VALLE DEL ENCANTO, Chile – Dozens of local and foreign tourism operators have arrived in northern Chile’s Valle del Encanto (Enchanted Valley) for a conference that highlights that archaeological site’s tourist potential.
They have gathered for the 39th Congress of the Chilean Association of Tourism Companies (Achet), which will run through Saturday in the northern Chilean region of Coquimbo, authorities said on Monday.
Valle del Encanto, located 24 kilometers (15 miles) from the town of Ovalle, is a ravine in a tributary canyon of the Limari River that offers as its main attraction a gallery of pre-Columbian rock art.
Tourists can observe petroglyphs and pictographs that mostly date to the Molle people, who inhabited the area in the early part of the first millennium A.D., although there also is rock art created by the Diaguitas culture many centuries later.
Rocks gouged with deep holes, known as tacitas, that were used as mortars to grind food and ceremonial plants also are a highlight.
Valle del Encanto has been studied for years by teams of archaeologists, who have determined that the area was a stopping-off point for pre-Columbian travelers or perhaps served as a ritual center.
“This place – and Ovalle in general – is a diamond in the rough to be discovered. We’ll do everything we can so tourists are fascinated by these lands,” Mayor Claudio Renteria told EFE.
No matter the cost, Valle del Encanto and all the other valleys that surround it, which are now protected by Chile’s National Monuments Law, should be a mandatory stop for tourists, he said.
Achet President Guillermo Correa, for his part, said more investment and infrastructure were needed to fully capitalize on that area’s outstanding tourism potential.
The Achet conference, whose main activities take place on Monday, also will focus on developing astro-tourism (northern Chile, with its ultra-clear night skies and top-level observatories, is a world-class destination for stargazers), as well as gastronomy and wine tourism.