Torres del Paine National Park
Photograph by Peter Essick
Sunset casts a rosy glow over granite peaks encircling a glacial lake in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile. Chile's prized jewel, the 598,000-acre (242,000-hectare) national park is a mosaic of landforms including soaring mountains, golden pampas, and grinding ice fields.
At the southern tip of South America, the region of Patagonia includes parts of Argentina and Chile.
Photograph by Peter EssickMoreno Glacier rises above Lake Argentino as a rugged wall three miles (4.8 kilometers) wide and almost 200 feet (60 meters) tall. One of 47 massive ice fields in Argentine Patagonia's Glaciers National Park, this grinding, groaning force of nature covers a hundred square miles (260 square kilometers).
Copahue Provincial Park
Photograph by Peter EssickHundred-foot-tall (30-meter-tall) araucaria trees surrounding a waterfall reach for the stars in Argentina's Copahue Provincial Park. Living relics of the Jurassic period, these thousand-year-old giants stand as symbols of Patagonian tenacity in a landscape both severe and sublime.
Río Negro Ranch
Photograph by Peter EssickA single ranch can stretch for several hundred thousand acres in Río Negro, a province in northern Argentine Patagonia. Ranch workers oversee far-flung grazing from outposts called puestos, like the one above, where hours are long and comforts are few.
Photograph by Peter EssickSettlements, like this twinkling village built between the mountains and the sea, are few and far between in Patagonia. The 260,000-square-mile (673,000-square-kilometer) region is so sparsely settled that population density is as low as one person per square mile in some areas.
Lighthouse on Patagonia Coast
Photograph by Peter EssickA lone lighthouse stands guard on the Patagonia coast. Cold waters rushing in from Antarctica support a wide variety of life along Patagonia's southern coast, including sea lions, cormorants, and albatrosses.
Photograph by Peter EssickOnce the haunt of a few stalwart climbers, Chile's Torres Del Paine National Park now draws more than 100,000 visitors a year.
Andes Mountain Waterfall
Photograph by Peter EssickThe snowy peaks of the Andes spawn thousands of gushing streams and waterfalls in Patagonia. From majestic mountains to trembling volcanoes, Patagonia remains the unspoiled frontier of South America.
Credits: National Geographic