With an almost comical geographical shape and virtually every climate imaginable, this beautiful, memorable corner of the world is a place of extremes and contradictions. Few countries have quite such a split geographical personality. Here, you can often glimpse the snows of the high Andes from the Pacific Ocean, ski in the mountains in the morning and be drinking pisco sours on the beach come sundown.
The north is generally drier. Much of it is desert excepting the occasional oasis and the verdant altiplano, and there are often large distances between places of interest. Highlights include the peaceful Elqui valley, whose green vine-laden floor contrasts with the stark metallic colours of its mineral stained mountains and where the milky way traces a path through a night sky filled with a billion stars. Further north is the oasis of San Pedro de Atacama, surrounded by archaeological sites and awesome natural phenomena. At the northern tip of Chile the desert rises up to meet the lush green of the altiplano, home to a dozen volcanoes and a wide variety of wildlife.
The central valley is the heart of the country and is where most Chileans live. The capital, Santiago, is a good base for many of the country’s best ski resorts, while Valparaiso, the so called pearl of the pacific, is a unique multicoloured amphitheatre of a city with an artistic, bohemian atmosphere unlike anything else in Chile. Beach lovers can head to the nearby resort of Vina del mar or to any number of quiet fishing villages.
Southern Chile is dominated by lush green forests rising up from fractured fjords through fast-flowing rivers and waterfalls, past pristine lakes and smoking snow-capped volcanoes overlooked by the majestic mountain range to the east. In the Lake District there are many day-long activities in the nearby lakes, rivers, forests and mountains.
For a taste of the real Patagonia head south to the Carretera Austral. The Parque Pumalin is an incredible conservation project with a diverse ecosystem and excellent trails to explore. Towards the Argentinian border, Futaleufu has the best whitewater rafting in the Southern Hemisphere, while further south, the azure waters of Lago General Carrera turn an even more unreal blue as they flow into the broad Rio Baker that winds westwards, splitting Patagonia’s two enormous ice-fields. South of the ice-fields is Torres del Paine, whose glaciers and granite towers are the jewel in the crown of Chilean Patagonia.
Places of interest in Chile
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A spectacular land of fragmenting glaciers and teetering icy peaks,...