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Chile is the narrowest country in the world if one compares its length to its width. Chile extends from the driest of deserts in the north to the closest point to the South Polein the south.
Parts of the Atacama desert in the North have reportedly not seen rain since 1870 when a weather station was put there, while other parts enjoy the "desierto florido" or "flowering desert." San Pedro de Atacama is a very small, picturesque town about an hour out of Calama. It is the base town to explore the Valley of Moon and the Tatio geysers and the beautiful scenery in the area. In the city of Calama, you can visit the largest open pit copper mine in the world at the city of Chuquicamata. They offer an interesting tour, and you will learn a little about the history of copper mining in Chile. Further north, near the Peruvian border, you will find the city of Arica . Arica has some nice beaches and from there you can also explore the Parque Nacional Lauca and the Lago Chungara. These areas have breathtaking scenery, with snowcapped peaks and beautiful lakes and is near the Bolivian border. From Arica, you can cross into Tacna, Peru. Nearby you will find the mysterious Nazca lines that are worth a visit as well. The best way to appreciate the lines that were made by the precolumbian civilization of the Nazca Indians is by plane or helicopter. Only from above you can fully see how special they are. The Nazca lines are located in Peru, south of the city of Ica, from where you can hire small airplane rides.
Also in the Atacama desert you will find CopiapÃ³, an early mining town and site of the first cultivation of grapes in South America. From CopiapÃ³ you can travel eastward to the San Francisco pass (into Argentina) and see the highest mountain in Chile, Cerro Ojos del Salado. There are opportunities to see wild guanacos and Chilean flamingos as well as other wildlife.
In the middle of the country lies the capital of Chile, Santiago. Santiago is a very stylish city that deserves to be explored. It has the best nightlife in the country, most of the cultural institutions and some of the finest restaurants. From there you can visit Valparaiso and take some great hiking trips in the high Andes. Chile offers some of the easiest ascents to mountains above 6.000 meters in the world.
South of Santiago you will find the region of the Bio Bio River and the Lakes Region. Concepcion is the second largest city in Chile and it has a well known university. There are some great coastal areas worth checking such as Tome and Lota, which has a history as a coal mining town and a very nice park. You can take a tour to visit the former coal mine, Chiflon del Diablo.
Further south is the city of Los Angeles, and a beautiful waterfall named Saltos del Laja. South from here you will find Temuco, and east from there the City of Pucon with the Villarica Volcano. By the time you go deep in the region, you will discover the city of Puerto Montt. This is the gateway to Chiloe Island and its Mapuche culture, and also the place where Navimag boats take their 3 day trips south to Puerto Natales and the Patagonia. East from here is the "germantown" called Puerto Varas, on the shores of Lago Llanquihue with its imposing Volcan Osorno (similar to Mt Fuji) in the distance. The surrounding area between Puerto Varas and the Argentinian border in Peulla is worth exploring as it has some great forests and parks.
The Arctic south (Patagonia Chilena) offers the opportunity to explore the incredible beauty of gigantic glaciers, the wildlife of birds, seals, sea lions and whales. You can go down to Puerto Natales and visit Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, a great place for hiking and a very scenic place. Next door to Puerto Natales is Puerto Bories, a formerly large sheep processing plant that is now a national monument and recently converted to a museum.
And, if you go further south, you can visit Punta Arenas, the southernmost tip of continental Chile (4 hr flight from Santiago) and the Straits of Magellan. You can also see the penguin colonies on an island in the Straits of Magellan, or on the mainland at Otway Sound. There are two ferry locations along the straits for regular transportation to Tierra del Fuego.
If you have the chance to visit the Easter island you will be sure to be surprised by the beauty of the place. It is way out in the Ocean and the island has had culture of its own for centuries.
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