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.

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