San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama is a small town situated in an oasis located in the high plateau of the second region. Formerly home to the Atacameños, its population is just over 2.500 inhabitants and it is possible to observe in this area some of the highest peaks of the Andes Mountain Range.

Today, its importance lies in the number of tourists from different parts of the world, attracted by its archeological history, which lead San Pedro de Atacama to be considered the archeological capital of Chile. The extension of its landscapes and its blue skies are spectacularly clear almost all year.

Given this, its natural weather conditions and being a privileged place to observe the stars, several astronomical activities linked to tourism are being developed. Some companies put in practice this kind of tourism. The tours begin with a geographical explanation of the skies and its constellations, continuing with the observation of the stars, the moon and its craters, and Saturn and its rings.

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Calama

Calama

Calama is located at 2250 meters above sea level. It has 150.000 inhabitants and is situated 215 kms. northeast of Antofagasta and 1568 kms. of Santiago. Its importance lies in being the nearest city to the Chuquicamata mine. It is the largest oasis in the mountain range area, proof of which can be seen in the surrounding plantations.

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Antofagasta

Antofagasta

Antofagasta is considered the fifth largest city in Chile. It is the capital of the Second Region. The "Pearl of the Far North" is located at 1361 kms. north of Santiago and has a population of around 255.000 inhabitants. This city is characterized for having grown as a long, narrow strip along the coast upto the hills of the Cordillera de la Costa Mountain Range. Its main activity is its bustling commercial life (Monday-Friday from 09:00am to 1:30pm and from 4:00pm to 9:00pm). Shipments of copper extracted from the largest worldwide open pit mines, such as Chuquicamata and La Escondida are loaded in this city.

 

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Vicuña

Vicuña

Vicuña is located in the chest of the valley, this village is found 62 kms. east of La Serena, on the International Route 41. It has been constituted as a unifying center of a number of picturesque villages scattered along this magnetic valley, including Rivadavia and Peralillo, among others.

This main city and capital of the valley was founded in 1821 by Colonel Joaquín Vicuña Larraín by supreme decree of Don Bernardo O'Higgins. It has a population of 23.807 inhabitants and its economy is based primarily on agro-industrial activities and tourism.

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San Isidro

San Isidro

San Isidro is located 3 kms. northwest of Vicuña. Its church is the big attraction. It has strokes of colonial brickwork in its interior. The Fiesta of San Isidro, which is held in May, in honor of the patron of agriculture, has great religious importance.

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Peralillo

Peralillo

Peralillo is located 5 kms. from Vicuña. It is one of the smallest in the valley and has only 978 inhabitants according to the latest census in 2002. Despite its small size, it is one of the most important localities in the Elqui Valley, maintaining a very characteristic structure around its main street,and where we can highlight its old adobe church.

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Montegrande

Montegrande

Montegrande is located 98 kms. from La Serena and 31 kms. from Vicuña, within the Rio Claro Valley, southeast of the capital of the Elqui Valley.

Among its main attractions are the tomb of the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, as well as her House-School where the 1945 Nobel Prize winner practiced her profession of teaching. Both have been declared national monuments, making it obligatory for tourists to visit. These words from her last testament are inscribed on her tombstone:

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Pisco Elqui

Pisco Elqui

A few kilometers further up the valley of Rio Claro, we can find this village of 500 inhabitants, Pisco Elqui. It is characterized fot its production of pisco. For most tourists, visiting the pisco factory is a must.

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Cochiguaz

Cochiguaz

From Pisco Elqui, following a narrow winding path of gravel to the southeast, you reach the town of Cochiguaz. It is known for its UFO legends, but it is also known for its various centers of alternative therapies, which offer tourists healing through meditation, yoga, reiki, among other alternatives.

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La Serena

La Serena

La Serena is the capital of the Fourth Region. This city of churches is recognized as the second city of tourism, following Viña del Mar and the second oldest in the country after being founded in 1541 and rebuilt in 1549 by Francisco de Aguirre. This beautiful city is located 480 kms. north of Santiago and it has a population of about 180.000 inhabitants. La Serena has become the place for an ideal escape for those who love tranquility and relaxation.

La Serena has had a boom in recent years due to the exports of fruit, pisco production in the interior valleys, mining, increasing tourism and a variety of offers related to the industry and, why not mention, the installation of major astronomical observatories.

There are several alternatives for sightseeing, starting off with a tour of its 12 beaches, highlighting the lighthouse ” El Faro”, monument for which this area is named after, Cuatros Esquinas, Canto del Agua and Peñuelas among others, a nice walk downtown starting a journey from the Avenue Francisco de Aguirre with its trees and marble sculptures, its many churches, such as, San Francisco and The Cathedral, both national monuments, continuing with its marvelous Archaeological Museum and finishing off at the prestigious Recova, municipal market from the colonial era, standing out for having the best arts and crafts fair in the city. Here, we can appreciate craftsmanship in stone, figures in combarbalita stone, semiprecious jewelry in lapislazuli, ceramics with Diaguita motifs and articles of alpaca wool.

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Coquimbo

Coquimbo

Coquimbo is a town ll kms from La Serena. Its population is 188 thousand inhabitants and it is the main port of the region. Unlike the city of churches, in Coquimbo the fishing industry, distilleries, tanneries and construction stand out. In recent years, tourism has also had an increase, without skeptically looking at its neighbor La Serena.

Its people are more humble and hardworking, but everyone works together in the development of the city - a port city where its streets and attractive promenades give way to enchantment for tourists visiting throughout the year in unsuspected numbers. At the port, they offer boat rides for visitors and, in recent years, more and more luxury cruises such as the Discovery World and the Crystal Serenity are reaching this port.

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Andacollo

Andacollo

Andacollo is located 57 kms. southeast of La Serena, embedded between 2 hills, reaching 1100 meters above sea level. To get to this small town is not very difficult. It is only 50 minutes by car from the capital of the region. On our way, we can find many streams and picturesque villages.

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Combarbala

Combarbala

Combarbalá is a small town located in the Limarí Province at the Coquimbo Region with a population about 13.483 inhabitants. Their economic activity is agriculture, exploitation of goats, stone crafts combarbalita and now finally to the tourist industry driven by the Cruz del Sur Astronomical Center, located on the outside of town.

Originally inhabited by people as prehispanic culture Diaguitas, Combarbalá enjoy attractions such as petroglyphs on the "Rincón de las Chilcas", the Petrified Forest just 5 miles from the town and the San Francisco de Borja Church, which dates from 1754 and is one of its symbols and historical monuments of the town. Has a semiarid climate, with humidity not exceeding 50% and has a high clear skies, ideal for astronomical tourism development, but even with the opening of an observatory designed for this activity was opened in early 2009.

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Geisers of Tatio

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.

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Atacama Salt Bank

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.

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National Reserve los Flamencos

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.

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Moon Valley

Moon Valley

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.

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San Pedro de Atacama Church

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.

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Botanical Garden of the Desert

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.

Here, we can find a nursery of different species which they have gathered from the fields, and another with a cacti collection of species from the north of Chile.

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La Portada Monument

La Portada Monument

La Portada Monument is the emblem of the region and the city of Antofagasta. It is a beautiful geological arch declared Natural Monument in 1990.

It was once the bottom of the ocean, more than 30 million years ago, and sedimentary rocks alternating with thick layers of fossil shells were formed.

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Tropic of Capricorn Milestone

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.

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Flowered Desert

Flowered Desert

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.

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Gabriel Gonzalez Videla House

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.

The block of the Plaza de Armas, where this house can be found, was occupied in the eighteenth century by the Guards of the city. Mid-century, the land was sold by the Cabildo to the Cortés-Monroy family. It has adobe walls and interior divisions of wood and adobe. The roof structure is of oak and covered with galvanized iron. The house has a very European design, because instead of closed patios, there are continuous small patios for light. It has two floors facing the Plaza de Armas, but the rest of the building has only one floor.

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Gabriela Mistral House-School

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.

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Andacollo Church

Andacollo Church

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.

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Fray Jorge National Park

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.

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Elqui Valley

Elqui Valley

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.

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