Atacama virtual: English

The Atacama Desert, Chile

General information, definitions

Museo Virtual, Chile

W. Griem, 2006 - 2021

Ojos del Salado in der Atacama Wüste, Chile

The Ojos del Salado Volcano in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Adobe Mauer in der Atacama Wüste, Chile

Adobe Wall in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Llano is a plain in the Andes

Llano in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Typical Vega, an oasis in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Vega or oasis in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Pircas, walls in the Atacama desert

Pircas: Walls in the Atacama Desert

Dry valley or Quebrada in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Photo: The Atacama Desert in Chile near Inca de Oro.

Vinchuca, eine Raubwanze in der Atacama Wüste, ChilePanamericana traffic sign

The Vinchuca in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Panamericana Highway

Specific terms of Atacama

español / deutsch / english

General information:

The Atacama region is located in the "Little North" of Chile. The capital is Copiapó, about 800 km north of Santiago. The climate of the region is consistently arid/semiarid with some nuances between the southern and northern areas. The region stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the main ridge of the Andes, which has in this area between 4100 m to 6842 meters. The area north of Copiapó can be called the "real" desert. In general, the Atacama region has a good infrastructure. The roads are quite well developed (due to the low population density) - although not all parts of Atacama can be reached on asphalted roads.
This website is intended to present the tourist value of the Atacama region and to explain the historical background - especially the historical development of industry and mining. Of course, the landscape, culture and current life must not be neglected. Finally, a few frequently used terms should be explained in more detail. The Spanish language was often retained in the pages, especially for proper names.

Collection of some Spanish and Atacama specific terms:

Adobe: An unfired brick mostly made with a mixture of clay and straw chaff. Often used for building walls and houses. The Adobe constructions are not water-resistant and have very poor seismic properties in the most frequent earthquakes. In addition, the not harmless Vinchuca bugs can nest there.
Examples of Adobe buildings: Ruins of Puquios, houses in Copiapó

Camino: Path, Street

Carretera: Asphalted main road (Pan-Americana)

Chusca: It is a fine dust (Silt) which usually accumulates in some places due to accumulation of wind and later flooding and leaves a huge dust trail when driving through with the car, which remains in the air after many minutes. Potholes are often filled with Chusca, which makes driving through them at high speeds even dangerous. If you encounter areas with Chusca, close the windows in the car immediately and change the fan to internal circulation - otherwise it can happen that the passengers might look "powdered".

Kollas or Collas: Ethnic group that lived in large parts of the region before the Spanish colonization. Today, many communities live in the oases of the pre-cordillera. The collas have their own language, customs and culture. Many towns and mountain names have their origins in the language of the Collas. Examples: Puquios, Chanchoquin, Chuquicamata etc.

Cordillera, Cordillere: Means mountain range. In the Chilean Andes, a distinction is generally made between the coastal cordillera, the pre-cordillera and the main cordillera. The word "Cordillera" is often equated with the main cordillera.

Lama - Guanaco . Vikuña: Two of the four Lama species can be found in the region of Atacama: the Guanakos (in Spanish Guanaco) and the Vicunjas (in Spanish: Vicuñas). See: Vikunjas and Guanako.

Llano: Coating surface mostly high plateau. Due to the lack of erosion processes in the desert, there are large, almost flat plateaus. For example, the Llano de Varas.

Portezuelo: Mountain pass

Pircas: Like walls, simple stone houses.

Pirquineros: Miners working in small groups in simple mines.

Pique: (vertical) shaft of a mine.

Quebrada: A dry valley, which got its appearance due to spontaneous heavy rains in the local desert climate. Often the abbreviation Qda. is used. In normal (dry) times, no water flows in these valleys. An example here: Quebrada Carrizalillo.

Salar: Salt flats. In the Atacama region, some salt accumulations are located in draining basins between the pre- and main cordillera. Example Salar de Pedernales - The Pedernales salt flat: Salar de Pedernales

Vega: Small oasis - mostly situated in the mountains.

Vinchuca: A predatory bug is native to many parts of South America. One of the few dangerous animals in Atacama. The Vinchuca is the carrier of Chagas disease. See Vinchuca

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The Coquimbo Region
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Atacama Region, Chile
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History of Atacama
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Animals of the Atacama Desert
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Virtual Museum of Atacama desert and Atacama Region, Chile
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Published: 17.9.2017; updated: 17.9.2017, 30.01.2021
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