Chile: Country Overview
is a country of startling contrasts and extreme beauty, with attractions
ranging from the towering volcanic
peaks of the Andes to the ancient forests of the Lake District.
There are a multitude of very good parks here, and plenty of opportunities
for fine adventure travel. Chile is justly famous as the location
of Torres del Paine, considered by many to be the finest nature
travel destination in all of South America.
anyone who has ever been fascinated by geography, the long, impossibly
thin line of Chile has always produced a tiny moment of astonishment.
Chile stretches over 4,300 km (2,700 mi) along the southwestern
coast of South America, a distance roughly the same as that from
San Francisco to New York, or Edinburgh to Baghdad. At the same
time, its width never exceeds 240 km (150 mi), making the country
more than eighteen times longer than its widest point.
most obvious factor in Chile's remarkableslenderness is the massive,
virtually impassable wall of the Andes, a mountain range that
is still rising and that contains more than fifty active volcanic
peaks. The western border is of course the Pacific Ocean, but
it is a misconception to picture Chile as nothing more than the
steep western slope of the Andean peaks. All along its length
Chile is marked by a narrow depression between the mountains and
the sea. To the north the land rises and becomes more arid, until
one reaches the forbidding Atacama Desert, one of the most inhospitable
regions on earth. To the south just the opposite transformation
takes place: the land falls away, and the region between mountains
and ocean fades into the baffling maze of small islands that terminates
in Chilean Patagonia. Chile's southern extremity is marked by
Cape Horn, a treacherous headland surrounded by almost continuously
storm-tossed seas and passable only through the foggy stillness
of the Strait of Magellan.
In the center of the country, however, is a long and expansive
river valley, a five hundred mile corridor occupied in the north
by vineyards and great farms and in the south by primeval forests
and enchanting lakes. Santiago, the capital, anchors the northern
and more prosperous section of the central valley. The lush Lake
District to the south, however, is the homeland of Chile's indigenous
peoples, the Araucanians.
part of Chile are two notable Pacific possessions-the Juan Fernandez
Islands and the famous Easter Island, both of which are administered
as national parks. The Juan Fernandez islands are located about
670 km off the Chilean coast, while Easter Island is situated
3700 km distant.
climate is as diverse as its geography. Aside from the obviously
extreme climatic conditions of the Andes an the Atacama, however,
the country enjoys a comfortable temperate climate.
Today Chile is quickly becoming one of South America's most developed
nations. Combine this fact along with a wonderful tradition of
hospitality offered by Chileans, and you have an excellent place
to visit and to learn Spanish.
Chileans are mestizos, although you can still find pure blooded
Mapuche Indians, and direct German and Swiss descendants for example.
As a matter of fact, one of the first things a traveler will notice
is that many of the cities, and the manners of many Chileans have
a distinctive European feel to them. For the traveler accustomed
to places such as Bolivia or Peru, this will come as somewhat
of a surprise.
a visitor, you have a wonderful array of options and activities
available to you. From a day to day standpoint, cities such as
Santiago offer a comfortable place to stay, great nightlife, excellent
transportation and services, colonial architecture, shopping,
plus much more.
the cities are nice, we feel that the true magic of Chile begins
when you start exploring the countryside. To the north, one can
explore the vast mountains and deserts that border Peru and Bolivia.
It is interesting to note that there are parts of the Atacama
Desert that have never recorded any precipitation! Once in this
northern region, many travelers take the opportunity to cross
the border and visit places such as La Paz or Sucre in Bolivia,
or travel further north to visit Cusco and Machu Picchu in Peru.
In the mountains just outside of Santiago, one can enjoy some
of the finest skiing found anywhere in the world. The slopes of
some of the ski resort are within 1-2 hours of downtown Santiago.
To the south of the capital lies the Maipo Valley, home to many
of the finest wineries in the country. Take the time to get down
and visit some of these wineries. Chilean wines are quickly gaining
world wide recognition, and rightly so!
you head further south, you enter the beautiful Lake District.
Due to continual precipitation, the landscape is green. It is
in this region where you will find most of the active volcanoes
of Chile plus numerous lakes, including the fourth largest lake
in South America. The scenery is absolutely beautiful!
as you head further south, you enter some of the most inaccessible
regions of Chile. This section of the country is a maze of islands,
fjords, rivers, and lakes. In recent years, this area has become
particularly popular with fisherman looking to fish some of the
best trout lakes and streams in the world! It is also in this
region where you find high mountain areas covered with many different
glaciers. Of particular note in this region is the Parque Nacional
Torres de Paine.
Due to incredible
diversity of the geography of Chile, plus the hospitality of the
people, we are confident that you will find Chile to be one of
the best places to learn Spanish!
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