The Guardian: Community tourism begins on new Route of Parks

07 enero, 2020

Where to go on holiday in 2020: the alternative hotlis

Few countries on Earth have allocated more land for environmental protection in recent years than Chile, which in 2018 set aside 10 million acres of Patagonia to be preserved in five national parks. This was due in no small part to the conservation work of American philanthropist Kristine McDivitt Tompkins (ex-CEO of outdoors company Patagonia) and her late husband Doug (co-founder of North Face), who donated a large chunk of the land. In 2020, it will be easier than ever to visit these remote reserves, thanks to the new Route of Parks. Launched last year, the route consolidates a haphazard tourist circuit spanning 1,700 miles (and 17 national parks), from the volcano-dotted forests of Chile’s Lake District to the fjords at the southern tip of the continent.

Locals in the 60 communities along the route have responded to the Tompkins’ vision by taking ownership of the wilderness and starting tourism projects that will help protect the parks in the long term (as well as create sustainable incomes). Chaitén-based Ruta Patagonia 7 runs tours along the famed Carretera Austral (Southern Highway) to the newly designated Pumalín national park, a rainforest reserve in remote northern Patagonia. Further south, Patagonian Fjords has opened up the previously inaccessible – and newly created – Kawésqar national park to tourism for the first time, with trips through its fog-draped fjords departing from the resort town of Puerto Natales.

New hotels have also popped up along the route, including Estancia Caleta Josefina (rooms from £135), on a sheep farm in Tierra del Fuego. And in 2018 Patagonia national park (home to one of the most ambitious rewilding efforts in the Americas) opened a new museum, Patagonia Park Museum, which explores local history and the current extinction crisis. Another museum dedicated to the Anglo-Argentine pioneer Lucas Bridges (author of Uttermost Part of the Earth, the 1947 landmark book on Tierra del Fuego) will open here in 2020.

Connectivity, long a barrier to regional development, has improved alongside the new route. There is no land connection between the northern and southern sections of Chilean Patagonia, but a ferry service now links the end of the Carretera Austral with Puerto Natales, making it easier for tourists to travel along a unified path without detouring into Argentina. A road under construction in a remote stretch of Tierra del Fuego will finally open up little-visited Yendegaia national park, which protects the ice fields of the Cordillera Darwin mountain range.

Mark Johanson

Copyright 2018 Ruta de los Parques de la Patagonia