Patagonia is situated in the southernmost corner of America, straddling Chile and Argentina. It comprises two large geographical areas: the pampa and the Patagonian Andes mountains.
The pampa, or Patagonian steppe, consists of broad grassy plains which are ideal for grazing and livestock rearing. Unlike the mountainous territory, this is a tectonically stable area.
The Patagonian Andes are the southernmost section of the Andes mountain range, which runs the length of South America.
These mountains were created 12 million years ago, when great masses of rock pushed upwards, causing rocks formed deep within the Earth about 300 million years ago to rise to the surface.
In Patagonia, countless valleys, lakes, fjords and channels formed by tectonic movement or glacial activity cut across the Andes mountains. Parts of the Andes are covered by gigantic masses of ice, including Campos de Hielo Sur (the southern Patagonian icefield), one of the world's largest freshwater reserves, from which close to 50 glaciers emerge.
The continent ends at the Magellan Straits, the slim channel of water connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
Across this stretch of water lies Tierra del Fuego, the largest island in the Americas.
TORRES DEL PAINE NATIONAL PARK: BIOSPHERE RESERVE
Successive waves of geological and glaciological phenomena gave rise to the complex geography of this park, which covers 242,242 hectares (598,593 acres).
The geologial phenomena created mountainous formations such as Torres del Paine, a series of magma and granite peaks towering to 3,000 meters (9,843 feet), and Cuernos del Paine, which rise to over 2,000 meters (6,562 feet).
The last ice age formed the landscape and water courses have continued to reshape it. The largest glaciers in the park are Grey, Tyndall and Dickson, all of which have broken off from the Campo de Hielo Patagónico Sur (southern Patagonian ice field).
To preserve the great beauty of the park and its diverse wildlife, Torres del Paine was declared a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1978.