The modern capital of Santiago has some of the most spectacular views of any city in the world. A virtual 360° view of the rugged, snowcapped Andes Mountains is a striking contrast to the sleek skyline of the business district. In Santiago one can find an interesting combination of traditional culture and westernization. The city’s surroundings offer an easy access to nature that must be sustained through conservation as a valuable part of the city. Santiago’s neighborhoods are usually areas not accessed and known by visitors from abroad. Although Santiago is a rather westernized capital city for South America, in some of these areas the rich-poor divide is particularly striking.
Colorful Valparaíso is Chile’s most important seaport and an increasingly vital cultural center protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is located in the coast just an hour and a half from Santiago. Built upon dozens of steep hillsides overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Valparaíso boasts a labyrinth of streets and cobblestone alleyways. Before the construction of the Panama Canal Valparaiso was one of the most important ports on the Pacific Ocean, and grew over the years with Europeans choosing to settle here, giving it a bohemian and multicultural charm.
Pichilemu is a popular beach and surf resort situated on Chile’s central coast about 3.5 hours by bus from Santiago. The picturesque town is nestled between wooded hills and sandy beaches. The town is quiet most of the year and enjoys a laid back vibe, but in summer attracts large numbers of vistors from Chile and abroad who come to enjoy the beaches and watersports. Just outside Pichilemu is Punta de Lobos, a world renowned surf destination often featured in international surf magazines and which attracts surfers worldwide.
Torres del Paine is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in Chile, it is a place of many myths and legends. From its indigenous past to modern day explorers, it is still a place on earth that is an untamed wilderness.
Torres del Paine was declared a National park in 1959 and achieved greater importance in 1978 when UNESCO declared the park as one of the worlds unique ecosystems which need to be protected from the impacts of Man. The Park is famous for its “Torres” (Towers) of granite which jut out of the earth with vertical cliffs. The whole park is a paradise for anybody who loves to trek, hike, mountain climb or photograph beautiful scenery. There are numerous treks available but the most famous two are the “W” and the “O” circuits which take you close to the Torres as well as the “Cuernos” (Horns) del Paine. The “W” takes between 3-5 days to complete and the “O” is a two week circuit.
Throughout the park you will pass spectacular scenery including mountains, lakes and glacier Gray. These days there are basic services such as “refuges” in the park but this does not stop Torres del Paine from leaving even the most hardened explorers simply awestruck.
San Pedro de Atacama is a very popular oasis town and tourist centre which attracts tourists from all over the world. In the area surrounding San Pedro, traditionally inhabited by llama herders, there are various Andean villages whose inhabitants, mostly of indigenous origin, live in one of the driest deserts in the world.
Though most communities are isolated, they lie in the centre of some of the most amazing scenery in Northern Chile surrounded by desert, snowcapped volcanoes, geysers, saltflats, lagoons inhabited by pink flamingos and strange and beautiful rock formations found nowhere else in the world. Its past indigenous heritage is still present in the region’s archeological sites and in the non-touristy communities. With populations between 60-500 inhabitants, currently their only sources of income are llama breeding, harvest and handicraft work. Therefore there is a variety of projects underway to help develop community run tourism initiatives to help them self sustain.
Los Coipos is a small rural town located in the Curico valley, an area well known for the quality wines produced and the second biggest wine producing valley in Chile. The main city in the region is Curicó, 90 km away from los Coipos and 4 hours from Santiago city.
Ninety per cent of the houses in los Coipos were severely damaged and/or became uninhabitable during the earthquake in February 2010, It has however been marked by the warmth of the many volunteers who have helped the village recover over the years with the reconstruction efforts to repair the devastation caused by the earthquake.
Los Coipos has around 250 inhabitants consisting of 76 families. It is surrounded by beautiful green hills and many vineyards while the Andes Mountain Range lies in sight to the east. The area is very rural. The main produce of the region are fruits and of course wine from the grapes! With no cell phone reception, one bus a day and a different mentality life occurs here at a much slower pace to the hustle and bustle of the big cities.
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