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Mountain ecosystems

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A landscape full of life

The Andes is home to a large number of species, among which the condor, our national bird makes its nest among the rocks of our mountains and no doubt you will see flying over the skies of Valle Nevado.


Lichens and flowers cover Valle Nevado during the summer

The richness in the variety of flora found in the Andes Mountains includes more than 500 species, of which one-third are endemic, meaning unique to Chile. Some of the most characteristic plants of central Chile are native, including trees, shrubs and grasses. The most common of grass species here are the ajicillo, alstroemerias, añañucas, fire añañucas, azulillos, lirios del campo and ortigas, among others. In the family of shrubs there are bollén, breas, corcolenes, huañiles, blancos, pichi pongos, romerillos, tebos y zarzamora, among others. The most common tree is the arrayan, boldo, espino and quillayes.

One of the most common species above 10,000 feet is the yareta or llareta, a native species of South America that can also be found in Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. The plant has a very hard texture and subsists in frigid regions, maintaining its foliage throughout the year. Yareta prefers soil that is nutrient poor, such as that found in the high zones of the Andes.


The Andes, a habitat for numerous species

The mountains that surround Valle Nevado are home to a great diversity of animals, some of which are permanent residents and others that visit seasonally. Of the more than 100 species of birds that live in the Andes Mountains and foothills only 5 are endemic, meaning unique to Chile, with the highlight being the condor, Chile's national bird. The condor is the largest bird in the Western hemisphere, measuring nearly 10 feet and reaching flying altitudes of more than 23,000 feet, with the capability of circling vast areas of up to 1,000 miles. The International Union for Conservation of Nature designates the condor as a threatened species due to loss of habitat and poisoning from contaminated prey.

The Plomo child

An anthropological legend

Sacrificed during a religious ritual as an offering to the Sun God more than 500 years ago, the "Niño de Plomo" is a mummy of an eight-year-old boy discovered at 17,715 feet in the Andes Mountains in an area once known as Tawantinsuyo, a territory occupied by the Inca and Quechua cultures and whose name signifies "four nations as a whole."

The Niño de Plomo (Plomo Boy) is notable as one of the first discoveries of its kind: a mummy that is extraordinarily well preserved due to the extremely frigid temperatures of the central Andes of Chile.

The child was discovered at an Incan ceremonial site by a group of ranchers in 1954. Legend says that the sacrifice was carried out in a sector known as the "El Enterratorio," a burial site characterized by human sacrifices dressed in tunics called unkus made of animal skin and red wool. The mummy's face was painted red with yellow stripes, and his hair featured more than 200 braids. Atop his head was a llautu, and adornment made of a tightly twisted band of human hair wrapped five times around the head with the end piece dangling past the chin and finished with a silver laminate.

The Plomo child can be viewed today in the Museum of National History of Chile, where it is exhibited as an anthropological discovery of great patrimonial value.