Chile: Travel/Tourist Information Guide

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Tucked along the south western coast of South America, Chile known for political efforts toward improvement and is one of the most develpped countries in South America. Chile also has some of the most picturesque coastline and views throughout the Andes Mountain range. Much of the landscape on the ocean side is marked by countless islands and inlets which are part of the reason that there are so many interesting places to visit.

With a length roughly the same as the width of the United States, the climate varies from tropical in the north to sub-zero in the south, where icecaps and fjords take over the landscape. Visiting glaciers is a very popular and common thing to do in the southern regions. They also claim a rather large piece of Antarctica.

Traveling around the country, be it by plane, bus or automobile, is both cheap and convenient, as well as being comfortable and organized. It is not a problem to try to hitchhike either. Unfortunately, if traveling long distances, the best option is by bus since the train system in recent years has declined.

Chile is a country known world-wide for the quality of its wines and are an important part of the culture. Local foods will also be a treat for anyone visiting. They tend to be a little simpler than the foods from neighboring countries like Argentina or Peru, but they depend on many of the natural flavors instead. The central valley is an area that provides agricultural richness in the country, though the main natural resource is copper and other minerals.

The culture, being a country that lines the Andes, has both Spanish and Incan influences in the north, similar to Argentina and Peru, and Mapuche influences in the central and southern parts.

Chile is also home to the mysterious Easter Island, where the culture that inhabited the island died out due to the overuse and overpopulation of the island, perhaps a lesson that can be taken away for the rest of humanity today.

Being along the ring of fire, Chile has had to face many disasters with volcanic eruptions as well as strong earthquakes, the effects of which have gone well beyond the country's borders.

Just a short distance from Chile's capital, Santiago, is Valparaíso, a coastal city known for its brightly colored houses as well as for being a principal port for the early colonies before Chile was declared independent which only occurred much later in 1818. Throughout history, until relatively recent years, the country has been struck with a series of wars which finally settled into a relative peace only in the mid-1990s.

Another popular place to visit is in the Atacama Desert, which is the driest desert in the world. It is called the Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna), which has a sharp landscape shaped through weathering that gives cause to its name since many say that it is a strong reminder of the surface of the moon.

For anyone interested in outdoor and water sports, then a trip to the southern part of Chile is a must. The city of Pucón provides its visitors with a fantastic view of the Pucón volcano and the lush greenery that surrounds the area. The lake on which the town was built, offers water skiing, kayaking and even white water rafting and horseback riding in the area. For those who like a good hike, it is possible to go up the volcano.

Also in the south is an area called Torres del Paine, which is a park area formed by glacial movement that has created tall towers and a majestic lake. This is just a small part of a larger area called Patagonia, which is home to a variety of natural attractions.

Located on a lake called Lago Gral Carrera, which also stretches into Argentina and is just south of the city of Puerto Río Tranquilo, is a surreal area of natural granite structures and caves. It is an excellent area for renting a boat or enjoying the crystalline waters. The area is called Capillas de Marmol.

The city of Valdivia is known for its botanical garden, a number of parks and reserves as well as a variety of islands that are filled with wildlife and provide visitors with almost any kind of outdoor activity imaginable. The city also has several historical museums, castles and plazas.

A visit to the city of Punta Arena, which is the capital of the southernmost region of Chile, was a strategic point along the Strait of Magellan and currently serves as the defense base for all activity in lower Chile and the Chilean Antarctic. Much of the history and tourist areas are dedicated to Magellan, including a museum about the navigator and his feats. Being one of many island areas in that region, commerce has a great deal to do with the waterways. Also in this area is Magdalena Island, which is only about 1km long and it the mating place for hundreds of penguins each year. Boat trips will take visitors to see the large gatherings of penguins as well as some of the other local fauna, like sea lions and lizards.

Despite its efforts to earn its status as a highly developed country and the fact that it has such a vast variety of fantastically majestic and fascinating areas to visit, it has never been one of the most popular places to visit, perhaps due to a lack of any major historical monuments, such as Machu Picchu in Peru or Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, which have a tendency to draw more tourism in South America. The other difficulty Chile faces with respect to tourism is the vast distances between points of interest, which really do stretch from one end of the country to the other. Regardless, those who travel there or manage to have an extended stay, almost unfailingly leave with a very positive feeling about the country.