Chile At a Glance
Chile is one of the most fascinating gap year destinations. Nowhere else can you stand in the world's driest desert (near San Pedro de Atacama), gaze at snowcapped peaks then turn your head to see cool Pacific rollers creaming inland. For gap year travellers who have been fascinated by geography, this long, impossibly thin line of Chile has always produced a moment of astonishment. The longest country in the world, Chile is a country of startling contrasts and extreme beauty, with attractions ranging from the towering volcanic peaks of the Andes to the ancient forests of the Lake District. There are a multitude of very good parks here, and plenty of opportunities for fine gap year adventure travel. Chile is justly famous as the location of Torres del Paine, considered by many to be the finest nature travel destinations in all of South America.
No gap year traveller in Chile can miss the amazing landscape of this wonderful country. The most obvious factor in Chile's remarkable slenderness is the massive, virtually impassable wall of the Andes, a mountain range that is still rising and that contains more than fifty active volcanic peaks. The western border is of course the Pacific Ocean. To the north the land rises and becomes more arid, until one reaches the forbidding Atacama Desert, one of the most inhospitable regions on earth. In the centre of the country, however, is a long and expansive river valley, a five hundred mile corridor occupied in the north by vineyards and great farms and in the south by primeval forests and enchanting lakes. Santiago, the capital, anchors the northern and more prosperous section of the central valley. The lush Lake District to the south, however, is the homeland of Chile's indigenous peoples, the Araucanians.
Chile's intoxicating wilderness is complemented by its sophisticated cities, developed infrastructure, a gripping history and a fast-evolving culture. All of which combines to make gap year travel here reassuringly easy, always inspiring, often surprising and never, ever disappointing.
Chile's climate is as diverse as its geography. Santiago, due to its position in the central region, has a Mediterranean climate with well-defined seasons. Spring, between September and November is mild. Summer, between December and February, is dry and hot with temperatures that can reach over 30°C (87º F) and cooling down at night. and on the coast this temperature drop can be much more extreme.
On the coast and in the mountains the difference in temperature is much more extreme. Autumn falls between March and May, and temperatures decrease gradually. In winter, mornings are cold, some as low as -2º C (28º F) and although the temperature rises at midday it rarely exceeds 15°C.