Chile's 10 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves

Discover Chile's protected wild areas.

Published 5th Apr 2017

What is a Biosphere Reserve?

UNESCO describes them thus:
"Biosphere reserves are areas comprising terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Each reserve promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.

Biosphere reserves are ‘Science for Sustainability support sites’ – special places for testing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and managing changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and management of biodiversity."

Today Chile can boast 10 of these reserves, most of which fall within the bounds of national parks and protected areas. In total 11 millions hectares are within biosphere boundaries. From north to south the Chile's biospheres:

Lauca Biosphere Reserve

The northernmost reserve in Chile is formed by the National Park with the same name, plus Las Vicuñas National Reserve and Salar de Surire Natural Monument. Created in 1981, this reserve in the Arica y Parinacota region stands out for the variety of Andean flora and fauna, besides the rich altiplanic geography. Within the reserve inhabits some Aymara population, living according to the traditional forms of their culture and in a sustainable way.

Bosque Fray Jorge Biosphere Reserve

This reserve is located in the Coquimbo region and was created in 1977. Its main characteristic are the green and lush forests that grow right by the world’s driest desert, which makes this a true oasis in the Atacama desert. It also is the first Starlight site in South America and only the fourth in the world, which means it is a dark skies site without light pollution.

La Campana – Peñuelas Biosphere Reserve

Created in 1984, it is formed by La Campana National Park and Peñuelas National Reserve, both in the Valparaiso region. Nearly uninhabited, this reserve is close to large cities such as Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, and both get their waters supply from a lake within the reserve, which constantly tests the protection of the area.

Juan Fernández Archipelago Biosphere Reserve

The smallest reserve on the list, but at the same time one of the most diverse. Just like Las Campanas – Peñuelas, this reserve is in the Valparaíso region, but about six hundred kilometres offshore, and the Archipelago stands out for the amount of endemic vegetation, which reaches 60%, meaning you will find a majority of plants that you cannot find anywhere else in the planet. Around 500 people live in the towns of San Juan Bautista and Cumberland Bay.

Corredor Biológico Nevados de Chillán – Laguna del Laja Biosphere Reserve

The ‘youngest’ reserve was created in 2011, and it’s formed by a National Park (Laguna del Laja) and two National Reserves (Ñuble and Huemules de Nibinto). The reserve is located in an area of geographic importance, because in there two different ecosystems meet: the sclerophyll forest of central Chile and the southern temperate forest. The reserve is also located near highly populated areas, which has meant a historic use of the soil for agriculture.

Araucarias Biosphere Reserve

This reserve groups territories of ten different protected areas: Conguillío, Huerquehue, Tolhuaca and Villarrica National Parks and Alto Bío Bío, Malleco, Malalcahuello, Villarrica, Nalcas and China Muerta National Reserves. The key element of the reserve is the presence of the tree for which is named after: the araucaria. The millenary species is not the only attraction in the reserve though, because in this southern part of the Andes you may also see some pudús and guanacos, among many other animals that allow us to say that Araucarias holds a diverse and rich fauna.

Bosques Templados Lluviosos de los Andes Australes Biosphere Reserve

The importance of this reserve has to do with its main characteristic: in it you will find some of the biggest and ecologically intact forests in the world, which makes a key spot for the forest conservation. Located in the Los Ríos and Los Lagos regions, the reserve is formed by five National Parks (Puyehue, Villarrica, Vicente Pérez Rosales, Alerce Andino and Hornopirén) and three National Reserves (Mocho Choshuenco, Llanquihue and Hornopirén), areas of high tourist interest, which makes the search for forms of sustainable economic and human development a central element

Laguna San Rafael Biosphere Reserve

Part of the Valdivian temperate rainforest ecoregion in the Aysén region, the reserve stands out for its geographic diversity. The vegetation is diverse because of the four ecological regions you may find in the area, and is intact in most of the reserve. There is no permanent population, but is a place with high potential for ecotoursim, as well as for scientific research, especially in topics involving geology and glaciology.

Torres del Paine Biosphere Reserve

Torres del Paine is full of natural beauties. Countless mountains, glaciers, rivers and waterfalls is that we will see in this place near the end of the world in the Magallanes region, part of UNESCO’s programme mainly because of the diverse flora and fauna, and for the conditions it has for the development of scientific research.

Cabo de Hornos Biosphere Reserve

Located in the southern extreme of the American continent, this reserve was named in 2016 as one of the top 100 sustainable destinations in the world. Its main attraction are the “miniature forests”: true jungles of lichen and other forms of small vegetations, which can be admired and studied through magnifying glasses. More than four millions hectares make this the largest reserve in the country, and due to its geographical is one of the most pristine ecoregions in the world, where virgin forests are still conserved.

Licensing information for the above work
"Chile's 10 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves" by Andrew Chaundler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This work contains material from the sources listed below:

Photo Credits
"Lauca National Park" by Turismo Chile
"Conguillio National Park - Chile" by Turismo Chile

Sign-up for updates & offers

Get the latest offers for Latin America's greatest travel experiences. Subscribe to our news letter here.

We use cookies to create the most effective website for our customers. For more information read our Privacy policy. close
back to top