Travel to Chile

Travel to Chile

Spanning the long Pacific coast of South America along the backbone of the Andes, Chile amazes with rich culture and jaw dropping scenery.

Chile offers some of the most exciting and gloriously beautiful destinations anywhere in South America. The stylish city of Santiago is an amazing place to explore, from the central hub of the Plaza de Armas and the Metropolitan Cathedral to the fascinating Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts. Other major cities include Puente Alto, Concepcion, and Vina del Mar. Chile’s a major destination for any wine lover: Its extensive vineyards turn out a diverse array of grapes nourished by a climate perfect for viticulture. Beyond the pastoral beauty of the wine country, you’ll discover some of the world’s most unbelievable scenery, including the wild Andes peaks and dramatic coastline of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. And don’t forget about the attractions much farther afield: Easter Island, an unbelievably remote outpost of Polynesia culture under Chilean control, plays host to the mysterious stone heads called moai, among the world’s most enigmatic archaeological relics.

The majority of Chile's population are mestizos, descendants from the indigenous tribes and Spaniards, so although Spanish is the country's official language, Indian dialects are still spoken in some areas of the country. While late 19th century European immigrants had some influence on Chilean culture, Europeans did not have as much impact as they did in other South American countries, instead they were absorbed into mainstream Chilean culture. Recently immigration has derived mostly from other Latin American nations.

Chile has a strong literary tradition, particularly in the poetry genre. Poetry enthusiasts will be familiar with Chile's Nobel Prize winning poet, Pablo Neruda. Isabel Allende, who is related to Chile's former president, is a novelist famed for works such as "The House of the Spirits" and "The Stories of Eva Luna."

The national dance of Chile is the Cueca, where the dancers imitate the courting of a rooster and hen waving handkerchiefs above their heads to signify the hen's feathers and the rooster's comb. The dance is performed during the national holiday in September, but also during other celebrations and festivals.

Rodeo, the second most popular sport after soccer, is the national sport of Chile and performances can be found any weekend. Rodeo in Chile differs from North America. A team of two horsemen, the collera, chase the calf around a semicircular arena lined with large cushions. Points are earned based on proper technique. Skiing is possible during most months of the year and has the best runs in South America. The country has also achieved great success in tennis with Chiles' national teams winning the World Team and Davis Cup as well as individual Olympic medals.

Given its vast coastline, Chilean cuisine includes a preponderance of fresh seafood, which of course includes the well-known Chilean sea bass. Visitors will enjoy sampling the seafood soups such as Sopa de Mariscos (mixed seafood soup) and Caldillo de Congrio (eel soup).

Moving away from coastal cuisine and into the bounty of the rest of the country, common ingredients include beans, potatoes, pumpkin, corn and quinoa. Pastel do Choclo is a popular beef and chicken casserole dish baked in a clay pot with a corn batter topping. Porotos is a recipe staple that reaches back to pre-Hispanic times using ingredients native to the New World such as beans, pumpkin, corn and tomatoes. Fruit lovers should try carica, an exotic fruit grown only in northern Chile, which channels the flavors of peaches, pears, mangos and pineapples in one brightly colored yellow fruit.

Pick out a neighborhood bar near your hotel and order a 'terremoto', a cocktail of wine, grenadine, pineapple ice cream and Pisco (a domestic liquor made from grapes) during an evening out. Chile has a world class reputation for good red wine and guests to the country have many opportunities to not only sample different vintages, but to visit some of the best vineyards including those located in the Colchagua, Maipo and Casblanca valleys.

Chile is twenty-four times longer than it is wide; therefore the coastline of the country is extensive. With deserts to the north and forests to the south, you will experience a land of extreme contrasts and overwhelming beauty while traveling in Chile.

Most of the population is concentrated in the middle of the country in the cities. The extreme northern and southern ends of the country are very sparsely populated. The gateway and capital of Chile is Santiago, a very elegant and vibrant, modern city. The backdrop of the majestic Andean mountains is always a presence from the city's cobblestone plazas and colonial streets. Coastal cities such as Vina del Mar, Valparaiso, and San Antonio offer sandy white beaches and thermal hot springs; numerous vineyards surround the capital and there are seventeenth-century colonial haciendas, national parks and world class ski slopes within easy access for those endless opportunities for relaxing, sunbathing, skiing, hiking, mountain-climbing, horseback riding and rafting during your vacation to Chile.

Two of the most fantastic areas to travel to are the Atacama Desert (one of the most arid deserts in the world with an "otherworld" landscape and mysterious geoglyph designs), and the Lake District, famous for its spectacular scenery of deep blue mountain lakes, snow-capped volcanoes, and the pristine beauty of its forests. A trek for the more adventuresome will include a visit to Patagonia, the southern-most region of South America with its rugged scenery and wildlife. The city of Puntas Arenas is considered the gateway to Antarctica. Easter Island, despite the fact that it is over 2,000 miles away, is a possession of Chile having been annexed in 1888. A highlight of any tour to Easter Island will be seeing the huge images carved from volcanic stone that are positioned along the island.

Most visited cities: Santiago, Valparaiso, Punta Arenas, Atacama, Puerto Montt

Because of the country's natural barriers, Incan, and then subsequently Spanish invaders, were slow to arrive. When they did they found the natives to be formidable foes. The country gained its independence from Spain in 1817. In the late 19th century civil war broke out, and then in 1906 a devastating earthquake extensively damaged the city of Santiago, and destroyed Valparaiso, killing thousands of people. The period of the World Wars saw tension between conservatives and liberals, interrupted by an earthquake in 1939 that killed over 27,000 people. In the years since there was increasing polarization between the wealthy and the poor. Amid a growing clamor for social reform Salvador Allende was elected president in 1970 and set about nationalizing the country's economy and resources. After military forces seized power and Allende committed suicide, the country entered military rule under General Pinochet. After years of brutal dictatorship, in the late 1980's free elections were held once again, and Pinochet was defeated allowing Chile to return to democracy.

Santiago Escape
Santiago and Buenos Aires
Santiago and Easter Island
Santiago and Wine Country
Santiago to Buenos Aires with Lake Crossing