Unaware, many a foreign tourist has initiated a chuckle from Spanish speakers by mispronouncing Torres Del Paine. No, the name of the famous park is not Towers of Penis, although the similarities are understandable. Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine (Torres del Paine National Park) translated means Torres (towers in Spanish) of Paine (“blue” in the native Tehuelche language) and is pronounced PIE-nay. Glad to finally get that clarified we ventured into this world renowned park. Established in 1959, the park is part of the National System of Protected Forested Areas of Chile, with 242,242 hectares. Formerly an overgrazed estancia for centuries, the protected land has taken time to heal. The flora and fauna have been given new life. The three distinct granite peaks of the Paine Massif give the park its name but there is so much more. At the risk of sounding repetitious with descriptions of Southern Patagonia the park includes valleys, rivers, lakes and glaciers.
The park welcomes 150,000 visitors a year and 60% of them are foreign. We heard any number of languages spoken during our visit. Due to the large volume of visitors during high season reservations for trekking and refugios (shelters) are required. Turn your head 360 degrees from any location in the park and you know why it’s so popular. The sheep no longer graze here but the challenge to manage large numbers of visitors in this natural environment remains. The privilege to experience the extraordinary natural places on the planet come with responsibilities and a delicate balance is critical.