National parks of Chile

Chile is an adventurer’s paradise. Its national parks are open year-round and the diversity of climate along its 4,270km north to south length means there is always somewhere to visit, regardless of when you choose to travel.


From barren deserts and salt plains in the north to icy mountain peaks and glaciers in the south, Chile’s landscapes offer some of the most pristine wilderness in South America. Twenty per cent of the country is preserved in its more than 100 national parks, reserves and monuments, attracting more than two million visitors each year.

However, Chile’s national parks make up just part of its wildlife conservation efforts. Chile’s protected areas are divided into three categories: national parks, which are large areas offering hiking and the most tourist heavy routes; national reserves, which are areas of ecological importance but allow some commercial exploitation; and natural monuments, which are smaller areas of exhibits of ecological or archaeological significance.

Alongside these public places, Chile also has more than 133 privately owned parks. The most famous of these was Parque Pumalin, purchased in 1991 by Douglas Tompkins, founder of the clothing chain North Face. With his wife Kris, Tompkins went on to purchase more than 700,000 acres of land in Chile with the aim of turning them into wildlife sanctuaries. Parque Pumalin became a bona fide nature reserve in 2005 after the Tompkins donated it to a Chilean foundation. The Tompkins Foundation continues to invest in Chile, recently creating the 1,700 mile Patagonian Route of Parks trail.

Visiting the parks

Chile’s national parks are administered by CONAF (Corporacion Nacional Forestal), the National Forestry Corporation. Its headquarters are in Santiago, where you can pick up maps, brochures and walking trails. The parks themselves are staffed by wardens who live in ranger stations. Many parks are chronically underfunded and are poorly protected, making issues like wildfires a serious concern.

No permits are required to visit any national park in Chile, although you will need to pay an entrance fee at bigger parks. These range in price from CH$1,000-4,000 (£1-5). Alternatively, buy CONAF’s annual pass (CH$10,000), which allows unlimited entry to all national parks — except Torres del Paine and Easter Island — for a year.


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