Chile, the long narrow strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountains, is a very unique and unusual country. Mainland Chile has over 4,000km of coast on the Pacific Ocean and because it’s so long, it encompasses an impressive variety of climates and stunning landscapes, making it an absolute must for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers– it has the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountains; the driest desert in the world in the north, the Atacama Desert; a mediterranean climate with beaches and wineries in the middle; and forests, lakes, glaciers and volcanos in the south, in Patagonia.
Here are some things I learned while traveling in Chile:
Chileans are some of the nicest and most hospitable people I’ve met. If you look lost, Chileans will come up to you and try help you even if you don’t speak the same language. I met some Chileans while traveling other countries in South America and many of them offered for me to stay with them when I came to Chile.
Chile is one of South America’s most stable and prosperous countries, owing its strong economy to mining. By South American standards, Chile is a safe country, but still beware of pickpocketing and petty crime. The trade off for Chile’s safety is that it is one of the most expensive countries South America.
Chile has a wealth of wineries with great wine that are worth checking out. Most wineries specialize in red wine, but if you need a break from red wine, Casablanca (near Valparaiso, Viña del Mar and Santiago) is Chile’s biggest white wine region.
The landscape will blow you away (and I barely scratched the surface of what Chile has to offer):
You’ll meet lots of new friends:
With a majority Roman Catholic population, Chile has a fairly conservative culture with regards to certain things, but they definitely know how to have a good time.
Chile has some of the best skiing in the southern hemisphere.
Chile is in a major earthquake zone, so there are earthquakes literally everyday, ranging in magnitude, so you will probably experience one when you’re there. I experienced a little one when I was in Santiago. Since it was just a minor earthquake, it was actually pretty cool and not scary, but shortly after I left Chile, they had a major 8.2 earthquake.
Speaking of earthquakes, when in Chile, try a terremoto (Spanish for earthquake), a drink made with pipeño (sweet fermented wine), fernet (strong liquor) and pineapple ice cream served in a pitcher. It’s very sweet, but very deceivingly strong, so when you get up, you feel shaky, like an earthquake.
On a free walking tour, I learned that Chileans are very into status, meaning if you live in Chile and you’re tall, light-haired, light-eyed and have a European last name, you will go far in life (which is sad). This rang very true when I went to a Chilean house party deep in the suburbs of Santiago at a very nice house with maids and a bartender because all the guests were very good looking and fairly tall (typical Chileans are fairly short) white European Chileans who spoke perfect English. It felt like I was at a party in Southern California.
Good to know:
The Spanish spoken in Chile sounds quite different from the Spanish spoken in the other South American countries and it can be difficult to understand. Chileans speak very quickly, with a lot of slang and the final syllables and “s” sounds are often dropped. One word you’ll hear a lot in Chile is “cachai?“, which means “you know?” (It’s the second person conjugation of “cachar” which is slang for “to understand”). Cachai is used very informally and at the end of pretty much every sentence in a conversation.
Do not try to bribe a carabinero (police). Unlike other South American police, who are often corrupt, Chilean Carabineros are very honest, making bribery a serious offence.
You can drink the tap water! This is exciting because drinking the tap water is not recommended anywhere else in South America, other than Argentina.
If you need more reasons to go to Chile, see Buzzfeed’s 22 Reasons You Should Be in Chile Right Now.