Chile Turns to Scientific Tourism

Science and travel have always been linked. Nowadays hundreds of researchers have worked their way through different parts of Chile while discovering new touristic destinations related to science and exploration.

Very Large Telescope
ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT). Credit: ESO/S. Brunier

Astronomical Observatories. A myriad of astronomical observatories such as Paranal, Cerro Tololo, SOAR and the ALMA project just to name a few, do their research in the area between Antofagasta and Coquimbo regions. However, these skies are not only important for science and research, but also for UNESCO. A joint project by EuroChile and Universidad Católica Del Norte is about to come to fruition. This will allow some areas of Antofagasta to get the Starlight certification, which means those skies are free of luminal pollution, a standard to offer quality astronomical tourism.

Paniri Caur Observatory. Located at the entrance of Chiu Chiu village (30 km. from Calama). Arhceoastronomical tours are given to different areas where Atacameños indigenous peoples used to make their observations. Along with it, a brief explanation about the Andean Cosmo vision, which encompasses the ways these peoples were related to the stars, is given. For example, an explanation about the Chakana constellation (known as the Southern Cross by westerns), a sacred symbol of the Andean world, is provided.  Basic astrophotography courses and star observation in their four telescopes are also available.

Paranal Observatory.  Located 130 km south from Antofagasta, it offers a way to get to know the fieldwork of Chilean and foreign astronomers in situ.  Tours are held on Saturday mornings at 10 and later at 2 pm. This tour allows you to see the different angles of the observatory:  it is possible to get a view from the top of the mountain where the telescopes are located, and it is also possible to go inside and take pictures. The guided tour also includes a visit to the control tower, the place where astronomers process the information captured in the lab.

Scientific Tourism in Southern Chile

Ofqui Isthmus. South from San Rafael Lake, in Aysen Region, Destino Patagonia offers a route to emulate the one that German explorer Hans Steffens and British sailor John Byron did in the 19th century. The scientists from CIEP (Patagonian Ecosystems Research Center) started with research about biodiversity at the beginning of the year. The route begins in Bahía Exploradores to take a motorboat  up to San Rafael. Then it’s only 40 minutes trekking to take another boat until reaching San Esteban’s Gulf shore. There will be another scientific expedition in September, this time about whales.

Omora Ethnobotanic Park. 3 km from Puerto Williams, Navarino Island. This park was created in 2000 with the support of Universidad de Magallanes to be a research and educational center as well as to protect the natural landscape. With many innovative activities such as “turismo con lupa” (tourism though the magnifying glass)in which the visitors observes miniature communities of liche, fern and insect species that live in the surrounding rivers. It is also the ideal place to spot the Magellan woodpecker, the biggest in South America. The best part? The tours are guided by PhD students doing their research here.

Whale Sighting. If the idea is to look up close and study the behavior of whales in southern waters, the M/N Forrest is a ship equipped to serve touristic and scientific purposes at the same time. It follows the journey of the humpback whales through the Magellan Strait (from December to May). The ship follows the route of the English sailor Robert Fritz Roy, to geographically recognize the are.

Source: La Tercera

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