Torres del Paine National Park is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that lies in Patagonia, in southern Chile. It is a vast protected area, over 2,500-square-kilometres, with many different ecosystems and physical features: stunning glaciers and lakes, forests and grasslands, mountains and granite massifs. The park is dominated by the Cordillera del Paine or Paine Massif mountains, which lie in between the Andes and the Patagonian steppe. Several turquoise lakes dot the park; the best-known ones are Lagos Grey, Pehoé, Nordenskiöld, and Sarmiento. The three towering granite peaks of Torres del Paine (pronounced pie –nay), after which the park is named, are sometimes enveloped in mist and cloud, at other times every crack and layer seems to be visible from afar.
Besides its geological beauty, the park’s other big attraction is animal life. Primary among the mammals seen here are guanaco and its predator the puma. Over a hundred species of birds live here, including the flightless Darwin rhea, and the mighty Andean condor with a wingspan of three metres.
Spectacular as the park is, the climate of Torres del Paine National Park is harsh and fickle. Sunny days can break into fierce storms in minutes. The winds are notorious and sometimes clock 90 kmph. But that does not deter the thousands of visitors who come here each year to trek or horseback ride its gorgeous trails.