One of the most developed countries in South America, Chile is a long narrow country on the eastern coast of the continent, between the South Pacific Ocean and the Andes. It is the only country in the world which is more than 4,500 km from north to south, with a 5,000-km coastline. Chile’s average width is just 178 km against its 4,500-km length.
Chile means “place where land ends,” or “land’s end,” and the name fits perfectly, what with its entire western limit bordered by the mighty Pacific; the Andes dominating almost the entire eastern part of the country; and one of the highest lakes in the world Chungará, in the northern extreme of the country.
From the world’s driest desert in the north to the expansive glacial fields at its southernmost tip, Chile’s 4,500-km long and thin land is as diverse as you can hope for, passing through parched dunes, lush valleys, volcanoes, dense forests, gigantic glaciers, and fjords. These are some of the most pristine parts still left on the planet.
There are several other features that make Chile a unique country in the world.
The Patagonia region of Chile is considered one of the healthiest places in the world.
Chile’s Atacama Desert is the driest desert on the planet where it hasn’t rained a drop for several decades.
Many Chileans talk about some of the world’s most extraordinary and mysterious occurrences over the past two decades, including UFOs in the Chilean skies and alien sightings on land. This is the reason why the government of Chile – one of the select few in the world – has a UFO and Alien Research Organization to study these disturbing phenomena.
Chile is home to the smallest deer species in the world, and you can say, the most elusive as well because it is a tough task spotting them in groups in the dense jungles.
Chile is, arguably, the richest and most developed country on the continent. A fourth of the world’s copper is found in Chile, which makes it the world’s largest exporter of the metal.
Not only this, the wine industry in the country is large enough to make it the 5th largest wine exporting country in the world.
Despite its wealth, the value of Chilean currency (Peso) is considerably low.
In Chile, it is unusual for married couples to share last names. Males and females with same last names are generally looked at as siblings.
Chile is among those countries that have the lowest divorce rates.
The language spoken in the country is Chilean Spanish, which is markedly different from the Spanish spoken elsewhere in Latin America.
The country is home to some of the oldest mummies in the world stretching as far back 7000 years.
Santiago de Chile (Santiago)
Chile’s capital and largest city, Santiago de Chile, or simply Santiago, is among the wealthiest South American capitals and the nation’s political and cultural hub. Centrally located in a valley surrounded by the Andes and the Chilean Coast Range, Santiago is a convenient starting point to other parts of the country.
Two hours by road to the east of the capital are the Andes where you can ski during the day and be at the beach, two hours west of Santiago, while there is still daylight.
In close proximity is San Cristóbal Hill, home to the sprawling Parque Metropolitano that boasts a botanical garden, a zoo, hiking trails, a swimming pool, plus a funicular service to the Hill’s summit for spectacular views.
Santa Lucía, is another hill, smaller than San Cristóbal though, featuring beautifully landscaped gardens, walkways, and extravagant fountains.
Santiago’s nightlife is as vibrant and electric as any major world capital. The Barrio Brasil and Barrio Bellavista neighborhoods are home to some of the most fabulous pubs, bars, discs, and nightclubs in the city.
For a rustic market experience visit the bustling Mercado Central for fruits, vegetables, and seafood.
The affluent Vitacura district is famous for it’s upscale shopping and luxury boutiques. The Museo de La Moda fashion museum and the Avenida Alonso de Córdova luxury boutiques are the pride and joy of the neighborhood and, indeed, the city.
At the heart of the city’s old colonial center, the Plaza de Armas boasts some of the city’s top attractions, including the 18th-century Metropolitan Cathedral; the early 19th-century Palacio de la Real Audiencia, home to the National History Museum; and the La Chascona museum, dedicated to the poet Pablo Neruda where he actually lived from 1955 to 1973. It was built to look like a ship.
The grand La Moneda Palace dating back to the early 19th century is the government’s seat of power where the President of Chile runs the country’s affairs from.
Here’s a list of other important Santiago landmarks and attractions.
Parque Forestal: Built on land reclaimed from the Mapocho River, the Parque Forestal dates back to 1905. It is a narrow park featuring sculptures, museums, extravagantly landscaped gardens and other attractions.
Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino: Housed in an early 19th-century building, the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino features pre-Columbian works of art.
San Francisco Church, Santiago de Chile: San Francisco Church is a 16th-century colonial era Catholic church with a neoclassical clock tower. It is believed to be the oldest church in the country.
Chilean National Museum of Natural History: A huge 1830 museum with exhibits on Chilean nature and culture, including fossils, a whale skeleton, and dioramas of Chilean wildlife and more.
Museo Interactivo Mirador: Museo Interactivo Mirador is an interactive science museum for children and adults. It features a 3D theatre as well,
Casa Colorada: The Casa Colorada is a 1769 red colonial mansion housing a history museum with art exhibits and performances.
Museo Histórico Nacional: The Museo Histórico Nacional or the Museum of National History is housed in a 19th-century royal palace featuring historical and cultural exhibits of Chile.
Gran Torre Santiago: The Costanera Center Torre 2, better known as Gran Torre Santiago, and previously known as Torre Gran Costanera, is a 64-story tall skyscraper in Santiago, Chile, the tallest in Latin America
Sculpture Park Museum: The Sculpture Park Museum is an open-air museum featuring huge sculptures by Chilean artists. There is an indoor exhibition hall as well.
Jardín Japonés: Jardín Japonés is a landscaped Japanese garden with a large lily pond, traditional structures & ceremonial events.
Museo Colonial: Museo Colonial is a historical, cultural and religious museum located in Santiago, Chile. The museum explores the colonial period of Chile and South America, with a collection of paintings, sculpture, furniture and other objects.
Cajón del Maipo: Located southeast of Santiago, Cajón del Maipo is gorge, home to El Morado Natural Monument, a mountain reserve with trails to the San Francisco Glacier and Laguna Morales. The reserve’s rich birdlife includes the Andean condor. The Baños Morales thermal springs are nearby. To the north is the vast El Yeso Reservoir. The gorge is dotted with towns, including San José de Maipo with its adobe houses.
Chilean National Zoo: Founded in 1925 and located at the foot of San Cristóbal Hill, the Chilean National Zoo is spread over 4.8 hectares of land and is home to elephants, lions, tigers & kangaroos, as well as many species that are native to Chile.
Museum of Memory and Human Rights: The Museum of Memory and Human Rights is a modern commemorating the victims of human rights violations during the civic-military regime led by Augusto Pinochet between 1973 and 1990
Fantasilandia: The Fantasilandia is a theme-park featuring high-adrenaline roller coasters as well as kid-friendly rides.
Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral: The Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral is Santiago’s cultural center housed in a modern building & offering theater performances, concerts & artworks.