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Chile

Chile

General

One of the world’s countries with the strangest shaped territory must be Chile. Located on the Eastern side of South America it is a country that is over 6000 kilometers long but on its broadest point the country is not even 400 kilometers. The country, because of its long stretched shape, is home to several different climate and eco zones. In the northern part of the country you can find the world’s driest desert, the Atacama Desert, bordering with Peru and Bolivia. The southern coast is a labyrinth of fjords, inlets, canals, twisting peninsulas, and islands.  This is the land that is called Patagonia and even more south one can find the rugged and beautiful land of Tierra del Fuego.

The centre of the country enjoys a more Mediterranean climate and this is where the largest part of the population lives. It is here that Santiago de Chile, the country’s capital is located. This is the biggest city of the country and the economical centre. Close to Santiago one can find two other interesting cities; Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. These cities are very popular during the summer as they are located on the seaside and have nice beaches. They are known as very bohemian cities that attract many people from Santiago in the weekends who want to escape from the busy city life. Both cities are very beautiful located, Viña del Mar with the best beaches and Valparaiso with beautiful artist neighborhoods.

Besides these sights to see Chile of course offers great wines and a day or multi day visit to one of these wineries is a very pleasant experience.  The most famous wine valleys are located relatively close to Santiago, mainly the Cholchagua and Maipu Valley.

Central Chile

Central Chile is the main populated region that lies in between the northern point of Patagonia and the southern point of the Atacama Desert. More or less in the centre of the country you can find Santiago de Chile, the capital and most populated city of the country. Located at about two hours from the Pacific Ocean where the Andes meet with the coastal plains, the city has quite a special feel to it. The whole year round the climate is quite mild but with the snowy mountains on the background you do have a ski resort feeling now and then. All government institutions can be found here and it contains the economical and financial heart of the country. The historic centre is not quite big but very pleasant.

Outside of Santiago, at a 2 hour drive you can get to Valparaiso located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Valparaiso is one of the favorite weekend and holiday retreats for the Santiaguinos. The city is located in a amphitheater like mountain filled with cozy neighborhoods made up out of brightly painted houses. The city holds some of the country’s best restaurants and has quite the bohemian feel to it. Located just besides Valaparaiso you can find Viña del Mar. This all time favorite among the Chilean bathing places has an even more bohemian feel to it and you can see where that comes from. Many wealthy Chileans have a second house here and the city itself has quite a majestic air flowing around. The beaches here in the summer will be quite occupied, especially during the big international music festival taking place her every summer.

About two hours to the west of Santiago you can find another area that attracts many people, the Central Wine Valley. This is only one of the many wine regions in Chile but this is Chile's most productive and internationally known wine region, due in large part to its close proximately to the country's capital Santiago. Within the region there are four subregions: the Maipo Valley, the Rapel Valley, the Curicó Valley and the Maule Valley. It is located directly across the Andes' from Argentina's most well known wine region Mendoza Province. The Maipo Valley is the most widely cultivated and recognized valley and is known for Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. The Rapel wine region in the Colchagua Province is also known for its Cabernet. Curicó has both red and white wine varieties planted but is most widely known for its Chardonnay. The Maule Valley still has large plantings of the local Pais but is gradually being planted with better red wine varieties. The whole region has several big and smaller wineries and some of them have a hotel or guesthouse on the premises where guests can stay. These are real treats and beautiful and tranquil environments. For the real wine lovers it is also possible to cross from here into the Mendoza province in Argentina to continue this trip through the famous wine areas in South America.

Atacama Desert

The Atacama Desert is a plateau in South America, covering a 1,000 km strip of land on the Pacific coast of South America, west of the Andes Mountains. The Atacama Desert is, according to NASA, National Geographic and many other publications, the driest desert in the world. The Atacama occupies 105,000 km2 in northern Chile, composed mostly of salt basins (salares), sand, and lava flows towards the Andes. The terrain differs a bit over the region from Mars and Moon Like Valleys to desert plains, colored lagoons and salt flats. Because of close volcanic activity there are also plenty of geysers active in the region. The desert can be visited with a four or more day tour, spending the night in San Pedro de Atacama and having daily excursions to the different sites in the region. The landscape, the driest desert on the earth, together with the altitude and Andes Mountains & volcanoes luring in the back, this is truly a hallucinating destination.

Patagonia & Tierra Del Fuego

The Chilean part of Patagonia embraces the complete Eastern Part of Patagonia and includes the southern provinces and regions of Valdivia, Los Lagos Region and Greater Island of Chiloé, Puerto Montt and the Archaeological site of Monte Verde, and also the islands south to the regions of Aisén and Magallanes, including the west side of Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn.

Located on such an extreme location on the globe, this part of the world offers all the dramatic landscape one would expect from the world's ultimate land's end. Here the South American continent ends in a cacophony of islands, glaciers, icebergs and mountains. It is truly one of Mother Nature’s grand finales.

Chilean Patagonia is itself composed of two sub-regions; the northern Aisen and, to its south, Magallanes. Aisen is home to Parque National Laguna San Rafael, while Magellanes hosts the incomparable Parque National Torres del Paine. Isolated from the rest of Chile by fierce storms and impassable mountains, Magellanes can be reached only by air or overland from Argentina.

The capital of the region of Magellanes is the city of Punta Arenas, which first became prosperous during the California gold rush. Here you will also find the only larger airport in the area. At about 4 hours driving from Punta Arenas you can find Puerto Natales, the entrance town to the famous Torres del Paine National Park. The main sites of the park; Torres del Paine, the Cuernos del Paine, Mount Fritz Roy, the hypnotic waterfalls of Salto Chico and Salto Grande, the Grey, Pingo, del Frances and Dickson glaciers; the Pehoe, Nordenskjold, Sarmiento, Pingo and Dickson lakes; and the Verde and Azul lagoons. All of these can be visited during a stay in the park. In the park there are several lodges and luxury hotels that provide people with great views and excursions during the day and all the warmth and luxury of a 5* hotel in the evening. Of course it is also possible to do multi day hikes in the park visiting some or most of the above mentioned sites. Being such a great destination, it is no wonder that the park can be quite busy in the high season, but if you would go in the between seasons, you can have days that you feel like you are all alone in the park. The most popular route to see the park is hiking the “W” called after the route you would follow. This route takes about 5 unforgettable days of hiking and includes at least 3 nights of camping.

Easter Islands

Another one of most enigmatic destinations in South America, even though argued by some to be more Asian than South American are the Easter Islands or Rapa Nui. This island is claimed to the most isolated inhabited islands in the world, located over 3500 kilometers from the Chilean mainland. With a surface of just over 160 square kilometers the island is quite small. Geographically seen it belongs to the Polynesian Island group but was annexed to the territory of Chile in 1888. The Easter Island is famous for its 887 extant monumental statues, called Moai created by the early Rapanui people. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with much of the island protected within Rapa Nui National Park. The climate on the island is subtropical submarine with most rain in the months August and September. Temperatures nevertheless almost never drop below 20° Celcius. The history of Easter Island is rich and controversial. Its inhabitants have endured famines, epidemics, civil war, slave raids, colonialism, and near deforestation; its population declined precipitously more than once. All this together make for a challenging and unforgettable holiday experience.

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