Chile means nature as it should be—wide open, untamed, untroubled by human interference. It is a slender ribbon of geography, on average only 108 miles wide, but that ribbon runs for some 2,700 miles, the distance from San Francisco to New York. And its coastline is even longer, at 3,100 miles. In the narrow territory between its borders, just about every kind of landscape imaginable unfolds: pristine lakes in verdant valleys … glittering glaciers rising up mountain slopes …plunging fjords …restless volcanos …and sweeping desert.
With such natural splendor, it is no wonder that the Spanish coveted the land, seizing much of the region for itself in 1540. Until then, the land had been shared by Incas in the north and the Araucanians in the south. Spain tried to tamp down local culture and import its own, but the independent Chilean spirit eventually triumphed, and the nation freed itself from colonial rule in 1810. That doesn’t mean its path was easy: the dictatorship of Pinochet was brutal, including thousands of “disappearances.”
Free elections in 1989 returned power to the people and Chilean democracy has yielded a prosperous economy and one of the highest literacy rates on earth. Today, Chile’s quality of life is renowned. Whether horse riding on the pampas, sipping red wine at one of the countless vineyards, or hiking the same hills that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid once escaped into, Chileans revel in the bounty of their land and embrace a slow pace of life that lets them enjoy it best.
Most Popular Films
Films featuring Chile from international, independent filmmakers
Tierra Del Fuego - Land of Fire
Absorb Chile's wilderness surrounded by the snow-capped mountains and mirrored lakes of Tierra del Fuego.Produced by Jason Spafford
Great Historic Sites: Easter Island
Discover the ancient secrets behind Moai—the carved volcanic statues of Easter Island.Produced by Ian Sciacaluga, Pilot Productions
South America: The Beautiful Ride
We’ve been working with independent international filmmakers to provide you with films that portray the people, culture, and lifestyles of the countries you're interested in visiting. We believe this film offers a unique perspective on South America.Produced by Jason Spaford
In Chile, A Search for Remnants of Revolt
Hunt for communist propaganda from Chile's 1973 military coup.This film was first published on BBC.com Travel. Produced by Aric S. Queen.
Travel in warp-speed to discover what life is like throughout the seasons on Chiloe Island.Produced by Daniel Katanella
Chile Interactive Map
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Immerse yourself in Chile with this selection of articles, recipes, and more
by A. C. Doyle
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Our Activity Level rating system ranks adventures on a scale of 1 to 5 to help you determine if a trip is right for you. See the descriptions below for more information about the physical requirements associated with each rating.
Activity Level 1:
Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.
Activity Level 2:
Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.
Activity Level 3:
Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.
Activity Level 4:
Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.
Activity Level 5:
Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.
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Chile & Argentina
The chilly waters of the South Pacific host some of the world’s most robust fisheries. Case in point: The Chilean Dungeness rock crab (jaiba) is the prize catch of the most stalwart fishermen. Naturally sweet and tender, often flash-frozen right onboard the ships, jaiba is one of Chile’s favorite menu items. In Santiago, at the Mercado Central or Vina del Mar, and in the Santa Colonia and Bellavista districts, or anywhere along the waterfront in Valparaiso, you will see both large earthenware pomaires and individual-sized ramekins steaming on a great many tabletops. They are filled to the brim with pastel de jaiba, a delicious crab and cheese casserole.
I find the American fetish for drenching almost anything in cheese is often a mistake, and particularly so when it comes to seafood. But in this instance, the combination is nothing short of divine. Wash it down with an oaky Chilean Chardonnay, or a crisp Pilsner.
On the other side of the Andes, we tend to think first of Argentina’s beef, as well we should. With all due respect to the marketing wizards who trademarked Japanese Kobe beef, Argentinian beef is the finest in the world. Both the genetic stock and the pampas grass conspire to produce absolutely superb cuts of steak. Unfortunately, Argentinian beef is virtually impossible to find stateside (some say due to protectionist U.S. trade practices). Which suggests that when you visit Argentina, you should order steak as frequently as possible. I highly recommend the shoulder-eye, a delicious cut that is uncommon here in the north.
But one Argentine beef specialty that can be easily recreated with Oklahoma or Texas beef is guiso argentino, essentially veal or beef stew with rice, fruits, and sweet potatoes (as well as the typical stew ingredients—including onions, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, etc.). Our image of Chile and Argentina is of sunny Latin enclaves way down south, so it’s easy to forget that Buenos Aires can get as cold as the 40s and even 30s in wintery July, and Patagonia much colder than that. So guiso is hearty comfort fare for those chilly late afternoons and evenings, and it is typically served as the main dish, rather than as an appetizer soup.
Remember that with any stew, there is a trade-off between its redolence and the tenderness of the meat versus the consistency of the fruits and vegetables. The longer you let it simmer, the more the starches will break down into a gooey plasma. Accordingly, add the fresh fruit later during the stewing process, if you want it to maintain any snap. The recipe on the next page calls for apricots or peaches, but you can experiment with apples, pears, plums, cherries, figs, dates, or whatever you like. And pork will work as well as beef or veal. Serve with a fruity Malbec or Grenache.