The history of Torres del Paine: The most famous natural park in Chile

refuge in torres del paine with mountains in the back

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The Torres del Paine National Park has become in recent years the most important natural park in Chile. Even in 2013, was named as the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Today we want to tell you the history of Torres del Paine, and what has been its evolution until these days, in which its circuits have become the best treks in the world.

First years of Torres del Paine

To put us in situation, the Torres del Paine National Park is located in the southernmost part of the Andes. That is to say, South America, well, below it all.

To this place numerous Croatian familiesarrived more than 100 years ago, fleeing the diseases and instability of Europe at the beginning of the last century.

Among this generation of Croatian immigrants was Antonio Kusanovic. He is the “godfather” of what we now know as the Cerro Paine ranch and the most important person in the history of Torres del Paine. What he did not know, is that years later, this place would be the beginning of the Torres del Paine O Circuit, one of the best hiking routes in the world.

old houses torres paine with snow mountain

But let’s take it piecemeal. It was not until 1979 when Antonio Kusanovic bought from Juan Radic Dobronic this estancia, the owner from 1964 to 1979. Until then it had belonged to the Chilean government.

Coinciding in the same year, in 1979 the Chilean Government expanded the area considered as Torres del Paine National Park. Thus, the Cerro Paine ranch, very close to the navigable Grey Lake, was completely surrounded on all sides by protected land. Something like when you have the car parked in battery, and some or some rush parks you in the second row and does not let you out.

map torres paine

But it hasn’t all been plain sailing, and there have been some tensions between CONAF and Fantástico Sur, the local operators. To this equation, we have to add Vertice Patagonia, the company that manages part of the shelters found in the park, especially in the Grey Glacier area.

Undoubtedly, much of the blame for the fact that Torres del Paine is now one of the best trekking destinations in the world, is thanks to the Kusanovic family. They started many years ago to promote these trekking routes when this area still lacked worldwide interest.

Arrival of the first travelers

At the beginning of buying the land Antonio Kusanovic, the only activity they carried out on the land was livestock farming. Everything revolved around animal husbandry.

Tourism was not one of the priorities of the family and above all, of Antonio. Little by little, with the arrival of travelers to the area who wanted to visit this place, they began to give impetus to the tourist activity.

travelers in black and white in 90s in torres paine

With the arrival of the first groups of travelers in the warmest season to visit Torres del Paine, Antonio gradually opened his eyes, seeing that his land really had a great attraction for travelers.

It was then, at the beginning of the ’90s and making a great effort, when the family built Hostería Las Torres. It was in 1992 and the first refuge had only 9 rooms and a small restaurant.

From those years on, and with the success of visits, the family started to build more shelters. The first to be built was the Refugio Central in 1995. The French and Chilean Refuge, among others, began to be built in 1996. These completed all the Fantastico Sur shelters used during the famous W trek circuit.

shelter torres paine with mountain in the back

Torres del Paine circuits, the best trekking in the world

As of today, the Torres del Paine W and O circuits have positioned themselves as one of the best treks in South America. Hikers from all over the world travel there.

As if the popularity achieved in recent years were not enough, the prestigious travel guide publisher Lonely Planet, chose Chile as the best destination to travel in 2018. This recognition from Lonely Planet to Torres del Paine, an impressive place to see in Chile, finished confirming this country as one of the most popular destinations for trekking lovers.

In 2019, the last year with normality by COVID-19, a total of more than 300,000 visitors came here. Our colleague Javier, one of these adventurers, tells us about his experience in Torres del Paine, which was one of the best trips he has made during his entire life.

fantastico sur reception in torres paine

Today, they are a world reference for sustainable tourism and conservation. From the ONG Ama Torres del Paine, they act together with the CONAF, in the care of the natural park.

In addition, they are working for the reforestation of the land surrounding the Torres del Paine National Park. Since they implemented their action plan to reduce waste per person traveling to the park. In just 3 years, they have reduced more than half of the waste left by travelers.

Did you know the history of Torres del Paine? Have you ever considered trekking through this natural park?

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