Chile stretches long and thin along the Pacific Ocean in South America, its land covering a vastly diverse array of terrain. Desolate moonscapes and pink flamingo-filled lagoons fill Chile's northern deserts, and fertile vineyards dominate the Central Valley. Walk through the untamed rainforests of the Lake District or head down south to the mighty glaciers and peaks of storied Patagonia. Here, you can feel like you're on the edge of the earth, the middle of nowhere, or a bustling city teeming with humanity -- Chile is packed with mind-boggling possibilities.
Santiago attracts with its lively neighborhoods and restaurants. The enigmatic coastal town Valparaíso charms visitors who ride one of its historic funiculars. Just north, in San Pedro de Atacama, whitewashed adobe houses dazzle in the desert sun. Travel south to Patagonian outdoorsy hub Punta Arenas, the jumping off point for the edge of the world. Venture some 2,200 miles west of Chile to see Easter Island's mysterious moai sculptures and some of the 20,000 archaeological sites on this remote outpost.
Eating and Drinking
Taste cutting-edge fusion cuisine in an upscale suburb of Santiago or lunch on fresh fish and shellfish in the Pacific-side marisquerías of Viña del Mar. Centolla (king crab) is best in Patagonia and curanto seafood broth is popular on the island of Chiloé. The best Chilean wine awaits sampling in the Central Valley, as does pisco -- the national drink known best by its mixed cocktail, the pisco sour -- at the distilleries of the Elqui Valley in the north.
Journey south into the wilderness of Patagonia to mountain-bike the Carretera Austral, fly-fish in the fjords of Aysén or tackle the granite peaks of Torres del Paine National Park. Hikers will relish exploring the forests of the lush Lake District. In the north, see pink flamingo-dotted lagoons, sparkling white salt flats and snow-capped volcanoes in the vast Andean altiplano (high desert). The Atacama Desert in particular offers an incredible array of stargazing, dune-bashing and geyser-hopping experiences.
In Santiago, browse for rare lapis lazuli in Bellavista's workshops and antique spurs in the flea markets. Visit the vineyards of the Central Valley to stock up on Chilean wine and the Lake District for silver Mapuche jewelery. Ward off the mountain air's chill and wrap up in hand-knitted alpaca scarves and sweaters from the Andean villages in the north.
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