Places to visit in Chile
The Elqui Valley is home to a mountain basin, located in the Region of Coquimbo, about 90 km from La Serena and 470 km north of Santiago, whose river (Elqui river) flows into the sea after traveling 140 km from the Andes mountains. Major tributaries of the Elqui River are the Claro and Turbio rivers.
This valley is located one of the many dams that owns the region, the reservoir Puclaro, which is 432 meters in an area known as Angostura Puclaro. Has a capacity of 200 million cubic meters of water and 760 hectare.
Fray Jorge National Park
In the IV Region of Coquimbo, 1 hour south of the small town of Ovalle, we find the National Park and World Biosphere Reserve, Fray Jorge National Park. Its intense rainfall and persistent coastal fog, dragged by ocean winds, help conserve wildlife areas, favourably comparable to the most typical Valdivian forests in the south. Given the geographical location, it is even more remarkable to count with a small, southern-like forest in the north of Chile. This allows a suitable microclimate for the development of olive trees, cinnamon trees, myrtle, lichen and even climbing plants.
This pictures village was known, by the Incas, for its richness in gold, which soon attracted the Spanish. In 1560, one of the native people found a picture of the Virgin, which motivated the construction of the first church in the area. The original virgin soon disappeared and in the mid-seventeenth century the first parish priest of the town ordered a new one from Peru, similar to the previous one, carved in cedar wood. Today, it is still in the old Andacollo church, built between 1772 and 1789 to provide a sanctuary for the holy image.
Gabriela Mistral House-School
In the heart of the Elqui Valley, is the small town of Montegrande, where Gabriela Mistral spent part of her childhood and where she was buried. The house where she lived is called "Gabriela Mistral House School". It was quite simple, a small adobe building of one floor, typical of the area, at the foot of a hill. A 20 square meter room was the classroom where her older sister, Emelina, worked as an elementary teacher and head of the post office.
Gabriel Gonzalez Videla House
This house is located on the northwestern corner of the square of the city of La Serena, the capital of the Fourth Region. It stands out because it does not follow the traditional patterns of architecture. It is one of the few residential houses left in the area and it is the only nineteenth-century house opposite the plaza.
At the southern border of the Atacama Region, about 100 kms north of the beautiful city of La Serena, we can find what is called El Desierto Florido ( The Flowered Desert ). It is a natural phenomenon that occurs occasionally in rainy seasons, allowing nature to flourish in an area that we can practically only find cactus. It lasts approximately 3 months. We can appreciate the great diversity of species that are present. However, flowering is not even around the entire area. There are some species with more domain in areas of coastal influence and others, mainly inland. Not all species flower simultaneously.
Tropic of Capricorn Milestone
The Tropic of Capricorn Milestone is at 28 kms. north of the city of Antofagasta, on one side of Route 1, near the Cerro Moreno Airport. Its structure is composed by the Arch of Capricorn, 10.4 mts. tall, with a bar that marks the seasons of the year; El Camino del Sol ( Way of the Sun ), 11 mts. long and 2 mts. wide, from south to north and perpendicular to the Tropic of Capricorn; Las Puertas del Sol (Doors of the Sun), 12.4 mts. high and finally, the Circulo del Mundo ( Circle of the World ), which is a circle that surrounds the monument symbolizing the Earth.
La Portada Monument
Botanical Garden of the Desert
The Botanical Garden of the Desert is a project developed by the Institute of the Desert (INDES), belonging to the University of Antofagasta, which was established to contribute to the study of renewable resources in the Atacama Desert.
San Pedro de Atacama Church
San Pedro de Atacama was one of the main headquarters of the Atacameños, and the Spanish were obliged to pass through here on their way to Chile. There are documents that testify that in 1557, San Pedro was " Indian Doctrine" and had a chapel which was served by the presbitarian priest Don Cristóbal Díaz de los Santos. The mission chapel of St. Peter was alongside the cemetery, but there is no trace of it today.
The current church was built around 1745 and it is characterized for being simple and sober, presenting architectural unity. Its Latin cross is 41 mts. long and 7.5 mts. wide, this being the largest of the churches in the Atacama Desert. The main and side doors are very simple, but well laid out and in excellent proportion; striking, however, is the weak puffiness in the voussoirs of the arch of the main entrance facing the north. The nave and transept are spacious, the well-proportioned arches open on both wings and, at the further end, the altars are raised.
The Moon Valley is located in the mountain range La Sal, in the Atacama Desert, Second Region in the north (15 kms. northwest of San Pedro de Atacama). This natural sanctuary is a true geological wonder for humanity. Because of its lunar-like appearance, they named it the Luna (Moon) Valley. The sunsets seen from the valley are a real spectacle. At sunset, the hills begin to change colors, the sky goes from pink to purple to black, while the wind blows through the rocks.
National Reserve los Flamencos
National Reserve Los Flamencos Founded in 1990, this beautiful reserve is located on the outskirts of San Pedro de Atacama. Within its borders, the national reserve has 5 branches which include the Valle de la Luna, the Salar de Atacama, Tara and Pujsa and Lagoons Miscante and Miñiques, each one with different flora and fauna. Their altitudes range from 2300 mts above sea level to 5910 mts. above sea level, consisting of mountainous and volcanic relief.
Atacama Salt Bank
Atacama Salt Bank is located 56 kms. southeast of San Pedro de Atacama, in the Antofagasta Region. It has an area of 3000 km2, which transforms it into the largest salt bank in Chile. At an altitude which reaches over 2300 mts. above sea level, the air we breathe is completely dry. We have an extraordinary view of this giant salt bank. We can appreciate the beauty of the mountain range La Sal to the north and west and see the various attractions presented by this inhospitable landscape. Nonetheless, the tourists often suffer a distortion of the distances.
Geisers of Tatio
Geisers of Tatio is located at 95 kms. northeast of San Pedro de Atacama at an altitude of over 4000 meters above sea level. It is one of the most exciting and interesting places to see in Chile. It is a geothermal field caused by the proximity of the El Tatio Volcano and in which an underground river runs and helps to produce the boiling phenomenon. The steam usually rises up to about 10 meters from a boiling-water pool. We must be very careful when walking through this area. The best time to visit these pools, is precisely at dawn (06.00 AM), when the sun begins to warm the icy morning. It is also possible to take a swim. Around the geisers there are several hot spring pools.
Elqui Valley: The Pisco Tradition
From La Serena to the east, approaching the valley, you can not help but notice the number of vineyards in the area, emphasizing the deep green color in the arid mountains. This landscape can be seen, not only on the way to Vicuña, but continuing from the village into the Elqui Valley and down into the Valley of Rio Claro, passing through the small towns on the way. This view is really interesting because the contrast caused by the mountain and the hillsides, where you can see the grape plantations, is incredible. These vineyards have to be well exploited, not only for production, but also for the thousands of tourists who want to know about the production and preparation of pisco. This is how the different pisco factories have opened their doors to tourism.