Supporting Youth through Rural Tourism

Written by: Alicia Caton           Published November 20, 2020

“Your past is a strength for your future, not a reason to leave your roots.”

In 2019, Chile Nativo signed a cooperation agreement between the Municipality of Torres del Paine, in which we promised to present educational support projects to two rural schools within the commune – Escuela Rural Cerro Guido & Escuela Rural Ramón Montaner. These projects take place in the form of environmental education and youth outings to Torres del Paine National Park – the most important tourist destination of the region where both rural schools are located. The idea is to teach the students the significance of their natural environment and its relation to local tourism, as well as the importance of learning English which can provide a path for future career opportunities and both personal & socioeconomic development

Last season, Chile Nativo founder Gonzalo Fuenzalida visited the two rural schools located in Cerro Castillo – the commune lying just outside of Puerto Natales and where Torres del Paine National Park is located. The national park is the most important tourist destination in the Magallanes region. The schools sit quietly nestled in the pampas surrounded by windswept valley landscapes, wide open skies, and the symbolic Horse Monument in the commune’s center. Youth & community recycled art projects color the communal outdoor spaces which reflect natural elements related to the regions unique culture, landscape, and future visions. Children work together in large single classroom settings where montessori education methods are generally practiced due to the small number of total students. The schoolhouses are filled with abundant natural light, warm wood-burning stoves, and the students’ ornate & colorful artwork and projects. The students are engaged together, working on various assignments – whether it be learning about Chile’s 16 unique regions, the native flora and fauna, or creating unique art.

Students, along with their professors, join Gonzalo for a group interview in order to find out what the national park and natural environment means to them and their families, and what role English plays (if any) in their daily life. Gonzalo explains that learning English is fundamental for work opportunities in the area since the region is almost 100% dependent on foreign tourists and tourism services. And for students who wish to travel abroad for study or work, English will be an important form of communication in order to be successful.

“We remain hopeful for a safe return to tourism in order to continue our relationship and support of rural youth who will guide us in the future…”

Knowing that many young adults desire to leave the places where they grow up, this educational support initiative strives to teach youth that their past is a strength for their future, not a reason to leave their roots behind. Students from these rural communities have a unique opportunity to turn their small-town life into big opportunities. Learning to appreciate their natural environment and neighboring national park – a pristine destination known as the eight wonder of the world – instills a love and desire in the students to protect the very same place in which they are fortunate to live and can allow them to build a stable and sustainable future.

Gonzalo Fuenzalida interacts with the students in their classroom at Escuela Rural Cerro Guido
After visiting the students and their schools, more than 20 youth along with two Montessori teachers and Chile Nativo guides participate in an educational outing – traveling 1 hour into the heart of Torres del Paine National Park arriving to the shores of the Grey Lake at Hotel Lago Grey. The group is warmly greeted by the hotel’s generous staff and the picturesque granite mountains peaks, lush forests, and the impressive lake views which surround this iconic hotel. A delicious welcome breakfast nourishes the students before they begin a 3 hour round-trip navigation on Grey Lake, navigating among floating icebergs with astounding views of unparalleled landscapes and the immense Grey Glacier.

Hotel Lago Grey welcomes the group upon their arrival with breakfast
Montessori educators & student enjoying the navigation ride to the Grey Glacier.
The group poses for a photo in front of Grey Glacier

This years’ 2020 scheduled educational outing was not possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The costs of the pandemic have infringed on youth rights which have been immediate, affecting children and families in numerous ways throughout rural communities and across the globe. We continue to search for relevant ways to connect with the children and their communities which are an important pillar for the children’s growth and development.

The health, safety, and wellbeing of all the children and their families during the pandemic remains the primary focus for the region’s community and leaders, and we remain hopeful for a safe return to tourism, in order to continue our relationship and support of rural youth who will guide us in the future.

SY Joyce Kan
SY Joyce Kan
Amazing trip! We joined the Torres Del Paine 7 day O trek tour - note that this tour is not a complete O Trek but skipping the part from Camp Frances to Las Torres, which worked in our favour as our holiday is limited and we won’t miss much. Our guide, Debbie was knowledgeable and amicable, and very passionate about hiking. Unfortunately I fell sick during the hike and wished to leave a day earlier than planned. Debbie and Chile Nativo quickly rearranged transportation for us and was very helpful. Throughout the whole process Chile Nativo was very responsive. We had a memorable journey and I would highly recommend Chile Nativo.
Jim Garvin
Jim Garvin
Fantastic experience! We were booked with Chile Nativo via Swoop and had a wonderful experience. Our guides, Tim & Lucile, were awesome. We really enjoyed their company. They were very knowledgeable about the region (the history, animals, landscape, etc). Highly recommend.
Olivia Evans
Olivia Evans
I booked the independent, self-guided Torres Del Paine trek with Chile Nativo’s help and was so glad I did. When I looked to book on my own, everything was all reserved in Torres Del Paine and Chile Nativo was the only agency that could help me find a spot still. To still be able to go on the trip when I wanted to go, to not have to spend so much time planning all the logistics, to get a local’s recommendations on the best way to do the trek…but STILL get to do the trek on my own was amazing and worth every penny. In particular Paolina at the agency was incredibly helpful. I would recommend this agency to anyone looking to hike in Torres del Paine.
Chiloe Natural (chiloenatural)
Chiloe Natural (chiloenatural)
Serious, professional, and friendly Tour Agency in Puerto Natales that will cater your needs in Patagonia and Torres del Paine.
Kevin Jobst
Kevin Jobst
Hiking in Torres with Pepa is like walking with your smartest and wisest friend. She has an incredible depth of knowledge in everything from mycology to government, from geology to history. She is fiercely passionate about conservation and our planet and has dedicated her life to making our world a better place. Our two porters Filipe and Bastian were both incredibly strong and highly professional. Always in the know on where to set up the tent, they picked the best spot in every site we were at. Also, they were an absolute blast to hang out with after the long days hiking. I cannot recommend this particular team highly enough and if you are passionate about the environment, making the world a better place, learning everything there is to know about glaciers, mushrooms, Patagonia, the history of Chile, magma intrusions and edible berries request them by name. Thank you to all three of you for making our experience so special and I hope our paths cross again.
Brad Smith
Brad Smith
Our Torres Del Paine Plus trip was fantastic! A great crew of newly-made friends, guided by Izabella “La Professora”, on a journey beyond expectations. What a great time, a balance of hiking and touring. DO NOT miss the pumas!!! I will definitely go with the Chile Nativo team again, and thanks to Nestor & Juan too!
Senga Simpson
Senga Simpson
Excellent service. Thank you Vicky
Lukas Winegarner
Lukas Winegarner
Camilo is ledged! Chile Nativo is extremely experienced and knowledgeable - I would highly recommend booking directly through them. We were a group of 8 doing the O 7 day hike and everything was great! Thanks to Camilo & Tomas and all of our porters!


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