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Chile

Main attractions

Conguillio National Park, Chile
Conguillio National Park, araucarias and Sierra Nevada volcano / Javier Ignacio Acuña Ditzel, / CC BY 2.0

The natural and man-made heritage of Chile is very diverse, also thanks due to extreme length of the country extending from driest deserts in the north to the most southern historical inhabited lands of the world in Patagonia.

Highlights of Chile are:

  • The magnificent scenery of Patagonian Andes and fjords with snow-capped volcanos, araucaria and alerce stands, thousands of waterfalls and countless beautiful observation spots.
  • The volcanic landscape of Northern and Central Chile with geysers and hot springs.
  • Atacama - the driest desert of the world with the unique landscape of quebradas - deep canyons with oasis, containing unique biological, archaeological and architecture heritage.

Besides these outstanding features there are numerous other exciting monuments. Below are listed selected attractions of Chile:

Natural landmarks

Volcanoes and hot springs

El Tatio geysers, Chile
El Tatio geysers / / CC BY 2.0
  • El Tatio - Antofagasta. This is a large geyser field with more than 80 active geysers erupting up to 6 m high, especially impressive in early morning.
  • Laguna Roja - Arica and Parinacota. Bright red lake fed by hot springs, 40 - 50 °C warm, with travertine formations around the lake. Nearby also yellow and green lakes. Lakes are located at 3,700 m above the sea level.
  • Osorno volcano - Los Lagos. 2,625 m tall volcano of beautiful conical form with snow-covered top.
  • Ojos del Salado - Atacama and Argentina, Catamarca. Highest volcano of the world, 6,891 m tall. It contains also crater lake at 6,390 m height - possibly the highest lake of the world.
  • Polloquere terms in Salar Surire - Arica and Parinacota. Group of small pools created by hot springs with temperature of water up to 66°C. Interesting sinter formations.
  • Puchuldiza Geyser field - Tarapacá. This is one of the highest geyser fields in world.

Cliffs and canyons

Torres del Paine, Chile
Torres del Paine / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Cliffs of Alexander Selkirk Island - Huan Fernández Islands, Valparaíso. Approximately 1,000 m high cliffs at the north-western part of island.
  • Cochamo Valley - Los Lagos. Beautiful valley surrounded with up to 1,000 m tall granite cliffs. Valley is covered with impressive primeval temperate rainforest with enormous trees.
  • French Valley - Magallanes. Impressive, forest covered cirque surrounded by extreme cliffs more than 1,000 m high.
  • La Portada - Antofagasta. Large natural arch in the sea, formed in 43 m high, 23 m wide and 70 m long cliff.
  • Piedra de la Iglesia - Maule. Cliff resembling a giant boulder with natural arch in it. Inhabited by numerous birds.
  • Torres del Paine - Magallanes. Three knife-formed cliffs rising with vertical walls more than 1,000 - 1,400 m high and offering one of the most impressive sights in Patagonian Andes.

Waterfalls

Ventisquero Colgante Falls, Chile
Ventisquero Colgante Falls / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Chile contains numerous very tall but little known waterfalls - in Patagonia there are countless unmeasured waterfalls which are several hundred metres tall, located in pristine, beautiful setting.

  • Laja Falls - Biobío. Beautiful, up to 35 m tall fall, consists of four parallel horseshoe shaped waterfalls with a total width - approximately 455 m.
  • Ventisquero Colgante Falls - Aisén. One of the highest waterfalls in Chile and possibly - one of the most beautiful waterfalls worldwide. Water originates from the base of Ventisquero Colgante glacier and falls more than 350 m high in a single plunge as approximately 30 m wide stream. This is rare sight, as above this giant waterfall is towering a wall of blue glacier. Several smaller falls around are even higher.

Ecosystems

  • Alerce Milenario in Monumento Alerce Costero - Los Rios. Giant alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides I.M.Johnst.) with trunk circumference 11.4 m, diameter - 4.2 m, over 60 m tall.
  • Araucaria Madre Milenaria and Stands of Araucaria in Conguillío - Araucanía. Madre Milenaria monkey puzzle tree is some 50 m tall tree with giant trunk with 8 m circumference. Conguillío National Park contains some of most visually impressive and valuable araucaria (Araucaria araucana (Molina) K. Koch) stands.
  • Araucaria stands around Laguna Blanca in Tolhuaca National Park - Araucanía. Visually impressive, picturesque stands of oldgrowth monkey puzzle tree forest around mountain lake with Tolhuaca volcano in the background.
  • Yungay - Antofagasta. Part of Atacama Desert, considered to be the driest place in the world without any signs of life. Only few specific microorganisms - extremophiles - are present here and some areas seem to be devoid of any life. Some areas are rich with nitrates - easily soluble minerals which in other circumstances are consumed by organisms. Here rich nitrate deposits have been formed from atmospheric nitrogen, possibly by lightning. This unusual area is compared to conditions of Mars.
  • Dendroseris neriifolia ((Dcne.) H. & A.) - Robinson Crusoe Island, Juan Fernández archipelago, Valparaíso. Only two specimens of this tree are found in the wild. Even more endangered is Dendroseris gigantea - with only one sample in the wild!
  • Humboldt penguin colony of Chañaral Island - Atacama. The largest colony of Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) in the world, with 7,000 pairs.
  • Ocoa palm forest - Valparaíso. The largest stand of the endemic Chilean Wine palm (Jubaea chilensis), trees reach a height of 25 m.
  • Temperate forests of Alexander Selkirk Island - Huan Fernández Islands, Valparaíso. Beautiful forest with high number of endemic plants. In total there are 120 endemic plants (one of the highest degrees of endemism in world), including large trees, tree-ferns, palms. This unique ecosystem provides important knowledge about the plant evolution. Especially impressive is the pure stand of the endemic tree-fern Dicksonia externa south from Cerro de los Innocentes.
  • Forest on Robinson Crusoe Island - Huan Fernández Islands, Valparaíso. Temperate forests with unique level of endemism - out of 211 local plant species 132 are endemic - e.g. met only on this island. The dense forest is formed from trees which are not met anywhere else. Hundreds of endemic species of insects.

Other natural landmarks

Milodon Cave, Chile
Milodon Cave / Remi Jouan, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Cueva del Pacífico (Pacific Cave) and Porche de la Baleine (Whale Cave) on Madre de Dios Island - Magallanes. Madre de Dios Island has very impressive karst in its marble rocks. There have also formed several interesting caves. Cueva del Pacífico is 25 m long and contains some 50 red and black petroglyphs and other artefacts left by the indigenous Kawésqar (Alacaluf) people at least 4 centuries but may be even 4 thousand years ago. Whale Cave is giant, 70 m high and 180 m long hollow with bones of extinct whales. One whale bone is 37 m above the sea level - possibly brought here by tsunami.
  • The Marble Caves (Las Cavernas de Marmol) - Aisén. Unique geological formation - peninsula consisting of pure marble in the beautiful Lago General Carrera has been eroded by the lake water, forming caves, mushroom formations and tunnels in the marble.
  • Milodon Cave (Cueva del Milodón) - Magallanes. In this cave were found remnants of the giant ground sloth (Mylodon darwini) and several more extinct South American animals.
  • Monturaqui meteorite crater - Antofagasta. One of the most impressive impact craters in South America, created by meteorite some 660,000 years ago. 350 - 370 m wide, up to 34 m deep.

Man made landmarks

Petroglyphs and geoglyphs

Gigante de Atacama, Chile
Gigante de Atacama / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Chile is extremely rich with petroglyphs and, thanks to extremely dry climate in Atacama desert, also with geoglyphs. Below are listed just selected examples of this rich heritage.

  • Chiza geoglyphs - Tarapacá. Group of large, impressive geoglyphs, showing geometric figures, humans, birds, llamas.
  • Geoglyphs of Pintados (Geoglifos de Pintados) - Tarapacá. Large group of geoglyphs spread over a distance of 4 km. Geoglyphs have been shaped both by placing stones in rows and removing them from surfaces. Shown geometric forms similar to camels and humans. Developed in the time period from 600 to 1500 AD.
  • Gigante de Atacama on Cerro Unita - Tarapacá. Largest geoglyph in Chile - 86 m (115 m?) high antropomorphic figure, made around 1000 - 1400 AD. Cerro Unita contains more geoglyphs.
  • La Finca de Chañaral - Atacama. One of the few ancient rock art sites in the northern part of Chile. Dravings are made in deep canyon of Chañaral - oasis, over a distance of nearly 1 km.
  • Lluta valley geoglyphs - Arica and Parinacota. Group of geoglyphs arranged in fan shaped array, mainly showing llamas.
  • Ofragía petroglyphs - Tarapacá. Rich petroglyph site in Codpa valley, showing antropomorphic figures in costumes, battle scene.
  • Pedregoso River Cave - Aisén. One of the most important sites of the ancient Patagonian cliff art. Cave mainly contains stencils of hands in six colors, as well as drawings of animals - guanacos, nandu. Drawings are nearly 10,000 years old.
  • Petroglyph field of Tarapacá - Tarapacá. Here hundreds of stones are adorned with ancient petroglyphs, showing geometric figures (often - zigzags and circles), Andean crosses, lamas, jaguars, humans. Petroglyph field is located at ancient crossroads.
  • Tiliviche geoglyphs - Tarapacá. Group of geoglyphs formed by dark stones. Mainly shown a group llamas, made roughly in 1000 AD.

Other archaeological monuments

Ruins of Tulor, Chile
Ruins of Tulor / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Camarones Cove and other sites - Arica and Parinacota. Sites of Chinchorro culture contain the oldest mummies in the world - the deceased ones after a special treatment were left in the extremely dry climate. Camarones Cove contained the oldest mummies of the world, made around 5,050 BC.
  • Fell Cave (Cueva de Fell) and Pali Aike Cave - Magallanes. These Patagonian caves - lava tubes - contain remnants left by the first people (12,000 - 8,000 BC) in the far south of Americas, as well as remnants of extinct Pleistocene mammals of Patagonia.
  • Inca shrine on Cerro El Plomo - Santiago Metropolitan. Ancient Inca shrines at the height of 5,170 m and 5,400 m - one of the highest archaeological monuments of the world. Here was found a well preserved mummy of a boy buried here some 500 years ago as well as jewellery and figurines. Sanctuary consists of two parts - one is round stone platform, another consists of three rectangular stone settings. Boy was sacrificed in ceremony called "Capacocha".
  • Monte Verde - Los Lagos. Important and somewhat mysterious archaeological site: 14,800 - 13,800 years old human settlement, which predates the oldest culture of Americas - Clovis - by 1000 years. People living here were eating such extinct animals as mastodons, they built primitive houses, were using potatoes as a food. Layers below hint that people here may be lived even 33,000 years ago.
  • Pukará de Quitor - Antofagasta. Fortified ancient city of pre-Inca and Inca. Contains more than 160 structures built of stones and adobe, enclosed with fortification wall. Built in the 12th century, taken by Spaniards in 1540.
  • Pukará de Punta Brava - Atacama. One of the most important Pre-Columbian fortifications in the area of Chile. Nearby are located ancient metal mines and cave paintings.
  • Tulor - Antofagasta. Remnants of unique village made of round adobe huts. Preserved parts of 22 buildings from 800 - 1200 AD, the history of the village goes back to 380 BC.

Monuments of urban planning

Valparaíso, Chile
Valparaíso / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Aiquina - Antofagasta. Densely built desert village at the rim of Salado River Canyon, perched above 40 - 50 m high cliff. Villagers have developed terraced fields below, in the paradise like green canyon which contrasts with the grey environs above, in the village. Here are held popular yearly religious festivities. This represents typical desert village of the region, similar villages are Caspana, Mamiña (Tarapacá), and the remote Toconca where villagers have retained numerous ancient traditions.
  • Baquedano Street in Iquique - Tarapacá. Beautiful historical street with outstanding local architecture from the late 19th - early 20th century. Historical wooden tram still operates along the street.
  • Humberstone ghost town and Santa Laura ghost town - Arica and Parinacota. Historical towns - twins in the dry Pampa desert, where lived and worked saltpeter miners. Cities were filled with workers from Chile, Peru and Bolivia who mined the largest salpeter deposits of the world in the 1880 - 1930s. Abandoned in the early 1960s. Architecture represents the style of this time, f.e. in the large Art Deco styled theatre in Humberstone. Here developed well organised worker's unions.
  • Palafitos of Castro - Chiloé Island, Los Lagos. Impressive rows of wooden houses built on the stilts along the long waterfronts of Castro. Most of these buildings have been built in the late 19th - early 20th century.
  • Sewell copper mining town - O'Higgins. Compact town of miners developed since 1905 around the world's largest underground copper mine - El Teniente. Located in very steep terrain. Central staircase serves as the central axis of town, which consists of densely located, large, colourful buildings. The town had 15,000 inhabitants at its heyday but now is almost abandoned.
  • Valparaíso historical centre - Valparaíso. Picturesque, once prosperous port city with countless historical buildings on steep hillsides. In the city still are operating 4 - 10 historical funiculars.

Churches

Isluga church, Chile
Isluga church / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Castro Cathedral - Chiloé Island, Los Lagos. Beautiful, ornate and structurally complex wooden church built in 1910 - 1912. Built in Neo-Gothic and Neo-Classycal style with specific local influences.
  • Isluga church and village - Tarapacá. Unique Altiplano church located at 3,800 m above the sea level. Church is built in the 17th century in a place which is sacred to Aymara people. It is located in uninhabited village, which is used only in a case of religious festivities.
  • Mamiña church - Tarapacá. Colonial Andean church with twin towers, built in 1632. Historical Andean churches have unique acoustics.
  • Nercón Church - Chiloé Island, Los Lagos. Beautiful wooden church typical for the unique Chiloé architectural tradition, built in 1890.
  • Parinacota church - Arica and Parinacota. Built in the 17th century, contains beautiful frescoes, most painted by local Indians. These frescoes often have mysterious content. Church is located at 4,400 m height.
  • San Francisco church in Santiago - Santiago Metropolitan. One of the oldest buildings in Chile, started in 1572, although rebuilt numerous times, mainly due to earthquakes.
  • Santa Maria church in Achao - Chiloé Island, Los Lagos. The oldest of the unique churches of Chiloé, built around 1740. Wooden structure unites local and European art traditions and is built without a single nail. Ornate Baroque interiors.
  • Tenaún Church - Chiloé Island, Los Lagos. One of the unique Chiloé wooden churches, the only one with three towers. Reconstructed and redesigned in the late 19th century, but the basic part is older.
Temuco train depot, Chile
Temuco train depot / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Other man-made landmarks

  • La Moneda Palace - Santiago Metropolitan. Palace is built in 1784 - after 1805. This harmonious Classicism building has played a great role in the history of Chile. It has experienced partial destruction in 1973 during the coup d'état and later - construction of underground passages for possible escape of General Augusto Pinochet.
  • Malleco Viaduct - Araucanía. Up to 102 m high, 350 m long iron viaduct for railway, built in 1890.
  • Temuco railroad depot - Araucanía. Impressive round Art Deco style depot with numerous historical steam locomotives - one of the best railway history museums in the world.

List of described attractions by regions

Chile is divided into 15 regions. Antártica Chilena is reviewed as a part of Antarctica.

Regions of Chile

Regions are listed from north to south:

XV Arica and Parinacota
I Tarapacá
II Antofagasta
ArrowMonturaqui craterImpact craters
ArrowYungay - the driest place in the worldMeteorological phenomena, Ecosystems
III Atacama
IV Coquimbo
V Valparaíso
ArrowForest on Robinson Crusoe IslandEcosystems
ArrowDendroseris neriifoliaTrees
ArrowValparaíso historic centreCities and towns
RM Santiago Metropolitan
VI O'Higgins
VII Maule
VIII Biobío
ArrowLaja FallsWaterfalls
IX Araucanía
XIV Los Ríos
ArrowAlerce Milenario in Monumento Alerce CosteroTrees
X Los Lagos
XI Aisén
ArrowThe Marble CavesCaves
ArrowVentisquero Colgante FallsWaterfalls
XII Magallanes and Antártica Chilena
ArrowMilodon CaveCaves, Fossil finds

Valparaíso region includes also an island in Polynesia, which is reviewed separately:

Easter Island

Map of Chile

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