The Andes is the longest continuous mountain range on earth. Like a backbone, it extends from the most northern part of South America to its southern tip, a distance of 4,500 miles.
The mining sector in Chile is one of the pillars of the Chilean economy, reflected by this bas relief sculpture in Santiago, the capital of Chile. Most mining in Chile is concentrated in the Norte Grande that spans the Atacama Desert.
High over the Andes, in the region of the Atacama Desert, roads leading to mining operations twist through the mountains and can be seen from the air.
Nestled within the Andean mountain range are shimmery, deep blue, freshwater lakes fed by melting snows.
Laguna Miniques is situated at an altitude of more than 15,000 feet. Volcanoes, ice, rocks, sand, salt and lagoons make up this impressive landscape.
Iglesia San Pedro is a delightful, little, colonial church in San Pedro de Atacama built with indigenous, artisanal materials.
Iglesia San Pedro has walls of chunky adobe and a ceiling made from cardon (cactus wood) resembling shriveled tire tracks. In lieu of nails, hefty leather straps secure the cardon ceiling.
The jagged crust of the Salar de Atacama (Atacama Salt Flat) looks like God went crazy with a stippling brush giving the surface a random pattern of small depressions as opposed to a flat surface.
Sunrise is feeding time for flamingos at Chaxa Lake, a salt lake in the Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos that is an oasis of activity.
High in the altiplano, clear, blue lakes provide mirror images of the surrounding mountain range.
Snow-dusted volcanoes, lakes, and tufts of coiron, the most characteristic perennial grass in the endless expanse of this eco-region, make up the landscape.
A pair of vicuna, one of two species of wild South American camelids that live in the high alpine areas of the Chilean Andes, stroll through dense tufts of coiron.
Laguna Miscanti is a glittery-blue, sweet-water, high-altitude lake dotting the altiplano and is watched over by snow-touched volcanoes.
Volcano Licancabur is located in northern Chile near the border with Bolivia. Archaeological evidence at the summit proves that pre-Columbian ascents were made. This volcano’s summit contains the world’s highest lake.
The James Flamingo with its red legs and yellow and black bill is the smallest of the three species of Andean Flamingos.
The Giant Cardon cactus grows at altitudes of 10,000 feet in the Atacama Desert. This cactus can weigh up to 2,500 lbs.
As a protection from predators, the Cardon cactus is especially spiny when it is small. As it grows, many of the spines fall off and are not replaced.
Machuca is a small village n the Atacama Desert at an altitude of 13,000 feet with thatched roof homes and a beautiful white adobe church. People here farm and tend to their llamas.
The llama is a domesticated, long-necked ruminative (as seen here) South American camelid widely used as a pack animal by Andean cultures since pre-Hispanic times. It is also a source of meat, wool, tallow for candles, hide for leather and dried dung for fuel.
This image, shot close to sunset, displays brilliant tones of ocher. It is treeless and covered with shifting sand dunes.
The Guallata Andina, or Andean Goose (Chloephaga melanoptera), is an aquatic, robust, migratory bird white in color with small, black eyes, dark-toned wings and tail, red feet and a small pink, black-tipped beak. This pair was found in the wetlands of Putana.
The best time to see the Tatio Geysers is at dawn when jets of boiling water reach into the sky, lit by the first rays of the sun in air that is below freezing. Magma near the surface creates the steam by heating water in an underground river.
When visiting the Tatio Geysers, one must step carefully over the mineral-encrusted earth. Visitors have fallen through the thin crust into underlying pools of scalding water, suffering severe burns.
El Tatio Geysers are located in the Andean mountain range at an altitude of over 14,000 feet. This geyser field is of volcanic origin and is the highest and third largest in the world. The flows of vapor can reach 35 feet.
The geysers at El Tatio erupt from holes as small as a drain in a bathroom sink or from yawning cavities as large as a manhole cover. Some, like this one, belch steam like a giant tea kettle.
A small stream of steaming hot water slides over the colorful minerals on the ground that rings the geysers of El Tatio.
Salt mines are caves consisting of crystals of gem salt formed by the effects of high pressure and the absence of humidity. These caves are a bizarre, natural phenomenon.
The Three Marias is a rock formation that is over one million years old and is composed of granite, quartz, gems and clay. The Three Marias have been carved by the wind and eroded by the salt of the desert.
Minerals and salts found in the Valley of the Moon are a geologist’s dream come true. Halite, commonly known as Rock Salt, is the mineral form of sodium chloride. Halite is commonly white or colorless and forms isometric crystals.
In the Valley of the moon canyon walls frame a vista of sand dunes, jagged rocks and snow-covered mountains.
The Valley of the Moon is barren, inhospitable and brimming with bizarre, polychromatic, terra cotta rock formations that give it its name. This bone-dry, lunar landscape is otherworldly.
Seen from the top of a sand dune, a lone car travels across the salt-dusted terrain. In the background is the Amphitheatre of the Valley of the Moon.
An enormous sand dune in the Valley of the Moon where not a drop of rain has fallen for hundreds of years.
Sunset at the Valley of the Moon begins by lighting up the mountains in the east with tones and shades of coral.
In the Valley of the moon, as the sun starts to set, the sky is bathed in vivid tones of pink, purple, blue and yellow.
As sunset reaches its peak, fiery colors signal the end of the day in the Valley of the Moon in the Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth.