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Overview

From the arid tropics to the soggy sub-Antarctic, Chile's geography is so diverse that it could be a mirror image of North America's west coast, from Mexico's Baja California all the way to Alaska's Panhandle. In the northern Atacama desert, the world's driest climate has preserved some of the continent's earliest human relics almost perfectly. Mediterranean central Chile contains the capital of Santiago plus great vineyards and the picturesque port of Valparaíso — the San Francisco of the antipodes. Almost the entire coastline is ideal for surfing, while the Andes offer world-class off-season skiing.

To the south, like the ...

From the arid tropics to the soggy sub-Antarctic, Chile's geography is so diverse that it could be a mirror image of North America's west coast, from Mexico's Baja California all the way to Alaska's Panhandle. In the northern Atacama desert, the world's driest climate has preserved some of the continent's earliest human relics almost perfectly. Mediterranean central Chile contains the capital of Santiago plus great vineyards and the picturesque port of Valparaíso — the San Francisco of the antipodes. Almost the entire coastline is ideal for surfing, while the Andes offer world-class off-season skiing.

To the south, like the North Cascades, perfect volcanic cones rise above Andean lakes near the resorts of Pucón and Puerto Varas. South of Puerto Montt, ferries carry passengers through scenic bays and fjords comparable to Puget Sound and Alaska's Inside Passage. In the far south, Patagonia's Torres del Paine might be the world's most striking mountain range.

On top of that, Chile owns two romantic islands: the Juan Fernández archipelago, where Alexander Selkirk was the real-life Robinson Crusoe, and Easter Island, famous for its dramatic Polynesian monuments.

Wayne Bernhardson
About the Expert

Wayne Bernhardson is the author of Moon Handbooks to Argentina, Buenos Aires (including coastal Uruguay), Chile (including Easter Island), and Patagonia (including the Falkland Islands).

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Wayne Bernhardson for Triporati

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