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A unique country of diverse landscapes
It is hardly surprising, given the length of Chile, that the country is such a land of contrasts. From the ice flows in the Antarctic South to the arid northern desert, Chile passes through a spectrum of geographical and cultural diversity. Some of the landscapes will leave you feeling at home with scenery that is reminiscent of rural England or the Highlands of Scotland, while others that may make you wonder if you're in another world.
- The cosmopolitan capital Santiago is quickly becoming one of the most-loved cities in South America
- It’s likely you've enjoyed a bottle of Chilean red at home, however nothing is better than sampling the produce in the country’s winelands
- The region of Patagonia, shared with Chile’s neighbour Argentina boasts serrated Andean peaks, flowing glaciers and much-loved wildlife
- San Pedro de Atacama, Chile’s most popular destination, is surrounded by barren desert landscapes, volcanoes and life-filled lagoons
- 2300 miles off the coast lies mystical Rapa Nui, more commonly known as Easter Island, a land of tradition and striking scenery
Best time to visit Chile
• The best time to visit northern Chile is in the Southern Hemisphere’s spring (Sep-Nov), when temperatures are pleasantly cool
• Wherever you are in Chile you may experience extreme variations between day and night time temperatures. With tours generally having early starts, you'll need to have something warm to wear
• In Santiago and the Central Valley the summers (Dec to Feb) are warm to hot and the winters are mild making it a great year-round destination
• The weather in Patagonia is unpredictable due to the South Pacific westerly air current, with high winds and occasional storms even during the summer. The region's high season falls in the months of January and February when the temperatures are slightly warmer. The months of October, November, March and April are cooler, however it is less windy and crowded. In winter the region is essentially inaccessible for all but the hardiest travellers
• Easter Island is best visited between January and March, although temperatures are agreeable for the rest of the year when the island will be less crowded.
Chile holiday highlights
Atacama in the north is the driest place in the world. Visit the Valley of the Moon, the Atacama Salt Flats and the Altiplanic lagoons.
Discover the spectacular fjords and glaciers of the ice fields in the south or take in mind-blowing scenery at Torres del Paine National Park. Explore gateway town Puerto Natales, nestled at the foot of the Riesco Mountain range and the last settlement before you reach the wilderness of Chilean Patagonia. Visit Puerto Varas, a small enclave of Germany in Chile's Lake District that's beautifully set on the edge of Lake Llanquihue opposite the perfect cone of the Osorno Vocano.
One of the remotest places on earth, Easter Island is covered in monumental volcanic carvings known as Moai. These human-like stone figures are an average of 4 metres in height, weigh approximately 14 tons and are between 500 and 750 years old.
• Chileans' concept of personal space differs to ours; people stand closer to each other than in the UK.
• Punctuality is rarely observed and locals often turn up over 20 minutes late.
• Wine should be poured with the right hand and the glass held by its stem.
• Latin Americans are casual and relaxed. Expect loud talking, exaggerated gestures and physical contact.
• Learn a few Spanish phrases, such as 'buenos días' (good morning) and 'salud' (cheers).
The scorched Atacama Desert of Northern Chile attracted worldwide media attention with the disastrous partial collapse of the San José mine in August 2010. The world watched with bated breath on 13 October as the miraculous rescue of the 33 miners, who were trapped between 400 and 500 metres underground, began. At 9:55pm local time the final miner, Luis Urzua, reached the surface and parties began across Chile and all over the world.