The Norte Chico stretches from the Santiago region up to about 500km north. The geography is characterised by long parched hills, punctuated occasionally by lush valleys, that have sprung up around rivers that flow down from the Andes to the ocean.
This is where Chile’s national drink âPisco’ comes from, but the region has prospered mainly due to the huge reserves of gold and silver that were discovered by the Incas and are still being mined today.
The coast is a definite highlight, and the beaches here are considered among the best in Chile, although few have been developed for tourism like those nearer Santiago. However, their sandy bays and turquoise-waters make a relaxing getaway for those who want to chill out and do nothing for a few days.
Perhaps the biggest highlight of this region though, is La Serena, Chile’s second-oldest city and arguably its most attractive with its colonial architecture and seaside setting. It makes a great base for exploring some of the nearby beaches, as well as the inland scenery.
Parque Nacional Nevada de Tres Cruces is another great spot to visit, with its vibrant green lakes and snowcapped volcanoes, as well as abundant wildlife. It’s easy to get to from the city of Copiapó, but surprisingly little visited by tourists – which makes it all the more pleasant for those who do visit.