Norte Grande

Colonies of flamencos in a sea of salt, Inca fortresses and lunar landscapes await in a place without parallel in the entire planet. When Charles Darwin saw the Atacama Desert for the first time, he wrote in his notebook: “It is a much worse obstacle than the stormiest of oceans.”

Almost two centuries later, traveling to the “el Norte Grande” or the Big North in Chile is an intense and amazing adventure. Its sunrises are awesome, the heavens seem afire at dusk, and monumental geoglyphs astonish its visitors. This is a journey that also augurs a powerful inner change. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2009  
Norte Grande San Pedro de Atacama (Photo:Placeres)

Many affirm that this is the loveliest region in the entire country. At any rate, it is the most surprising. Impossible to get to know in just one trip, el Norte Grande unfolds itself between the cities of Arica and Antofagasta and includes the following regions: Arica - Parinacota, Tarapacá and Antofagasta. Its main attractions are the extensive coast of the Pacific, the Atacama Desert, the driest in the world, and the altiplano or high plateau, guardian of  wonders such as the salt flats of Surire and the town of San Pedro de Atacama.

It is unquestionably a land of contrasts. Endless, solitary beaches coexist with the aridness of the desert. However, for anyone who imagines they will find themselves in the middle of  nothing more than dust, drab savannas and blank horizons, el Norte Grande is there to set them right and amaze them.

In its unbounded immensity, visitors will encounter flocks of gorgeous pink flamingoes amid an ocean of salt, vast lunar landscapes, open-air museums that preserve mummies even older than those of Egypt; volcanoes and geysers with plumes violently bursting out of the ground, ghost towns that tell of the mineral wealth of a bygone era; geoglyphs; Inca fortifications; and animal species adapted to this environment such as guanacos, vicuñas, pumas and chinchillas.

And as if this were not enough, in el Norte Grande are lovely beaches with formidable waves for surfing, and quiet lagoons of emerald water.

This is a place like no other on the planet that leaves no visitor indifferent.

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