Encompassing a narrow strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and the high peaks of the Andes, Chile includes the driest desert, the Atacama in the north, the agriculturally-rich Central Valley, snow-covered volcanoes, forests and tranquil lakes of the south, and the wild and windswept glaciers and fjords of the far south.
By Madison Crawford
Surrounded on three sides by virtually impassable barriers, Chile's rich Central Valley remained largely unknown to the outside world until the middle of the fifteenth century, when the Incas began their great conquests of much of the continent. In 1520, Ferdinand Magellan discovered the beautiful South American country of Chile. In 1541, Pedro de Valdivia crossed into the Central Valley, having followed the Inca road south from Peru. He founded Santiago in February, and soon afterward crossed into Mapuche domains and established strongholds there. Once the property of Spain, Chile gained its independence in 1818 and became what it is today. Chile is now thriving with people and is the ultimate hot spot for those touring South America.
With a neoclassical Italian style and originally created as a colonial mint, the President’s Palace is one of the most striking and famous buildings in Santiago. In 1973, the military coup d'état caused a considerable amount of damage to the palace and many changes have been made
over the years to restore the building. Recently, a public square called Plaza de la Ciudadanía (Citizenry Square) was created on the palace grounds and gives way to paths that lead to an array of exhibitions. Call ahead and schedule a tour to learn more about the rich history and gorgeous architecture this building holds. (+56 2 690 4000).
Situated right in the heart of Santiago, Cerro San Cristóbal provides an incredibly extensive view of the city and all the captivating landmarks it contains. About halfway up this hill is a zoo, perfect for entertaining those who brought their children along.
At the top of Cerro San Cristóbal, a statue of the Virgin Mary stands tall, bordered with lights so as to be seen even in the late hours of the night. For the more adventurous visitors, this hill can be reached by a scenic hike. A funicular station is provided on Mondays between 2 to 7
p.m. and Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. to transport those less inclined to endure a 45 minute climb. Whatever you plan to do while visiting this attraction, make sure to bring cash (in pesos) in case you want to buy a snack at the snack bar, purchase a souvenir, or even use the restroom. santiagotourist.com
Atacama Desert, known as the driest place in the world and often compared to the planet Mars due to its appearance. While it may seem as though this location would not be the most comfortable to visit, the average temperature during the day in the Atacama is between 32 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit and there are many captivating sites to see within this desert. An enormous, 36 foot high sculpture of a hand reaches out as if desperate for
something with which to cling. The El Tatio geyser can also be found here, spewing scorching
water and vapor from the earth. Reminiscent of the surface of the moon, the Valle de la Luna
(Valley of the Moon) is a common spot in this desert for tourists to visit.
Located approximately an hour away from various ski resorts of your choice, Santiago is the perfect place to visit for those looking for some fun in the snow and a stunning view atop the Andes Mountains. Tres Valles (Three Valleys) has the most popular resorts, including La Parva, El Colorado, and Valle Nevado.
While not exclusively Chilean, empanadas can be found on menus all over Chile. Instead of being fried, the locals prefer to bake empanadas with an egg wash. They can be stuffed with many different combinations of meat and veggies, sometimes including cheese as well. Though empanadas are served in the United States, there is no comparison to the taste of a true, original empanada.
Often called “Poor Man’s Steak,” bistec a lo pobre may be a heart attack waiting to happen, but it is an indulgence many Chileans find worth the calories. Served with a side of either rice or a
hefty scoop of french fries, the steak is topped with fried onions and fried eggs.
The site of a vital battle in the War of the Pacific back in 1880, this colossal rock extends over 110 meters above the city of Arica. Learn all about the significance of this site on your journey up the steep path leading to a dazzling view from the very top. El Morro de Arica is the place to go if you want to experience the culture of the Chileans through their rich history and the beauty of the city.