Physical differences define the landscapes of Chile. Not many other countries in the world can compare to the amazing diversity of Chile. From the huge arid flats of the Atacama Desert in the north to the sharp peaks and icefields in the south, this South American country has two main natural faces and many smaller ones.
It’s easily one of the most stunning places on earth. Chile will strike you with awe, fill you with wonder, take your breath away—sometimes literally!
The Amazing Diversity of Chile
You’ll most likely get to Chile by plane, arriving in Santiago, the capital. Make sure to take a look around the city before heading out. There’s plenty to discover, from a thriving shopping and restaurant scene to a superb museum and a bustling nightlife. After these urban delights, take a domestic flight to the country’s north for some seriously epic landscapes.
Hot Aridness & Endless Flats – The Atacama Desert
The world’s driest desert that’s not located in the polar regions, the Atacama Desert receives about 15 mm of rainfall each year—virtually nothing. Some places within the desert get even less, including weather stations that have never seen a single drop of rain.
Squeezed between the Atlantic Ocean and the Andes, this long and narrow desert covers more than 100,000 square kilometers (41,000 square miles). It essentially starts at sea level and climbs to a height of 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) near the Andean mountains.
The best place to base yourself is San Pedro de Atacama, the home of the native Atacama people and a permanently fertile desert oasis. A must-do activity is going for a balloon ride while, on the ground, you might want to go see the El Tatio Geysers and visit the incredible Valley of the Moon.
The latter was nature-sculpted by eons of wind and water erosion, and is one of the very things that attest to the amazing diversity of Chile. Take a seat on a sand dune and watch the sun set behind a landscape of salt flats and volcanoes.
Dramatic Peaks & Glacial Lakes – Torres del Paine and the Lake District
Down the other end of the ridiculously narrow and extensive country that is Chile lies Torres del Paine National Park. Situated approximately 3,000 kilometers (2,000 miles) south of the Atacama, this place couldn’t be further from the desert—both literally and figuratively.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to iconic vertical mountain peaks, deep valleys and beautiful streams and lakes. It’s one of the most important reasons for the great diversity of Chile. This dramatic landscape supports vast numbers of wildlife, including pumas, Andean condors and guanaco, which are camel-like mammals native to Chile.
Another beautiful place in southern Chile is the Lake District. This large area is renowned for its expansive wetlands, charming towns and crystal-clear glacial lakes. The best way to explore this gorgeous area is on foot or on horseback. Kayaking and rock climbing are popular activities as well.
If you have more time to spend, make sure to head over to Chiloe Island. Home to the Chiloe people, this historic island is dotted with colorful wooden houses, perched on stilts above the water. The island also has a number of churches, many of which are also UNESCO World Heritage.
These two awe-inspiring regions are a testimony to and the very reasons for the superb diversity of Chile. Have you been?