Mano del Desierto: Chile’s Iconic Hand Sculpture

Photo: astrotour antofagasta | Flickr

Chile is famous for its many attractions, including Torres del Paine National Park and Easter Island. If you’re planning a visit, be sure to add “Mano del Desierto” or “The Hand of the Desert” to your must-see list.

Standing 11 meters tall (taller than an NFL goalpost) and made of iron and cement, this sculpture of a hand emerges from the sand in the Atacama Desert, known as the driest desert in the world outside of polar regions.

The sculpture was created by Mario Irarrázabal in the early 1980s and was financed by a local nonprofit organization called Corporación Pro Antofagasta.

The sculpture is not only impressive in terms of its size and design but also in the message it conveys. Many people believe that the hand symbolizes the vulnerability and helplessness of human beings, as well as their strength and determination to overcome adversity. It is a reflection on the human condition and our relationship with nature.

Irarrázabal is known for his artwork that features hands emerging from the ground. In addition to “Mano Del Desierto,” he also created the “Monument to the Drowned” (originally titled “Man Emerging to Life”) in Punta del Este, a Uruguayan resort town. This sculpture features four fingers and a thumb rising from the sand.

If you’re interested in visiting the Hand of the Desert, take Route 26 or 28 from Antofagasta, a port city in northern Chile. The sculpture is located between mile markers 1309 and 1310 and can be reached from either direction.

The desert’s flatness makes it easy to spot the sculpture from far away. In fact, some people initially mistake it for a mirage caused by fatigue from driving through the desert.

Visitors should take precautions before leaving, such as filling their gas tanks, packing plenty of water, and wearing sunscreen. They should also avoid driving too quickly, as many car accidents occur in the desert each year.

For those who are nervous about driving alone, working with an agency like Plan South America is a good alternative. The founder of the agency, Harry Hastings, told CNN that he always tries to incorporate a visit to the sculpture for guests traveling to the desert, calling it an “important landmark” that is both culturally and visually significant.