Chile is a country in the southwest of South America, offering a unique blend of natural wonders and historical landmarks. Visitors flock to Chile for its breathtaking beaches, towering mountains, and enigmatic islands. While the Chilean way of life sets it apart from other nations, its people are universally known for their openness, friendliness, and independence. Welcome to Chile, where the country eagerly awaits your exploration!
Chile on the Map
The Republic of Chile spans a narrow strip along the southwestern coast of South America, boasting a vast coastline of 6,400 kilometers. Nearly all of it borders the Pacific Ocean, with only a tiny section on the island of Tierra del Fuego touching the Atlantic Ocean.
Chile shares land borders with three countries: Argentina to the east and Bolivia and Peru to the north. The combined length of its land borders is slightly less than that of its coastline, measuring 6,300 kilometers.
In addition, Chile claims ownership of various archipelagos and a part of Tierra del Fuego, which includes the famous Easter Islands and Juan Fernandez Islands.
The country’s terrain is characterized by rugged, mountainous landscapes, with the Andes stretching across its entire length. The highest point is Mount Ojos del Salado, standing at 6,893 meters. It’s an extinct volcano with the planet’s highest lake situated within its crater.
In the north of the country lies the Atacama Desert, considered the driest place on Earth.
While Chile’s flora and fauna may not exhibit high diversity, the country is home to unique plants and animals.
Chile ranks 28th in the Global Peace Index, which factors in aspects such as the overall peacefulness of the environment, the attitude towards tourists, and various other criteria. This puts Chile on par with countries like Croatia and Spain.
Chile enjoys relatively low street crime rates. Pickpocketing is mostly limited to major cities, with fewer incidents in other regions. Fraud rates are also low, and the Chilean police are known for their efficiency and impartiality.
The country boasts well-organized traffic systems, even in mountainous areas, with high-quality roads.
Chile has well-developed medical services, and its climate is not conducive to tropical diseases like malaria and yellow fever. However, basic hygiene practices such as washing fruits and vegetables and dining at reputable establishments are still advisable.
The country’s natural diversity may be limited, and the chances of encountering dangerous animals are low. The largest predators in the local mountains are pumas, but their population is extremely small. While there are several species of poisonous snakes and insects, it’s worth noting that most of Chile is not in the tropics, so highly venomous creatures are absent.
Chile’s beach conditions are similar to those in Europe, with very few sharks and minimal risk of encountering poisonous jellyfish.
Overall, Chile’s security situation is at a good level, particularly when compared to neighboring countries such as Peru, Bolivia, and even Brazil.
Public Holidays in Chile
Chileans are known for their open-minded and fun-loving nature, and they wholeheartedly embrace various holidays, both national and local, often rooted in the traditions of their past.
Official holidays in the country are divided into religious and secular categories. The former encompass Christian holidays such as Christmas, Easter, and All Saints’ Day. Secular holidays include various commemorative dates, such as Army Day, Battle of Arica Day, Labour Day, and others. New Year’s Eve, which is officially celebrated for two days, holds a special place of honor.
Chile, like other Latin American countries, celebrates numerous festivals at both regional and national levels.
In January, the capital hosts the international festival of theatre and music, «Santiago a Mil,» featuring thousands of actors.
In February, an ethnic carnival unfolds in Andino, while colorful masquerade parades enliven July in Tirana. The Mapuche Indians mark their new year on June 23, marked by Indian religious rituals that intrigue tourists.
Many other holidays in Chile are dedicated to food, fruit, flowers, and the sun.
Best Activities in Chile
In recent years, the number of tourists visiting Chile has been steadily increasing, and local authorities have been working hard to develop the necessary infrastructure. Today, Chile not only offers breathtaking natural beauty but also comfortable conditions for leisure. There are countless activities for tourists to enjoy.
Here are the top 10 things that every visitor should experience in Chile:
1. Beach Holidays: With a vast coastline and thousands of beaches, Chile has an array of beach options, although there are few popular ones. The chilly ocean waters may deter swimmers, except in the northern regions with a tropical climate.
2. Diving: Despite cold waters, diving is popular in Chile, especially in the Antofagasta area, where dive prices start at $40. Diving around Easter Island is particularly renowned.
3. Surfing: Chile’s extensive coastline exposed to various winds makes it a haven for surfers. The town of Pichilemu, located south of Santiago, is especially popular.
4. Paragliding: Paragliding is a common and cherished activity among locals and tourists alike, with the country’s oceanic coastlines and cliffs offering excellent paragliding opportunities.
5. Tierra del Fuego and Penguins: Tours to Tierra del Fuego, the country’s southernmost region closest to Antarctica, are popular among tourists. A typical 12-hour tour offers a glimpse of the area’s pristine natural beauty and a visit to a colony of Royal Penguins.
6. Easter Island: This mysterious island, located 3,500 kilometers from the mainland and accessible only by plane, attracts thousands of tourists with its enigmatic moai statues. The island also enjoys a more favorable climate than the mainland.
7. Trekking and Hiking: Chile places a strong emphasis on active holidays, with the country divided into nine zones and a total of nearly 8,500 kilometers of hiking trails. The Great Patagonian Trail is particularly popular, offering opportunities for trekking and even rafting.
8. Skiing: Chile boasts several highly regarded ski resorts, with Valle Nevado, located south of Santiago, being one of the most popular. It offers over 3 kilometers of well-equipped slopes and stunning scenery. Prices for a day of skiing range from $75 to $100, including equipment.
9. Robinson Crusoe Island: Located 670 kilometers from the coast, the Juan Fernandez archipelago is renowned for being where the sailor Alexander Selkirk, who inspired Robinson Crusoe, spent four years. Today, the island has a tourist center with eco-houses, offering solitude amidst nature.
10. Architectural Sights: Many Chilean cities, including the capital Santiago, are known for their beautifully preserved colonial-era architecture. The country boasts numerous cathedrals, palaces, splendid houses, and unique monuments. A visit to museums is a must when exploring the country.
What is important to know about Chile
If you are planning to visit this country, here are some of the most important things to know:
The official language of the country is Spanish.
In certain regions, Amerindian languages such as Quechua, Aymara, Rapanui, and others are also used. In total, there are 9 unique Amerindian languages spoken in the country.
The country currently has a population of just over 18 million people, with almost 90% residing in urban areas.
Also, about 90% of the population is mestizo or Caucasian. A little less than 10% of the population is represented by indigenous peoples, including the Mapuche, Aymara, Rapa Nui, and others.
- More interesting facts about Chileans, their character, and local culture can be found in this article.
The national currency is the Chilean peso, which is divided into 100 centavos.
Currently in circulation, there are banknotes of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000 pesos. Additionally, there are coins in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500 pesos.
Tourists should bring dollars with them. Dollars or other currencies can be exchanged at any bank or at special exchange points. Most major shopping centers accept payment in either local pesos or with credit/debit cards, but small shops may accept dollars at a less favorable exchange rate for tourists.
Approximate exchange rate: 870 pesos to 1 dollar.
The majority of the country’s population is Christian. About 60% of the total population consider themselves Catholics, while another 18% identify as Evangelicals. However, almost 17% classify themselves as non-believers or atheists.
The territory of the country lies in several climatic zones, with a tropical and subtropical climate in the north, a temperate climate in the center, and a sub-Antarctic climate in the extreme south.
The climate is greatly influenced by the cold Humboldt Current, leading to extremely low precipitation in some regions. For example, in the Atacama Desert, there may be no rain for several years. Only in years when El Niño manifests itself does this desert bloom.
The southern regions of Chile receive a sufficient amount of precipitation. In summer, it rains, and in winter, it often snows in the mountains.
The average temperature also varies greatly depending on the geographical location. In the central regions of Chile, the average temperature in January is around +23 degrees Celsius, in the south, it’s around +20 degrees, and on Easter Island, it’s around +24 degrees. In July, the picture is different: in the center of the country, the temperature is around +17 degrees, in the south, it’s around +5 degrees, and on Easter Island, it’s around +21 degrees.
The average temperature of seawater off the coast of Chile experiences significant annual fluctuations. This temperature is also influenced by the country’s latitudinal position. In the extreme south, the water is not suitable for swimming, limiting the bathing season to the winter months, which coincide with the local summer. The ideal time for beach and sea tourism is considered to be from January to March.
- Water Temperature in Winter (December-January): Ranges from +19 to +21 degrees in February.
- Water Temperature in Spring (March-May): Ranges from +16 to +20 degrees in March.
- Water Temperature in Summer (June-July): Ranges from +15 to +17 degrees Celsius.
- Water Temperature in Autumn (September-November): +16 to +17 degrees Celsius.
The primary natural hazard in the country is earthquakes. Chile is located in the collision zone of the South American and Pacific plates, resulting in frequent earth tremors. Up to 500 earthquakes of varying magnitudes are recorded here annually.
The most famous of these was the Great Chilean earthquake on May 22, 1960, the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in the history of observations on the planet. Its magnitude was estimated at 9.3 on the Richter scale. During this earthquake, more than 6,000 people died, with most of the casualties resulting from the tsunami, which reached a height of 10 meters.
Constant volcanic eruptions are also a threat. The country has approximately 2,000 volcanoes, with most considered extinct. However, some, such as Calbuco, are still erupting today. Eruptions generally cause less damage than earthquakes.
Chile is situated away from the typical paths of tropical cyclones, but floods occur relatively regularly. High rainfall between January and March frequently results in both floods and landslides, causing not only destruction but also human casualties.
Forest fires also occur in Chile. For example, in 2022, fires affected more than 50,000 hectares of forests in the central region of Araucania. Typically, these fires do not pose a threat to tourists.
- For more information on the most devastating disasters in the history of Chile, please read this article.
Chile is a presidential republic with the president serving as both the head of state and the head of government. The legislative power is represented by the National Congress, which consists of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
Administratively, the country is divided into 16 regions and 56 provinces.
The capital of the country is Santiago.
Largest Cities and Resorts
Santiago is the capital and the most populous city in the country. Founded in 1541, it is now home to more than 5 million people. Tourists are drawn to Santiago for its stunning architecture, historical monuments, museums with rich collections of cultural objects from indigenous civilizations, and numerous clubs and entertainment venues.
Valparaiso is the largest port in Chile with a population of nearly 300,000 people. It serves as an essential cultural center, and its historic district attracts tourists with intricate narrow streets, cable cars, and walking paths.
Arica, a city of 220,000 people, is one of the most popular Chilean resorts and is known as the «City of Eternal Spring» due to its mild and consistently warm climate. Located in the north of the country, it attracts tourists with 20 kilometers of magnificent beaches and historical monuments.
Antofagasta is another city in the north of the country, with a population of over 300,000. It is a popular resort known for low rainfall and year-round sunshine, making it a mecca for local divers.
Symbols of Chile
The Andean condor, one of the largest birds of prey on the planet, holds the distinction of being the national symbol of the republic.
Cueca, a national couples dance beloved by Chileans, can be frequently observed right on the streets.
The Chilean bell, a national flower of bright pink color, serves as a real symbol of the local spring.
Huaso refers to local horsemen and shepherds, who even have their own professional holiday.
Moai, the stone statues of Easter Island, continue to be a mystery to scientists.
How to Get to Chile
European or Asian tourists can access the country almost exclusively by plane. There are 9 international airports in the country, with the capital’s Arturo Merino Benitez Airport considered the central air gateway of Chile. It stands as one of the busiest airports in South America, serving over 15 million passengers annually.
From this central airport, regular flights connect to countries in South and North America, as well as cities like Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and even Sydney, Australia.
Additionally, there are international airports in significant Chilean resorts such as Arica and Antofagasta, though they primarily accommodate charter flights.
Cost of a Holiday in Chile
The cost of a holiday in Chile can vary widely based on whether you plan to travel independently or utilize the services of a tour company with trusted guides.
Chile is located on the west coast of South America, making it relatively distant from Europe. Therefore, for EU tourists, airfare to Chile may not be cheap. For instance, a round-trip ticket from Paris to Santiago would cost at least $800 to $1000, depending on the season.
The most affordable tours to the country start at $1800 to $3000 for 7 days, excluding flights. These tours offer extensive travel itineraries, including visits to the country’s main attractions, and some even include trips to Easter Island.
Within the country, tourists can anticipate the following expenses:
- Food: Prices for food are slightly lower than in Europe. For example, a meal in an average restaurant will cost $30 to $60 for two people, while a quick snack at a local diner may be as low as $5 to $10. A cheeseburger costs $2, and a cup of cappuccino is around $2.5.
- Accommodation: A double room in a three-star hotel averages $70 to $80, while a hostel can offer a room for just $30. The most comfortable hotels provide rooms starting from $170.
- Visiting attractions: Beach services are typically included when staying at a hotel, with additional services like diving incurring additional costs. Entry to many historic buildings and churches is free, but museums typically charge admission fees. Themed excursions may range from $30 to $1,000. For example, a day trip to the mountains costs around $30 per person, while a tour to Tierra del Fuego may cost $600, and a paragliding flight is priced at $100 for 3 hours.
- Souvenirs: Tourists often bring back woolen clothing from local manufacturers (sweaters, chilote hats from $8, socks), silver jewelry in the national style starting at $10, Indian figurines, and ceramics. Popular food items from Chile include fruit jam, palm honey, avocado oil, wine, and liqueurs. Costs for souvenirs can vary widely.
- Transport: In most cities, it is more convenient and sometimes safer to use public transport, such as buses and shuttle buses. A ticket usually costs between 60 cents and $1. Taxi fares typically start at 0.5 to 1 dollar for boarding and an average of $2 per kilometer.
Considering a reserve for unforeseen expenses, a 7-day holiday for two people in Chile, including flights, can cost from $3,000 to $6,000. The total cost can be significantly higher depending on various factors.
If you’ve visited Chile, please share your experiences and impressions in the comments. Feel free to share what you enjoyed the most, which moments have left a lasting memory, and any recommendations you have for other tourists. Your insights will be greatly appreciated!