Torres del Paine National Park

Cape Horn, Chile, the World's Souhernmost National Park

Parque Nacional Cabo de Hornos, Chile.
Cape Horn Trail

Cabo de Hornos, the World's southernmost National Park, is located at the southern tip of South America, with an area of 631 km2, including the group of Wollaston and Hermite Islands. Created in 1945, administratively belongs to the Chilean Antarctic Province, Region of Magallanes. The relief presents modests elevations, the highest peak being Monte Hyde at Wollaston Island, with 670 mts. above sea level. Summer temperatures rarely exceed 12°/13° C, while in Winter these are common below 0°C. 

How to Get There

Tours can reach this distant park either by air or sea from Puerto Williams,  the nearest city, approximately 12 hours navigation away, Ushuaia in Argentina or from Punta Arenas, the regional capital. Various tour operators and expedition cruises offer trips to Cape Horn, allowing visitors to experience the wild beauty of the southern seas and witness the iconic Cape Horn rock. 

Touristically, its greatest attraction lies in its remote location, highlighting the world famous Cape Horn, challenged every year by dozens of navigators from around the World. Cape Horn is the most southerly of the great capes and is traditionally considered the southernmost point of the Americas, although it actually corresponds to Aguila Islet, in the Chilean Diego Ramirez Archipelago, about 100 km. south of Cape Horn. 

Cape Horn itself marks the northern limit of the Drake Passage and the point where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet. It was discovered and named in 1616 by Dutch navigators Willem Schouten and Jacob Le Maire, in honor of the town of Hoorn. 

For a long time it was an important landmark on the route of ships trading around the world, but also a dangerous place because of strong winds, large waves, currents and icebergs. Today, the Chilean Navy maintains a station on Hornos Island, where there is a residence, a chapel, a lighthouse and a monument in memory of the sailors who died trying to make the difficult crossing. The cape is part of the Parque Nacional Cabo de Hornos, declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005.

Albatros Monument, Cabo de Hornos, Chile.
Albatross Monument, a tribute to all those who died trying to cross Cape Horn
Cape Horn is probably the most dangerous place on Earth to sail a ship, over the centuries, hundreds of vessels have sunk in its waters. In recent years, the tourist ships visiting the area have increased considerably. 

Depending on the weather conditions, passengers are allowed to get down to the Horn Island to make a visit to the Albatross Monument, the Monumental Lighthouse, the Monument to the Unknown Sailor and the small Chapel. The Albatros Monument, inaugurated on 5 December 1992, highlights the figure of the Albatross, characteristic bird of this part of the World, steel plates silhouette by the sculptor José Balcells which honours all sailors who have died trying to cross the dreaded Cape. South of this National Park and islands lies the stormy Drake Passage, anteroom to the Antarctic Continent.

A Cruise visiting Cape Horn, Chile.
Australis expedition cruise at Cape Horn waters
Fauna:  Parque Nacional Cabo de Hornos is home to a diverse range of fauna, including species such as the leopard seal, dolphins, whales, sea lions, marine otters, elephant seals, and various bird species like the Dominican gull and giant petrel. The marine environment is rich in biodiversity, hosting species such as the southern right whale, Austral dolphin, and Chilean dolphin. The park's unique ecosystem also supports iconic bird species like the albatross and the Magellanic penguin. The area's rich biodiversity and unique habitat make it a significant site for wildlife conservation and research.

Flora:  Despite the extreme conditions, 
Parque Nacional Cabo de Hornos is characterized by a diverse but stunted flora, including grasses, peat, lichens, and mosses that exhibit high resistance to cold temperatures and a few wooded areas with unique sub-Antarctic forests, with species such as Canelos, Coigües, and Ñirres, which have adapted to the strong winds of the region. 

The Sub-Antarctic eco-region boasts a significant diversity of non-vascular flora, making it a hotspot for bryophyte diversity, with over 750 bryophyte species, including mosses and hepatics, representing over 5% of the world's bryophytes. Additionally, the park is known for its endemic plant species, which have adapted to the challenging climatic conditions of the area.

Interesting Facts about Cape Horn Park 

* Location: The park is located at the southern tip of Chile and the Americas, covering the entire southern end of the Andes Mountains.

* Biosphere Reserve: Cabo de Hornos National Park was designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005, along with Alberto de Agostini National Park also in Chile.

* Sub-Antarctic Eco-region: The park's Sub-Antarctic eco-region includes a great diversity of Chilean non-vascular flora, with over 300 hepatic species and over 450 species of moss.
* Unique Fauna: The park is home to various species of fauna, including leopard seals, dolphins, whales, sea lions, marine otters, elephant seals, and a variety of bird species such as the Dominican gull and giant petrel.

* Dutch Discovery: Cape Horn was discovered on January 29, 1616, by Dutch sailors, and it was named Hoorn after their birthplace in the Netherlands.

* Challenging Navigation: The westerly winds of the Southern Hemisphere make the waters around the cape especially dangerous, and the cape itself is usually shrouded in fog and mist.

* Pioneering Exploration: Francis Drake had sailed in waters south of the cape in 1578, but it was Dutch navigator Willem Corneliszoon Schouten who rounded the cape in 1616, marking the first official discovery of the area.

* Tourism: The park is mostly a reserve uninhabited by people, but it attracts tourists for its remote location, unique ecosystems and diverse wildlife.

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