Land of Fire and Ice – Chile
I bet that lots of you have never heard of this country. Chile… where the hell is that? Well, find out that it’s one of the biggest and, more importantly, one of the most prosperous countries in South America. Located on the Western coast, facing the Pacific Ocean, Chile is a long and thin piece of land stretching almost from the North to the South of the continent. It is a country with loads of attractions, including different natural wonders (hence the title), but also numerous cultural jewels.
Santiago de Chile is the capital and the main entrance point for foreigners. There are more than 10 million people, metropolis is located in the Santiago basin, the country’s central valley, surrounded by the high peaks of the Andes. The city, as so many in South America, has managed to keep loads of the old Spanish colonial architecture in place, with the San Francisco cathedral and Palacio de la Moneda (the seat of Chile’s president) being included in UNESCO’s World Heritage even.
But Chile’s main tourist attractions are not in the capital. The Andes, one of the longest and highest mountain ranges in the world, cross the country from North to South. Visitors can trek, hike or do mountain biking through these spectacular mountains. The Atacama Desert lies just at the foot of the mountains. Researchers believe that it is the driest place on Earth – if you want to see how a piece of Mars on Earth looks like, do visit this dry wasteland.
The coast provides for loads of attractions and outdoor activities, including surfing, kite surfing, windsurfing and scuba diving – but do be aware of the sharks lurking around. Valparaiso is the biggest city near the ocean – kind of like a Chilean San Francisco. It has a lot of old architectural heritage, it’s a big port and also boosts an expanded network of small vintage trams.
But the true wonders of this incredible country lie in the South – the world famous Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire, in Spanish). Split between Chile and Argentina, this region is the closest continental land mass to Antarctica. Made out of numerous islands and peninsulas, it boosts massive volcanoes, interesting wildlife and numerous possibilities for outdoor activities. The sub polar climate means that the weather will be harsh, so bring proper clothes and footwear.
All in all, Chile is definitely a country worth a visit, not just in South America, but worldwide. The natural beauty, combined with important colonial heritage and warm people, make it the ideal place to spend a lovely and… adventurous vacation.