Submitted by Heather Demars on August 1, 2016
Located in the western part of South America, the first thing that draws the attention of tourists to Chile is its distinct elongated shape. Not only that, the country also has an amazing geography to match. The country’s land stretches from one end to another, from rich valleys, towering mountains and snowcapped volcanoes, to sparkling lakes and icy glaciers.
The country promises good fun for those who enjoy the outdoors. Skiing, trekking, rafting and even horseback riding – you can choose from any activities that will surely give you a rush of adrenaline.
Tourists will like Chile’s natural attractions. It has rich water resources, from raging rivers to white beaches. Rain-starved deserts, rich forests and icy fjords also dominate the country. Showing off the country’s past are museums and national parks. A famous park is the Easter Island known for its extraordinary enormous statues.
Traveling around the country will bring tourists to places where the locals still practice their indigenous lifestyle. Their strong traditions combined with the country’s European influence makes an interesting and unique culture. The people warmly welcome visitors to their country and their hospitality is world renowned.
Chile does not only boast natural attractions and rich culture. Taking a peek inside the country will show tourists that Chile is not all about mountains, rivers, deserts and glaciers. There is more to it. Appetizing cuisines, aromatic wines, abundant seafood, distinct handicrafts and fantastic architectures make a visit to the country worth remembering.
When to Travel
The central areas of the country including the capital city of Santiago have a Mediterranean climate. Summer months from December to March are hot and dry. Winter season (June to September) is normally mild and moist. Summer temperatures can go up to 28°C while winters can drop to 11°C. Rain falls during winter.
Chile can be visited any time of the year. But if you are interested in going to one particular city, then it is best to time your visit so you can enjoy the trip to the fullest. The southern areas of the country are best visited during the summer. Summers have long days giving way to enjoying many outdoor activities. Torres del Paine and Lakes District are found in these parts.
Some areas in the south are impassable during winters. Central Chile blooms during spring season from September to November or during fall harvest (late February to April). Winter season gives an enjoyable skiing experience. Meanwhile, summers bring afternoon downpours at the northern part of Chile. Juan Fernandez and the Easter Island have cool quiet summer. The peak season here is from December to March, March being the ultimate peak season month.
If you are more into socialization, then it is best to visit the country during January and February when most of the festivals are celebrated and held. During these months, every town and city in the country celebrates special feasts, put on live music and holds firework displays.
Festival de Huaso Chilote Castro celebrates the local huasos (cowboys) and Festival Internacional de la Cancion, a series of concerts that showcase top performers in Latin American Pop are some of the festivals and concerts held in the country.
Chilean Cuisine and Drink
Chilean cuisine is a combination of Spanish food with the use of traditional Chilean ingredients and European influences particularly German, Italian, and French cuisine. Food in the country is really distinctive because of the variation in color and flavor. Being close to the sea brings many sea products that are main ingredients in most dishes. Being one of the world’s largest wine-producing countries also influences Chilean’s style of cooking where wines are commonly added to recipes. Moreover, the countries diverse geographical area brings different kinds of crops and fruits that are also included in many Chilean dishes. Besides from the traditional foods, there are also foods found in the West.
Here are some dishes that you should not miss when visiting the country:
Empanada de queso – found also in McDonalds, this is a deep fried pastry with cheese as stuffings
Empanada de pino – should not be mistaken with empanada de queso. While empanada de queso is fried, empanada de pino is a baked pie with ground beef, raisins, onions, black olive and a piece of boiled egg inside.
Cazuelas de vacuno – a beef soup with potato, rice, corn and squash; add chicken and it will be cazuela de ave or you can add turkey for cazuela de pavo.
Patel de choclo – corn casserole
Lomo a lo pobre – a beefsteak with fried potatoes, fried onions and fried egg.
Curanto – a traditional food of Chiloe archipelago; consists of seafood, meat and potatoes cooked in a hole dug in the ground.
For desserts, try these dishes:
Strudel – some sort of an apple pie
Kuchen – a pie, try the kuchen de quesillo which is a cheesecake.
Berlin – a kind of doughnut but without the holes. It’s like a ball filled with pastry cream and quince. It is sometimes garnished with powdered sugar for the benefit of those with sweet tooth.
As mentioned, the country produces excellent wines that can compete with French, New Zealand and Australians wines. Carmenere in red and Cabernet Sauvignon are few of the best produce. Beers are common in the country with Cristal and Escudo being the most popular. There is also a brandy, the Chilean Pisco made from Muscat grapes. It is sometimes mixed with coke to make piscola, mango (mango sour) or with lemon juice and sugar (pisco sour). Chileans are fond of mixing drinks and they are quite good at it. Look for borgoña, red wine mixed with strawberries or taste the distinct taste of terremoto which is pineapple ice cream mixed with white wine. If suddenly you find yourself thirsty while wandering the streets of Chile, try the Mote con Huesillo which is a tasty summertime drink made from dried peaches and wheat seeds.
Popular Sights of Chile
Atacama Desert- See for yourself the unique landscape of the Atacama Desert with magnificent views of towering volcanoes, lakes and marshes as well as the deserted homes of the native Aymara people.
Santiago Views- Feel that you are on top of the world by going on top of the giant statue of the Virgin Mary in San Cristobal. There you will see the scenic view of the whole capital city of Santiago.
Vineyards- The country does not only boast world class wines but also the places where these wines are made. Head to the vineyards of Concha y Toro, the oldest and most celebrated winemakers. This is also where the popular Carmenere in red is produced.
Easter Island- This is a remote inhabited island where the mysterious Moai monolithic human stone figures are carved from rock. Aside from this, there are also the Orongo rock carvings, a volcano and a museum to explore.
Torres del Paine- Located on the southern part of the country, Torres del Paine is a small but magnificent mountain group range. The sharp peaks of the mountains are a sight to behold. The area is commonly visited by trekkers and mountain climbers.
Pre Colombian Art Museum- Found in the capital city of Santiago, this small yet spectacular art museum showcases the proofs of the country’s rich cultural heritage as well as its fantastic artworks and handicrafts.
Patagonia rainforests- Visit the vast nature reserve of the Pumalin Park and see up close the millennia-old alerce trees.
La Serena- La Serena is a town in Chile known for its beautiful colonial architecture buildings and churches. This is also a good place to enjoy the salty air of the region’s sparkling beaches and pass by the fertile Elqui valley with its peaceful ambience.
The Chilean unit of currency is peso (Ch$) which is divided into 100 centavos. Banknotes are in denominations of Ch$500, 1 000, 2 000, 5 000, 10 000 and 20 000. Coins are in denominations of Ch$1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500. Foreign currencies can be exchanged at banks, exchange bureaus (casas de cambio), authorized money changers like shops, hotels and restaurants. Banks are closed on weekends while casas de cambio are open every day. Exchange rates are best in Santiago. Tourists might find street changers in some places but often their rates are not far from that of banks and exchange bureaus.
ATMs, known as un Redbanc in the country is largely available in the country. This is probably the easiest and most convenient way to get money while in Chile. Most machines are located in major towns and cities and are commonly open 24 hours. If you have credit cards with you, then it will be easy for you to do transaction in most established businesses. Cards that are commonly accepted are Diners Club, Visa, MasterCard and sometimes, American Express. They are widely accepted in upscale hotels and restaurants though there are corresponding transaction fees. There may be some difficulty in changing traveler’s checks in the country especially outside of major towns. Those who do usually give poor rates.