Chile is in South America a land of contrasts and of extremes. It's a preposterously skinny tendril of a country creeping 4300km around the foot of South America: while Arica basks in tropical heat at its tip, Punta Arenas shivers at its icy tail just short of Antarctica. Nowhere else can you stand in the world's driest desert (near San Pedro de Atacama), gaze at snowcapped peaks then turn your head to see cool Pacific rollers creaming inland. Follow Chile's jagged Andean backbone of towering mountains south and you'll pass through the ancient forests of Parque Nacional ChiloÃ©, the rich vineyards of Talca, past shimmering lakes and immense plains, to stumble upon the exquisite labyrinth of fjords, islands and milky-blue glaciers that make up Southern Patagonia at the end of the Americas.
Opportunities for outdoor fun abound. Fancy climbing an active volcano? There are 50 to choose from. Prefer running white-water rapids or paddling through ice-carved fjords? You'll be spoilt for choice. Come looking for adventure and you could hike, bike, ski, surf, swim, horseback ride and even paraglide your way from desert to ice fields. But you don't need to sweat it to enjoy the best of Chile. You can soak in hot springs until your skin wrinkles, ogle at glaciers crumbling into the sea, stargaze alongside top international observatories, ponder the ancient mysteries of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) or soak up the urban buzz of Santiago or ValparaÃso.
Chile's intoxicating wilderness is complemented by its sophisticated cities, developed infrastructure, a gripping history and a fast-evolving culture. All of which combines to make travel here reassuringly easy, always inspiring, often surprising and never, ever disappointing.
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