The Land that Time Forgot

The snow-clad peaks of Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia glowing in the morning sunlight

Patagonia is a myth-laden land as if it has been forgotten by time. Start with its location – at tip of the Americas, divided into two unequal halves between Chile and Argentina. The wind in Patagonia, too, has mythic status. Aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said it made his small plane fly backwards. The reason for this force is simple: it blows in from hundreds of miles away, sometimes from Antarctica, and its path meets no obstacle whatsoever. Then, there is the surreal landscapes, from arid badlands where no vegetation grows, to fertile coastal plains and windswept plateaus that stretch to glaciers and ice fields.

While just a tenth of the Patagonian landmass lies to the west within Chilean territory, it is precisely here that the topography is at its most varied, the plant life at its lushest, and the wildlife at its most abundant. Here also lies the famous Torres Del Paine National Park which covers more than 181,000 hectares of the Magallanes region of southern Chile. While the park boasts of a stunning variety of landscapes, the most iconic is no doubt the three ‘towers’ of the range – Torres d’Agnostini, Torres Central, and Torres Monzino, massive granite peaks that preside over a string of lakes and the glaciers of the southern ice fields.

The iconic three granite towers in Torres del Paine, Patagonia.

Eastern Patagonia is a vast, flat volcanic plain of shingle, so arid in parts as to be devoid of vegetation. In contrast, Western Patagonia is shaped by its relationship to water, washed by the Humboldt Current that laps the southwestern coast of the America. Here, peaks and valleys are soaked in copious rainfall, cut through by streams and rivers that run to a deeply indented inlets, islets, channels, and fjords.

The three towers of Torres del Paine basked in the golden rays of the sun at dusk.

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