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Culture & Heritage

All of Chile's cities – and many of its towns – are home to interesting museums where you can learn about local history and culture, as well as beautiful churches and historic buildings.

Geography

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Chile has a remarkably unique and varied geography. The largest territory spans continental Chile, including the mainland and offshore islands and archipielagos, with more than 3,000 miles of coastline and an average width of about 110 miles on the mainland. The mainland’s northern region is home to the vast Atacama Desert, while two mountain ranges create attractive valleys in the central region and the southern region is famous for its postcard-perfect lakes, forest and volcanoes. Also part of Chilean territory is Isla de Pascua (also known as Rapa Nui or Easter Island) in Polynesia, more than 2,300 miles from the mainland, and Chile Antártico, in the Antarctic.

History

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Chile is a fascinating blend of European and indigenous cultures and traditions. The majority of Chile’s population is “mestizo”, meaning they have both indigenous and European heritages. Purely indigenous peoples today make up only about 4.6% of the population; the largest group-the Mapuche- lives mainly in the region of the Araucanía, with a little more than 60,000 members. This group has preserved its centuries old traditions, in the form of literature, visual arts and music. Other smaller native groups include the Aymara in the north, the Rapanui in Easter Island, among others.

Nature

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Chile offers a wonderfully varied mix of landscapes and climates that range from the most arid desert in the world to ice-cold glaciers and straits in the Pacific Ocean, from the Polynesian warmth of Easter Island to the soaring ski slopes of the Andes, from the sun-soaked beaches of the Pacific coast to the delightfully moderate climates in the central region. Nineteen percent of the country's territory is a protected park or natural reserve. This is excellent news for fans of bird watching, who can experience different species of penguin, condor, sea birds, woodpecker, flamingo and ñandú up close. You can also take in Chile's abundant native flora and animals like vicunas, foxes, pumas, araucarias, whales and pudúes in their natural habitat. All of this is accentuated by the more than 500 active volcanoes scattered throughout the territory, part of mountain ranges that crown many of the country's majestic landscapes.