Geography & Climate.
Chile's 800,000 sq kms contains
stony Andean peaks, snowcapped volcanoes, broad river valleys and
deep canyons, sterile deserts, icy fjords, deep blue glaciers, turquoise
lakes, sandy beaches and rocky headlands. It extends over 4200 kms
from tropical Arica to sub-antartic Punta Arenas, on average less
than 200 kms wide.
The Andes run the length of the country. In the far north volcanoes
reach above 6000 meters, as does the imposing wall of sedimentary
and volcanic peaks east of Santiago. South of the Río Bio-Bío,
the Andes are a less formidable barrier.
The regions of Tarapacá and Antofagasta comprise the Norte
Grande ( Great North ), dominated the barren Atacama Desert. The
regions of Atacama and Coquimbo form the mineral-rich Norte Chico
( Little North ), an area of scrub and occasional forest. Beyond
the Río Aconcagua begins the fertile heartland of Middle
Chile, where the Valle Central contains the capital, Santiago, the
port of Valparaíso, and most of the country's industry and
employment. South of Concepción, the Río Bio-Bío
marks Chile's 19th-century frontier and the Mapuche Indian homeland.
South of Temuco, the scenic Lake District has snowcapped volcanoes,
many still active, framing its numerous foothill lakes. South of
Puerto Montt, Chiloé is the largest island wholly within
Chile, with a lengthy coastline, dense forest and many small farms.
Chilean Patagonia, comprising the region of Aisén and Magallanes,
experiences cool summers but relatively mild winters, as does the
island of Tierra del Fuego, divided between Chile and Argentina.
( for the central coast )
rainy season goes from June to August. The rest of the year is dry,
but nights are always fresh. February is often foggy in the morning.
Maximum temperature average / rainy days :
Jan 26/0 ; Feb 26/0 ; Mar 24/1 ; Apr 22/1 ; May 19/5 ; Jun 17/6
; Jul 15/6 ; Aug 17/5 ; Sep 20/3 ; Oct 22/2 ; Nov 23/1 ; Dec 25/0
Source : Servicio Nacional de Turismo - Chile.
various distinctive environments all support different flora and
fauna , which are protected by an extensive system of national parks.
The northern highlands support large populations of the endangered
vicuña and huge nesting colonies of flamingos. The coastal
areas of the desert and central regions offer pelicans, penguins,
otters and sea lions. The Andean portion of La Araucanía
houses large forests of monkey-puzzle tree, cypress and southern
beech. In the extreme south, Parque Nacional Torres del Paine is
a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with a wealth of wildlife, including
the Patagonian guanaco.
is one of the safest country in Latin America. Crimes and robberies
are rare, but still visitors should be careful with valuables.
a third of Chile's 14 million people reside in Gran Santiago. About
75 % live in Middle Chile, only 20 % of the country's total area.
More than 80 % in the cities, but south of the Bio-Bío, the
peasant population is still dense.
90 % of Chileans are Roman Catholic. Evangelical Protestantism is
is the official language, but a handful of Indian languages are
still spoken. French and English are the most taught foreign languages.
cool waters of the Humboldt Current provide superb fish and shellfish,
while the fields, orchards and pastures of Middle Chile fill the
table with excellent produce and meat. Visitors will appreciate
the various Chilean specialities such as "cazuela" ( a
broth with potato or maize and beef or chicken ), "pastel de
choclo" (a maize casserole filled with vegetables, chicken
and beef), "paila marina" ( fish chowder ), "chupe
de locos" ( abalone stew ), "cazuela de mariscos"
(seafood stew ) and many others like typical cheap fast food. Barbecues
are very common.
The great variety of Chilean wines should satisfy most alcoholic
thirsts, but foreigners should not miss the "Pisco", a
powerful grape brandy. There is a few good bottled beers like the
Chileans guzzle all the usual soft drinks and some local varieties.
They usually drink tap water in most areas without problems, but
bottled mineral water is a good alternative.
Visitors should try the typical "mote con huesillo", a
peach nectar with barley kernels.
restaurants, it is customary to leave a 10 % tip ( "propina"
teller machines ( called Redbanc ) exist in most cities, but some
only take Visa, the most widely accepted card.
services are sometimes slow, but telephone services have improved
greatly over the past decade. There are many phone & fax offices,
as well as public phones.
should be prepared to undergo big differences of weather according
to the latitude and the altitude.
recent years, self-service laundrettes have become common in the
cities. Elsewhere visitors can have their clothes washed by local
electricity supply is 220V. Sockets take two round prongs, and adapters
are readily available.
unit of currency is the "peso". US dollars are the preferred
currency for visitors. Approximate rate at September 2001 was US$
1 = Ch$ 700 . Cash earns a better rate than travellers' cheques
and avoid commissions.
most of the year Chile is four hours behind GMT/UTC, but from mid-December
to mid-March ( summer ), the country observes daylight-saving time.
need an International Driving Permit as well as a state or national
license. However the European Community's driving license is usually
accepted by authorities.
& tourist cards
nationalities only need a passport ( New Zealanders need a visa
). Arriving visitors receive a 90-day tourist card which is taken
very seriously by Chileans authorities.
& departure tax
are no currency restrictions. Duty-free allowances include 400 cigarettes
or 50 cigars or 500 grams of tobacco, 2.5 litres of alcoholic beverages,
and perfume for personal use.
The Servicio Agrícola-Ganadero ( SAG ) inspects luggage for
fresh produce at international borders and domestic checkpoints.
There is an international departure tax of US$ 18, payable in US
dollars or pesos.
vaccinations are required or needed to enter Chile.
: Guide " Lonely Planet " and " Servicio Nacional
de Turismo - Chile ".
115, OF. 1502, LAS CONDES
SANTIAGO - CHILE
Telephone: (56-2) 2075608. Mobile: (56-9) 3269666.