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At the southwestern edge of South America, Chile feels a world away. Mountains, glaciers, deserts and a rugged coastline are just some of Chile’s charms but there’s also a rich native culture and bustling cities to discover along its long, thin 4,270-km expanse.

The entry point for most is through the capital city, Santiago, where the major international airport connects this far-flung country to the rest of the world. Glistening skyscrapers stand out against the snowy frame of the Andes mountains but Santiago also boasts old world charm in the bohemian neighbourhoods of Lastarria and Bellavista. Plaza de Armas iRead More
s Santiago’s hub, which is just a stone’s throw from the Central Market and La Vega, where you’ll find all of Chile’s exotic fruits and sea creatures on display. Well-heeled city folk dine in the upmarket neighborhoods of Providencia and Las Condes, where some of the country’s best restaurants and bars hide.

Just on the doorstep of Santiago are the wine regions of Aconcagua, Maipo, and Casablanca which offer perfect day trips in wine country. It’s well worth spending a night drinking wine under the stars and between the vines in one of Chile’s award-winning winery accommodations in the Central Valley. It’s here, especially in Colchagua, where avant-garde architecture and fine wine-paired dining experiences meet.

Although there’s plenty of ways to relax and unwind in Chile, most voyage here for the excellent outdoor adventures. There are few places in the world with four natural borders like Chile. To the north, the country is hemmed in by the world’s driest desert, the Atacama. Unparalleled star-gazing have attracted the likes of NASA to set up base here, but San Pedro de Atacama is just as popular with nomads drawn to the special energy of this high-altitude desert plain. Geysers, volcanoes, and salt-crusted valleys are just some of the natural wonders found within.

To the east, the Andes mountains run down the spine of the country, separating Chile from Argentina. Fishing in the lake district and river rafting in Pucón are highlights, while skiing, climbing and hiking attract visitors to the mountains year-round. In the south is the holy grail for hikers, the W around the Torres del Paine. The remarkable spires of ancient granite make one of the world’s most beautiful natural sculptures rising from the vast Patagonian steppe. Pumas, condors, and guanacos will catch your gaze, if you can manage to pull your eyes away from the creaking glaciers, stunning fjords, and milky glacial lakes that extend through Chile’s southern border and the gateway to Antarctica.

The final frontier is to the west, Chile’s Pacific coast. From the white pebble beaches of the north, down to the volcanic black sands of the south, Chile’s coastline is unarguably photogenic. The mysterious islands of Chiloé and Easter Island might pull you away from the mainland, but almost everyone is lured back by the calm waves at Viña del Mar and the chaos of color and culture that is Valparaíso city. Chile may be slim but it’s diverse to discover.

Best of Chile: Santiago Travel Guide

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