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One third of the thin, snake-like country of Chile is cloaked in the Andes so it’s inevitable that you’ll catch a glimpse of those towering mountains, so keep your cameras at the ready! Chile’s diverse landscape and climate reflects the long shape of the country and ranges from Atacama, the driest desert on earth, to Mediterranean beaches in the middle to rainforest in the south.
There are records of Chile being populated as early as 1200 BC, and before the Spanish colonized Chile in the 16th century, the north was controlled by the Incas and the south was dominated by the nomadic Araucanos. Chile won its independence from Spain in 1818 and after various dictatorships and a harsh military-led government for most of the 1970s and 1980s, Chile eventually made a peaceful transition to democracy.
If touring the south of Chile, you should visit Puerto Varas, famed for its German architecture and food, and surrounded by snowy mountain peaks. While you’re there don’t skip the port town of Puerto Montt which is only 12 minutes away. Explore the square, admire the cathedral and haggle with sellers at the seafood market while you stroll alongside sandy beaches and fishing boats. Do take time to walk around the historic port of Valparaiso too or enjoy the laid-back glamour of the chic seaside resort of Viña del Mar. Easter Island hides way out in the Pacific Ocean, and opportunities to visit these mysterious sculptures definitely shouldn’t be refused.
No trip to Chile would be complete without a day or two investigating the capital city, Santiago. Nature lovers will appreciate the fresh and vast Maipo Valley, where the Maipo Rivers runs from the Andes and in to Santiago to irrigate the best known wine-producing region in Chile. Make time to sample Chile’s fine red wines, as well as some delicious empanadas while you’re in Santiago. Deeper into the city you’ll stumble upon Club Hípico, the country’s oldest thoroughbred horse race track where if you’re lucky you could catch a Latin America festival or a huge international pop concert!
Right in the centre of Santiago is the busy Plaza de Armas and the huge O’Higgins Park where you’ll find young families enjoying the sunshine and space. For more historical interest, try Cousiño Palace or visit the cathedral. At the fascinating Pre-Colombian Art Museum, you’ll view one of the most complete collections of ceramics, ancient textiles and relics of American culture in the world. On your way back to your hotel stop at the Central Market, which dates back to the 1800s; you’re sure to find unique souvenirs here. Finally, cross the Mapocho River to San Cristóbal Hill for splendid views of Santiago; the thriving heart and soul of Chile.
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