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5 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Chile

Boasting one of the planet's most diverse landscapes, Chile has in recent years become an increasingly popular travel destination, particularly among nature lovers and adventure seekers. Here in this long, narrow nation on the west coast of South America, travelers will find an array of stunning sightseeing opportunities, from the tall peaks of the Andes and endless beaches to lush temperate forests, ancient volcanoes, and a dramatic coastline such as that found at Cape Horn.

Chile is also blessed with an abundance of superb national parks and conservation areas, many of the popular destinations for those into trekking and hiking, as well as those who enjoy adventurous things to do such as climbing, river rafting, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

1. Torres Del Paine National Park: One of Chile's most important natural areas and an increasingly popular travel destination is the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park. Situated more than 100 kilometers north of the city of Puerto Natales in southern Patagonia, this stunningly beautiful area encompasses mountains, glaciers, and countless lakes and rivers.

The most important region of the park is the Cordillera del Paine, an area that marks the transition from the Patagonia steppe to the subpolar forests of the north. Perhaps the most notable of its many wonderful features are the three 2,850-meter-tall granite peaks of the Paine Massif, which dominate this already breathtaking scenery.

2. Valle de la Luna and the Atacama Desert: Valle de la Luna, which literally translates as "Valley of the Moon," lies 13 kilometers west of San Pedro de Atacama at the north end of the country, near its border with Bolivia, and can be accessed via well-marked bike trails, tour buses, or self-drive car rentals.

This rugged, inhospitable looking landscape in the heart of the Atacama Desert attracts many visitors for its eerie resemblance to the surface of the moon, an effect caused by the erosion of its sand and stone features by wind and water over countless millennia. Despite its remoteness, though, this surprisingly beautiful landscape has sustained life for centuries, both human as well as that of numerous species of flora and fauna.

3. Easter Island & Rapa Nui National Park: First visited by Europeans in 1722, the magnificent yet remote Easter Island-so named by a Dutch Explorer who first set eyes on it on Easter Sunday- has been inhabited for thousands of years by Polynesians. Despite being more than 3,500 kilometers away from mainland Chile, this fascinating island with its remarkable stone sculptures remains the country's most recognizable attraction.

All told, 887 of these statues, known as Moai-created by the island's early Rapa Nui population-have been identified, most of them now protected by Rapa Nui National Park (the island itself has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site). The most impressive collection is at Ahu Tongariki where 15 of them have been re-erected on the island's largest Moai platform, or "ahu."

4. Santiago: Chile's Cultural Capital: Santiago is not only the financial and business capital of Chile, but it also serves as the country's cultural and entertainment center and is home to endless fun things to do, including visiting its best museums and galleries, along with excellent shopping, dining, and hotel options.

Centrally located and the country's main transportation hub, Santiago is where most visitors begin their Chilean travels before heading to the Andes or other areas of outstanding natural beauty, such as Easter Island. The smartest travelers, though, will allow time in their Chile travel itinerary to get to know Santiago.

5. The Chilean Lake District: Stretching for more than 330 kilometers from Temuco to Puerto Montt and resembling the alpine regions of Europe, the Chilean Lake District (Zona Sur) is well worth exploring. Like its alpine cousin, this beautiful region of the Andean foothills boasts rich farmland at the base of its many snowcapped volcanoes, ringed by thick forests and the kind of deep lakes that water sports enthusiasts drool over.

And the connection to Europe doesn't end here. After the forced resettlement of the region's indigenous people, the Mapuche, farmers from Switzerland, Austria, and Germany arrived, bringing with them aspects of their own culture that can still be seen in the architecture of towns like Osorno and Valdivia, as well as in the region's customs and festivals.

Chile

Stretching almost the entire length of the South American continent and wedged between the intimidating Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, lies Chile, a country rich in natural beauty, culture and heritage.

The most fascinating aspect about Chile is its geography. Although the country stretches over 2,800 miles from north to south, making it the longest country in the world, it is only 265 miles at its widest point, east to west. The country offers an amazing landscape, ranging from a chain of volcanoes in the Andes to freezing glaciers, fjords, inlets and islands.

Since the country spans over 30o of latitudes, it experiences some dramatic climatic variations. The northern region undergoes mild variations in climate and has little to no rainfall. The Central Chile region features more pronounced seasonal changes with some rainfall in the winter months. The southern part, stretching to the famous Strait of Magellan, is considerably cooler with more rainfall than the rest of the country.

Chile has had a turbulent and exciting history, since its days under the Native Americans to its independence from Spain in 1810. From Ferdinand Magellan’s discovery of the southern passage around the tip of the country to the European invasions and their wars against the Native Americans, Chile has had a history covered by many tomes and books.

Santiago, located in the center of the slender country, has been the capital city since the first European settlement was established there in 1541. Although Santiago is the capital city, the Congress is located in the nearby port city of Valparaiso. Chile’s foreign trade market largely flourishes on the exports of copper, seafood, forestry and wood products.

The country’s culture shows the traits of all its inhabitants, from the Incas and the Spanish, to the French and English. The Chileans take pride in their tradition and culture and call their country Pais de Poetas, which means ‘Land of the Poets’.

With its rich scenic beauty, wonderful culture and history, and a modern-day cosmopolitan outlook, Chile has been soaring to new heights, just like the condor depicted on the country’s coat of arms.