres Del Paine National Park is located 200 miles (312 km) north of Punta Arenas, Chile in the Patagonia region of South America. Bernardo O’Higgins National Park is its neighbor to the west, while Los Glaciares National Park is located to the north in Argentina. The landscape of the park is dominated by the Paine massif, which is an eastern spur of the Andes and rises dramatically above the Patagonian steppe. Small valleys separate the spectacular granite spires and mountains of the massif. The park was originally established in 1959 and was given its present name in 1970. The park was designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978.

Located at 50 degrees south, Torres Del Paine is part of the only land located at this latitude in the southern hemisphere. Because of this, it is bombarded by almost constant storms from the southern ocean. The wind can blow over 60 mph (100 kph) and it can rain or snow anytime of the year. The Patagonian Ice Field covers a great portion of the park to the west. Glaciers include the Dickson, the Grey, and the Tyndall. The highest summit in the park is Cerro Paine Grande 10,007 ft (2,750 m). The best-known and most spectacular summits in the park are the three Towers of Paine. They are gigantic granite monoliths shaped by the forces of glacial ice. The South Tower of Paine at 8,250 ft (2,500 m) is now thought to be the highest of the three. The Central Tower of Paine is 8,100 ft (2,460 m) and the North Tower of Paine is 7,460 ft (2,260 m). The other most admired peaks are those of the Cuernos Del Paine group which include Cuerno Norte 7,800 ft (2,360 m) and Cuerno Principal 8,500 ft (2,580 m).

Guanacos, a relative of the llama and alpaca, 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, which is a small deer. The park contains 15 bird of prey species including the Andean condor, Rufous-tailed hawk, Magellanic horned owl, and Austral pygmy-owl, to name a few. Other birds occurring in the park include the Chilean flamingo, Darwin’s rhea, Magellanic woodpecker, Magellan goose and Buff-necked ibis.

The southern part of the park is accessible by car and bus from Chile or Argentina. Some of the most accessible locations for photography in Torres del Paine National Park include the view of the Cuernos from Lago Pehoe, Lago Grey, and anywhere along the park road south of Lago Nordenskjold. For the more adventurous, a trek to the Los Torres viewpoint requires a long day hike or overnight backpack. From the Torres, you can continue on the W trek to the Valley Francois or even complete the entire Paine Circuit in 7-10 days.