Chile defies every stereotype one might have of a South American country.
Chile is a member of the OECD Countries, the organization of economically developed countries – the only country in South America to join the organization.
It has a well-developed infrastructure in many of its urban areas, and a thriving economy, which supports a growing middle-class. Chile is called the Switzerland of South America, and for good reason.
Chile’s currency is the Chilean ($) peso, which uses a ($) sign. Don’t let that fool you. At the time of this writing: $1 USD = approximately $658 CLP, as of February 2019. So, don’t let the $ sign fool you. Don’t have sticker shock. Same sign. Different value.
Chile is about 2,670 miles long, but with an average width of 110 miles wide. This means that almost anywhere you are in Chile, you can see the glorious Andes Mountain.
Chile has an incredible variety of climates. In the south, it is subartic. In the north, Chile is well inside the tropics. In the center, where most of Chile’s population lives, Chile is famous for its Mediterranean mild climate, very akin to Italy or Spain’s Costa del Sol.
Of course, one has to remember that, being in the Southern Hemisphere, Chile has its seasons reversed with ours. Their height of summer is in January. Their height of winter is in July. One should plan any trip accordingly.
A great factor in Chile’s climate is the Humboldt Current, which goes from South to the North. It allows the subarctic south of Chile to have mild winters – milder than one would expect at those latitudes – but brings up cold water to the north of Chile, which moderates the heat in the northern tropical areas. The odd effect is that in the center of Chile, and even in the tropical north, the ocean can be a bit cooler than expected, even in the summer when the air temperature is hotter.
Chile, along with Argentina and Uruguay, are in an area of South America known as the Cono Sur (the Southern Cone). This area of South America had massive European immigration. Unlike most of South America, where the population is mestizo (mixed), Chile is different. About 30% of Chile is of pure European extraction, while another 60% of Chileans, though mesitzo, are more European in extraction than native Indian.
Most of the European immigrants to Chile were either Spanish or Basque, but there was a noticeable Italian, German, British, Arab, and French immigration to the country.
Chile is famous for its food. The center of the country, with is Mediterranean climate, is home to some of the greatest agriculture and beef in the world. Moreover, with the ocean so near, fresh seafood is abundantly available. The seafood you order that evening, might have been swimming in the Pacific that morning. And, of course, Chile stands out for its spectacular wine and olive oil.
CHILE IS A FOODIE’S PARADISE!
Being only 110 miles wide (on the average) one is never too far from the Andes. Chile has some of the most spectacular skiing on the planet. Too numerous to mention, but if you are curious: (Click Here).
Santiago, officially founded in 1541, is the country’s capital. A modern city, it has skyscrapers, and a spectacular view of the Andes in the background. Santiago has its own subway system. It has famous museums, great restaurants, wonderful parks, and La Moneda, the famous presidential palace.
As an aside, Santiago has a rather unique park, Santa Lucía Hill, which is the remnant of a volcano, and is a glorious place to visit. Easy to get to, it is located right next to a metro (Subway) stop. However, the park requires a climb up its 226 foot height; but there are rest stops on the way. And an elevator can lift you part of climb, but not all the way to the top.
Valparaiso / Viña del Mar
Valparaiso and Viña del Mar are adjacent cites. In the 19th century, Valparaiso was a world famous whaling port. Before the Panama Canal, any ship traveling from New York to California, around Tierra del Fuego, would have to stop in Valparaiso. The funiculars (hill railways) of Valparaiso are world famous.
Today, Viña del Mar [Vineyard of the Sea] is famous for its beaches and museums, and it is one of the treasures of Chile. While in Viña del Mar, the locals call it Viña, check out Wulff Castle (the picture on the top). It was built by a German shipping magnate. Today, the Castle houses the Chilean Navy Museum.
Above video is in Spanish, but it has subtitles.
Iquique, pronounced I-key-kay, is in Chile’s tropical north. It is also home to a noticeable community of international retirees from the USA, Canada, and Australia, who have settled there for the wonderful climate. Among its ethnic groups are also local colonies of Croatians, Italian, Scots, and French.
It is also home to a tax-free trade zone; and is noted for its wonderful Cavancha Beach, great for surfing. Iquique has a noticeable Arab-Chilean population. However, contrary to what one might expect, most Arab-Chileans are descendants of Christian Arabs who migrated to Chile in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The south of Chile is home to six breathtaking subpolar forests, the most famous of which is Torres del Paine National Park. The name is a mix of Spanish and native languages, meaning blue towers. About a quarter-million tourists visit each year to travel and hike the areas. Because the area is protected, arrangements should be made for packages and/or certified tour guides.
This article was originally written in 2017, but has been updated for 2019.