The Moai are the most mysterious archeological attractions in Chile. These tall, imposing stone figures weigh ten tons each and were erected facing the sea by the Rapa Nui natives of Easter Island. The first outsiders to see them were European explorers who arrived here in the 18th century. Now you can visit the Moai at their various locations throughout the island, even the unfinished statues that lay by the side of a volcano.
Another impressive archeological find is the mummies of Chichorro, the oldest in the world. They were discovered on Chinchorro Beach in Arica in 2005, and belonged to a group of fishermen who began to develop sophisticated mummification processes around 5000 B.C. Today, this collection is on display at the San Miguel de Azapa Archeological Museum (12 km from Arica).
You can see petrogylphs (figures carved into rock) and geoglyphs (giant images carved into mountainsides) in several parts of northern Chile. The valleys of Azapa and Lluta, located near Arica among the mountains of Pintados (96 km from Iquique), are home to the most prominent examples. It's believed that they served as signs for the nomadic peoples, indicating trade routes and the presence of water in this arid area.
Less than 40 km from the Chuquicamata Mine, on the outskirts of Calama, you'll find Chug Chug, a site where you can see a number of petroglyphs in a single mountainside. One resembles an ancient surfer, but the majority are geometric shapes. Some belong to the Tiahuanaco culture of Titcaca, while others are Incan in origin. The oldest dates back to 500 A.D.
San Pedro de Atacama is home to the Gustave Le Paige Museum, which bears the name of a French priest and archeologist who dedicated his life to collecting and categorizing the archeological remains of this area. The museum houses his greatest finds, which include ceramics, fabrics and tools used by native shamans.
If you're visiting San Pedro de Atacama, don't miss the opportunity to bike to Pucará de Quitor, an Incan fortress that offers a lovely view of the valley. Another must-see is the village of Tulor, a 3,000-year-old gem where you can see the rooms in which the Atacama people lived.
Calle Bandera in the middle of the capital city is home to the terrific Pre-Columbian Museum, which includes a permanent exhibit on the wealth of Latin America's cultural heritage. The collection boasts ceramics, clothing and figures, among other pieces.
The Museum of Visual Arts is also located in downtown Santiago. Admission to this museum in Mulato Gil de Castro Square in the Lastarria neighborhood includes access to the Santiago Archeological Museum on the second floor of this breathtaking building. The hall houses a small but interesting collection of ceramics from the Diaguita, San Pedro and Molle cultures, as well as a selection of Mapuche jewelry.
Near Puerto Montt, you'll find Monte Verde, the site of an incredible archeological find: the oldest human remains on the continent, which date back 33,000 years.
|San Pedro de Atacama||Antofagasta and Calama|
|Easter Island||Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt|