The world’s driest desert, snowy mountain plateaus, millennial glaciers, and rainforests filled with wildlife and fauna all fit within the longest and thinnest country in the world, Chile. Slipped between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Chile borders Peru, Argentina, and Bolivia, claiming prime oceanfront property. In addition, Chile has territories in Antarctica and Polynesia, including Easter Island, making it a tri-continental nation.
Newsweek magazine ranked Chile as the best country in Latin America in which to live and Chileans are rightfully proud of their homeland. Tourism is steadily increasing, in no small part due to the welcoming nature of Chileans. They have a reputation of being hospitable, warm, and inviting towards visitors and are open to sharing their culture with inquisitive travelers.
These top destinations in Chile offer everything from big city attractions to snow skiing to eco-tourism to sunny beaches.
Santiago, Chile is rated as the safest city in Latin America, and the country as a whole boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the region. Also known as Santiago de Chile, the capital city is one of the largest cities in the Americas, with nearly half of Chile’s population of 18.2 million residing there.
From 5-star hotels to economy lodging, Santiago offers affordable to mega-luxury accommodations. Literally, every type of ethnic food can be found in the city, from gourmet dining to street vendors hawking chunks of goat meat on a stick.
From high-end discos for dancing the night away to cozy local pubs, Santiago’s nightlife has no limits and rivals that of any major U.S. city. Bar Berri, The Clinic, and Flannery’s are three of the most popular night spots to visit. Theaters, malls, museums, parks of all sorts, highrise buildings, and a modern subway system for easily navigating around town, make Santiago an ideal vacationers destination.
Located 90-miles northwest of Santiago, Valparaiso is a port town with brightly colored buildings which was once a commercial hub connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans until the construction of the Panama Canal in 1914.
As the commercial seaport business dwindled, students and artists began relocating to the city and it is now full of art museums, eclectic restaurants, boutique hotels, and cultural centers. Many of the older Victorian homes have been converted to studios.
The second floor of the cities flourishing produce market is jammed with small eateries where fresh seafood and other classic dishes are served. Boat tours around the towns coastal borders give visitors a view of the city from the water and walking tours to better explore its history run all day long.
As the famed Chilean poet Narudu summed up the ever-changing town, “Valparaiso never finishes combing its hair, and never has time to get dressed.”
For skiing or snow-boarding, enthusiasts need not look any further than Valle Nevado in the Andes Mountain Range. Even if skiing is not someone’s forte, the beauty of the landscape and simply making snow-angels is well worth the visit.
Tours of the mountain ranges are available with incredible observation locations ideal for capturing the perfect photos. Bus rides up and down the winding roads, usually packed with snow, can be a bit of a fright at times, but to any locals admitted knowledge, there has never been a mishap.
Meals at the ski lodge are a treat and for those wishing to visit the town for an extended period, the resort offers wonderful accommodations. Even during the summer months, Valle Nevado sees thousands of worldwide visitors in need of fascinating scenery and fresh crisp air.
Vina del Mar
If sprawling out on a beach towel sounds better than romping in the snow, Vina del Mar, or, “vineyard by the sea”, is the place to go. While not on the list for the best sightseeing in Chile, this resort town is better known as a laidback sun and sea destination for those wanting to soak up some rays and relax.
In addition to its miles of continuous beaches, Vina del Mar has some of the finest urban green spaces in the country. The National Botanical Gardens has over 3,000 plant species. The Parque Quinta Vergara is another large green space in a public park which has an amphitheater and many walking paths.
At the Fonck Archaeology and Historical Museum, visitors can see artifacts from indigenous cultures, including one of the statues from Easter Island, which is also part of Chile.
When it comes time to dine, think of the freshest seafood imaginable served in informal beachside diners. Finer dining is available, but with what’s being cooked up beachfront in true Chilean fashion, why spend the extra money and change out of a comfortable pair of flip-flops?
Prefer the island life? Chile has it too. Chiloe Island covers 3,241 square miles and is the fifth largest island in South America. The island is a world unto itself where myths and folklore are very much alive, and culture and nature coexistin harmony. Colorful stilt homes over the water along with brightly painted Victorian-era churches in the island’s towns, present an intriguing mystical setting found few other places in the world.
Visitors can hike one of the island’s trails for inland exploration or they can kayak the many channels and see it by water. The Chiloe and Tantauco National Parks are lush with evergreens and a nature lover’s paradise.
The island’s inhabitants are known for their wit, warmth, and making visitors feel right at home. The island town of Dalcahue is where sweaters, hats, and scarves are woven, and guests can purchase these, plus much more, at the perpetual arts and crafts fair while local musicians treat shoppers to traditional music.
There is so much more to Chile than most realize, but like many places of magnificent beauty, a deep cultural history, a warm and inviting people, and something for every traveler’s diverse tastes, it’s rapidly being discovered. From natural hot spas to desert planes to a mountaintop or an island, Chile should be added to everyone’s list of must-see countries.
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