Jan 5, 2019

Chile Tourist Attractions

 Note: This article consists of two parts, follow the link to visit the first section North of Chile, Santiago and Central Chile.


Easter Island (Rapa Nui)



The Submerged Moai, Easter Island, Chile.
The Submerged Moai
Impressive imitation of the natural statues
 Undoubtedly, one of the most exotic tourist destinations in Chile is the volcanic, enigmatic and beautiful Easter Island, native, official name Rapa Nui. Although not easily accessible, it has become one of the major Chile tourist attractions. It is located in the South Pacific, 3700 km. from the continental shelf, occupies an area of 163.6 km2. and there is a population of 7,800 inhabitants concentrated in the town of Hanga Roa, capital of the island. The climate is of a subtropical nature and rain can occur at any time of the year. 

According to archaeological research, the origin of the Rapanui ethnic group would come from Polynesia, possibly from the Marquesas Islands, this is evidenced in the Polynesian traits of the islanders. The more than 900 Moai, emblematic stone statues scattered throughout the island and the Ahu (ceremonial platforms), are silent witnesses of a mysteriously extinct culture that developed mainly between the XIth and XVIIth centuries. Until today, this exceptional cultural landscape continues to fascinate people from all over the world.


How to Get There


Due to its remote location and the lack of a large commercial port, the most common way to get to Easter Island is by air. The flights are by LATAM Airlines, departing from Arturo Merino Benitez Airport in Santiago and arriving at Mataveri International Airport, the duration of the outward flight is just over 5 and a half hours, and the return is almost 1 hour shorter due to the influence of the wind. The infrastructure to receive tourists is good because the main source of income in Easter Island is tourism. You can choose from luxury hotels to hostels and cabins. The tour of the island can be done with Rent-a-car vehicles, bicycle, horseback or simply walking. 


Easter Island, mixture of a millenary extinct culture and 
an untouched Nature




Tourist Places in Easter Island


Rapa Nui National Park


Created in 1966 and declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1995, the Park covers an area of 7,130 hectares, 43 percent of the territory of the island. Since 2017, and for 50 years, renewable, the administration is in charge of its own inhabitants through the Ma'u Henua Community. The Natural Sanctuary includes the Sacred places, Moai and the  most visited spots in Easter Island. Outside the park limits there is a good offer of accomodation places: boarding houses, cabins and hotels.


Rano Raraku Volcano


One of the most mysterious and archeologically most important sites of Easter Island since this was the quarry for the construction of the world famous Moai, which were later moved to the ceremonial platforms or Ahu. However, the construction seems to have been abandoned suddenly, without a clear explanation until now. Rano Raraku is one of the most visited places by tourists who arrive to Rapa Nui, on the way you can see many sculptures that have remained there over the centuries, some lying down, others standing, others half finished or broken.  Inside the crater there is a 3 meters deep freshwater lagoon.  


The Moai


There is not only one place to see the centuries-old stone sculptures, these are scattered or placed on the Ahu (Altars) throughout the island. We must remember that the figures carved in volcanic stone total more than 900, and the apogee of the construction was developed between 700 and 1600 A.D. The monolithic statues also wore a kind of headdress or red stone bun weighing more than 10 Tons known as Pukao, whose material was extracted from the Puna Pau quarry. Once carved the Pukao, they had to be raised to the right height to place them on the heads. How did they do it? Another of the questions for which there is no satisfactory explanation until today.


The Ahu (Ceremonial Platforms) 


One of the Ahu (Ceremonial Platform or Altar) in Easter Island, Chile.
Photo: despegar.com.ar
  There are approximately 300 Ahu, rectangular platforms or altars made of stone, mainly of a funerary nature around the whole island. On the main platform were placed the stone sculptures or Moai. Among the most noteworthy are the Ahu Tongariki, the most imposing ceremonial platform on the island; Nau Nau, just 150 meters from Anakena Beach; Vai Uri, a row of 5 Moai facing the Ocean, of the total only four are left, with different degree of conservation; Tahai, with a lone Moai of more than four meters high;  Ko Te Riku, this Ahu is part of the Tahai Ceremonial Complex. Ko Te Riku is one of the most impressive and photographed because it has the only Moai on the island with restored eyes, part of the work was carried out by the American archaeologist William Mulloy between 1968 and 1970. Akivi, the first group of monolithic sculptures scientifically restored in 1960. It is a platform with 7 Moai, the only one facing the Ocean, although it is not near the coast; Akahanga another of the important altars of the island, which has not been restored, with 13 Moai lying down but preserved almost to perfection. According to tradition, at this exact point on the southeast coast of the island are the remains of Hotu Matua, the first King of Rapanui; Hanga Te'e, another platform not restored, in the area known as Vaihu, with 8 Moai lying down; Huri a Urenga, one of the few platforms that is not close to the coast but to the interior of the island, of 13 meters long by 4 meters wide, with a single Moai that has the characteristic of presenting two pairs of hands; Hanga Kioe, an archaeological complex composed of two Ahu, Ahu Akapu and Ahu Hanga Kioe, the Moai on the Ahu Akapu with a height of 4 meters is complete, only missing the "Pukao" (headdress) the Hanga Kioe is half-destroyed, only has a part of the back on the platform; Ature Huki, on the beach of Anakena, a platform with a single moai more than six meters high that was the first to be scientifically restored and stood up again. As a result of its recovery, carried out in 1956 by the Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl along with several natives of the island, came the repair of many other monolithic sculptures of Rapa Nui.


Orongo Ceremonial Center


Orongo, on the top of the Rano Kau volcano, was an ancestral ceremonial center and represents the largest archaeological site of Easter Island. It is the reconstruction of 54 houses made of stones that still maintain their original boat design. Its use was seasonal, only a few weeks a year, in the beginning of spring. The village was built to venerate Make-Make, considered the creator of the World and also related to fertility and to perform the Tangata-Manu (Bird-Man) competition. Near the Rano Kau volcano there are three Motu (small islands), towards which the candidates to rule the island for one year (from one Spring to the next) had to swim,  the chosen one was the first to return from the Motu Nui, the largest islet, swimming with an egg in his hand. The last competition was held approximately in 1867. The event was narrated on the stones of the Rano Kau volcano. From the summit there is a magnificent view of the Ocean.



Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum


Founded in 1973 by the Capuchin priest Sebastian Englert, it is located a few meters from the center of Hanga Roa, currently the gallery also houses the William Mulloy research Library. The museum has a collection of more than 20 thousand objects discovered at different times, which tell the History of Rapa Nui. Among the pieces that can be seen stand out an original eye belonging to one of the many Moai scattered around the island, this authentic eye made of coral is the only existing in the World. The Rongorongo Tablets,  pieces of wood with a writing system discovered in Easter Island, a vestige of what until now is the only organized writing system in all of Oceania. Unfortunately, those exhibited in the gallery are only replicas, the 27 original tablets are scattered all over the world. Anyway, it's worth seeing them and learning from this ancestral system of glyphs. The Feminine Moai, discovered in 1956 in the Anakena area by the Norwegian adventurer and ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl. Of the 12 that have been found on the island, this restored piece is one of them. The Female Moai, discovered in 1956 at Anakena area by the Norwegian adventurer and ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl. Of the 12 that have been found on the island, this restored piece is one of them.

Other Recommended Site:  Parque Nacional Rapa Nui



Anakena Beach



Anakena Beach, Easter Island.
Anakena Beach, Easter Island.
Photo:  https://www.biobiochile.cl
  Anakena,  is a small beach, one of the most touristic places on Easter Island. Recognized for its white sand, coral and Palm Trees brought from Tahiti, ranked number 16 among the 25 most outstanding beaches in the 2017 version of the Travelers Choice Awards. The environment is very quiet, with few people and noise, you can rent an equipment to explore the colorful marine species that live underwater. Nearby, as a backdrop, are the ceremonial sites Ahu Ature Huki with the first Moai restored in modern times and the Ahu Nau Nau, consisting of 7 stone giants, the best preserved Moai of Rapa Nui. For the islanders the place is of great importance because the tradition says that here, coming from Polynesia, disembarked and established Hotu Matu'a, precursor and first Ariki (Noble) of the Rapanui people.


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Patagonia


Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Chile.
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.
Awarded as "The Eighth Wonder of the World"
  Patagonia is a geographic region of little more than 1 million km2, at the South end of South America, shared between Chile and Argentina. We will focus here on detailing some of the main tourist attractions of Patagonia, Chilean side, of smaller extent yet full of countless places of incomparable beauty. Because of its wild geography, this is one of the least polluted and intervened regions all over the World. The main city is Punta Arenas, on the shores of the Strait of Magellan, with an important history and traditions, a starting point for many regional tours. Other principal cities are Puerto Montt in Los Lagos Region, Puerto Aysen and Coyhaique in the Aysen Region, Puerto Natales in Magallanes Region.



Torres del Paine National Park


One of the largest and most important National Parks in Chile, tourist destination recognized worldwide. Located in the province of Ultima Esperanza, Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica Region. The closest city is Puerto Natales, known as the gateway to Torres del Paine. This natural wonder of Patagonia borders to the North with the also renowned Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina, both countries promote unified tourist circuits.


Carretera Austral (Southern Way)


The Carretera Austral or Chile's Route 7, with its more than 1200 km. between Puerto Montt and Villa O'Higgins, is considered one of the most beautiful scenic roads in the World. Much of the route lacks paving, although due to the difficult geography of the area the road is in constant maintenance. The Carretera Austral gathers an incredible amount of natural beauty as the Alerce Andino National Park, with larche trees of more than 3000 years old, Hornopiren National Park, a pristine and little visited place,  Pumalin Park, one of the largest conservation projects in South America, Queulat National Park, famous for its Hanging Glacier, Laguna San Rafael National Park, with one of the largest Glaciers of the Northern Ice Fields and remote places such as Caleta Tortel, with its picturesque walkways made of Cipres de las Guaitecas (Cypress from the Guaitecas Archipelago).


Kaweskar Navigation Route


Kaweskar Navigation Route, Chile.
Photo: www.skorpios.cl
Kaweskar Route is the name given to the sea tour that today takes place through the same Patagonian channels that the Kaweskar natives sailed centuries ago. This is the star trip performed by the Chilean tourist navigation company "Skorpios" with its ship Skorpios III. The 380-nautical-mile route begins in Puerto Natales, Magallanes Region, 2500 Km. South of the Chilean capital making cruises to the Glaciers of the Southern Ice Field, with a duration of 4 days and 3 nights. It operates between the months of October to April and sets sail twice a week, Tuesday and Friday.


Laguna San Rafael National Park


Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael lies in the Aysen Region. With 1,742,000 hectares, it is the largest in the region, of which 400,000 correspond to the Northern Ice Field, one of the largest ice masses on the planet. Within its limits is also Mount San Valentin, sometimes called San Clemente, 3,910 meters above sea level, this is the highest peak of the Southern Andes and a magnet that attracts mountaineering enthusiasts from Chile and the World. 

The great attractions of the park and icons of the regional tourism are the San Rafael Lake and the namesake Glacier. San Rafael Lake (Spanish "Laguna San Rafael") is actually a bay connected through a channel to the sea.  In the bay there are boat trips, from where it is possible to observe the huge floating icebergs and the fall of large masses of ice from the glacier to the lake.


City of Punta Arenas


Monument to Schonner Ancud and taking of possesion of the Strait of Magellan, Punta Arenas, Chile.
Ancud Schooner and Possesion of the Strait Monument
Photo: www.comapa.com - Patagonia & Antarctica
  Punta Arenas is the capital of Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica Region and one of the main cities of Patagonia. We must remember that Patagonia is a binational region shared between Chile and Argentina. Although its population is only 150,000 inhabitants, its rich history of great explorers and daring pioneers, its strategic location on the shore of the Strait of Magellan joining two Oceans, the fact of being a gateway to the magnificent natural landscapes of Southern Patagonia and many other reasons, make this city the perfect destination to start an unforgettable journey through the end of the World. The main point of arrival and departure is Carlos Ibañez del Campo International Airport, 22 K. North of the city. There are also 2 important ports, Jose de los Santos Mardones and Arturo Prat, which each year receive a growing number of cruise ships sailing through the South American southern cone.


Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego  


Isla Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire Island) lies in the southern tip of South America, separated from the mainland by the Strait of Magellan. The western part belongs to Chile, with 51.49 % of the total area, and the eastern side corresponds to Argentina, with 48.51 % of the territory. On the Chilean side, the capital is the town of Porvenir, with 5,500 inhabitants. At the beginning of the 20th century Tierra del Fuego experienced a so-called "Gold Rush", attracting many dreamers from different parts of the World, then, during the second half of the 20th century, a boom period is repeated with the peak of the oil industry. Today, under the protection of special laws, the island has resumed a slow but constant growth. 

The most common way to get to the Chilean side of the island is leaving from the Tres Puentes Ferry Terminal in Punta Arenas, the journey lasts approximately 2 hours or making a much shorter voyage taking the Ferry at Punta Delgada Terminal, 170 Km. North of Punta Arenas. DAP Airways also performs daily flights departing from Carlos Ibañez del Campo Airport in Punta Arenas.

Globally, Tierra del Fuego is one of the great destinations for sport fishing lovers. Famous places are Lakes Blanco, Deseado, Despreciado, Fagnano (whose largest extension is on the Argentine side), the rivers Blanco, Condor, Azopardo, Paralelo, Chico and Rio Grande, the largest on the island and known as the Trout's International Capital. There are several Fishing Tours available both in Punta Arenas and Porvenir. The official season is from October to April of the next year. Another interesting place to visit in Tierra del Fuego is the private initiative Parque Pinguino Rey (King Penguin Park), located in Bahia Inutil, 114 Km. South of Porvenir where every year nest specimens of this beautiful and colorful bird, the second largest after the Emperor Penguin. 

In the Southwest part of the island, within the Alberto de Agostini National Park, the third largest in Chile, lies the Darwin Range, snow and ice fields-covered mountains which have the highest peaks of Tierra del Fuego. There are great attractions related to the Darwin Mountain Range, such as the Avenida de los Glaciares (The Glaciers Avenue), giant ice masses that break off into the Beagle Channel from the Darwin ice field. These glaciers are named after the nationality of the first explorers in the area such as Germany, Italy, France, Holland, Spain and Romanche. The visit to the Glaciers Avenue is carried out through the Australis Cruise Line between Punta Arenas and Ushuaia through the Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel.


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Southern Chile


Town of Puerto Varas, South of Chile.
Puerto Varas and Osorno Volcano
Photo: biobiochile.cl
  
Chile's Southern Zone, is another of the emblematic tourist areas in Chile, where you can find countless places as beautiful as they are interesting. Commonly, the term Southern Chile refers to the regions immediately North of Patagonia, including Biobio, Araucania and Los Lagos Regions. Here are just some of the most recognized sites to visit in this part of the country:




Pucon, one of the Adventure Capitals of Chile


Pucon is a small tourist town in La Araucania Region, located on the shores of Villarrica Lake and a few kilometers away from the namesake volcano. It is the most important lake resort in Chile and one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in the country. The town of approximately 25,000 inhabitants is a sought-after adventure tourism center famous for the Villarrica Ski Center managed by the Gran Hotel Pucon Resort and Club, hiking trails, hot springs, water sports, descent down the rivers, kayaking, etc. 15 km away is the town of Villarrica, another of the main tourist destinations of La Araucania Region.


Chiloe Island and Archipelago


The Archipelago of Chiloe is a place full of mild landscapes, deeply rooted traditions and customs, rich folklore and gastronomy, amidst the geography dominated by marine views and the dozens of surrounding islands. Many of its particular characteristics had their origin in the isolation and the fact that Chiloe was the last refuge of the Spanish crown in Chile even after Independence. Chiloe does not have large geographic features or a hectic nightlife so it can be said that the Archipelago is a tourist destination for the whole family. Regarding the weather, it is very changeable, even in Summer. To get to the island, you must cross the Chacao Channel by ferry, leaving from Pargua, 60 km from the city of Puerto Montt to arrive to the Greater Island of Chiloe after a crossing of approximately half an hour.

There are innumerable places that could be listed, stand out the city of Ancud, which for its location is the most accessible on the island, with Fortresses erected by the Spaniards at the time of the Conquest; Castro, the provincial capital and largest city with around 45,000 inhabitants. Castro is famous for its Palafitos (Stilt Houses) the San Francisco and other Churches in the Commune declared as a World Heritage by UNESCO; the Museo Historico Etnografico de Dalcahue, with diverse collections that represent the evolution of the Chilote people and how the activities of agriculture, fishing and handicrafts have evolved, from the ancient ethnic groups of the Chonos and Huilliches; the Churches of Chiloe, wooden temples built according to a traditional design belonging to a school of architecture typical of the island. The oldest buildings still standing and repaired date from the middle of the 18th century and the most recent, from the beginning of the 20th century. In total, sixteen of these churches are considered National Monuments of Chile and, since 2000, a World Heritage Site by Unesco. Chiloe National Park, another must-see destination for visitors to the Greater Island, located on the Pacific coast, it is divided into two sectors, the smallest portion called Chepu, located in the commune of Ancud and the largest part known as Abtao in the communes of Dalcahue, Castro and Chonchi; Parque Tantauco, a private initiative located in the Commune of Quellon, extreme south of Chiloe, with ecosystems of great ecological value, among the richest in endemic biodiversity worldwide. The access can be by sea or land.


Huilo- Huilo Biological Reserve


Huilo Huilo Falls, South of Chile.
Huilo- Huilo Falls - Photo: huilohuilo.com
  Huilo Huilo is a private initiative, a world-class tourist destination awarded with several international prizes including The World's Best Sustainable Travel Destination. The Reserve is located 860 km South of the Chilean capital, in the Region of Los Rios, Panguipulli Commune, bordering Argentina. It is an area of 100,000 hectares of temperate forest housing a great biological diversity, volcanoes, lush waterfalls and innumerable lakes and water courses of glacial origin. The infrastructure to serve tourists is 100% eco friendly, everything is made with native materials and designed to not interfere with nature. In Huilo Huilo you can perform entertaining activities immersed in the pristine nature and wonderful landscapes of this remote corner of the World. More information on  Huilo Huilo official Website.


Salto del Laja (Laja Falls)


Salto del Laja is  an imposing combination of four waterfalls of the Laja River, one of the tourist icons of the Biobio Region and all the Central- Southern Zone of Chile. Its location is 480 km South of Santiago and 30 km North of Los Angeles. Currently there are a number of tourist services, including Hotels, Restaurants, Campsites and Picnic areas, Cabins and Crafts, implementation for Adventure Tourism, Bike Touring, Hiking, Zip line, etc.


Los Lagos and Los Rios Regions


Los Lagos and Los Rios are 2 Administrative Regions of Southern Chile, with one of the major tourist potentials in the country. The influence of German immigration throughout this part of Chile is very strong in all fields. The capital of Los Rios Region is Valdivia, one of the rainiest cities in Chile, founded in 1552 and full of interesting places to visit. Click on the link to go to What to see in Valdivia.  Another fascinating attraction in Los Rios Region, of great Hotel capacity and in the middle of exuberant nature is the one described above, Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve.

Puerto Montt, on the shores of the Reloncavi Sound, is the capital of the Region de Los Lagos (Lakes Region). Puerto Montt is a city of approx. 250,000 inhabitants which attracts a lot of visitors especially for its typical activities related to the rich sea that surrounds it, its fish and seafood market of Angelmo, the connectivity with the Isla Grande de Chiloe and for being the starting point for touring the great attractions of the surroundings. The Tepual Airport, located 16 km from the city center is the main regional air terminal, you can also arrive to Puerto Montt by land to the Bus Station, from where depart and arrive Rural, Interregional and International bus lines.

Vicente Perez Rosales National Park, with an area of 231,000 hectares is the oldest National Park in Chile, it is almost entirely in the province of Llanquihue, municipality of Puerto Varas, with the exception of a small part that corresponds to the province of Osorno. It is one of the most visited natural areas in Chile because it houses places of outstanding beauty, framed within a landscape of snow-capped mountains and volcanoes, lakes, rivers, waterfalls and evergreen forests. On the shores of Lake Llanquihue, stand out the small tourist towns of Puerto Varas and Frutillar, beautiful cities which offer great infrastructure of tourist services, having the Osorno Volcano as a gorgeous backdrop. On the eastern side of the lake is the rural town of Villa Ensenada, another key point to reach the innumerable attractions of the region. From here you can make ascents to the Osorno and Calbuco Volcanoes, Rafting and Fly Fishing on the Petrohue River. Another unforgettable experience in this area is the navigation of Todos Los Santos Lake, of emerald waters, surrounded of dense vegetation and volcanoes, one of the most beautiful and photogenic lakes of the many in the South of Chile.