Chile’s Torres del Paine Park may double in size
The biosphere of the popular and iconic Chilean national park would expand to include nearby town of Puerto Natales and other attractions.
The first tourist expedition to Torres del Painewas in 1879; 99 years later, the park was declared a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
UNESCO describes Torres del Paine as “an area of great scenic beauty, with many ridges, crags, glaciers, waterfalls, rivers, lakes and lagoons.”
Now, thousands of tourists make the pilgrimage each year to visit Torres del Paine national park and hike the “W” circuit: 170,000 to be exact, making the park one of the country’s most-visited destinations.
In the last few decades, however, UNESCO’s criteria for Biosphere Reserves have changed, and although Torres del Paine’s standing isn’t in jeopardy, UNESCO has offered several recommendations to Chile’s forestry service (Conaf) in order to better protect the region’s unique environment, which means good news for the conservation efforts of local citizens and tourists.
The new biosphere reserve will consist of a core conservation area of legally protected wilderness, which currently exists and covers all of the Torres del Paine park. The increased area would include a buffer zone around the park boundaries, and an outer “transition zone” that allows for human settlement under the conditions of good industry practices and sustainable land use.
The proposed expansion of the new biosphere will include the town of Puerto Natales, as well as Cerro Castillo and the Cueva del Milodón. “To me, this seems like a gift,” said Mayor of Puerto Natales Fernando Paredes. “I see only positive effects for the city.”