Introduction

 Introduction

Chile is a land of extremes. From the arid plains of the north to the southern icebergs of Patagonia, where colonies of penguins live, there are few countries on earth that could claim such diversity and so many varied attractions. It is this fascinating mix that draws visitors to Chile, many of whom return time and again to experience yet another facet of this unique land.

Most trips are likely to start in the capital Santiago, itself a microcosm of the extremes evidenced in the country as a whole. Its setting alone is enough to make you hold your breath – the mountain backdrop to the east forming a constant orientation point wherever you go. With over five million inhabitants Santiago is no stranger to bustling crowds and all the pros and cons that go with such enormous conglomerations.  Many examples of colonial architecture remain peeking out between the highrises that have shot up over the past few years. The country’s business, cultural and financial centre, this is where the monied denizens of Chile are to be spotted with all the usual trappings of wealth – alongside some of the poorest people on earth.

It is Chile’s splendid natural scenery though that attracts most visitors. The southern region encompasses a large part of Patagonia, the place of myths and legends that, though not as “undiscovered” as you might think, is one of the last places on earth where you can find genuine remoteness. This region of iridescent lakes, ice fields and snowy mountains is home to an astounding array of flora and fauna and offers limitless opportunities for hiking and discovery.

Equally enticing is Easter Island far into the Pacific, with its infamous moai stone figures looking out to sea; and the volcanoes and lakes of the southern Lake District are incredible natural spectacles. Chile is a favourite destination too with adventure enthusiasts and sporty types. The country has some world class ski resorts as well as numerous possibilities for climbing and trekking.

For those who prefer some relaxation, the Pacific coast running down the entire length of the country offers innumerable beaches. And of course you’re never far from some of the world’s best wines.

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