I had not planned to start writing about this, one of the countries currently in my top 10, but I could not lose face to a large part of my political family that has suddenly decided to visit it.
Today it is the third country in human development index in America, only behind Canada and the United States, and its size doubles that of Japan or Germany. A priori, a destination with these numbers should present exorbitant figures for international tourism, but barely reached 6 million foreign visitors in 2018. This is partly due to two circumstances:
- That the varied and extraordinary of its geography is conditioned by its distribution. Chile has an area similar to that of Turkey, little larger than France, but it measures 4,300 km long, with an average width of just 177 km. Translation: it is a very long and very narrow country. Translation: the distances to be traveled to see the main points of the country are enormous.
- That it is located there at the bottom end of the map does not help: except for South Americans, Chile is far from everything. But that also happens to New Zealand and almost nobody is unaware, perhaps thanks to the great film productions of The Lord of the Rings universe, that is one of the best countries that exist in terms of nature. Well, another of the few members of that category is undoubtedly Chile and, nevertheless, most people do not know what there is exactly here, or they believe that famous places they have seen in photographs of landscapes of incomparable beauty are not in Chile.
It is a misunderstood and somewhat unknown country for tourists:
- In the north, the driest deserts on the planet, with salt flats, eroded surrealist forms and in the background volcanoes with peaks crowned by perpetual snows over 4000 meters of altitude. Humidity is so low that it is one of the best places to see the stars from all over the globe. The best known is the Atacama, but further north the area of Calama also keep surprises.
- Its cities are not much, and the most noteworthy are located about 900 km south of the deserts:
- Among them stands out Santiago. The capital of the country and considered the city with the best quality of life in it, with more than 6 million inhabitants (one third of the population of the whole country), and settled in one of the three zones of the world considered of better climate (the other two are Southern California and the Canary Islands) is a city that has managed to combine the old with modernity; its glass skyscrapers alternate with parks and colonial aspect squares under the imposing shadow of the Andes to the east.
- Other remarkable sites do not abandon this excellent climate, they are:
- Viña del Mar, but not for beautiful, but modern and comfortable, Santiago’s vacation city is a kind of Chilean Torremolinos where its soul has been sold to tourism.
- And its counterpoint Valparaíso, the other extreme, included in UNESCO’s heritage, preserves its identity of low wooden houses in multiple colors located on the slopes of the hills near the sea.
- Although if we want to stop at an intermediate point, the city of La Serena comes to be more of the same as Viña del Mar, modern, touristic, with great beaches, without charm but ideal to rest.
- We continue 1000 km to the south and the good comes again, the north of Chilean Patagonia, with the very scenic Lake District, full of perfect volcanoes like Villarrica, glacial lakes such as Todos los Santos and forests like Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve with some of the most singular accommodations. The icing is the quiet Chiloé, a place that many backpackers insist on considering the most pleasant surprise of the trip.
- If we descend another 900 km in a southerly direction along tortuous roads, we will reach the center of Patagonia, where the huge glacier in Laguna de San Rafael National Park stands out and the so-called Capillas de Mármol, a natural monument that forms a colorful phenomenon due to the erosion of a large rock in General Carrera Lake.
- However, most of them skip the previous zone to go almost another 1000 km to the south to one of the country’s strong points, the natural parks in southern Patagonia, which are not accessible by road within Chile due to the deflection of its west coast by glacial action. The star is Torres del Paine National Park, which despite its relatively small size, contains some of the most fantastic mountains on the planet, as well as glaciers and turquoise lakes.
- We can still go somewhere southern else, and we will find the Strait of Magellan, territory of penguins, glaciers and impressive fjords to travel by boat. Or continue to Cape Horn and literally contemplate the end of the world (with permission from Antarctica) next to the austral auroras or the midnight sun, according to the time of year.
- We are not finished yet. Santiago may be another big city, Valparaiso may resemble more than one Central American town, Atacama does not differ much from the neighboring Bolivian desert and there are such magnificent mountains and glaciers in Patagonia Argentina, New Zealand or the Canadian Rockies, but Chile has another ace up its sleeve, a unique extra, Easter Island. No one doubts that Rapa Nui is not another Polynesian island; its ancestral culture, developed apart from other civilizations for hundreds of years, is famous throughout the world for the construction of its representative statues, the moais.
Chile therefore has all the conditions for nature lovers, but again its geographical distribution is its worst enemy:
- Given its high degree of development, the possibility of accidents or diseases is low; It is considered the safest country in South America, with crime rates similar to those of European countries such as Spain or Croatia.
- But this degree of development means that prices are not cheap, they hardly differ from those of European countries such as Croatia or Greece.
- And traveling all over Chile involves many thousands of kilometers by road, sometimes with no other choice but to cross into Argentina, or buy many flights; in one case or another we will lose a lot of time and money in transfers, a circumstance that is very important to take into account, because more than one would feel so many transfers are wasting their trip.
That said, most of those who have read this article will have made it clear that you can not see everything, now well: the desert?, Patagonia?, the end of the world?, Easter Island?… What are you going to choose?
- SANTIAGO DE CHILE
- EASTER ISLAND
- ATACAMA DESERT
- LAKE DISTRICT
- TORRES DEL PAINE NATIONAL PARK
- STRAIT OF MAGALLANES AND PUNTA ARENAS
- CAPE HORN
- WHEN TO GO
- DANGERS, PROBLEMS AND ANNOYANCES
∇ Destinations / ∇ America / ∇ South America
Mora Family, have a good time, I’ll keep on writing.