If you’re looking for a unique travel adventure, you can’t do better than Chile. Chile extends only 271 miles between its most distant eastern and western points, but the long blade of a country runs 2,670 miles from north to south, more than enough room for a stunning array of impressive natural and man-made landscapes.
Here are the top eleven reasons to visit Chile for a cultural, biological and geological experience that you literally cannot find anywhere else in the world.
Santiago’s numerous distinctive neighbourhoods offer a variety of intriguing attractions; the city is very pedestrian friendly and visitors will feel quite comfortable on biking or walking tours.
Santiago’s Mercado Central is a sprawling market housed in a massive historic cast iron building. The Mercado Central draws Chileans of every stripe, who select from a bountiful display of fresh fish, meat, vegetables and produce. Formal restaurants and informal eateries are wedged among the rows of stalls, and the people-watching is as interesting as the shopping.
2. Wine time
Chile’s eternal rivalry with Argentina has led residents of the former to estimate they produce 10 times as much wine as their beloved neighbors. Indeed, Chile is the world’s fifth-largest exporter of wine and its eighth-largest producer according to Tourism Ministry estimates.
Most importantly for visitors, wine-making regions within an hour of downtown Santiago are accessible for personalized tours. The Colchagua Valley is Chile’s premier wine-making region, home to about 20 wineries which formed the foundation of the country’s original wine route, established 15 years ago.
3. Valparaiso’s funiculars
The historic coastal city offers a visual feast hinted at by its nicknames “San Francisco of the South” and “Jewel of the Pacific. Valparaiso is a UNESCO World Heritage city built upon a network of 42 steep hills dotted with brightly colored buildings winding upward from the shore.
Chile’s southern Patagonia region is a land of mountains, fjords, lakes and forests offering relatively isolated and inspiring landscapes far from the crowds. The resort town of Puerto Varas was dates back to colonization by German immigrants in the mid- to late 1880s. Their influence remains in the city’s numerous homes and public buildings finished in German period architectural styles.
5. The Greatest Biodiversity
The Tropical Andes is officially considered the area of our planet with the greatest variety of lifeforms. It covers an area of 485,716 square miles, running from the northern mountains of Chile up through Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and finishing in Venezuela. So far scientists have identified a huge 45,000 species of plants, 1,666 birds, 414 mammals, and 1,309 reptiles and amphibians living in this extraordinarily vibrant strip of land, and they’re not even finished yet! This amazing diversity is caused by the dramatic peaks and valleys of the Andes, which create a whole host of different habitats within a limited space.
6. The Oldest Mummy
When thinking of ancient civilisations and mummification, it’s usually the pyramids of ancient Egypt that spring to mind first. But Chile has a rich and extensive pre-Columbian culture of its own to appeal to fans of history. In fact, Chile can lay claim to the oldest human-made mummy that has been discovered in the world so far, which was found in Arica in the very north of the country. Mummification was practiced by the Chinchorro people some two thousand years before the Egyptian mummies and the oldest mummy of all, that of a small child, dates back to 5050 BC.
7. The Longest Mountain Range
The whole length of Chile is dominated by the Andean Cordillera, the longest continental mountain range in the world. Of course not all of it is in Chile and in fact the mountains run continuously for about 4,300 miles, through seven Latin American countries. As a result, there’s almost nowhere you can go in Chile that isn’t chock full of staggering scenery and opportunities for adventure ranging from a day hike in the Andes, to climbing, white water rafting, skiing and snowboarding. Even the capital city Santiago is surrounded by breathtaking snow-frosted peaks and is a great jumping-off point for the mountains.
8. Sand boarding & star gazing
By day, strap on a sand board and hit the slopes of the immense sand dunes. By night, San Pedro is one of the best spots on earth to whet your astrological appetite. The high altitude conditions of dry air and very few clouds make it a perfect place to view a star-studded sky.
9. Incredible mountain adventures
Hiking, climbing, kayaking, and camping in the Torres del Paine attract thrill seekers from all over the world. Puerto Natales is the main town and a popular starting point for tourists to arrange their Patagonian adventures. Other than Torres del Paine, many explore Bernardo O’Higgins National Park (one of the largest protected areas in Chile) or take part in an intimate penguin experience from Punta Arenas.
10. The Driest Desert
Ironically, the driest desert on earth - the Atacama Desert - is located next to the world’s largest body of water, the Pacific Ocean. Some areas of the Atacama Desert haven’t seen any kind of rain for over 400 years, whilst others see just 1 millimetre a year. The lack of clouds makes this a popular spot for astronomers, both amateur and professional alike, who come to enjoy a clear view of the star-studded skies. And once every three to five years, the El Niño phenomenon causes an increase in winter rainfall, triggering a spectacular bloom of brightly coloured flowers that transforms the desert into another world.
11. The Highest Volcano
If you were going to choose one country to look for the world’s highest volcano, Chile would be a good place to start. The country is home to around 620 volcanoes in total - although fortunately only 36 are listed as currently active - but the summit of Ojos del Salado in the Atacama region puts them all in the shade at 6,910 metres high. Due to its position near the Atacama Desert, the mountain is generally dry and snow-free, making it a great location for a fairly easy hike. You might even catch a slight smell of sulphur on the breeze, a gentle reminder that this is still an active volcano.
- Torres Del Paine with breathtaking views of the peaks- Lake district: Here you can visit the hot springs and go on an adventurous trip- Atacama desert, the driest desert on earth
Chile is situated south of Peru and west of Bolivia and Argentina. One third of Chile is covered by the towering ranges of the Andes. In the north is the driest place on Earth, the Atacama Desert. At the southern tip of Chile's mainland is Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in the world. Beyond that lies the Strait of Magellan and Tierra del Fuego, an island divided between Chile and Argentina. The southernmost point of South America is Cape Horn. Chile also has a part of the Antarctic and the Easter Island, which are amazing places to see and to experience.
The spoken language in Chile is Spanish. The Chilean language differs the most from the traditional Castillean. This language is spoken faster and they use many Chilean words. The Chilean language also has some English, German, Italian and Indian words and expressions. During you exploration of the country you will certainly come across these different languages and dialects.
The local currency is the Chilean Peso. One USD is about 632 Chilean Pesos (February 2015).
Chile can be divided into three major climatic areas: 1. very arid in the north, 2. cool and damp in the south and 3. Mediterranean climate in central Chile with heavier rainfall in the cooler months from May to August and sunshine during the rest of the year. It does occasionally snow in Santiago and other parts of central Chile.
In Chile it is normal to have three or four meals a day, with lunch being the main one, normally taken between 1 and 2:30 pm. Typical Chilean food is pretty simple and simply seasoned. Some of our important dishes are empanadas, corn pies, corn cakes, beans, and curanto, but perhaps the most delicious is the seafood, due to the 4,000km beautiful coast.
When the first Spanish arrived, Quechua tribes and Araucanian tribes inhabited the country. Each of them left behind their remarkable history. Therefore nowadays you can find many interesting places, where you can see this ancient culture. The first Spanish settlements were established in the mid-sixteenth century: Santiago in 1541 and Concepcion in 1550. These two main cities are a must to visit when you are in Chile.
The great majority of Chileans consider themselves Roman Catholic. However, their numbers have been declining since 1970, while the Protestant population has been increasing.
Northern Chile was an important centre of culture in the medieval and early modern Inca empire, while indigenous Mapuche and other Araucanian cultures developed in the Central and Southern regions. The Spanish also have part of the Chilean culture due to the Colonial and early Republican period. Other European influences, such as English and French are also still noticed today. This rich culture has something to offer for anyone. You can go, for example, to the most important festival in the Norte Grande region. Each year in July, believers arrive to celebrate the Virgin of Carmel, Chile's patron saint. Activities that will amaze you include songs and dances that seem to go on 24 hours a day for the whole week of ceremonies. For more information on the festivals in Chile visit our Chile holiday calendar.
The "cueca" is considered the "most popular music of Chile". Neither the words nor the music have any fixed rules; various motives are freely intermingled. The Tonada is another important form of Chilean traditional song, arising from the music brought by Spanish. It comes from the cueca with a more prominent melody in general; the tonada is also not danced. Visiting Chile you must certainly have heard one of these traditional local forms of art.
If you are interested in discovering nature you should visit The Pan de Azucar National Park, it is an amazing park which contains over 140 species of endemic cacti. If you like to see birds and marine mammals, including sea lions, bottle-nose dolphins, Humboldt penguins and Chilean pelicans you should go to the The Reserva Nacional de Pinguino de Humboldt. For the more adventurous traveler, the high Andes have condors, foxes and pumas. Patagonia is the place where you find the rainforest. Sea lions, porpoises and seabirds abound along the coast, which is seasonally visited by migratory whales. The forest and pampas of Torres del Paine are home to guanacos, foxes, pumas, condors and flamingos. Near the tourist place Punta Arenas are some colonies of Magellanic penguins.The Juan Fernández Islands are a small island group in the South Pacific Ocean which is composed of several volcanic islands:o Robinson Crusoe Islando Alejandro Selkirk Island The Easter islands are one of the most isolated places on Earth. A triangle of volcanic rocks in the South Pacific dot the coastline. It is best known for the giant stone monoliths, known as Moai. This place is the main attraction point and an amazing place to see. The island is also home to many rock carvings, as well as traditional wood carvings, crafts, tattooing, string figures, traditional dance and local music.