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Looking at a map of Chile you cannot but feel a touch of amazement: what an exceedingly long, narrow strip of land, stretching along the coast of southern South America, to the west of Argentina. Tucked as it is between the towering Andes mountains and the endless Pacific Ocean, it would not seem to have much room for anything. Politically, Chile is divided in 12 regions, including the Antarctic territory, plus the metropolitan region.

The official language of Chile is Spanish, and its currency the Chilean peso. Chile is a mestizo country, of mixed European and indigenous extraction, and the indigenous tradition is still visible in several parts of the country. Chile's literacy rate is one of Latin America's highest. Nearly 90% of the Chileans are Roman Catholic, but there exists freedom of religious expression.

You'd be amazed, though. Its 4,300km-long, 180km-wide territory harbors some of the finest scenery in the Americas, a bewildering variety of climates - only the humid, hot tropical ones are absent and landscapes ranging from the world's most arid desert to the rainiest spot on the planet, including a Sahara in the north, a California in the center, an Alpine district in the mid-south and a Norway in the deep south, plus some places that bear no comparison, such as Easter Island, Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica, and the Atacama Desert.

Add to this a prosperous economy, some of the best telecommunications anywhere, good infrastructure, and health services, friendly people, excellent tourist services, and a total absence of poisonous plants or insects, and you have a destination that is hard to outclass.
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Atacama Video

A video of the Actacama Dessert in Chile by a youtube traveler

Gastronomy in Chile

CevicheAnything and everything grows in Chile, and eating well here means taking advantage of the tremendous range and outstanding quality of seafood and locally produced agricultural products. Though seeking out local dishes and specialties is always part of the adventure, there are a few dishes that you'll come across nearly everywhere.

Empanadas are snack-sized turnovers filled with meat, cheese, or shellfish, and are a staple of daily life, not to be missed. Fresh-baked bread, in a variety of styles, is available in local panaderias in even the smallest towns. A surprising variety of excellent sandwiches make for good, quick meals.

Chile's seafood is unequalled in variety and quality. Mussels, clams, and urchins, oysters and scallops, salmon and sea bass, the list of fish and shellfish goes on and on, and a morning visit to fish markets anywhere in the country is an overwhelming sensory experience. Paila marina is a delectable shellfish stew available throughout the country.

North American and European visitors will find the quality of red meat served here to far exceed that which they are accustomed to. Asados (barbeques) and parilladas (mixed grill) are extremely popular and widely available. Finally, even the most voracious sweet-tooth will be satisfied by locally made italian-style ice cream (helado) and deserts made with dulce de leche, also known as manjar. From north to south, Chilean cuisine is as varied and unexpected as the country's marvelous geography.

Viña del Mar and Valparaíso, Chile

Just an hour and a half northwest of Santiago, neighboring Viña del Mar and Valparaíso are like two sides of a coin. Viña, the 'Garden City,' is one of Chile's premier beach resorts, with excellent hotel and shopping. Valparaíso, immortalized in the words of Pablo Neruda, is one of South America's most charismatic and historic ports, with its charming ascensores (funicular railways) and colorful hillside constructions.

Santiago & Central Valley, Chile

Santiago, Chile's capital city and cultural and economic center of the nation, Santiago occupies a spectacular intermontane basin at the foot of the highest peaks in the Andes. Safe and modern, Santiago features excellent restaurants and hotels, cultural events and shopping. Ski areas, national parks, colonial haciendas and wineries all make easy day trips from Santiago.

The Cajon del Maipo is a glacially sculpted valley just southeast of Santiago. It makes an excellent day or weekend trip. Whitewater rafting , hiking, and horseback riding are among the activities offered in Santiago's backyard getaway

Lakes and Volcanoes, Chile

Chile's southern region of lakes and volcanoes is an expression of nature's inimitable aesthetic and startling exuberance. Between volcanic cataclysms, glacial sculpting, torrential rivers and massive temperate rainforests, this is very much a landscape in flux, modeling and remodeling itself before our eyes.

Chile Health

Chile is considered one of the safest Latin American destinations, and your visit should be risk-free as long you take the proper precautions. Some health risks may include altitude sickness in the mountainous regions and hypothermia.

Chile Nature

Running along the western coast of the Southern Cone of the South American continent, Chile has vineyards, lakes, altiplanos, salt deposits, deserts, snowcapped peaks, glaciers, and fjords with the most varied flora and fauna. Chile has some of the highest peaks in the Andes.

Golf in Chile

Golf can be played in many parts of the country. Chile has over 58 golf courses, with some of the best courses located in Santiago, Viña del Mar, Valparaiso, Pucon, and Punta Arenas, where the world's southernmost golf course is located

Skiing in Chile

Chile is home to the best skiing in South America. Its terrain includes Portillo, rated one of the world's top-10 ski areas; Valle Nevado, with the southern hemisphere's largest skiable terrain; and, Termas de Chillán on the scenic volcanic slopes of Volcan Chillán. The Chilean ski season starts around June/July and generally lasts untill September/October.

Atacama & Altiplano, Chile

Northern Chile is a land of extreme contrasts, where two uniquely Andean environments, the Altiplano and the Atacama Desert, combine with unpredictable and overwhelmingly beautiful results. The vast and colorful Atacama Desert is said to be the driest desert in the world. In some parts of this desert, no precipitation has ever been recorded.
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