As Seen in…
Places to visit in Chile and on our Chile tours
Why visit Chile?
To the outsider, Chile seems an insular culture, bound by tradition, conservatism and a strong devotion to Catholicism, and yet visitors are immediately struck by the curiosity and heartfelt warmth and hospitality that the people here exhibit to strangers.
The isolated landscape is one of transition: glacial mountains on the Peruvian border give way to barren wilderness in the Atacama. Here the ground-breaking discovery of the existence of a primitive culture was found, proving that South American human occupation must have had its origins in sea-faring peoples, rather than migrants across the Baring Straits.
Again, the earliest successful cultures arose here, evidence of which lie just outside San Pedro de Atacama – the Chinchorro, the Atacameňo, the Diaguita all made their mark in the lush canyons of the foothills and such was their power that the Incas failed to break through. By the 1540s, the Spanish conquistadors arrived, eventually establishing Santiago, despite heavy local resistance. The virtual enslavement of the indigenous people meant that a lasting Spanish colony grew and began to harvest the rich Chilean mineral and crop resources.
Yet by 1818, Chile had won independence, ushering in centuries of infighting, political extremism, dictatorships, democracy and the eventual peace and outward-leaning nation that Chile has become. Blessed with vast reserves of precious metals like copper, Chile’s economy is slowly improving and it has become increasingly geared up to those who wish to push into its amazing landscapes. Despite many errors with sustainability and environmental damage, the government has now given over 19% of its land area to conservation and national parks.
A plethora of hiking opportunities and mountaineering routes, horse-riding, cycling, canoeing and diving are all assets which the country is only just beginning to realise. This is all set amidst some of the world’s most idiosyncratic landscapes: the intoxicating pumice labyrinth at Camp de Piedra Pomez offers a crazy collection of over 5,000 rock formations, carved by the attritional winds of the alitplano; the dramatic Geyser del Tatio, at 4,200m, offers a mesmerising field of 80 hot springs, the largest in the southern hemisphere; unforgettable sunsets across the Valle de la Lune and its surreal rippling dunes and kaleidoscopic rock formations are accompanied by an altitudinous heady sense of the fantastic.
Across this world, flora and fauna offer a rich bounty: the celebrated llama and alpaca have their stronghold in the northern altiplano as do the enigmatic rhea, whilst the mountain visacha is a wonderfully curious delight. Flamingos, coastal penguins and even the glimpse of a giant condor all satisfy the keen birdwatcher.
Any foray into Chile will leave you fumbling ecstatically for your camera, overwhelmed by the wonder of its landscapes, wildlife and wonderfully warm people again and again.