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Parque Nacional Torres del Paine

Parque Nacional Torres del Paine © Miguel Vieira
Parque Nacional Torres del Paine © Miguel Vieira

A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, this 180,000-hectare (442-acre) park is the pride and joy of southern Chile. The park takes its name from the towering granite pillars that rise over 6,560 feet (2,000m) above the Patagonian plains. It is a hiker's paradise with many excellent, well-developed trails that traverse astounding changes in scenery.

The hikes consist of several circuits that vary in length and difficulty. There are highly competent and informative guides available, but unaccompanied hikes are also allowed. This amazing freedom is part of the appeal of the wilderness area for adventurers. Turquoise lakes and roaring waterfalls, forests and magnificent rambling glaciers, icy rivers, daisy-filled meadows, harsh mountain passes and plenty of wildlife, including the protected guanaco (wild relative of the llama), are all part of what makes this park so attractive.

Visitors can also try their hand at outdoor activities such as horseback riding, sailing, kayaking, rock climbing and fly-fishing. Two famous areas within the park are the French Valley and Silence Valley (only accessible with a guide). The sunrise hike to the towers that give the park its name is also highly recommended. The Parque Nacional Torres del Paine features prominently on discerning travellers' bucket lists, and for very good reason.

Website: www.torresdelpaine.com/ingles/index.asp