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Flora and Fauna in Chile

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Flora and Fauna

Pumas, condors, penguins, whales, araucarias and larches are just a few of the dazzling natural attractions Chile has to offer.

With its imposing mountain range, arid desert and 4,300 km of coastline, Chile is home to unique and fascinating ecosystems and a number of native species. Here is a look at the country's flora and fauna.

The "flowering desert" is a phenomenon unique to Chile. If you want to see colorful wildflowers bloom in the middle of the Atacama Desert, the most arid in the world, head to the northern regions between September and November. During these spring months, the El Niño current leads causes an increase in precipitation, generally in the city of Vallenar, on the outskirts of Copiapó and towards the south in the areas surrounding La Serena and Coquimbo.

The rest of the country's northern regions are home to cactus and tamarugo species. In Lauca National Park (in the altiplano), you'll find llaretas that only grow at high altitudes as well as llamas, vicunas, alpacas, guanacos, delicate flamingoes and ñandúes. You can get close-up views of various flamingo species and other Andean birds in the Atacama Salt Flat. Chile's native palm trees are on display at La Campana National Park near Valparaíso.

The Andes are home to the rare spotted puma, as well condors, whose flights amid the peaks are a truly magical sight. You can see them at a number of national parks throughout southern Chile and Patagonia. The elusive pudú, the smallest deer in the world, hides among the dense Patagonian forests, as does the huemul, another deer species, which appears on the country's coat of arms.

The southern regions also feature one of the largest temperate forests in the world. Conguillío, Villarrica, Huerquehue and Alerce National Parks are home to larch trees, which live 4,000 years, and elegant araucarias. In Patagonia, you can spot the famed Gualtecas cypress, as well as nalca, an edible plant used in the traditional Chilean dish curanto.

Along the Chilean coastline, you can visit immense seal and penguin colonies including the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, spot otters off the coast of Concepción, and watch bottlenose dolphins, pink river dolphins and whales play in the waters of Patagonia.


Featured Destinations

aSan Pedro de Atacama bCopiapó
cAntofagasta and Calama dLa Serena and Coquimbo
eSantiago fHighlights of the Central Valley
GEaster Island HChiloé
IRobinson Crusoe JChillán and Concepción
KPucón, Villarrica and Temuco LValdivia and Osorno
M   Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt N    Northern Patagonia
N   Southern Patagonia




The Flowering Desert Juan Fernández- A Must-see Whale Watching
This phenomenon only occurs during especially rainy years, when the Atacama Desert undergoes a brief and astonishing transformation and becomes a carpet of colorful flowers. One of the best places to see it is Llanos de Challe National Park on the coast of Atacama. This archipelago 670 km from mainland Chile is home to over 100 native plant species including the famed red hummingbird and the Juan Fernández fur seal, a playful mammal. The best part is the underwater ecosystem, which includes colorful fish and lobsters. Blue whales can be seen on the fjords to the southeast of Chiloé in the Gulf of Corcovado. Whale watching is an increasingly popular activity in Patagonia, with excursions departing Punta Arenas that let visitors watch fin, humpback, killer and sperm whales.


Torres del Paine and Pumas

While visiting spectacular Torres del Paine National Park, you can spot pumas, the only big cat found in this part of the world. Though the puma avoids contact with humans, some companies in the area organize treks with the objective of spotting them. With a lot of patience and a bit of luck, you might come across one near Lake Sarmiento.




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