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Unveiling the Desert

 


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In Chile, the area called Big North (or Norte Grande), is linked to the Atacama Desert. From Putre, near Arica city, you can visit Chungara Lake and Lauca National Park, Vicuñas National Reserve. Then if you continue south, the most known place in this area is San Pedro de Atacama and the Salar of the same name. Here you notice the wide spectrum of color that are incorporated to the landscape, as well as dry of the atmosphere, the low temperatures of the nights and the warm afternoons. The Desert of Atacama is by its geographic and morphologic condition, a zone where different types of minerals can be found. San Pedro de Atacama is without any doubt, one of the highlights that Chile posses and one of the places privileged for the Chilean tourism. The area between Arica and Calama has not only destinies of great importance like the Desert of Atacama and San Pedro de Atacama, but also less well-known sightings, placed from north to south, Valley of Azapa (Azapa Valley or Valle de Azapa), Valley of Lluta (Lluta Valley or Valle de Lluta), Parinacota, Pica and Mamiña, the Sanctuary of the Tirana (Santuario de La Tirana), Humberstone Saltpeter (Salitrera de Humberstone) the border town of Ollagüe, Toconao and the Gorge of Jerez (Quebrada de Jerez), where you will find plantations of fruit trees like pears and apples, figs and Toconce, facing the dry landscape.

From the south of Antofagasta to Chañaral, by the coast, the weather is warmer and more template than the area between Arica and Iquique. You will find beaches internationally recognized by its extraordinary beauty. It is the case of Bahia Inglesa (English Bay) and Caldera, where literally the waters are of turquoise color and white sands.

Heading the south, the zones of valleys appears with greener landscapes but still under the influence of the desert weather, we encounter in this area the Elqui Valley (Valle de Elqui), which holds the title to have the clearest skies of the South Hemisphere and according to many, of the world. A zone with more than 300 cleared days a year that have made possible the installation of astronomical centers of world-wide reputation, as the Observatory Paranal, and Tololo Hill, and recently, a basic observatory in the city of Vicuña, the Mamalluca. La Serena on the other hand, and also Coquimbo, constitutes two poles of great importance for the tourism in the zone, both town coast of the Small North area (Norte Chico), their calm beaches well protected of the marine air and the cold are preciated by the tourist that chooses to stay near the coast. Some of the most known beaches in the area are: Totoralillo, Las Tacas, Guanaqueros, Puerto Velero, Playa Blanca and Tongoy.

Uri Martinich is LetsgoChile.com's IT director and a travel to Chile consultant. He also directs the Chile tours division of the company.

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