The thought of a patch of land that is rich with vegetation and animal life in the heart of El Norte Chico's dry, desolate landscape seems to defy logic. But Parque Nacional Fray Jorge, a UNESCO world biosphere reserve since 1977, has a small cloud forest similar to those found in Chile's damp southern regions. The forest, perched 600 meters (1,968 feet) above sea level, receives its life-giving nourishment from the camanchaca (fog) that constantly envelops it.
Within this forest you'll come across ferns and trees found nowhere else in the region. A slightly slippery boardwalk leads you on a 20-minute tour. Budget time for the park as part of a longer day—the idea of "national park" in Chile is different from the concept in North America, and the "park" part of Fray Jorge is rather small. Although interesting, Fray Jorge will not take a lot of time to see, but there is a picnic table where you can lunch and watch the fog drift over the Pacific Ocean below.