Introduction to Chile

Blink and you might miss Chile on the map. A thin slice of South America stretched along the west coast. A mere wisp of a country. But, for what it lacks in width Chile sure makes up for in length, spanning 4,300 kilometres from the driest desert in the world in the Atacama Desert to the iciest of glaciers in the Patagonia region.

Naturally, its diverse landscape is the stuff of travel dreams, encompassing everything from the Andean highlands to bustling cities, sandy beaches and snowy ski fields. There's wine regions, forests, archaeological ruins and mythological islands. There's also the Lakes District in the south. In a word, it's extreme. In terms of travel, it's a total thrill.

The beating heart of Chile is its capital city, Santiago, where its cobblestone streets and atmospheric courtyards will lure you with stories of bohemia complemented by vivacious art and a pisco sour. It's a sprawling, bustling city of over 6 million people with the towering Andes mountain range as a backdrop. But, be careful not to let the potent pisco brandy and nocturnal party scene get the best of you. A hangover in Santiago means a day wasted when you could be skiing in Valle Nevado, swimming the turquoise waters near Easter Island or wandering around the icy reaches of Patagonia.

All up, Chile packs in a lot for a tiny sliver on a map. Blink and you'll miss one of the world's best bits.

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