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Travel & Holiday Tips in Chile


There are four tourist information centres in Santiago, including one at the airport. This particularly caters for foreigners just arriving in the country. There are also regional tourist offices throughout the country. Visitors to Chile are faced with a wide variety of excursions from which to choose; for the purposes of this guide, the country has been divided into 4 geographical areas, ranging from north to south and the islands off its coast.

Northern Region

Arica, near the northern border with Peru, is an excellent tourist centre. It has good beaches and the famous San Marcos Cathedral. Conditions in the area are ideal for deep-sea fishing. The unique landscape of Altiplano, near Arica, where vast volcanoes, salt marshes and lakes exist together upon a 12,000 ft plateau, is home to the indigenous Aymara Indians. Llamas and alpacas can be seen here. The nearby UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, Lauca National Park, is worth visiting. Travelling south through the Atacama Desert, excursions can be made to the hot springs of Mamina and to the oasis of the Pica Valley. The port of Antofagasta is the stopping point for air services and for most shipping lines. From here, a visit can be made to Chuquicamata, the world’s largest opencast copper mine, and also to the archaeological oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama and to the geysers at El Tatio.

Further south is Coquimbo, situated in one of the best harbours on the coast. Nearby is the beautiful bathing resort of Los Vilos. 9 miles north of Coquimbo is La Serena, the provincial capital. This charming and well laid-out town is graced with fine buildings and streets, and good reproductions of the attractive Spanish colonial style of architecture. The town is at the mouth of the Elqui River and excursions can be made from here to the rich fruit-growing region of the Elqui Valley, which is also full of reminiscences of the Chilean Nobel Prize Winner, Gabriela Mistral. Tours can also be arranged to the Tololo Observatory, the largest in the southern hemisphere.

Central Region and the Islands

This is the most temperate and pastoral region of the country, where the snow-capped peaks of the Andes provide a backdrop for rolling green fields, vineyards and orange groves. Valparaíso, the principal port, has many attractions. Only 8km (5 miles) to the north is Viña del Mar, Chile’s principal and most fashionable seaside resort with casinos, clubs and modern hotels. The Valparaíso Sporting Club offers a race course, polo grounds and playing fields. From Valparaíso there are excellent road and rail services to Santiago, where visitors will find all the conveniences of a modern capital city, including good hotels to suit all tastes. The Virgin Mary guards the city from the peak of the 860m (2822ft) Cerro San Cristóbal (Saint Christopher’s Hill), in the northeast of the city, where a zoo, gardens, restaurants and fine views of the city can be found; the Club Hípico and the Prince of Wales Country Club provide sporting facilities. From Santiago it is also possible to visit ski resorts such as Portillo, Farellones, and the newest and most fashionable, Valle Nevado. Immediately south of Santiago, in the heartland of Chile, one can visit many vineyards where much excellent Chilean wine is produced. Travelling south through the heartland of Chile one reaches Talca with its fine parks and museums.

Pacific Islands

650km (403 miles) west of Valparaíso are the Juan Fernández Islands, which can be reached either by plane or boat from the Chilean mainland. Alexander Selkirk was shipwrecked here in the early 18th century and Defoe based his novel Robinson Crusoe on Selkirk’s adventures.

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