My obsession with Chile’s Patagonia region began in 2003, when I was given a coffee-table book titled Edge of the Earth, Corner of the Sky by a Seattle-based nature photographer named Art Wolfe.
Inside were spectacular low-light landscape photos depicting the breathtaking peaks of Los Torres and the Cuernos del Paine, located in Torres del Paine National Park.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, named the fifth most beautiful place on the planet by National Geographic, and dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World by TripAdvisor, Torres del Paine is world famous among hikers and backpackers. Two routes are particularly famous: the O and W Circuits, multi-day treks through some of the most scenic landscapes on the planet, including Los Torres, the twin granite spires that are a focal point of the park. And it sees a mere 250,000 visitors per year; in comparison, Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks see some 3.3 and 4.1 million visitors, respectively.
But beyond visitor numbers, Torres del Paine differs from the United States National Park model in one key aspect: the one that stipulates “no mechanized travel allowed.” The park’s unrivaled beauty is open to mountain bikes.