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Chile's National Parks

Chile has an extensive holding of protected areas, from the desert of the north to the icy waters of the Straits of Magellan and the sultry waters of the Pacific Ocean. The country's Sistema Nacional de Áreas Silvestres Protegidas del Estado (SNAPSE – National System of State-Protected Wildlife Areas) includes 31 national parks (parque nacional, PN), 48 national reserves (reserva nacional, RN), 15 natural monuments (monumento natural, MN) and three nature sanctuaries (santuario de la naturaleza), plus Parque Marino Francisco Coloane, a marine reserve in the Estrecho de Magallanes. Other protected areas are being developed, including one near Valdivia and another marine reserve near Caleta Tortel.


The governmental agency Corporación Nacional Forestal (Conaf) is responsible for the administration of SNAPSE areas, control of forest fires, and management of forest, water and other natural resources. The national office in Santiago has maps and other publications on the parks, and dispenses mountaineering and trekking information (Monday - Thursday 9:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., Friday 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Av. Bulnes 285, Tel.: 56-663-0000, E-mail:, URL: A few of the PNs have their own websites, in Spanish and English, detailing more information about the natural history, activities and services of them: PN Conguillío (, PN Puyehue (, and PN Torres del Paine ( The capital of each political region has an office that handles the affairs of that region's reserves. Brochures, maps and other information can be obtained from them.

Conaf accepts volunteers with training or experience in conservation, national parks and related fields. Apply with the national office, or if you know with which park you would like to volunteer, contact the Conaf office of that region or the specific park.


In 1907 Chile created its first protected wildlife area, RN Malleco (IX Región), the first such park in South America, the third in all the Americas and the ninth in the world. The SNAPSE areas extend from PN Lauca, in the far north on the Bolivian border, to PN Cabo de Hornos just north of Antarctica. In the far Pacific Ocean are PN Archipiélago Juan Fernández and Rapa Nui, or Easter Island. The largest entity is PN Bernardo O'Higgins (XI – XII Región), which embraces the Campo de Hielo Sur and covers over 3.5 million hectares, an area larger than Belgium, The smallest reserve is the 4.5 - hectare MN Isla Cachagua, near Zapallar (V Región). Much of southern Chile is safeguarded as SNAPSE: XI Región de Aysén, over 40% its territory and XII Región de Magallanes, over 50%. The most popular of Chile's national parks are PN Villarrica, near Pucón (IX Región), the cruise to the Campo de Hielo Norte glaciers of PN Laguna San Rafael (XI Región) and PN Torres del Paine (XII Región), the trekkers' paradise near Puerto Natales in the Southern Patagonia.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Chile: Norte Grande Highlights, Safety in Punta Arenas, Other Adventure Sports, Tours of Middle Chile, Carretera Austral and Northern Patagonia Border Crossings, Chile Highlights, Safety, When to Go to Middle Chile , Carretera Austral and Northern Patagonia Lodging and Tours in the Lake District.

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

07 Jul 2009

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