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City and Commune
View of Valdivia from Pedro de Valdivia Bridge
View of Valdivia from Pedro de Valdivia Bridge
Flag of Valdivia
Coat of arms of Valdivia
Coat of arms
Location of the Valdivia commune in Los Ríos Region
Location of the Valdivia commune in Los Ríos Region
Valdivia is located in Chile
Location in Chile
Nickname(s): The City of Rivers
Motto: Muy Noble y Muy Leal
("Most noble and most loyal")
Country  Chile
Region Los Ríos
Province Valdivia
Founded as Santa María la Blanca de Valdivia
Founded 9 February 1552
 • Type Municipality
 • Alcalde Omar Sabat Guzmán (UDI)
 • Total 1,015.6 km2 (392.1 sq mi)
Elevation 5 m (16 ft)
Population (2012 Census)[3]
 • Total 154,432
 • Density 150/km2 (390/sq mi)
 • Urban 129,952
 • Rural 10,607
 • Men 68,510
 • Women 72,049
Time zone CLT (UTC−4)
 • Summer (DST) CLST (UTC−3)
Postal code 5090000
Area code(s) country 56 + city 63
Website Municipality of Valdivia (Spanish)

Valdivia (Spanish pronunciation: ) is a city and commune in southern Chile, administered by the Municipality of Valdivia. The city is named after its founder Pedro de Valdivia and is located at the confluence of the Calle-Calle, Valdivia, and Cau-Cau Rivers, approximately 15 km (9 mi) east of the coastal towns of Corral and Niebla. Since October 2007, Valdivia has been the capital of Los Ríos Region and is also the capital of Valdivia Province. The national census of 2002 census recorded the commune of Valdivia as having 140,559 inhabitants (Valdivianos), of whom 127,750 were living in the city.[4] The main economic activities of Valdivia include tourism, wood pulp manufacturing, forestry, metallurgy, and beer production. The city is also the home of the Austral University of Chile, founded in 1954, and the Centro de Estudios Científicos.

The city of Valdivia and the Chiloé Archipelago were once the two southernmost outliers of the Spanish Empire. From 1645 to 1740 the city depended directly on the Viceroyalty of Peru, which financed the building of the Valdivian fort system that turned Valdivia into one of the most fortified cities of the New World.[5] In the second half of the 19th century, Valdivia was the port of entry for German immigrants who were given land and settled in the surrounding areas.

The city was severely damaged by the Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960 — the most powerful earthquake ever recorded.[6] Debris and destroyed buildings from the earthquake can still be found in the suburban areas — land subsidence and sediments make navigation of the local rivers complex, with some ruined buildings still adjoining the water.


Pre-Hispanic times (12,000 B.C.-1543)

The area around Valdivia may have been populated since 12,000 – 11,800 B.C according to archaeological discoveries in Monte Verde[7] (less than 200 km south of Valdivia), which would place it about a thousand years before the Clovis culture in North America. This challenges the "Clovis First" model of Migration to the New World and it is possible that the first inhabitants of Valdivia and Chile travelled to America by watercraft and not across a land-bridge in the Bering Strait.

During at least the Middle Archaic southern Chile was populated by indigenous groups that shared a common lithic culture called the Chan-Chan Complex after the archaeological site of Chan-Chan located just some 35 km north of Valdivia along the coast.[8]

By the time of the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores, Valdivia was inhabited by Huilliches (Mapudungun for People of the South). Huilliches and Mapuches were both referred by the Spaniards as Araucanos. Their main language was a variant of Mapudungun, the Mapuche language.

There was a large village called Ainil in present day downtown Valdivia, and the Valdivia River was called Ainilebu. Ainil seemed to have been an important trade centre due to its ease of access to the sea and the interior using the river network of the Cruces and Calle-Calle Rivers, both tributaries of the Valdivia. Ainil may be described as "a kind of little Venice" as it had large areas of wetlands and canals, most of them now drained or filled. The market in Ainil received shellfish and fish from the coast, legumes from Punucapa, and other foods from San José de la Mariquina, an agricultural zone north east of Valdivia.[9] A remnant of this ancient trade is the modern Feria Fluvial (English: Riverside Market) on the banks of Valdivia River. The surroundings of Valdivia were described as large plains having a large population that cultivated potatoes, maize, quinoa and legumes among other crops.[10] The population has been estimated by some historians as 30 to 40 thousand inhabitants as of 1548[11] based on descriptions made by the conquistadors. Pedro Mariño de Lobera, an early conquistador and chronicler wrote that there were half a million Indians living within ten leagues (one league is roughly 4.2 km) from the city.[10] Other historians consider these numbers too high and argue that early Spaniards usually exaggerated in their descriptions. Later Charles Darwin would state that "there is not much cleared land near Valdivia"[9] which suggests that pre-Hispanic agriculture in Valdivia was far more extensive than the agriculture practiced in the early 19th century.

Spanish colony (1544–1810)

Idealized illustration of Pastene from Alonso de Ovalle's "Histórica relación del Reyno de Chile".

The first European to visit Valdivia River's estuary was the Genoese captain Juan Bautista Pastene, who took possession of it in 1544 in the name of the Spanish king, Charles V. He named the river after the Governor of Chile Pedro de Valdivia.[12]

Pedro de Valdivia later travelled by land to the river described by Pastene, and founded the city of Valdivia in 1552 as Santa María la Blanca de Valdivia.[12] It was the southernmost Spanish settlement in the Americas at the time of the founding. Following the establishment of the church of Santa María la Blanca in Valdivia, more buildings were constructed, so many that it was considered "the second city in the Kingdom of Chile" by Mariño de Lobera.[10] Many of Chile's most influential conquistadors and future governors were granted land in Valdivia such as Jerónimo de Alderete, Rodrigo de Quiroga, Francisco and Pedro de Villagra apart from the proper Pedro de Valdivia.

Jerónimo de Bibar, a chronicler who witnessed the founding wrote:[13]

"Having the governor seen such good comarca and site for populate a city and riverside of such good river, and having such good harbour he founded a city and named it ciudad de Valdivia, and he assigned Alcaldes and a town council."

After Pedro de Valdivia's death, the war with the Mapuches, called the War of Arauco, continued as the Spanish made many attempts to defeat the Mapuche and defend the cities and forts built on their territory. On March 17 of 1575 the city was damaged by an earthquake similar to the Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960.[12] Until 1575 the Huilliches of Valdivia had not made any notable resistance against their new rulers. They had even fought as Indios amigos with the Spanish against the northern Mapucuhes in the Arauco War. But that year 4,000 Indians that had been fighting in Martín Ruiz de Gamboa's army rebelled when they returned to the surroundings of Valdivia.

Picture of Pedro de Valdivia, conquistador of Chile and founder of Valdivia

During the 16th century the economy of Valdivia was sustained by commerce of agricultural products from nearby areas and by coining and export of placer gold from Villarrica, Madre de Dios and Osorno. All this gold was called gold from Valdivia in Lima and the rest of Chile. Many merchants of Lima had envoys in Valdivia and the city developed a large ship building industry which produced the largest ships in the Kingdom of Chile.

After the demoralising Battle of Curalaba in 1598, in which the Mapuches killed governor Óñez de Loyola, the Mapuches and Huilliches made a mass rebellion. The Indians proceeded to destroy or force the abandonment of all the Spanish settlements and forts in their lands, in what came to be known as the Destruction of the Seven Cities. On the morning of 24 November 1599 Huilliches entered the city and massacred its inhabitants, some few being rescued by the ships in the harbour. The border of the Spanish Empire shifted north of the Bío-Bío River, while the later refounded city of Valdivia remained a Spanish enclave surrounded by native Huilliche territory, and along with Castro, Chile on the island of Chiloé, continued to be the southernmost colonies of the Empire.

Eleven days after the first destruction of Valdivia, a group of 270 Spanish soldiers arrived from Perú.[12] The commander of the troops, colonel Francisco del Campo was convinced that the city of Valdivia needed to be repopulated. After Francisco del Campo's expedition left, the Dutch corsair Sebastian de Cordes occupied the site of Valdivia for some months, giving the Dutch government information about this abandoned part of the Spanish Empire. The Spaniards returned on 13 March 1602, when captain Francisco Hernández Ortiz established a fort on the ruins of the city. On September 24 natives attacked the fort unsuccessfully, but laid siege. The Spaniards could not acquire food or supplies, and on 3 February 1604 abandoned the fort, with the last starving survivors rescued by ship.

The Dutch governor of the East Indies Hendrik Brouwer, learned about the situation in Valdivia, and decided to establish a base there for further attacks against the Viceroy of Peru. This plan was well accepted as the Netherlands was at war with Spain. The Dutch had previously taken the North of Brazil from the Spanish-Portuguese crown, and the idea of creating a South American empire was attractive. In spite of his advanced age, Hendrik Brouwer left his post as governor in the East Indies to personally lead the expedition. The Dutch fleet destroyed the Fort of Carelmapu and the city of Castro before arriving at Corral Bay at the mouth of the Valdivia River. Hendrik Brouwer died the 7th of August in Puerto Inglés while waiting for better winds to sail north to Valdivia. John Maurice of Nassau while in charge of the Dutch part of Brazil had equipped the expedition and had secretly appointed Elias Herckman as commander if Brouwer died. Herckman finally occupied the ruins of Valdivia in 1643, renaming it Brouwershaven. The Dutch did not find the gold mines they expected and the hostility of the natives forced them to leave on 28 October 1643.[12]

Image of Torreón El Canelo restored in the 1850s. It is one of two remaining Spanish towers in Valdivia used to defend the city and one of the few remaining colonial structures

[5] The local government of Chile could not secure Valdivia as it was engaged in continuous war with the Mapuches and was deeply dependent on the Real Situado, an annual payment of silver from Potosí to finance the army of Chile. The Valdivia enclave was placed directly under the control of the Viceroyalty of Peru that administered Valdivia from its repopulation in 1645 until 1740.[12] Corral, located on the river entrance to Valdivia, became one of the most fortified bay at the time,[5] with 17 forts. During this time it was several times proposed to move the city of Valdivia to Mancera Island. Valdivia's original site, downtown of modern Valdivia was repopulated in 1684.

From the 18th century onwards Valdivia was used as a base for colonization of southern Chile. This was partly fuelled by rumours about a fabulous city called Trapananda, Lin Lin or City of the Caesars (Spanish: Ciudad de los Césares) that was situated in the unexplored lands of Patagonia. An expedition from Valdivia searching for this city founded Río Bueno in 1777. In 1784 the Governors of Chile and Chiloé were ordered to establish a Camino Real from Valdivia to Chacao Channel in order to connect Ancud with Valdivia by a land road. This led to the celebration of the treaty of Río Bueno with local Huilliches in 1789. But by 1792 the Huilleches rebelled and planned to assault Valdivia. In 1793 the Parliament of Las Canoas was arranged. This treaty allowed the Spanish to build the road and repopulate Osorno in 1796. Osorno had previously been destroyed in 1602. With the Parliament of Las Canoas the local Huilliches became subjects of the Spanish Crown but were allowed to retain their lands and social structure. They were also meant to defend the land against Spain's enemies and the Spanish to defend them from hostile tribes. By the same time Huilliche lands around Valdivia were slowly overtaken by mestizos and nearby Indians became "reduced" (Spanish: reducidos), "pacified" by a combination of military force and conversion into Christianity. The territories north of Valdivia were not totally incorporated into the Chilean state until the 1880s when the Chilean army overwhelmed the indigenous resistance during the occupation of the Araucanía.

Independence and growth (1811–1959)

A painting of the assault on Corral fort
Friar Camilo Henríquez born in Valdivia was one of the founding fathers of the Republic of Chile

Self-governing juntas appeared in [12] Four months after the coup, on 16 March 1812 a counterrevolutionary coup took control of the city and created a War Council. The War Council broke trade relations with the rest of Chile and confirmed Valdivia's loyalty to the Spanish government.[12]

Even after several defeats of the Spanish troops during the Chilean Independence War, Valdivia and Chiloé remained loyal to the Spanish King. By 1820 the newly created Chilean Navy, commanded by Lord Thomas Cochrane, captured Valdivia, but failed to liberate Chiloé. Cochrane's land-based attack took the Spanish by surprise, avoiding a direct confrontation with the highly defended forts at the entrance to the Valdivia River. When loyal troops in Valdivia heard the news about the fall of Corral they sacked the city and fled south to reinforce Chiloé, passing by Osorno.[12]

Chilean Supreme Director, and Libertador, Bernardo O'Higgins founded the city of La Unión south of Valdivia in 1821, to secure the way to Osorno, a city that had been repopulated in 1796 by his father Ambrosio O'Higgins. Valdivia had been a province of the General Captaincy of Chile and was in 1826 incorporated as one of the eight provinces of Chile.[12]

On February 20, 1835, Valdivia was affected by the worst earthquake in the area in several decades, an event witnessed by Charles Darwin.[9] He also stated that "there is not much cleared land near Valdivia"[9] which contrasted with the description made by early Spaniards of large fields and extensive croplands.

The expansion and economic development of the city were limited in the early 19th century. To jump-start economic development, the Chilean government initiated a highly focussed immigration program under Bernhard Eunom Philippi and later Vicente Pérez Rosales as government agents. Through this program, thousands of Germans settled in the area, incorporating then-modern technology and know-how to develop agriculture and industry. While immigrants that arrived to the Llanquihue area where often poor farmers, Valdivia received more educated immigrants, including political exiles and merchants. Some of the immigrants that arrived in Valdivia established workshops and built new industries. One of the most famous immigrants was Carlos Anwandter, an exile from Luckenwalde who arrived to Valdivia in 1850 and in 1858 founded Chile's first German school. Other Germans left the city and became settlers, drawn by the promise of free land. They were often given forested land, which they cleared to turn into farms.[14] Native Mapuche and Huilliche either sold their land or were pushed into reservations. The Osorno department of Valdivia Province was moved to Llanquihue Province (created in 1853) as consequence of German immigration to the Llaquihue area.

Valdivia prospered with industries, including shipyards, the Hoffmann gristmill, the Rudloff shoe factory, the Anwandter beer company and many more. The steel mills of Corral were the largest recorded private investment in Chile at the time, and were the first steel mills in South America. In 1891 Valdivia became a commune according to a law that created such subdivisions. After the Malleco Viaduct was built in 1890 the railroads advanced further south, reaching Valdivia in 1895. The first passenger train arrived in 1899. In 1909 a fire destroyed 18 city blocks in downtown Valdivia,[12] which were rebuilt with modern concrete buildings. By 1911 lumber production, from clearing native forests, became the most important industry. Cattle-raising was a growing industry, and wheat was grown on the cleared lands. Lumber, cattle, leather, flour and beer were exported. In 1895 the city's population was of 8,062 inhabitants and was estimated in 9,704 as of 1902.

The economic prosperity of Valdivia continued throughout the first half of the 20th Century. In 1917 the first "Valdivian Week" (Spanish: Semana Valdiviana) was celebrated. Chile's oldest beauty content, "Queen of The Rivers" (Spanish: Reina de Los Ríos) began the same year. The city evolved as an early tourist center in Chile, while popular songs that named Valdivia and the Calle-Calle River made it better known in Chilean popular culture. The Pedro de Valdivia Bridge crossing the Valdivia River was built in 1954. Valdivia came to be one of the most important industrial centre in Chile together with the capital Santiago and the main port city, Valparaíso.

The commercial and human flux Valdivia suffered two setbacks in the early 20th century, first the connection of Osorno by railroad to central Chile which meant that Valdivia lost the quality of being the port that connected Osono to Central Chile.[15] Later on 1911 the opening of the Panama Canal meant a decrease in ship traffic all over Chile since ships travelling from the north Atlantic to north Pacific did not longer had to pass through the Straits of Magellan or visit any Chilean port.

Great Chilean Earthquake and Los Lagos Region (1960–2006)

A street in Valdivia after the earthquake of 22 May 1960
See also: Great Chilean Earthquake, Riñihuazo, Los Ríos Region.

On May 22, 1960, Chile suffered the most powerful earthquake ever recorded, rating 9.5[6] on the Moment magnitude scale, with Valdivia being the most affected city. The earthquake generated devastating tsunamis that affected Japan and Hawaii. Spanish-colonial forts around Valdivia were severely damaged, while soil subsidence destroyed buildings, deepened local rivers, and created wetlands of the Río Cruces y Chorocomayo - a new aquatic park north of the city.

Large sections of the city flooded after the earthquake, and a landslide near the Tralcán Mount dammed the Riñihue Lake. Water levels in Lake Riñihue rose more than 20 meters, raising the danger of a catastrophic break and of destroying everything downriver. Government authorities drew plans for evacuating the city, but many people left on their own. Danger to the city was reduced after a large team of workers opened a drainage channel in the landslide; water levels of the lake slowly returned to normal levels. There is evidence that a similar landslide and earthquake happened in 1575.[12]

The 1973 Chilean coup d'etat and the military's actions that followed brought dozens of detainees to Valdivia and saw the imposing of a nation wide curfew. In October a group of 12 young men, among them José Gregorio Liendo, were brought from the Complejo Forestal y Maderero Panguipulli in the Andes to be executed in Valdivia by firing squad due to alleged participation in the assault on Neltume police station and "guerrilla activities".

After the Los Lagos Region with Puerto Montt as the regional capital. Many Valdivians resented the decision, and felt theirs should have been the legitimate regional capital—while Valdivia was founded in 1552, and had resisted pirate attacks, hostile natives and several earthquakes, Puerto Montt was a relatively new city founded only in 1853 (three hundred and one years later).

Since the liberalization of the economy in Chile in the 1980s the forestry sector in Valdivia boomed, first by exporting wood chips to Japan from Corral and then by producing woodpulp in Mariquina (50 km northeast of Valdivia). This led to deforestation and substitution of native Valdivian temperate rainforests to plant pines and eucalyptus, but also created new jobs for people with limited education. Valdivia also benefitted from the development of salmon aquaculture in the 90s, but to a much lesser extent than places such as Puerto Montt and Chiloé.


Picture of Michelle Bachelet's visit to Valdivia in 2007 in which she confirmed the creation of Los Ríos Region

Valdivia is often promoted for its unique characteristics, that make it different from other cities in Chile: Valdivia has an early Spanish colonial past, plus a later history of German colonization. Both eras left visible landmarks such as the ecotourism. An example of this was the formation of Acción por los Cisnes an ecologist group formed to protect black-necked swans and the natural environment that surrounds the city, particularly wetlands created or expanded by the Great Chilean Earthquake. With the founding of Universidad Austral in 1954 and the arrival of the CECS research center, Valdivia is now considered a major research center in Chile, particularly in areas related to nature such a glaciology and ecology. The Great Chilean Earthquake and the national government's creation of the Los Lagos Region were difficult for Valdivian society. Valdivians resented to be punished first by a major earthquake and then by being placed under the administration of what they perceived to be a less-deserving city, Puerto Montt. The recent creation of a new, smaller, but more independent region (Los Ríos), with Valdivia as its capital, reduced the previous stigma.

Spanish colonial influences

During much of the colonial period, Valdivia was essentially a military camp, a walled city surrounded by hostile natives. The coastal defenses and their garrisons made up a large part of the population. After several fires and earthquakes, nearly all buildings from this period were destroyed, with the exception of the military defenses. Valdivia's best known historical landmarks are now the two towers which were part of a former city wall, built by the Spaniards to defend the city, known as Los Torreones

German influences

Since the first Germans migrated to Valdivia in the mid-1840s, German cultural influence has been visible in the city. Germans in Valdivia settled mostly in the Isla Teja and Collico suburban areas. Until the building of Pedro de Valdivia Bridge, inhabitants of Isla Teja lived isolated from the city, where it was common that children first learned to speak German before Spanish. Nowadays the German language is preserved by the Instituto Alemán Carlos Anwandter one of Latin America's oldest German schools. German descendants also form Valdivia's oldest fire station Germania, located in Isla Teja.

German immigrants and their descendants formed their social club Club Alemán, which after World War II changed names to Club la Unión. German workers once had their own club simply called El Alemán (The German).

Valdivia also hosts Bierfest Valdivia, a celebration that could be described as a small, regional Kunstmann, a local beer company, founded by German nationals, but since bought out by the largest beer and beverages company in Chile (CCU).


According to the 2002 census of the National Statistics Institute, the commune of Valdivia spans an area of 1,015.6 km2 (392 sq mi) and has 140,559 inhabitants (68,510 men and 72,049 women). Of these, 129,952 (92.5%) lived in urban areas and 10,607 (7.5%) in rural areas. Between the 1992 and 2002 censuses, the population grew by 15.1% (18,391 persons).[3]

The city of Valdivia spans 42.39 km2 (16 sq mi) had a population of 127,750 and 35,217 homes, giving it a population density of 3,013.7/km2 (7,805/sq mi). The commune is divided into 19 census districts with one recognized town, Niebla, with an area of 1.55 square kilometres (0.60 sq mi), population of 2,202 (in 1,169 homes) and population density of 1,420.6/km2 (3,679/sq mi).[3]


Map of Valdivia and its surroundings.

The geography of the Valdivia area consists of wetlands and alluvial terraces. Several rivers, such as Cau-Cau, Calle-Calle and Cruces, join near the city forming the larger Valdivia River. Valdivia River in turn empties to Corral Bay in the Pacific Ocean just some 15 km west of Valdivia. This river network made Valdivia a trade center even since Pre-Hispanic times. The city itself was built on a riverine terrace but expanded later over adjacent wetlands. Nowadays the city is virtually surrounded by hills by all sides except north where Valdivia's lowlands connect to the flatlands of San José de la Mariquina. The hilly areas around Valdivia are covered with forest, some of which correspond to planted exotic species such as Douglas-fir, Pinus radiata and Eucalyptus globulus. Other areas of forest are used for conservation and recreational purposes although some parts the forest have given place to new urbanizations.


General map of Valdivia
View of Valdivia from west

The oldest rocks in Valdivia are named after a pelithic schists, micaceous slates, metagreywackes and oceanic type mafic metavolcanics. The schist, slates and greywackes originated from sedimentation, probably above the oceanic crust of a passive continental margin for more than 400 mya. As part of the subduction zone in western Gondwana and later South America the sediments become folded and faulted in a forearc wedge. While being subducted in an ancient Peru-Chile Trench they underwent medium-grade metamorphism after a combination of low temperature and high pressure. Along with sedimentary rocks parts of the basaltic ocean crust were also deformed. These rocks emerged to the wedge surface later by buoyancy and erosion of overlying material. They constitutes now the Bahía Mansa Metamorphic Complex which collided or accrecented to South America in Early Paleozoic.

After the amalgamation of Gondwana and Laurentia into Pangea, the subduction at the western edge of the continent ceased for a brief period. With the opening of the South Atlantic Ocean in the Mesozoic as background, the a subduction zone appeared once more at the western margin together with its associated orogeny and volcanic activity forming the Andes.

In the Tertiary the Intermediate Depression sunk as a graben and remained large periods below sea level together with the Valdivian Coast Range. The coast range as we know it today have resulted from the uplifting above sea level of the Bahía Mansa Metamorphic Complex, a forearc wedge, after it had been separated from the Andes by the Intermediate Depression.

A tectonically and eustatically stable period during the Oligocene and Early Miocene allowed erosion to create deep valleys in the Coast Range and peat swamps at what is now the estuary of the Valdivia basin. About 23.5 million years ago this stable period was interrupted by a mayor volcanic eruption and 23 mya ago an increase in convergence rate at the Peru-Chile Trench caused an uplift of the landscape and renewed erosion. However basin subsidence and a marine transgression formed deep embayments, tidal flats, bayhead deltas and beaches.


Valdivia has a temperate rainy climate with mediterranean influences.[16] In short Valdivia features an oceanic climate with a distinct drying trend during the summer. A similar climate is found on the windward side of the Olympic Mountains in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. The natural vegetation is the Valdivian temperate rainforests.

During the summer months (December, January and February) the average temperature is about 17 °C (62.2 °F), while in winter the temperature descends to 8.5 °C (47.3 °F). The annual average temperature for Los Ríos Region is 11 °C (51.8 °F), while the mean temperature amplitude is 8.8 °C (47.8 °F) and the daily is 11 °C (51.8 °F).[16] Average annual precipitation is 2,500 millimetres (100 in), distributed through the year, but primarily between March and October. Hail occurs with some frequency during winter, but snow falls rarely. The last times it snowed in Valdivia were in July 2007 and in August 1995 during the so-called Terremoto Blanco (Spanish for White Earthquake). The Seven Lakes in the interior help to keep an average relative humidity of 80% for the region as whole and there are no months with less than 75% average humidity.[16] The precipitation is generated by frontal systems that cross the zone, which produce cloudiness and few clear days.[16] The leeward effect of the Valdivian Coast Range is minimal due to its low height (715 m at Cerro Oncol) and the gap in the range at Valdivia River's outflow to the Pacific Ocean.
Climate data for Valdivia, Chile
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 36.3
Average high °C (°F) 22.7
Daily mean °C (°F) 18.2
Average low °C (°F) 10.5
Record low °C (°F) 0.5
Precipitation mm (inches) 48.8
Avg. precipitation days 8 7 10 15 22 22 22 21 16 14 11 9 177
% humidity 63 64 72 80 87 89 87 83 76 72 68 65 75.5
Mean monthly sunshine hours 257.3 228.8 204.6 123.0 68.2 48.0 65.1 89.9 111.0 127.1 189.0 207.7 1,719.7
Source #1: Dirección Meteorológica de Chile[17]
Source #2: Climate & Temperatures, BBC - Weather Centre

Government and politics

The commune of Valdivia is a third-level administrative division of Chile governed by a directly elected mayor (alcalde) and a municipal council (consejales). The city's current mayor is Bernardo Berger Fett, a member of the right-wing National Renewal Party.[1][2]

Within the electoral divisions of Chile, Valdivia is represented in the Chamber of Deputies by Alfonso De Urresti (PS) and Roberto Delmastro (RN) as part of the 53rd electoral district, (together with Lanco, Mariquina, Máfil and Corral). The commune is represented in the Senate by Andrés Allamand (founder of National Renewal Party) and former president Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle (PDC) as part of the 16th senatorial constituency (Los Ríos Region). Neither senator is native to Validivia.

The creation of Los Ríos Region and environmental issues have dominated the politic scene of Valdivia in recent years. The communist lawyer Wladimir Riesco headed the legal actions against pulp mill enterprise CELCO after the deaths of Black-necked Swans in Carlos Anwandter Nature Sanctuary in 2004.

Ecological action

In response to the alleged contamination of Cruces River by the Celco cellulose pulp mill, a group of citizens formed the Accion por los Cisnes (Action for the Swans) ecology group. Action for the Swans attracted the attention of the national newspapers and succeeded in temporarily closing down Valdivia Pulp Mill through a court order.[18]

Economy and tourism

The city and commune of Valdivia rely heavily on silviculture, the pulp and paper industry and other forestry-related activities (the harvesting and processing of wood from nearby plantations of eucalyptus and Douglas firs). Large businesses such as CELCO, Bomasil and Louisiana-Pacific have established wood processing factories near Valdivia. Metallurgy, naval construction and repairs are also important industries, with the companies of Asenav and Alwoplast based in the area.[19] Agroforestry/agriculture, livestock, aquaculture and food processing are lesser but also important industries that contribute to the region’s economy. The chocolate company (Entrelagos) contributes to the image of the region, as does the brewing industry, a symbol of the area and another important part of the local economy, With Kunstmann) the most famous brewery in Valdivia. Beer, along with cold cut meat and sausages, is part of the city’s German heritage and is preserved as part of the local heritage.[20] Trade, restaurants and hotels link to the tourism industry which represent an important part in Valdivia’s growing economy.[21]


Valdivia is a historic tourist destination in Chile, valued for the beauty of the city and surrounding areas, the area’s culture and its history. It is an all season city, but during the summer months in particular (December, January, February) tourism is a major source of income for Valdivia’s economy. "Valdivian Week" (Spanish: Semana Valdiviana), as it has been known since 1917, is a long-held tradition that dates back to the foundation of the city. Starting February 9 each year,[22] it commemorates the city’s anniversary and also gives Valdivia the chance to promote itself as a tourism centre. "Semana Valdiviana" features an allegorical parade of ships - a tradition that began in the seventeenth century as a protest against the Spaniard authorities - and also includes a big artisan market, fairground rides, and the election of the “queen” of Los Rios. The week ends with fireworks and theatre performances on the closing night, known as "Noche Valdiviana" (Valdivian Night). The centre of the city has a rich architectural heritage. One of its most visited buildings is the "Mercado Municipal" (“municipal market”),[23] a local produce market that is also now a gastronomic and cultural attraction. Also popular are the "Convento San Francisco" (Saint Francis Convent) and the European-style buildings dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, used today by the city’s universities, cultural centres and government.

Picture of Niebla lighthouse situated just above the Niebla fort

The most common tourist activities in Valdivia and the surrounding area include:[24]

  • Tours to the historic Spanish colonial fort in Niebla and the corral towns near Valdivia, famous for their authentic restorations, weaponry, museums and re-enactments. Niebla (Spanish for fog) is a coastal town, located on the northern edge of the Valdivia River. Its beach and market in particular are popular tourist destinations during the summer.
  • The Schuster jetty[25] is a tourist promenade with ships that are open to the public as well as the Mercado Fluvial (“river market”), where boats unload both seafood and agricultural produce from upriver. The market also sells handicrafts produced by local artisans.
  • The traditional Kuntsmann Brewery with its restaurant[26] are a popular tourist attraction and a location for sampling German beer and cuisine. Some traditional German dishes and desserts, mixed with local indigenous products like merkén, are now considered part of Chilean cuisine, especially in the south of Chile.
  • Boat cruises on the rivers go to Guapi Island (Guapi or Huapi is the Mapudungun word for island) located in Ranco Lake, Futrono, or on full-day trips through the area’s seven rivers, visiting places of historic significance, natural beauty and wildlife. Valdivia is also a common base for excursions to Pucon, Villarica and other popular tourist destinations in the Los Rios Region and Los Lagos Region.
  • Chile’s only remaining steam train, “El Valdiviano”, which runs between Valdivia and Antilhue.[27]
  • The Museo Histórico y Antropológico Maurice van de Maele (Maurice van de Maele Historical Anthropological Museum), also called the Casa Andwandter, is located in a period house on Teja Island and contains 19th century Hispanic-Creole furniture and Mapuche artefacts.
  • The popular outdoor spaces of Parque Saval (Saval Park)[28] and Laguna de los Lotos (Lotus Lagoon).
  • Outdoors activities both in Valdivia across Los Rios Region. Activities include fishing (Chinook salmon), white water rafting, sailing, trekking, mountain biking and climbing.
  • The Botanical Gardens,[29][30] located in the Austral University of Chile, were established in 1955 at the same time as the university. The gardens bring together species that traditionally grow far apart across various geographic conditions.
  • Ecotourism in the Valdivian Temperate Rainforest


Universities and colleges

Valdivia is home to several public and private schools and universities. The largest and oldest university is the Universidad Austral de Chile (UACh) that was founded by decree in 1954 as one of Chile's seven original Chilean Traditional Universities. Its main campus is located in Isla Teja but it has other minor campus and properties spread through the city and southern Chile. Since the liberalization of higher education in Chile in the 80s other universities have established campuses in Valdivia, including Universidad Arturo Prat, Universidad San Sebastián, Universidad Santo Tomás and Universidad de Los Lagos.


Like in the rest of Chile, most of Valdivia's best schools are private. Instituto Alemán Carlos Anwandter (Deutsche Schule Valdivia) founded in 1858 is Chile's second oldest German school after the Instituto Alemán de Osorno (1854). Other notable private schools are Windsor School and Colegio San Luis de Alba. Among public schools Instituto Salesiano de Valdivia, Liceo Rector Armando Robles Rivera and Liceo Comercial have reached good results.


Facilities for playing football, tennis, rowing, rugby, golf, indoor swimming, indoor and outdoor basketball and some other sports are available throughout the area. Rowing is practiced in Valdivia in three clubs: Club Deportivo Phoenix Valdivia, Club Centenario de Remeros and Club Arturo Prat. Valdivian rowers Cristian Yantani and Miguel Cerda won the first place in Men's Lightweight Coxless Pair-Oared Shells at the world championship in Seville, 2002.[31]

Club Deportivo Valdivia is Valdivia's main basketball team and plays in Chiles first division, DIMAYOR where it won the 2001 season. In 1977 and 2001 Valdivia hosted South Americas Men's Basketball Championship.[32]

The football club Club Deportivo Deportes Valdivia, founded in 2003, plays currently in the Chilean third division and as of 2013, will play in the Primera B (or Second Division)


Roads and bridges

Pedro de Valdivia Bridge and the city's sea lion colony

Most of Valdivia lies on the southern side of the Valdivia and Calle-Calle Rivers but other areas of the city, such as Isla Teja and Las Animas, are connected to it by bridges. The main access points to the city are Calle-Calle Bridge from the north and a southern route. Both connect the city with the Pan-American Highway and run through forested areas and wetlands.

Calle-Calle Bridge, the first bridge built in the city, connects Valdivia with Las Animas and forms the northern highway access to the city. Pedro de Valdivia Bridge was built in 1954 and connects the city with Isla Teja, where many German immigrants once lived. During the Great 1960 Valdivia earthquake only the minor Caucau Bridge (connecting Las Animas with Isla Teja) was destroyed, while all other bridges were repaired and are still in use. In 1987 Augusto Pinochet opened Río Cruces Bridge, making the coastal town of Niebla as well as Torobayo and Punucapa accessible by road. Calle-Calle Bridge, the main access to the city, was enlarged in the 1990s.


Until highway bridges were built, Valdivia's economy and citizens depended on boat traffic on the surrounding rivers, but with a contraction of bridges and highways, the river has lost its importance. Today, the rivers are used by the commercial ships built or repaired in Asenav, one of Chile's most important shipyard companies, and by tourist boats. Some of the locations that are regularly reached by tourist boats include Mancera Island and Punucapa. Fishing boats also travel inland from the coast to the or River Market. Today, just one ferry is still in operation, the Niebla-Corral line, as is it much quicker to reach Corral by ferry than by road.

Although in recent years the rivers have not had a major role in Valdivia’s public transportation, a new private project is being developed by “Los Solares",[33] an environmentally friendly company that operates solar-powered river taxis on Valdivia River. The project is called Transporte Fluvial Sustentable (TFS, or "Sustainable Water Transportation” in English). So far, the company has a fleet of with three river taxis,[34] and a small, sustainable and locally designed floating village that includes a pier, a café and the company’s offices. The community produces its own electricity, water supply and processes its own wastewater with a bacteria solution.[35]


The city is served mainly by Pichoy Airport, lying 32 km northeast of the city via the north entrance road that connects the city with the Pan American Highway. The smaller but much closer Las Marías Airport is used primarily by small aircraft, with no airlines operating there.

Sister cities

Country City State / Region Since
Argentina Neuquén Neuquén Province 2003
Romania Cluj-Napoca Cluj County 2009
USA Mount Pleasant Michigan
USA Tacoma Washington


See also


  1. ^ a b "Asociación Chilena de Municipalidades" (in Español). Retrieved 23 February 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Municipality of Valdivia" (in Español). Retrieved 23 February 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "National Statistics Institute" (in Español). Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  4. ^ (Spanish) "Censo 2002. .Síntesis de Resultados," Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas
  5. ^ a b c "The Defensive Complex of Valdivia". Entry on the UNESCO Tentative List. Retrieved 2007-08-15. 
  6. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey (March 7, 2006). Historic Earthquakes - Chile - 1960 May 22 19:11:14 UTC - Magnitude 9.5: The Largest Earthquake in the World. Retrieved on 2007-01-09
  7. ^ Dillehay, Tom, Monteverde: A late Pleistocene settlement in Chile (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, 1989)
  8. ^ (Spanish) Pino, Mario and Navarro, Rayen. Geoarqueología del sitio arcaico Chan-Chan 18. Revista Geológica de Chile, 2005.
  9. ^ a b c d
  10. ^ a b c Mariño de Lobera, Pedro, Crónica del reino de Chile, Colección de historiadores de Chile, Imprenta del Ferrocarril, 1865. Available in
  11. ^ Guarda, Gabriel. Nueva historia de Valdivia (Editorial Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, 2001)
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Breve Historia de Valdivia". Editorial Francisco de Aguirre. 1971. 
  13. ^ Jerónimo de Vivar - Crónica y relación copiosa y verdadera de los reynos de Chile - Ended in 1558. Transcription of Irving Leonard published by Fondo Histórico y Bibliográfico José Toribio Medina, Santiago de Chile, 1966
  14. ^ Otero, Luis, La Huella del Fuego: Historia de los bosques y cambios en el paisaje del sur de Chile (Valdivia, Editorial Pehuen)
  15. ^ Investigación aplicada sobre Geografía Urbana: Un caso práctico en la ciudad de Valdivia Víctor Figueroa, Jorge Gayoso, Edgardo Oyarzun, Lenia PlanasGestion Turistica, UACh.
  16. ^ a b c d (Spanish) Dirección Meteorológica de Chile
  17. ^ "Estadisca Climatologica Tomo II" (in Spanish). Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil. March 2001. Retrieved December 25, 2012. 
  18. ^ Forbes List of Billionaires 2006
  20. ^ "Gobierno de Chile". Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  21. ^ El Indicador de Actividad Económica Regional (INACER) presentó alza de 3,4% respecto a doce meses February 18, 2014 retrieved On February 22, 2014
  22. ^ CULTURA E IDENTIDAD DE VALDIVIA retrieved February 18, 2014
  23. ^ Mercado Municipal de Valdivia
  24. ^ Valdivia, Chile - City of Rivers By Bonnie Hamre retrieved on February 24, 2014
  25. ^ Muelle Schuster Valdivia retrieved February 24, 2014
  26. ^ Kunstmann Beer and restaurant retrieved February 24, 2014
  27. ^ ramal Antilhue – Valdivia Marcelo Sola, January 13, 2014 retrieved February 24, 2014
  28. ^ [1]
  29. ^ The Ecological Approach to the Conservation of Plants in Botanic Gardens - The Experience of the Botanic Garden in Valdivia, Chile C. San Martín Padovani Volume 2 Number 10 - June 1998 - retrieved February 24, 2014
  30. ^ Botanical Garden website retrieved February 22, 2014
  31. ^ World Rowing Medalists
  32. ^ (Spanish) DIMAYOR
  33. ^ Rutas de Los Solares Transportes TFS retrieved on February 17, 2014
  34. ^ Barrio Flotante en Valdivia ya está en marcha January 27, 2013
  35. ^ Valdivia’s River neighbourhood Short documentary with English subtitles released on February 18, 2014 retrieved on February 23, 2014


  • Francisco Solano Asta-Buruaga y Cienfuegos, - CiudadValdivia (Geographic dictionary of the Republic of Chile), SEGUNDA EDICIÓN CORREGIDA Y AUMENTADA, NUEVA YORK, D. APPLETON Y COMPAÑÍA, 1899. pg. 859-862 Diccionario geográfico de la República de Chile
  • Brüggen, Juan. Fundamentos de la geología de Chile, Instituto Geográfico Militar 1950.

External links

  • (Spanish) Ilustre Municipalidad de Valdivia
  • (Spanish) Diario Austral de Valdivia, Valdivian newspaper
  • (Spanish) Geology and geomorphology of Valdivia and Los Ríos Region
  • (Spanish) Museo de Arte Contemporanea (MAC), a modern art museum
  • (Spanish) Museo Fuerte Niebla, Niebla fort's museum
  • (Spanish) Museo Philippi, a museum about the naturalist Rodolfo Armando Philippi
  • (Spanish) La Librería de Valdivia, biggest bookstore in south of Chile
  • (Spanish) Panorámicas de Valdivia en 360°
  • (Spanish) Valdivia
  • (Spanish) Anime related internet forum made in Valdivia
  • Alwoplast, Valdivian designer/builder of custom catamarans
  • Cerveza Kunstmann, local beer maker


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