Global Network of National Geoparks

Chile, it's reality in Geological Heritage

Published :February 4, 2008

Javier Fernández1, Francisco Hervé1, Marcelo Solari1

1 Departamento de Geología, Universidad de Chile, Casilla 13518, Correo 21, Santiago, Chile. E-mail : ; fhervé ;


Chile is a country located at the pacific shore of the southern Andes. The geology present along the country tells the history of the formation of the Andes from the Paleozoic till today. This is really a valuable heritage that is not really preserved and developed as it should. (Image 1 and 2)


Chile has a law which takes care of the National Heritage, law 17.288. This law gives the classification to natural heritage to all the National Parks, and to the natural Sanctuaries. The latter are defined as all sites that offer special possibilities for geological, paleontological, zoologic, botanic or ecologic studies. So under this law almost all the country should be a natural sanctuary, because of its possibility of geological studies. Although Chile's protected area is 19% of the country, almost all of it is for biological reasons. Only 1 site is part of the national heritage because of its geology, this is the Orbicular Granite of Caldera. (Table 1, image 3)


In the last years geologist have been trying to change this, but in general all the particular efforts couldn’t accomplish a national concern of this need. For the latter reason, the Chilean Geological Society has proposed a program for geosites identification, which is open for all geologists. The form to propose a site is at the web page of the Chilean Geological Society ( Then the sites will be evaluated by especial commission that will be created for this purpose.

With this information gathered, the Chilean Geological Society will inform to the pertinent authorities and/or institutionfor the protection and management of this sites. (Form 1)

All this work has also a direct application on tourism. The Tourism Action Plan 2006-2010 that the government proposes gives a special emphasis in ecotourism, and geoturism is a really good proposal for filling this space. To accomplish this, the divulgation of the Geological Heritage of the country is really important, nationally and internationally.


(Image 4)

At this moment, a geological heritage study is being done at Torres del Paine National Park (TDP).TDP is briefly described below.

It is located in the eastern flank of the Patagonian Andes (52ºS). The main activities of the more than 100.000 annual visitors are trekking, navigation in lakes and rivers, and scenery and wildlife observation. The landscape of the park was modeled by a combination of glacial, tectonic and magmatic process which carved the steep mountain peaks in a kilometer thick, 13 Ma old sill of white granite which is capped by Cretaceous black deep water sedimentary successions which contain spectacular redeposited conglomerate beds, current indicators and marine dinosaur fossils. One of the best moraine complexes in the world with a long history of glacial retreat is preserved in the park, and some of the glacial lakes show microbialites as well as living and fossil stromatolites.

Here is a list off the sites proposed:

-The Paine Laccoliths (image 5)

-Ictiosaurios fossils inZapata formation (image 6)

-Different folds and thrust you cam find along the park

-Cerro Toro Formation (Turbidites, Flutes, Conglomerates lenses)

-Glacial landforms and deposits along the Park

-Zarmiento Lake Trombolites


And also a site that is just outside the limit of the park "Laguna Amarga". Stromatolites, this site needs especial consideration because is not a protected area and people don't really know what stromatolites are so they walk on them or take pieces just because of ignorance. (Image 7)


Chile is a geological rich country that must take care of its geological heritage. Presents efforts are concretizing what particular efforts began some years ago, these efforts are canalize through the Chilean Geological Society producing the first Geosite database of the country. Education in geosciences is an important ally for geological preservation, so it should be included in the geological heritage program, also turism could be the source of income for the Geological heritage programs, making this programs sustaintable


The work in Torres Del Paine should be a guide for new works in Chile, and there should be a cooperation program between the Chilean Geological Society and the Conaf (National Park administrators) for geology education programs in the Parks.


- We are grateful to the Chilean Geological Society for all their efforts, also to "Hosteria Las Torres" for all the support for developing and protecting Geological Heritage



- "Ley Nº17.288 de Monumentos Nacionales y Normas Relacionadas, 2006", Republica de Chile, Ministerio de Educación, Consejo de Monumentos Nacionales

- "Evaluación de Geositios en el Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine"- Trabajo de Título, Javier Fernández, Work in Progress.

-"Plan de acción de Turismo 2006-2010", Sernatur, Gobierno de Chile.