In Depth

Chile launches route through its Patagonian wilderness connecting 17 national parks

Patagonian Route of Parks spans a distance of 1,700 miles from Puerto Montt to Cape Horn

patagonia_el_chalten_fitz_roy.jpg

Chile is launching a huge hiking route through its Patagonian wilderness in a bid to attract tourism and highlight the need for conservationism in the sparsely-populated region.

The route spans a distance of 2,800 kilometers (1,700 miles) from Puerto Montt, 1,000km south of the capital Santiago, down to the most southern tip of Chile, Cape Horn.

The new trail encompasses three existing hiking routes – the Southern Way, the Patagonian channels, and the End of the World Route - and links them into one continuous route.

The trail “was the idea of Tompkins Conservation, the foundation set up by US billionaire Douglas Tompkins and his wife Kristine”, reports the BBC.

Doug Tompkins died in 2015 - in a Chilean kayaking accident - but in March 2017 Tompkins Conservation donated 408,000 hectares of land to the Chilean state, to spur the creation of five new national parks. The businessman had previously bought up huge swathes of land in southern Chile and Argentina in order to preserve it.

“This is a key step to treasuring this giant source of biodiversity and safe keep it in the public interest,” said Chilean President Michelle Bachelet at the time, according to the BBC.

Tompkins Conservation added that the move was considered “the largest land donation in history from a private entity to a country.”

“I know that if Doug were here today, he would speak of national parks being one of the greatest expressions of democracy that a country can realise, preserving the masterpieces of a nation for all of its citizenry,” Kristine Tompkins said.

The land has provided the opportunity to set up a network of 17 national parks, which are now all connected by the Patagonian Route of Parks.

“We want Chile to be internationally recognized for having the most spectacular scenic route in the world, and thus become a benchmark for economic development based on conservation,” said Tompkins executive director Carolina Morgado.

As access to the area can be sometimes difficult given its mountainous terrain, vast distances and sparse population, “the foundation has created a website, www.rutadelosparques.org, to help travelers orientate themselves, including tips on transport, accommodation and more than 50 GPS-traced paths”, reports the Daily Mail.

The region of Patagonia “attracts nature lovers from all around the world for its breathtaking landscapes, bright-blue glacier lakes, striking mountains, and its varied habitat of flora and fauna”, says Inquisitr.

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