The natural harbor in Coquimbo was taken over by Pedro de Valdivia from Spain in 1550. The gold and copper industry in the region led to the city’s importance as a port around 1840 and many Europeans especially from England settled in Coquimbo. In 1879 it was recognised as a town.
The city is an industrial and shipping center. It is growing quickly, registering a 32.8% growth rate from 1992 to 2002. Tourism has started to develop. It is an access point for beach towns to the south, such as Guanaquerosand Tongoy. The port is still important for shipping, especially fruit and copper from mines in the region. Wine is also produced in the area. Main gate to Elqui Valley The Elqui Valley Denomination of Origin (DO) is defined by the Chilean appellation system, the legally defined and protected geographical indication used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown. The Elqui Valley wine region 400 km (250 mi) north of Santiago lies at the southern end of the Atacama Desert in the Coquimbo region. It is known for producing table grapes and other fruits, as well as pisco brandy, Chile’s most popular liquor. But it is also notable for being the most commercially viable wine-producing region of northern Chile. The region’s vineyards extend from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the Andes Mountains in the east, and rise to an elevation of 2,000 m.a.s.l. (6,500 feet). Wine production began in the Elqui Valley in the 1990s when Chilean wine producers began to look at potential viticulture sites outside the Chilean Central Valley. Since then, 286 ha (707 acres) of vines have been planted, mostly along the River Elqui valley, where grape growers have access to high-quality water for irrigation. The region is characterized by a sunny, desert-like climate, less than 70 millimetres (2.8 in) of annual rainfall, dry rocky terrain, steep valleys and temperate hills cooled by strong winds from the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains, producing excellent results for varietals like Syrah.
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