4300 kilometers long and only 200 km wide on average, Chile has probably the strangest shape a country could possibly have. But only to its advantage: Chile stretches from Tierra del Fuego in the far south up to the Peruvian Border, not too far from the equator. Its perfect blend of European influence, traditional Indian values and the incredible natural diversity is what makes it a traveler’s dream come true. Deserts, 6000m summits, the unique Rapa Nui statues, gigantic glaciers, a beautiful lake district, geysers, in short, Chile’s got it all.
Chile’s capital Santiago is located roughly in the center of the country, making it an ideal launching pad for trips to the south or the north. With its beautiful cathedral on Plaza de Armas, the presidential palace Palacio de la Moneda, its many museums, gourmet restaurants and exciting night life, the city is definitely worth a visit. Santiago’s proximity to the Andes allows for great skiing during the winter season in nearby Portillo. One must also visit the wine region around the capital, which, thanks to its moderate climate boasts some of the country’s best wines. Other places of interest near Santiago are the 100-year-old elevators (ascensores) in Chile’s bohemian and cultural capital Valparaíso (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) as well as the popular beach resort town Viña del Mar.
Northern Chile boasts the world’s driest desert, as well as the driest city, San Pedro de Atacama. Here you can visit the strange-looking moonscapes and hot geysers, salt plains and blue lagoons, home to many pink flamingos. Whether you prefer to go horse-back riding or mountain-biking in the Atacama Desert, or explore the region by 4×4, the options are sheer endless. For a unique experience, one should head to one of Chile’s excellent observatories near the historic ocean-side city of La Serena for some stargazing. Other places of interest in the far north include Arica and Iquique with its nice beaches and good surfing.
Chile’s southern half is home to Patagonia, probably one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. Whether you do the popular W-trek in world-famous Torres del Paine National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) near Puerto Natales, climb snow-covered Volcán Villarica near Pucón or decide to explore the stunningly beautiful lake region and the Puyehue National Park near Puerto Montt, there are an infinite number of options. Other popular activities include white-water rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, quad biking and horseback riding. Also worth a visit is the scenic island of Chiloé, as well as the Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael with its beautiful fjords. Punta Arena, a bustling, colourful city in the far south is the departure point for many expeditions and cruises to Antarctica and many consider it the southernmost city of the world.
Politically speaking, Easter Island is part of Chile. Once you set foot on the Isla de Pasqua though, you will quickly realize that it has nothing in common with the rest of the country. Located in the Pacific Ocean, roughly 3700km west of the Chilean coast, the island is one of the most isolated populated places in the world, home to a mere 2000 people. It is a place full of mysteries, and the impressive stone sculptures called Moai, as well as the exciting end-of-the world feeling attract a good many visitors from afar.
Due to Chile’s shape and size, the climate ranges from temperatures far below zero in the far south, to dry heat in the north. This makes the country an ideal place for traveling all throughout the year. When planning a trip to Easter Island, one should take into consideration that the island is subject to rather strong winds at times, due to its location. The best time to visit is hence during the summer (December through February).
© Salsa-Trips, Rico Jochen Anderer