‘Life is short and the world is wide. The sooner you start exploring it, the better.’
Chile is a long, narrow country along the southern half of the west coast of South America, between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. Chile is nature on a colossal scale, but travel here is surprisingly easy if you don’t rush it. Diverse landscapes unfurl over a 4300km stretch: parched dunes, fertile valleys, volcanoes, ancient forests, massive glaciers and fjords. There’s a wonder in every detail and nature on a symphonic scale. For the traveler, it’s mind-boggling to find this great wilderness so intact. The human quest for development could imperil these treasures sooner than we think. Yet for now, Chile guards some of the most pristine parts of our planet, and they shouldn’t be missed.
The northern part of the country was ruled by the Inca before the Spanish took control in the 16th century. Native Mapuche people lived in the southern and central regions before the country became a Spanish colony. The country gained independence from Spain in 1810. Toward the end of the 1800s, many Europeans began to settle in Chile, including Germans, French, British, and Italians. Chile was once considered to be a very stable and free country. But in 1973 a bloody battle overthrew Salvador Allende’s elected Marxist government and the country suffered 16 years under the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Democracy was restored in 1989.
Before wine became an export commodity for the luxury set, humble casks had their place on every Chilean table and grandparents tended backyard orchards. Now Chile has become a worldwide producer catering to ever more sophisticated palates. Rich reds, crisp whites, and floral rosés – there is a varietal that speaks to every mood and occasion. But at home, it’s different. Chileans embrace the concept of la Buena mesa. This is not about fancy. Beyond a good meal, it’s a great company, the leisure of overlapping conversations with uncorking, and the gaze that’s met at the clink of two glasses. ¡Salud!
Chile is home to poets like Pablo Neruda and Isabella Allende. There are plenty of places to visit in Chile from the urban boulevards of Santiago, the Andean foothills and the Atacama Desert, the Pacific coastline and the National Parks, the guanaco, and the glaciers. It is known to be the distinction of being the longest country in the world as also the narrowest – it is 4300 km long and just 175 km wide. Chile happens to have the world’s largest swimming pool. Its Atacama desert is the driest place on earth. Chileans are friendly and hospitable. It is an ethnically diverse country that gives it a vibrant culture and a multitude of flavors.
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