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Protecting Torres del Paine National Park

Conservation / Patagonia / Torres del Paine / Volunteering

Friend of Swoop and Director of Programmes at the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund, Emily Green, tells us about the effects tourism is having on Patagonia’s most famous and most popular national park, and what we can do to help.

From soaring granite spires to plunging glacial valleys, the magnificence of Torres del Paine is best experienced in person. Considered by many as the 8th wonder of the world, the national park is visited by 250,000 travelers, like you, every year.
However, intensive use and overcrowding has placed a significant strain on the park’s unique flora and fauna, aging infrastructure, and limited trail system. Three man-made fires, all started by tourists, have ravaged 1/5 of the park’s area since 1985.

“Three man-made fires, all started by tourists, have ravaged 1/5 of the park’s area since 1985.”

Public resources alone are simply insufficient to keep up with the investments needed to sustainably manage such rapidly increasing visitation. That’s where the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund comes in, and why your help is needed to protect this iconic yet fragile destination.

What is the Fund all about?

The Torres del Paine Legacy Fund is a non-profit dedicated to improving the visitor experience and long-term health of Torres del Paine National Park and its surrounding communities. Providing a unique platform for travelers and tourism businesses to reinvest in this incredible destination, the Legacy Fund dedicates 100% of donations to locally-led sustainability action projects that:

  • Restore ecosystems
  • Improve tourism infrastructure and mitigate visitor impacts
  • Promote community development
  • Diversify recreation opportunities for residents and visitors

Recent Projects

This past season The Legacy Fund has been hard at work on restoring and improving the park’s heavily utilised O and W circuits, investing in bridges, boardwalk and new trail construction to improve the hiker experience and safety while minimising further environmental impacts. A new 56m long suspension bridge was constructed along the park’s O circuit, facilitating safe passage, not to mention stunning views, for 20,000 people a year.

“A new suspension bridge was constructed, facilitating safe passage, not to mention stunning views, for 20,000 people a year.”

In February and March, Legacy Fund volunteers and park rangers contributed 2088 hours of labour to complete 2.25km of new trail and 76 meters of boardwalk in one of the wettest, most transited sections of the park.

These projects include training for Park staff and local stakeholders in trail construction and maintenance fundamentals, while providing valuable volunteer experiences for residents and travelers alike.

Working with Chile’s national parks, reserves and forest authority

We’ve always worked hand in hand with CONAF, Chile’s national parks, reserves and forest authority, on our activities in the park, whether it has been with rangers out on the trails, or sharing funding for a needed infrastructure improvement. However we’re really pleased to announce that we’ve recently formalized our partnership by signing an agreement of mutual collaboration that currently lasts through 2020. This will make it easier for us to jointly plan, prioritize, and implement sustainability actions. While obviously CONAF is the premiere authority when it comes to the protection and management of the Park, the whole point of the Legacy Fund is to engender a shared sense of responsibility for stewardship – as well as the mechanism to implement it. So we’re thrilled that CONAF also understands the importance of partnerships like these to achieving its conservation mission, and we’re excited to continue working with their dedicated staff to achieve our shared goals of enhancing the visitor experience and long-term health of Torres del Paine.

Benefiting other National Parks

Torres del Paine will continue to be a premier attraction in Patagonia well into the future, but we’re already seeing an increased demand for other destinations in the region. We view that as positive, in that it will lessen pressure on Torres del Paine and is in fact why one of the objectives of the Fund is to diversify tourism products in the area. However if not properly managed, it also poses a risk that some of the negative impacts seen in Torres del Paine will spread elsewhere. We hope that the Legacy Fund can serve as a model to adapt in other destinations in Patagonia, and indeed the world, to harness the benefits of tourism while protecting unique natural and cultural assets.

Get involved!

You too can leave behind your own positive legacy in Torres del Paine. We need your help to spread the word. You can donate to a sustainability project, like reforestation, recycling, or trail improvements. Or, come get your hands dirty and join us as a volunteer! Visit to find out more about how you can help preserve this extraordinary place for years to come.