National Heritage Sites in Chile’s far South
Capilla de Mármol (The Marble Chapel)
This sanctuary is situated in the "Puntilla Capilla el Mármol" surrounded by the waters of Lake General Carrera. As its name suggests its main characteristic is the abundant marble which runs for 300 metres all the way down one side. Its actual location is 350 metres above sea level and it covers an area of approximately 50 hectares. The average annual precipitation is 950mm and this falls throughout the year. This geological formation is the most notable feature of this sanctuary, as it is in la Puntilla el Mármol sector and many other points in the so called Panichini Islands. However, this geological formation is truly spectacular in the Capilla de Mármol where the impact of the waters of Lake General Carrera has left its mark forming caves and other structures, a sight which attracts many tourists. The marble structures are massive in size and display various colours and tones depending on the level of impurity in the stone, however, the sections of white marble (the purest) are the most remarkable. Due to the mineral content in the stone sections of blue and pink marble also exist. These sections of marble weigh 5000 million tonnes and are made up of 94% calcium carbonate. (Source: Instituto de Investigaciones Geológicas).
The sanctuary is located inside the "Bosque Siempreverde Mixto del Baker" area, unfortunately, the vegetation has been seriously affected by excessive sheepherding and forest fires. In the "Puerto Tranquilo" area there is quay where you can take a boat trip to visit the marble structures. You can also find accommodation and places to eat in this area. There are no human settlements in the sanctuary and the areas close to the marble structures are designated for farming.
Cueva Río Pedregoso
In the vicinity of General Carrera Lake, to the west of the southern Andes, there are examples of cave paintings which have a style typical in this region and which is the oldest from in South America. Their best known forms are hands paintings and scenes with guanacos (a native camelid). Unfortunately, these paintings have not been well preserved but can be found throughout the pampas region which extends as far as the Strait of Magellan. Due to the cultural isolation the basic characteristics of this style of art have remained unchanged for millennia, this ancient style is evident in the paintings at Los Toldos rock shelters in central Patagonia, on the Atlantic coast, which date from around 10,000 years ago. In previous eras this art form was developed specifically in western Patagonia but also in certain points of the sub Andean zone to the west of the Chile-Argentina border (where the geographical condition permit the existence of some features of the Pampas). The most important examples of this art can be found by the River Ibáñez towards the northern shore of Lake General Carrera but principally in River Pedregoso Cave located 20km to the south of the lake by Chile Chico.
The most distinctive motif is the handprint, especially when it is stencilled onto a rocky background by positioning the hand against the rock and then blowing paint of various colours (principally red, black, white and yellow and in later times green and blue) around it. Less commonly you can also find paintings of solid hands, ie. not only the stencilled outline. Superposing and the mixing of colours in a haphazard fashion are also common characteristics of these paintings. Another component of Patagonian art is scenes with animals – typically, those that were most desired by these Pampas hunters – guanacos (a South American camelid) and ñandús (a South American ostrich). There are also hunting scenes with herds of guanacos running, pregnant guanacos, guanacos grazing, deformed guanacos with arched backs and extremely long necks as in River Pedregoso Cave. By the banks of the Ibáñez River there is a tender image of a guanaco calf feeding from its mother. These abstract motives are found to the south of the Ibáñez River. These ornamental motifs are carefully executed and can be compared with "quillangos" (layers of decorated guano hide used as cloaks by the Tehuelche tribe, also known as the Aonikenk tribe). These peoples were excellent guanaco hunters who inhabited these lands at the time the Spanish arrived and were probably the last to produce this kind of art.
This fort was given the status of national heritage site in 1968. It is located 60km south of Punta Arenas. It was thefirst Spanish colony on the coast of the Strait of Magellan. The current fort is a recreation of the stronghold where the first Chilean settlement in Patagonia was established and from where Chile took possession of the Strait of Magellan and nearby territories.
Cueva del Milodón (The Milodón’s Cave)
This cave was given its national heritage status in 1968. It is located 150km to the northeast of Puerto Natales. The remains of an enormous prehistoric creature, the milodón, were discovered inside the cave and in the entrance you can find a model of it. There is also an excellent museum at the sight.
Ice melt from the enormous glacier which filled the Puerto Natales basin formed a lake and the erosion of the waters of this lake formed the cave. From the remains of the milodón experts have been able to understand how the lake was formed and what the original habitat of this herbivore was like. Inside the cave traces of human life, dating back to approximately 11,000 years ago, have been found. In the area around the cave there are other small caverns known as the Cueva del Medico (the medium cave) and the Cueva Chica (the small cave) and a 50 metre high rock called la Silla del Diablo (The Devil’s Chair). Cueva del milodón is located on the slopes of Cerro Benítez.
Palacio Sara Braun
This palace was declared a national heritage site in 1981. It is located at no. 716, Plaza Muñoz Gamero. This 19th Century mansion belonged to Sara Braun who was originally from Russia and was married to José Nogueira, a Portuguese immigrant who was a pioneer in sheep rearing in the Magellanes region. Nogueira was a wealthy businessman and upon his death Sara Braun inherited his fortune. Braun put the money to good use and in 1895 Braun she hired the French architect to build the palace. The two storey mansion also has a winter garden.
Faro Isla Magdalena
This lighthouse received it national heritage status in 1976. It is located on Isla Magdalena 25 nautical miles north of Punta Arenas and its surroundings are populated by many colonies of sea birds, such as cormorants and penguins, and sea lions.
Palacio Mauricio Braun
This palace, which was declared a national heritage site in 1974, belonged to Sara Braun’s brother and was built by the French architect Antonio Beaulier. The palace was completed in 1906. Braun was a wealthy businessman, banker, ship-owner and farmer. The address is Hernando de Magallanes 949.