Chile unveils Patagonian Route of Parks hiking trail

Tourists in the Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile. 26 Feb 2016
Image caption The region includes spectacular scenery

Chile has launched a huge hiking route through its Patagonian wilderness to boost tourism and highlight the need for conservation.

The Route of Parks covers 2,800km (1,740 miles) from the city of Puerto Montt down to Cape Horn.

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

Last year the foundation donated vast amounts of land to Chile’s government.

The land has helped create a network of 17 national parks and the new route – called the Patagonian Route of Parks – connects all of them.

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

A website for the new trail says it encompasses three existing hiking routes – the Southern Way, the Patagonian channels and the End of the World Route.

The sparsely inhabited terrain is known for its lakes, waterways and rich habitat of flora and fauna.

A group of guanacos (Lama guanicoe) grazing in Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile
Image caption Chile’s network of national parks is a haven for wildlife
Map locator

The website includes advice on transport, accommodation and more than 50 GPS-traced paths.

Mr Tompkins, a keen conservationist and the founder of North Face clothing, died in a kayaking accident in Chile in 2015. The businessman had bought up huge swathes of land in southern Chile and Argentina to preserve it.

His widow, Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, signed an agreement with the national government in March 2017, donating the land with the intention of creating a network of national parks roughly the size of Switzerland.

US billionaire Douglas Tompkins and his wife Kristine pose in the front of their house at the estate 'Rincon del Socorro' in Ibera, near Carlos Pellegrini in Corrientes Province, Argentina, on November 5, 2009
Image caption Douglas Tompkins and his wife Kristine, pictured in 2009, were keen conservationists

Then Chilean President Michelle Bachelet called the signing an “unprecedented preservation effort”.

The foundation described it as “the largest land donation in history from a private entity to a country”.

Other famous long-distance hiking trails

  • The Great Trail is a winding network of paths, waterways and roadways running 23,000km (14,900 miles) across Canada
  • The Appalachian National Scenic Trail in the US is about 3,500km (2,190 miles) long and travels through 14 states from Georgia to Maine
  • The 3,000km (1,800 mile) Te Araroa trail in New Zealand stretches from Cape Reinga in the north to Bluff in the south
  • The Great Himalaya Trail runs for 1,700km (1,000 miles) and traverses the whole length of the Himalayas in Nepal
Trekkers in the village of Bimthang as part of the Great Himalaya Trail
Image caption The Great Himalaya Trail attracts tens of thousands of trekkers every year

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