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The Azapa Valley

The Azapa Valley is an oasis enclosed between two ranges of low hills. The San José River runs through the valley. The river only has water in summer as in this period it receives rain water from the Andes.

The valley provides the local area with a variety of fruits, some of which are also exported. Olives and tomatoes are the main fruits produced here.

In the valley lies the town San Miguel de Azapa (13km from Arica) where there is an Archaeology Museum (Museo Arqueológico San Miguel de Azapa) run by the University of Tarapacá. The museum exhibits various cultural and historic artefacts from the region’s past. The main highlight is the remains of the Chinchorro Mummies which at approximately 7,600 years old have been classified as the oldest in the world.

Other cultural exhibits to be found in the valley are the Cerro Sagrado Geoglyphs (located at Pampa Alto Ramírez) which depict human figures as well as animals such as camelids, snakes and lizards.

Travelling around the area you will also find tombs which date back to the times of Christ. El Chapircollo (near Alto Ramírez) has many geoglyphs as well as an Aymaran ceremonial centre – every August there is a ceremony there which involves a llama being sacrificed so that a good harvest will be granted.

According to experts this valley was the only place in Chile were there were a large amount of black inhabitants. However, later during the War of the Pacific due to their loyalty to Peru they moved away.

There are also other towns and villages in the valley to visit, for example, Subraya, Humagata, Pachani and Belén.

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