The landscape in Chile for the most part is desert. In many parts of the Atacama desert, there is no vegetation whatsoever. Other areas have just clumps of Festuca grass.

Some of the higher peaks have snow cover. Many of the mountains are of volcanic origin, some of them still have plumes of water vapor from geyser activity.

The Geysers del Tatio area is the highest active geyser field in the world, at an altitude of 4,200 m (13,780 ft). The tours to Geysers del Tatio leave the hotels in San Pedro de Atacama at 4:00, reportedly because of the nice sunrise at the geysers. The real reason is that the geysers are mostly not geysers, but hot spring vents. The humidity condenses in the cold night air to form the plumes. As soon as the sun rises, and the temperature increases, there is much less condensation. During the day there is nothing to see there, the plumes completely disappear. That is the reason why the tours visit there at night. If you go on that tour, make sure you have warm clothes and gloves. I froze my tush off, it was about -15°C (5°F).

I visited several lagunas in the Atacama desert. The difference between a lake and a laguna is that a lake has an outflow, whereas a laguna does not. Because of this, lagunas are generally very salty, since the minerals keep accumulating with time, since no water ever flows out of the laguna. These lagunas are ideal habitat for flamingos, who live on the brine krill that lives in the salty lagunas.

Larger flora in the Andes is mainly desert vegetation like cacti and other similar plants, if there are any plants at all. Vast expanses in the Andes are devoid of any vegetation.

For fauna you see mostly birds. The flamingos are especially noteworthy. For mammals, I saw one fox, probably a South American Gray Fox (Lycalopex griseus, german: Argentinischer Kampfuchs, french: Renard gris d'Argentine). As far as larger animals are concerned, I definitely wanted to see Vicuñas and Guanacos. Both are camelids, they look quite similar. The Guanaco has a slightly longer head, and shorter ears, with a shoulder height of 1.0 - 1.2 m (3.3 - 3.9 ft). The Vicuña is smaller, more graceful and delicate than the Guanaco, with a shoulder height of 0.78 - 0.85 m (2.56 - 2.79 ft), with soft long fur.

The major difference between the two is their habitat. Guanacos live from sea level to a maximum of 4,000 m (13,100 ft) altitude, whereas Vicuñas live from 3,200 m (10,500 ft) to about 5,000 m (16,400 ft) altitude.

The indigenous peoples domesticated both the Guanaco and the Vicuña. The Llama (Lama glama, german: Lama, french: Lama) is the domesticated form of the Guanaco. It is larger than the Guanaco, and is used as beast of burden, as well as for wool and meat. The Alpaca (Vicugna pacos, german: Alpaka, french: Alpaga) is the domesticated version of the Vicuña. It is used mainly for producing the very fine Alpaca wool, it is not used for transporting goods.

I managed to see both Vicuñas and Guanacos in the wild. I did also see Llamas, but not Alpacas. With those, I have seen all camelids, except the Alpaca, although I did not see the Dromedaries (in the United Arab Emirates) and the Bactrian Camels (in Mongolia) in the wild.

Pictures of birds in Chile and other nature pages are separate:

Birds in Chile
Chile Bird Page
Nature Pages
Other Nature Pages

All pictures are © Dr. Günther Eichhorn, unless otherwise noted.

Parks south of Santiago

Andes Valley Cerro El
Andes valley near Cerro El Morado. (213k)
Andes Valley Reserva Nacional
Andes valley in the Reserva Nacional "Río Clarillo". (261k)
Andes Valley Reserva Nacional
Andes valley in the Reserva Nacional "Río Clarillo". (270k)
Road Andes Valley Towards
Road through the Andes valley towards Baños Morales. (290k)
Sheep High Andes Valley
Sheep high up in the Andes valley. (203k)

Landscapes north of Santiago

Cerro Tocco 5604 m 18386 ft
Cerro Tocco (5,604 m (18,386 ft)). (625k)
Volcán Licancábur 5916 m 19409 ft
Volcán Licancábur (5,916 m (19,409 ft)). (618k)
Colorful Rock Formations Altiplano
Colorful rock formations in the Altiplano, east of San Pedro de Atacama, at around 4,200 m (13,780 ft) altitude. (783k)
High Altiplano Atacama Desert
High Altiplano in the Atacama desert, without any vegetation. (699k)
Valle De Luna San
Valle de Luna near San Pedro de Atacama. (1049k)
Cerro Lascar 5592 m 18346 ft
Cerro Lascar (5,592 m (18,346 ft)). (563k)
Laguna Miscanti 4120 m 13520 ft
Laguna Miscanti (4,120 m (13,520 ft)). (835k)
Laguna Miñiques 4120 m 13520 ft
Laguna Miñiques (4,120 m (13,520 ft)). (705k)
Salt Flat Salar De
The salt flat Salar de Atacama, with Lithium mining in the background. (627k)
Laguna Chaxa Salar De
Laguna Chaxa in the Salar de Atacama, south of San Pedro de Atacama. (963k)
Surface Detail Salar De
Surface detail of the Salar de Atacama, with salt crystals. (1368k)
View Geysers Del Tatio
View of Geysers del Tatio. (697k)
View Geysers Del Tatio
View of Geysers del Tatio just at sunrise. (664k)
View Geysers Del Tatio
View of Geysers del Tatio about 40 minutes after sunrise. You can see that the activity has almost stopped. (931k)
Hot Steam Vent Geysers
Hot steam vent at Geysers del Tatio. (724k)
Real Geyser Geysers Del
Real geyser at Geysers del Tatio before eruption. (902k)
Geyser Begins Erupt
Geyser begins to erupt. (709k)
About All Geyser Did
This is about all that the geyser did. (678k)
View Andes Parque Nacional
View of the Andes near Parque Nacional Nevado Tres Cruces. (783k)
Close-up View Parque Nacional
Close-up view near Parque Nacional Nevado Tres Cruces. (622k)
Laguna Santa Rosa Cerro
Laguna Santa Rosa with Cerro Pissis (6,779 m (22,241 ft)) in the background. (663k)

Flora

Clumps Festuca Vicuñas Feed
Clumps of Festuca. Vicuñas feed on this. (1218k)
Tall Grasses Andes
Tall grasses in the Andes. (1078k)
Flowering Plant
Flowering plant. (1122k)
Plant Seeds
Same plant with seeds. (1308k)
Flowering Plant Lichen
Flowering plant with lichen. (660k)
Desert View
Desert view. (1315k)
Large Cactus
Large cactus. (718k)
Column Cacti Similar Saguaro
Column cacti, similar to the Saguaro cacti in Arizona. (950k)
Column Cactus Andes
Column cactus in the Andes. (1103k)
Cactus
Cactus. (1352k)
Flowering Cactus
Flowering cactus. (1131k)
Flowering Cactus
Flowering cactus. (1001k)
Flowering Cactus
Flowering cactus. (850k)

Fauna

Lycalopex griseus
Probably South American Gray Fox (Lycalopex griseus, german: Argentinischer Kampfuchs, french: Renard gris d'Argentine). It is endemic to southern South America. (694k)
Lama glama
Llama (Lama glama, german: Lama, french: Lama), a domesticated animal, probably derived from the Guanaco. They are used as beasts of burden, as well as for their wool and meat. (1246k)
Lama guanicoe
Guanaco (Lama guanicoe, german: Guanako, french: Guanaco). (795k)
Vicugna vicugna
Herd of Vicuñas (Vicugna vicugna, german: Vikunja, french: Vigogne). The male (on the left) stays separate from the females. (808k)
Vicugna vicugna
Herd of Vicuñas (Vicugna vicugna, german: Vikunja, french: Vigogne). (1155k)
Vicugna vicugna
Vicuñas (Vicugna vicugna, german: Vikunja, french: Vigogne). (1230k)
Vicugna vicugna
Vicuña (Vicugna vicugna, german: Vikunja, french: Vigogne). (1031k)
Skeletal Remains Vicuña
Skeletal remains of a Vicuña. (1268k)
Dark Area Vicuña Toilet
The dark area is a Vicuña toilet. The Vicuña defecate in fixed places. (931k)

This page contains 48 pictures with 5 species

Chile
Main page for Chile

Page last updated on Tue Sep 24 18:19:03 2019 (Mountain Standard Time)


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