Squeezed between the Andes and the Pacific, Chile is sometimes called the longest country in the world. Boasting one of the planet’s most diverse landscapes, Chile has become an increasingly popular travel destination, particularly among nature lovers and adventure seekers. From the glacial fields at the southern tip of Patagonia to the dunes of the Atacama Desert in the north, Chile has a number of natural wonders!
There are some interesting things to know about the country that may surprise you. Here are 14 interesting facts about Chile.
1. At 4,270 km (2,653 mi), Chile is the second longest country in the world after Brazil, which is 95 kilometres longer.
2. Chile is one of the only governments in the world with an official department dedicated to research into UFOs (yes, as in the alien kind). Chile’s Central Region has had so many reported UFO sightings over the past 20 years that in 2008, the town of San Clemente opened a 19-mile UFO trail that winds through the Andes Mountains, whose plateaus apparently make great landing pads for the UFOs.
3. Sorry, Egypt, but the world’s oldest known mummies were actually found in Chile! Known as the Chinchorro mummies, the mummified remains of individuals from the ancient Chinchorro tribe of the Atacama Desert have been dated to be from between 5050 and 3000 BC, meaning that people in the Atacama were mummifying their dead up to two thousand years before the Egyptians!
4. One of the most interesting cultural traditions in Chile takes place on the islands of the Chiloe archipelago – the minga. When a family wants to move their house, the community comes together to literally remove the wooden house from its foundations, and uses a team of oxen and logs to pull it to its new home, or ties it to a boat and gently floats it to a different island!
5. The Atacama Desert is the driest desert in the world, with average rainfall measuring about 0.6 inches a year. There are some places in the Atacama that have never even registered rainfall since recording began.
6. Scientists have used the harsh conditions of the Atacama to test Mars rovers, as the desert terrain and volatile conditions are believed to mimic those found on Mars.
7. Chile is home to the Guinness World Record Holder for the world’s biggest swimming pool which is at San Alfonso del Mar Resort in the Chilean city of Algarrobo. It is over 1,013m (3,323ft) in length, covers an area of eight hectares (20 acres) and has a maximum depth of 115 feet.
8. Not only that, it is home to the tallest building in South America, the Costanera Gran Torre. Located in Santiago, the Torre has 64 floors and has two observation decks on the top two floors that offer jaw-dropping views of the city and the surrounding Andes Cordillera.
9. It is one of the most Earthquake prone countries. There is an earthquake almost every day, but most of them are small. The largest Earthquake ever recorded took place in 1960, near Valdivia. It measured a staggering 9,5 on the Richer-scale!
10. In total there is an estimated amount of 500 volcanoes that can be considered active in Chile. 60 of them have had eruptions in the last 450 years.
11. You can see penguins in Chile! There are multiple places to see nesting and breeding sites for a variety of penguins, including Magellanic penguins, Humboldt penguins, and southern rockhopper penguins throughout the country, including Chiloe and Tierra del Fuego.
12. Chile has one of the only two permanent civilian bases on the continent of Antarctica. Named “Villa Las Estrellas”, the small town is home to a school, a hospital, a post office, and even a small souvenir store.
13. Chile only legalised divorce in 2004, the last country in the Western Hemisphere to do so.
14. The extraordinarily clear atmosphere in the mountains of Norte Grande is excellent for astronomers. It has about 300 clear nights a year and is the best possible site to build Southern Hemisphere observatories. Who’s up for star gazing?
How to reach?
Chile has 47 airports, of which, the biggest are in the cities of Santiago, Puerto Montt, Concepcion, Antofagasta, and La Serena. All these airports are well-connected with major national and international airports in North America, Europe, UK, Australia and New Zealand, running direct flights. There are many connecting flights from India to Chile.
Captain Nero’s recommendations in Chile:
San Pedro de Atacama: A small town built around an oasis on a desert plateau, roughly 5,000 people call San Pedro de Atacama home. The traditional way of life and other-worldly landscapes that expands throughout the Atacama Desert draw tourists who come to admire the naturally beautiful surroundings, simple lifestyles, and ancient culture that continues to thrive in the town. Austere, endless flood and salt plains surrounded by coppery mountains are plentiful, and have to be seen to be believed.
Torres Del Paine National Park: This is one of the most famous and natural areas of Chile. It is stretched in more than 100 km north of the city of Puerto Natales in southern Patagonia. This place is extraordinarily beautiful that encompasses countless lakes, mountains, glaciers, and rivers. Photos make this natural masterpiece look incredible, but you really have to see its sheer size for yourself.
Valparaiso: Located on the Pacific coast of the central region of Chile, Valparaíso is known for its brightly coloured houses, bohemian culture and beautiful seaside views. As popular for its many old cobbled streets and unique architecture as it is for its lovely harbour and beaches, the city offers a great deal of fun things to do.
Easter Islands: One of the most isolated islands on Earth, Easter Island is located in the south-eastern Pacific Ocean. The island is famous for its 887 extant monumental statues, called moai, created by the early Rapanui people centuries ago. Besides visiting these statues, travellers here can enjoy two white sand beaches with off-coast diving as well as two volcanic craters.
Pumalin Park: Although only established as a nature sanctuary in 2005, Pumalín Park has become one of Chile’s most important and popular conservation areas. The boasts some of the country’s most pristine coastline and forests and is notable for being almost entirely untouched by human development.
San Rafael Glacier: Laguna San Rafael National Park includes all of the Northern Patagonian Ice Fields, where numerous lakes and rivers are created. The San Rafael Glacier is a giant glacier that calves into the Laguna San Rafael and is accessible only by boat or plane. The journey by boat is incredible offering a beautiful view while passing through the narrow channels of the isolated Aisén region.
Los Pinguinos Natural Monument: Yet another beautiful location in Chile which is must visit. It is one of Chile’s largest penguin colonies that contains around 60000 breeding pairs of Magellanic penguins. This island also homes a large colony of seals and sea lions as well. In September or October each year, the birds migrate back here and find their mate. By the end of March, the penguins return to the sea again.