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The Huasco Valley

Posted in Valle Transito

The Huasco Valley also known as “Garden of Atacama” is located in southern Atacama Region – Chile.

It’s still quite unknown as tourist destination. That’s why there’s a lot to discover between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains.


Let you surprise by pristine beaches,whales and  desert flowers.... 

The coastline offers endless beaches and marvelous desert landscapes.

In years with sufficient precipitations the coastal sector converts itself in a flowered field of colours with countless species of flowers and cacti – the natural fenomenum of the blooming desert.

In Llanos de Challe National Park, located 37 km way north of Huasco you can apreciate and learn about native flora and fauna.

Around Chañaral Island close to “Caleta Chañaral de Aceituno” (130 km southeast of Vallenar) you can observe penguins and other marine birds, sea lions, dolphins and in summertime different types of whales including the blue whale - the world's biggest mammal.

In the coastal sector you can practise various activities such as diving, river kayaking, horseback riding, surfing etc. Further there’s of course a delicious culinary offering with fresh sea products.

Intermediate zone:

Ancient olive trees, delicious oils and vestiges of national history

Around Freirina and Huasco Bajo there are a lot of olive cultivations and production of high quality olive oil. In 2018 the olive oil of Huasco Valley received the recognition of designation of origen.

In a guided tour the tourist can walk below the most ancient olive trees of the valley and learn about the elaboration process of the oil.

The Huasco Province has a quite interesting history in relation to mineral exploitation and its processing. Its importance as mining zone contributed a lot to the county’s development.

Today you can visit the vestiges of past centuries as e.g. the old mining smelter of Carrizal Alto, Capote, the Labrar Chimneys in Quebradita, Agua Amarga and the smelter of Viscachita mine close to the village of Domeyko.

The Province’ capital Vallenar counts with a museum in which you can apreciate mineralogical, paleontological, botanical and zoological remains.

Andean foothills and Andes mountains:

Enjoy sunny valleys, clear starry nightskies and typical products derived from grapes

The upper part of the Huasco Province has a very particular history, as the two sub valleys whose rivers flow together in the small town of Alto del Carmen (45 km southeast of Vallenar), were divided in the 18th century between the Spanish settlers and the native inhabitants.

That’s why today there are two touristic routes called “Ruta de los Españoles” (Carmen River) and “Ruta de los Naturales” (Tránsito River)

The climate in both valleys is similar to the mediterranian and allows tourism during the whole year.

It’s a totaly rural area where agriculture and elaboration of typical products as “pajarete” (sweet wine of artisan production) and pisco - both products with designation of origen in Chile's Atacama and Coquimbo Region -  and handicrafts as diaguita pottery and jewelery are the main economic activities.

People are known for their warmth and simple way of life while the place offers tranquility and peace.

The night sky is internationally recognized for its atmospheric characteristics and is considered one of the clearest in the world.

An environment trail which can be made by foot or by bicycle, starts in the town of Alto del Carmen and takes its way to the Carmen Valley. You can observe different native plants and animal species that inhabit this zone.

Further in this valley you can visit historic “Pisqueras” of artesan production whose Piscos are widely recognized for their quality as “Bou Barroeta” and “Horcón Quemado”.

In different sectors of the Tránsito Valley there are big paleontological deposits - evidences of our earth’s prehistory. In “Pinte” there’s a small site museum with varied samples of fossils of the Jurrasic as well as other objects found in the surroundings.

In different places exist petroglyphs which are atributed to the Molle culture that inhabited the place already 2000 years ago.

The ravines stand out for their geological formations and their varied colours between ocher and different tones of red and purple.

In the high mountains there are the Altiplano Lagoons that feed the Tránsito River.

“The Chilean Path” Pinte – San Félix is a 35 km long trail that connects both sub valleys and which was historically used by the native inhabitants. It offers exceptional mountainous landsacapes passing a maximum heith of 2980 masl. You can experience it on a guided trekking tour.

Diaguita Culture:

When the Incas arrived in the 15th century from the north to the upper part of the Huasco Valley, they met a local ethnic group of advanced culture practicing agriculture using irrigation canals growing wheat, corn, beans, cotton and more using the llama as domestic animal. They elaborated different types of crafts such as basketry, weaving and others, being the best known their sophisticated pottery. They also relied on knowledge about metallurgy and created utensils, ornaments and jewelery of silver and copper.

They were the “Diaguitas”

In the year 1660 the first Spaniards arrived to this territory.

In those times the first land grants were given.

Nevertheless the local Diaguitas – also called “Naturales”- of the Tránsito Valley formed an indigenous bastion against the Spaniards what finally, in the year 1797 took the parliament of Alto del Carmen to the decision to divide the two valleys beween Spaniards and indigenous inhabitants. That’s why until today the two sub valleys of the Alto del Carmen Comune are known as the “Spaniard’s Valley” (Carmen River) and the “Indian’s Valley” (Tránsito River).

Diaguita features and last names maintain in the Indian Valley and its inhabitants preserve different practices and traditions of their ancestors. Even considering that their own language got almost completely lost, the Diaguita culture is totally valid in current time.

In 2006 the Diaguitas were oficially recognized by the Chilean State as indigenous ethnicity of the country.

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