One of the world’s most active volcanoes is an ever present figure as you walk the streets of Pucon, and here one of the main attractions (other than the aesthetically perfect town) is being able to summit the volcano. Tours will equip you with crampons, and a little flying saucer toboggan so after you have climbed up the snow, and looked down through the smoke into the fiery center of the volcano, you descend at a rapid pace from your backside.
The further south you go in South America, the continent starts to thin and the distance between the Pacific and the Atlantic lessens. Eventually, at the very south, the once thick Argentina and ever thin Chile are about the same width and at this point the border dividing the two countries gives the southern portion to Chile. You can take boat tours out to the Cape Horn National Park and the southernmost piece of land in the world, with nothing but Antarctica somewhere in the distance.
The Atacama Desert is so dry that in certain areas nothing exists, not even on a cellular level, and scientists theorize that rain has never fallen there, ever. The Atacama covers 105,000 square kilometers (40,540 square miles) and is home to some of the most unusual natural phenomena like gigantic salt flats and geysers.
On par with the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge in England is the colossal statues on Rapa Nui, commonly known as Easter Island. Although the island is a 5 hour direct flight away from mainland Chile, it belongs to its nearest land mass and is one of the strangest places on the planet, as you stand on this rock, in the middle of nowhere, trying to fathom how these statues of 14 – 20 tonnes were constructed without any form of known technology or modern tools.
Argentina may jump to mind when you think of Patagonia as it does contain the largest amount of this stunning territory, however, the most dense beauty is located within the Torres del Paine National Park. The definition of breathtaking scenery, you can do week long loops of trekking through this stunning scenery as there is so much to see – a day or two is simply not enough.
Lago Gral Carrera, the biggest lake in Chile, is also home to one of the most gorgeous displays of naturally occuring colours. The Marble Caves, also known as the Marble Cathedral, is a network of smooth, natural marble caves that move in and out of the lake, where you can marble – I mean marvel – at their incredible colours and patterns as you move in and out of them on your kayak.
Going from natural lakes to man made pools, Chile is the record holder for the world’s largest swimming pool. Just north of the town of Algarrobo – which is on the coast directly west of the capital – is the resort of San Alfonso del Mar, and the enormous pool which is over 1000 meters (3,280 feet) in length, and covers an area of almost 20 acres (8 hectares)!
Chile is a major player in the wine industry and the leader when it comes to the Carménère grape as this wine, originally grown in France, was abandoned and forgotten until farmers brought trimmings to the regions of Santiago and began cultivating the fruit. Now, Chile is the main manufacturer of the Carménère wine and can gladly be held responsible for not letting the delicious wine die out completely.
A great way to get a view of Santiago is to climb one of the big hills in the center of the city, or simply step into an elevator, as the capital of Chile is also home to the largest manmade structure on the continent. Named the Grand Tower Santiago (how original), it is much more impressive than its name as it dwarfs everything in its area with a toppling height of a shade under 1000 ft (984). You can visit the top for some incredible photos of the sprawling city.
You might think this bit has accidentally found its way from the Egypt page but in fact, as many Chileans will tell you, the oldest mummified human remains are in fact located in the north of Chile. Attracting much less attention than the famous mummified bodies of Egypt, the museum of archaeology in the small town of San Miguel de Azapa contains the human remains of the Chinchorro people that used to occupy this area, dating back to around 5000 BC, a staggering 2000 years older than those of Egypt.
In the north of Chile as you approach the border of Argentina, the enormous Eye of the Salty One (Ojos del Salado) appears in front of you. Not only are you in the presence of the worlds tallest volcano, if you choose to climb the beast, you will also be in the company of the highest altitude lake in the world, as the permanent crater lake is at a world breaking altitude of almost 21,000 feet above sea level.