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Sports and the Outdoors

The Lake District is Chile's outdoor-tourism center, with outfitters and guides ready to fix you up and take you out for any activity your adventurous heart could desire. Fly-fishing, hiking, and rafting top the list, but the entire country has caught the outdoor bug, and activities abound.

Sendero de Chile. Though far from complete, the ambitious Chilean Trail will eventually provide a continuous north-south trail running the entire length of the country (8,500 km/5,282 mi). Currently 1,800 km (1,118 mi) of trail are equipped for hikers, bikers, and horseback riders.

Volcán Ojos del Salado. If you're a mountaineering enthusiast, you likely already know about Ojos de Salado in El Norte Chico. The world's highest active volcano, it soars to 6,893 meters (22,609 feet). There are dozens of other challenging climbs all along the eastern border of the country.

Pucón. Chile's all-around adventure destination is the area around Pucón and Villarrica, where everything from rafting and kayaking to climbing and horseback riding is available.

Valle Nevado. Since Chile's seasons are the opposite of the Northern Hemisphere's, you can ski or snowboard from June to September. Most of Chile's ski resorts are in the Andes close to Santiago. With the top elevations at the majority of ski areas extending to 3,300 meters (10,825 feet), you can expect long runs and deep, dry snow.

Southern Coast. Fly-fishermen should explore the trip options in southern Chile. There are numerous places to fish, most of which are much less crowded and much more remote than any place you may have been before.

Natural Wonders

Norway has fjords. Bavaria has forests. Nepal has mountains. Arizona has deserts. Chile offers all these—so it's understandable if you feel disoriented each time you step off a domestic flight that's whisked you from one region to another.

The Andes. A defining feature of Santiago is its proximity to the Andes. They dwarf downtown office buildings, and serve as a convenient way to get oriented. Everywhere else you might go in Chile, the Andes will be there as a defining characteristic, and a reminder of the isolation from which Chile is recently emerging.

Atacama Desert. The most arid spot on Earth is in El Norte Grande's Atacama Desert; no measurable precipitation has ever been recorded there. The region's Cerros Pintados form the world's largest group of geoglyphs.

Volcán Villarrica. This volcano in the Lake District is one of the world's most active—although you shouldn't let this deter you from hiking to the snow-covered summit.

Laguna San Rafael. A cobalt-blue mountain of ice, this 4-km (2½-mi) glacier south of Coyhaique in the Aisén Region is a doubly arresting attraction: it gives off thunderous sounds as chunks of it break off and stir up the water as you pass by (safely on your ship, of course).

Parque Nacional Fray Jorge. This is Chile's only cloud forest, and a great retreat from the relentless sun of El Norte Chico.

Torres del Paine. No photo can ever do justice to the ash-gray, glacier-molded spires of Patagonia's most visited attraction.

The Pleasures of the Vine

Back in the 1980s, when formerly inexpensive California wines started to jump in price, Chilean vintners saw an opening and began to introduce their products to the world. The rest, as they say, is history.

Concha y Toro. Chile's largest winery has a number of different labels—some made exclusively for the Chilean market—that usually offer good value. It's an easy day trip from Santiago, and the tours are extremely popular.

Matetic. If you drive between Santiago and the beach towns of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso—or then again, even if you don't—make time to stop at Matetic, a unique property in the San Antonio Valley. There's plenty to see and do, including eating at the restaurant, bicycling around the property, and visiting the strikingly modern winery.

Tren del Vino. Taste several of Colchagua's best wines by taking this train on one of its Saturday trips between San Fernando and the Greenvic station. In the Colchagua Valley, ultramodern Casa Lapostolle is also well worth visiting. Its Clos Apalta 2005 vintage was named the top wine of the year by Wine Spectator in 2008.

Music

Although there may not be a genre of Chilean music as well known as Argentine tango or Brazilian samba or bossa nova, Chilean musicians have produced a wide variety of high-quality music.

Folkloric music. Los Hermanos Campos and Los Huasos Quincheros are two well-known folkloric groups that include cuecas (music to accompany the eponymous Chilean national dance) among their repertoire. "La Cueca Brava" is a more urban/explicit version of cueca, performed by Los Chileneros, or (in a more modern version) by the female group Las Capitalinas. Chiloé is known for its folkloric music, as is Easter Island. Groups like Inti-Illimani, Los Jaivas, and Illapu mix Andean music and Latin American folklore with other elements like rock, jazz, and even reggae.

The Parra Family. The Parras are a prolific and influential musical/artistic family in Chile. Members include Violeta Parra, perhaps the most important Chilean musician to date, her son Angel (folklore musician), and Angel's daughter Javiera, of the band Javiera y Los Imposibles (pop/rock).

Rock. Los Prisioneros, Joe Vasconcellos, Los Tetas, Tiro de Gracia, Chancho en Piedra, La Ley, Lucybell, Saiko, Los Bunkers, and Los Tres are some of the most important Chilean rockeros.

Hear it Live. For live music in Santiago, try La Peña de los Parras, el Club de Jazz de Santiago, La Casa en el Aire, and El Mesón Nerudiano. Some of the most important annual music events in Chile are the Festival de la Canción in Viña del Mar (February), Santiago's Festival Internacional Providencia Jazz (January), and the Lake District's Semanas Musicales de Frutillar (January and February).

The best place to buy Chilean music is La Feria del Disco, a national chain.

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