One of the most exciting stories to come out of Chile in recent times, especially for us nature and wildlife lovers, is the news that five new national parks have recently been created in northern Patagonia spanning some 10 million acres.
Chile is a fabulous country; a long narrow stretch of land running down from terracotta desert plains through vineyards and lakes to the dazzling blue glaciers and icefields of Patagonia, with the ever present Andes along its border with Bolivia and Argentina. Breath-taking landscapes and pristine wild nature has always been its most enduring attraction to visitors.
The five new parks to preserve this precious country are the result of co-operation between two fearless American philanthropists, Kris Tompkins and her late husband Doug, and the Chilean government.
Thanks to the work already done by the Tompkins’, it is possible to stay in sustainable accommodations and experience the beauty and wilderness of these new National Parks.
What is the Conservation Land Trust?
Doug and Kris’ Conservation Land Trust had already done a great deal to preserve and revitalise endangered habitats as well as offer a sustainable way to support the land through attracting visitors.
The Tompkins’ have themselves bought over many years tracts of land to help protect their nature and biodiversity. They have now donated over 1 million acres of land to the Chilean nation. The remaining lands are federally controlled lands, now forever enshrined in national park status.
These new national parks add to Chile’s tally to form a 17-park route that spans the incredible diversity of this long thin country.
Where are new parks located?
Whilst the arid desert landscapes of Atacama and the wild southern Patagonian steppe and iconic granite peaks of Torres del Paine are well known to many, and certainly must-see destinations when planning a journey to Chile, this fascinating and wildly beautiful country has a great deal more to offer. Lovers of the great outdoors will be completely entranced.
The new national parks are located in very remote tracts of northern Patagonia between Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas and comprise: Pumalin, Patagonia, Isla Magdalena, Melimoyu and Corcovado. They in turn protect some truly beautiful landscapes including delicate flora such as cypress forests, volcanoes, wildlife, glaciers and fjords.
Where can I visit and what can I do?
For now, most of these new parks remain relatively inaccessible to visitors until sustainable and suitable facilities are created without damaging the fragile environment.
However, two of these magnificent parks can be accessed by intrepid travellers thanks to the ground work already laid down by the Conservation Land Trust prior to donating the lands to be used to create national parks.
Think beautiful lakes, river valleys, forests and Andes backdrops as you explore on and off road by Land Rover with your driver and guide. Enjoy a stunning hike or horse-ride for incredible views down over rivers, fjords and mountains to stretch your legs.
You may take a gentle kayak on glittering lakes surrounded by forest and volcanic peaks and then arrive at a beautifully laid-out safari style camp in the middle of the wilderness ready for sundowners, dinner and a deliciously warm campfire.
Perhaps you may like to explore the Lakes District in-depth including lodges on both sides of the border in Chile and Argentina for a true trans-Andes adventure?
Spend some days in delightful Pumalin National Park at the pretty cabanas built there. Next to the cabanas is a local organic farm that provides much of the fresh produce for your meals here, a truly impressive sustainable model.
Stay in a rustic wooden cabin overlooking Renihue Fjord before taking to the Carretera Austral road and heading deeper into the Andes to explore the stunning rivers and lakes of Futaleufu for leisurely days of river rafting, kayaking, fly-fishing, horse-riding or just soaking up the views.
Cross the border into Argentina to enjoy exploring picturesque alpine towns on the shores of stunning lakes. You can stay in a beautiful glamping safari-style camp set up just for you, in the wilds of San Martin de los Andes before you return back to Chile to spend a day or two in the lush forest of Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve.
The pace of travel is leisurely and the adventure is all yours – you can be as active or not as you wish. What is guaranteed is that the landscapes are truly breath-taking in their beauty.
A second stunning off-road adventure starts further south as you arrive in Balmaceda at the end of the Carretera Austral and head into the newly created Patagonia National Park to a gorgeous lodge that is a piece of classic luxury in the wilds of Aysen province.
River rafting, superb fly-fishing, dramatic 4x4 drives into the Andes and some stunning as well as challenging hikes are the order of the day here, returning to a really comfortable country-style lodge.
Once a former ranch, most of the park rangers and guides here were once ranch workers, showing how the once heavily worked land is now recovering and the lodge helps to provide a sustainable model for the future and for the local economy.
Continue your adventure by flying further south to Punta Arenas and exploring the beautiful Patagonian steppe of Torres del Paine. Puma are increasingly being spotted here!
Other great news in terms of conservation is that Awasi Patagonia have recently created the Puma Foundation to aid in the conservation and protection of puma vulnerable to culling by farmers when migrating to and from the park.
So why not, as I have, explore the wilder and remoter corners of Chilean Patagonia?
Horse image courtesy of Peuma Hue Eco-Lodge
Couple on deck image courtesy of Nawelpi Lodge
Other images courtesy of &Beyond