Chile a Country of Great Beauty and Contrasts

By: Douglas Scott

Chile is a country in South America occupying a long and narrow coastal strip wedged between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific forms the country's entire western border, with Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage at the countries southernmost tip.

The country is divided into 13 regions, each of which is headed by an intendant appointed by the President.

To the north the land rises and becomes more arid as it reaches the forbidding Atacama Desert, while in the south the land falls away, and the region between mountains and ocean fades into pristine walking country. Serrated peaks, sparkling glaciers and clear lakes are interspersed with pine forest and poppy strewn meadows. The wildlife and cultural history is just as diverse expect to see guanaco, llama, and pink flamingo and Andean condor as you take in the Inca fortresses, Indian villages and ancient rock art beneath cobalt blue skies.

Because of its unusual geography, Chile has a hugely varied climate ranging from the world's driest desert in the north, through a Mediterranean climate in the centre, to a snow prone Alpine climate in the south. Travellers will enjoy the country's abundant fauna and flora and spectacular scenery consisting of huge glaciers, fjords, waterfalls, blue lakes and numerous national parks where trekking is a very popular activity amongst tourists.

While many restaurants and hotels offer entertainment, there are also a number of nightclubs. Santiago gets lively at the weekends, especially in the zones of Bella vista, Providence and Nunoa. Bands and acts frequently perform listings sections can be found in Fridays La Tercera and El Mercurio. Things dont usually get going until around 2200 or 2300 in restaurants, and 0100 in clubs and bars. Visitors should be aware that the English word nightclub means brothel in Chile.

Special purchases include textiles such as colourful hand woven ponchos, vicuna rugs, alpaca jumpers and copper work. Chilean stones such as lapis lazuli, jade, amethyst, agate and onyx are all good buys. Camping and other outdoor equipment can be bought in Santiago as well as in areas where the activity is practised.

The Spanish spoken in Chile is notoriously difficult for foreigners to understand due to the dropping of final syllables and s sounds, the very soft pronunciation of some consonants and the high levels of slang employed, particularly in Santiago and the surrounding areas. Chileans also tend to speak much faster than natives of neighbouring countries. These factors all contribute to newly arrived visitors to the country, even proficient Spanish speakers, hearing no more than indecipherable mumbles in early encounters with locals.

It is a country of great beauty and contrasts that offer tourists a safe and stable environment, stunning nature and first class services to enjoy incomparable and unforgettable holidays full of adventure and exciting experiences.

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