Information About Chile

Discover South America has assembled Basic Information about Chile. We have Travel Information divided into several sections for easier viewing. This sections are: Summary, Cuisine, History, Culture, Weather, Natural Aspects and Travel Tips.

Chile – known for its large lakes; the Patagonia, shared by Argentina and Chile; the Torres del Paine National Park in the Chilean Patagonia; Easter Island and its Giant moai statues; evergreen forests and snow-capped volcanoes. It is also home to important inter-oceanic passages like the Strait of Magellan, the Beagle Canal and the Drake Passage. Chile possesses 4,000 kilometers of coastline, extensive beaches and towering cliffs hanging over the sea. It features some of the highest peaks of the Andes, including Ojos del Salado Volcano (6,893 meters), the Llulaillaco Volcano (6,739 meters), Tres Cruces (6,749 meters) and Cerro Tupungato (6,635 meters).

We hope you enjoy all the information about Chile, its Cities and Tourism Destinations that we put together for you.

About Chile – Summary

With its great cultural and natural diversity, Chile is a country that attracts and dazzles people that seek, in one place, all types of tourism experiences. Located in South America, Chile benefits from the richness and culture of its neighboring countries, its own natural beauties, and the amount of activities and adventures that it offers to the tourist. From the breathtaking skiing in the Andes corridor to the Wine Region, which offers tasting and appreciation of the cultivation of the best wines of the world, Chile has it all..

To present Chile and its various attractions in a simple and clear way, it is common to divide the country into areas: in the North, one finds the vast Atacama Desert, recognized as the driest in the world and rife with archeological discoveries; the capital, located in the Central area, is Santiago – a city rich in economic and cultural history, and situated in a primary region of production of many of the best wines of the world; Easter Island, located in the West of Chile, near the Pacific Ocean, possesses incredible historical monuments; the Lakes Region is famous for its volcanic activity and numerous beautiful lakes; finally, in the extreme South of Chile one finds Patagonia, with its crystalline lakes and ponds, ice glaciers and national parks, the most famous of which is the National Park Torres Del Paine – Biosphere World Reserve.

If you would like further information please click on the links above.

Chile is the longest country in South America, with a longitude of 4329km, and also the narrowest, with a width of only 177km. The country is located between the Pacific Ocean to the West, Argentina to the East and Peru to the North. The total population is 15 million inhabitants, 6 million of whom live in the capital, Santiago, founded in 1541 by Pedro de Valdivia and surrounded by snow-covered mountains.

Chile is divided into 13 regions: Aisen del General Carlos Ibánez del Campo, Antofagasta, Araucania, Atacama, Bio-Bio, Coquimbo, Libertador General Bernardo OHiggins, Los Lagos, Magallanes y la Antartida Chilena, Maule, Region Metropolitana (Santiago), Tarapaca, Valparaiso.

The official language is Spanish and it is a marvelous and easy country to explore. Chile has an excellent transportation system, friendly people, excellent cuisine, beautiful landscapes, and endless activities, such as biking, surfing, rafting, riding, skiing (the best ski mountains in South America are in Chile), climbing, mountaineering, hiking and fishing. In Chile you have the advantage of being able to enjoy all these activities in any season of the year.

For more information on Chiles Destinations please click on the links below.

  • Information About Antofagasta
  • Information About Arica
  • Information About Easter Island
  • Information About Iquique
  • Information About Lakes Region
  • Information About Patagonia
  • Information About Puerto Natales
  • Information About Torres del Paine
  • Information About San Pedro de Atacama
  • Information About Ski Region
  • Information About Wine Country and Vineyards

Chile Cuisine

The gastronomic experience Chile has to offer is incredible and wide-ranging; from its first-class seafood, to rich agricultural products, to traditional empanadas, one feasts like a king inside Chile’s borders. Cuisine is something one must of course explore locally, but there is a plethora of wonderful foods to be found nearly everywhere in Chile.

Probably the most common food in Chile, and for that matter South America as well, is the empanada, a flaky turnover filled with meat, chicken, cheese, seafood, or some combination of the four. Great for a quick snack or lunch, empanadas can be found everywhere from street corners to neighborhood restaurants.

Unlike many other South American countries, Chile has fantastic fresh-baked breads, bakeries, and sandwiches, perfect for a good, healthy, quick meal. The local panaderias can be found in the biggest city to the smallest town, and is a quaint cultural experience in and of itself.

Also famous in Chile as well as many other South American countries like Argentina and Brazil, is the red meat. The quality of meat and preparation is superior to that of North America and Europe, and Asados (barbecues) parilladas are, aside from being another cultural experience, simply delicious and prevalent in any region of the country.

For dessert, be sure to visit the local heladerias to try home-made, Italian-style ice cream. For something a little different, try the various sweets made from dulce de leche, a caramel like sauce made from condensed milk.

Rest assured that with all the wonderful cuisine Chile has to offer, no traveler will go hungry!

Chile History

The country’s history is as extensive as its coastline is long. The northern region of Chile formed part of the Inca empire, and the more southerly regions were originally occupied by other indigenous groups.

Spanish explorers, conquerors and settlers arrived in the mid 1530s and began a struggle with the native residents that lasted more than 300 years. When the last Arauca Indians on Chiloe Island surrendered, the Spanish hold on the land was complete. By that point, however, European settlers had already made substantial moves toward independence from Spain (led by a hero with the unlikely name of Bernardo OHiggins).

Though Chile’s political history since then has been erratic, the country has enjoyed constitutional rule and a republican form of government throughout much of its history.

The War of the Pacific, fought more than a century ago against Peru and Bolivia, gave Chile an important territory: the mineral-rich Atacama Desert. The next major rift in the nations history occurred in 1970 when economic difficulties and political unrest followed the election of South Americas first Marxist president, Salvador Allende.

The tensions culminated in 1973 when the military junta headed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte took over the country.

For the next 15 years, Pinochet ruled the country with the proverbial iron fist. Critics of his regime were quickly silenced (and often disappeared altogether) as the general isolated Chile from most of the world.

Chiles democratic tradition was revived after Pinochet decisively lost a 1988 plebiscite (he had wanted a confirmation of his presidential powers until 1997). A presidential election brought a civilian, Patricio Aylwin, into power, and since then democracy has continued.

For the past 15 years, Pinochet has managed to evade trial for the alleged 3,000 murders committed as President, granting amnesty to his regime and leaving a constitution making prosecution for his crimes extremely difficult. In more recent years, Pinochet has claimed that he is unfit for trial due to old age and mental illness.

In 2000 Chiles Supreme Court freed Pinochet from his immunity, allowing for possible prosecution of crimes committed at home and abroad (mostly against Spanish citizens). And after an impressive interview on Miami television last year, the Chilean Supreme court has finally declared Pinochet fit for trial.

Chile Culture

Two lively and contrasting cultural strains predominate Chile: the cosmopolitan culture of the affluent urban population, and the popular, more traditional culture of the peasants, which is predominantly Spanish but also contains traces of Araucanian heritage. The latter influences are strongest in Chilean music and dance. Chile also has an extremely rich literary tradition and has produced two Nobel Prize winners in literature, poets Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda.

Language and a common history have promoted cultural homogeneity in the country. Even the Araucanians and certain Aymara minorities in the north share the values of the Chilean identity while continuing to cherish their own cultural heritage.

Chileans have always displayed a high degree of tolerance toward the customs and traditions of minority groups, as well as toward Christian and non-Christian religious practices.

The flavor of local custom and tradition in Chile is readily observable in the numerous colorful religious festivals that take place at various localities throughout the country. Hundreds of thousands of spectators are drawn to these processions.

Chile Weather

Chile stretches over 4,300 km (2,700 mi) along the southwestern coast of South America. Because of its length, Chile encompasses a variety of climates (the country contains both arid deserts and icebergs). There is no one time that is perfect to visit every part of the country, but our favorite season is summer (October-March).

Northern region

Extreme aridity prevails over the northern part of the country; the average annual rainfall in this region is 0.10 cm (0.04 inches). Temperatures are moderate along the coast throughout the year and more extreme inland, especially in the central basin. The average temperatures for the hottest (February) and coldest (July) months are 22ºC (72F) and 16ºC (60F).

Central Chile

Central Chile (30-40 degrees latitude) has a Mediterranean type of climate, with cool and rainy winters (April to September) but without a completely dry season. Average annual precipitation increases substantially and temperatures decrease toward the south. The average temperatures for the hottest (January) and coldest (July) months at Santiago are 20ºC (68F) and 8ºC (46.6F), respectively. The average annual precipitation at Santiago is approximately 38 cm (15 inches).

Southern region

The climate of the southern region is cool and rainy the year round. It is characterized by abundant low clouds. The average temperature for the warmest (January) and the coldest (July) months are 14ºC (57F) and 4ºC (40F) respectively. The average annual precipitation is 302 cm (119 inches).

The changes of the snow line on the westward-facing slopes of the Andes can serve as an indication of the variation in climatic conditions with latitude and altitude. Most travelers visit the southern region during Summer time (from November to March), however we can recommend travelers to travel in off-season as well, particularly between March and May en September and November.

As the trees change their leaves and produce all sorts of colors in the Autumn months of March thru May and even when there is snow in September the landscape changes dramatically with clear skies and white mountains, as Spring begins.

Chile Natural Aspects

Chile is one of the most geographically interesting countries on the map. Its unusual shape, very skinny and long, running almost 3000 miles north to south, provides for an enormous variety of climates, landscapes, and natural wonder. Geographically, Chile is generally divided into four regions (north to south): Atacama, Santiago, The Lake District and Patagonia.

The Atacama Desert Region is the most arid desert in the entire world. There are locations within this desert where it has never rained, and others that have absolutely no humidity. Generally speaking this aridity is caused by the Andes Mountains and the flowing of the Humboldt Current.

This type of environment provides optimal conditions for archeological preservation. There are several fantastic museums here, including San Miguel Museum in the Azapa Valley in Arica and the Padre Le Paige Museum in San Pedro de Atacama. And if the desire is to see art in its original location, the Atacama has an incredible collection of rock art, including paintings, petroglyphs, and geoglyphs, one of which is the world’s largest human image ever drawn.

Atacama is also home to many desert ghost towns built during the nitrate boom at the turn of the last century. The geology of this desert will tickle the geology fan. Because of years and years of volcanic and erosive activity in this arid environment, the minerals in this region are extremely rich. Wind blown hills show multicolored rows of minerals, volcanoes dot the eastern horizon, and with them vast salt flats, hot springs, and mineral deposits.

The El Tatio Geysers erupt everyday at dawn, creating beautifully bizarre mineral structures steam rising as high as 10 meters into the air. All this can be seen with tours into the Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos and the Lauca National Park.

Santiago lies in the increasingly famous vineyard region of Chile. The climate in this area is perfect for winemaking, and the region boasts 4 distinct valleys and 8 wineries in all. Trips to any of these vineyards are fascinating, as one learns the story of how the original rootstocks were imported from Europe (mostly France) in the 18th century, just before the Phylloxera plague destroyed vineyards across Europe and the world. Chile is the only country to possess the original strain of the rootstock..

The most well-known wineries are Concha y Toro, Cousiño Macul, Santa Carolina and Undurraga, several of which feature beautifully constructed parks and elegant mansions from the turn of the last century.

The introduction to the southern region of Chile, the Lake District, is one rife with rivers and volcanoes which provide for wide valleys and an overall geographical delight for the eyes. National parks and reserves provide much national interest for the traveler, as they protect native forests that include millenarian tree species, such as the larch.

The area from lake Calafaquen to lake Pirihueico is known as the Seven Lakes district, because they share the same river basin and are connected by an intricate system of rivers. The most outstanding lakes have traditionally been selected as follows: Catafquen, Rinihue and Panguipulli.

Near the city Osorno, one can enjoy Osorno National Park with its Rupanco and Lianquihue lakes, the latter of which possess some fantastic destinations (including the beautiful Saltos del Petrohud waterfall) for swimming and enjoying the outdoors. This region offers the adventurer the full palate of outdoor activities: trekking, fishing, mountain biking, rafting, sailing, skiing in Antillanca, relaxing at the Puyehue hotsprings and observing the flora and fauna.

The stark and barren landscape of Patagonia is a marvel of natural wonder. Enormous lakes, thermal springs, fjords, an unexplored ice-field 248 miles long, hanging glaciers, larch forests, national parks and colonists settlements are just some of the amazing natural phenomena to be seen.

All this lies within a territory which is virtually uninhabited, as only 2% of Chileans live in this region. For the rafting and kayaking lovers, the Futaleufu river is a must-do, possessing some of the wildest whitewater in the world, while the area also offers plenty of lagoons (such as the San Rafael) and other glaciers for sailing and cruises. There is also a multitude of options for climbing, sea-kayaking, trekking, and fishing. Of course the most spectacular natural wonders here in Patagonia are its immense glaciers and fjords.

Near the end of the Southern Road lies the Patagonian Ice Fields sprawling across the Andes, and of course one cannot miss the most equatorial glacier in the world, San Rafael. When the glaciers of the Pleistocene era gouged enormous, steep valleys into the Andes, Patagonia’s magnificent fjords were born.

When the glaciers finally receded and sea levels rose, these immense valleys filled with water to form the incredible Quintupeu, Cahueimó, Puyuhuapi and Quitralco fjords. After trekking the glaciers, navigating the fjords, or rafting some of the strongest whitewater in the world, one must not miss the opportunity to relax in one of the many hot springs in the region, including the Cahuelmó, Porcelana, Puyuhuapi and the Quitralco hot springs.

Chile Travel Tips

  • Consular Travel Visas – As regulations are subject to change at short notice it is advisable to check with the Chilean Consulate for the latest information. At present, for most countries, a visa is not required and at entrance, customs gives up to 90 days.
    • Note: Nationals of the USA , Canada , Mexico and Australia entering Chile for tourist purposes will be charged a processing fee payable on arrival and in cash only.
  • Currency – Peso Chileno. Changing currencies other than US dollars is very difficult. Credit cards and travelers cheques: Access/Mastercard, Diners Club and Visa are all used in Chile with Visa and American Express being the most widely accepted.
    • Dollar bills with rips or tears are generally not accept, or they can be exchanged at a significantly lower rate.
  • Banks – Most bank machines accept Visa, Mastercard and Plus cards. Most ATMs also accept cards with Cirrus and Visa Electron logos.
    Insurance – It is recommend to take out a policy, which covers medical expenses, emergency evacuation, personal liability, theft and cancellation of the trip.
  • Vaccinations – Regulations and requirements may be subject to change on short notice and it is advisable to contact your doctor well in advance of your date of departure. If you are going to the Andes region, it is wise to check your blood pressure. Recommended vaccinations are: Yellow Fever, Typhoid, DTP and Hepatitis B.
  • Health
    • Water: In general, the city’s water supply is safe, although it is always advisable for to drink bottled water. Be careful when leaving the larger cities and entering unpopulated areas though, for your security it is highly recommended to drink bottled water. As in other countries, hygiene or cleanliness of the foods in Chile depends on the place you are consuming foods. In general, serious problems with hygiene do not exist.
    • Raw food – It is generally not advisable to eat uncooked vegetables that grow close to the soil (i.e., lettuce, carrots, strawberries, etc.), unless you get them from an established supermarket chain (Jumbo, Unimarc, Almac, etc.), who monitor the source of their products. Established restaurants will also guarantee this.
    • Altitude sickness – In the Chilean high plains, at the North of the country, and in some border zones, it is possible to become affected by altitude. The lack of oxygen and atmospheric pressure may cause headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, and physical weakness in some people. In two to five days, the body should adapt to the oxygen shortage.
  • Tipping – Tip 10% in restaurants and hotels. Do not tip taxi drivers, though you may leave them change from the fare.
  • Safety – Compared to most Latin American countries, Chile is very safe for traveling. Exceptions, are, as everywhere, the slums and the centers of the big cities.
TALK TO A SOUTH AMERICA TRAVEL AGENT

N. America: +1 302 466-3020
Brazil: +55 71 3500-1446

Monday to Friday 8 am – 6 pm
Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Chile Vacation Packages, Tours and Vacations