Land of Extremes: Chile
If I could go any place given the chance, I would go in a heartbeat to Chile. Along the Western coast of South America, Chile is a land of extremes, spanning thousands of miles at 2,700 miles long, and contains both the driest and wettest places on Earth in its borders. Chile is home to a number of indigenous groups, and 17 million people live there. Chile is a place of astounding beauty and mystery, and every year, thousands of people go there to see the wonders Chile beholds.
The Atacama Desert
Situated in Northern Chile, this desert is the driest in the world, and some places haven’t seen a drop of rain since record-keeping began. The Atacama region, though dry, is home to almost a million people. An ancient petroglyph valley, called Hierbas Bueans Valley, is in the desert as well, and because the desert is so remote, many photographers flock to the area to capture high-def images of the Milky Way. The Atacama deserts clear skies is also attractive to astronomers, who go there to get some of the best images ever captured of our solar system. Recently, the Atacama desert has also been in the news because of recent discoveries of whale bones in this dry area. Astronomers and scientists also go to the Atacama because of its close resemblance to the planet Mars, and NASA uses the Atacama as a testing site for the Earth-Mars Cave Detection Program. The Atacama would be an extremely interesting and beautiful- though very dry- place to go.
Though many islands lie off of Chile’s long coastline, the most famous island in Chile is Easter Island, or Rapa Nui. The island is most famous for the gigantic head statues that dot the hillsides. Easter Island has an interesting history, and is thought to have been settled by Polynesians who came to the island across the Southern Pacific in canoes. The island and it’s history of extreme deforestation and its effects on the population and society is often used as a case study in environmental studies classes as well. The island is over 2,000 miles west of Chile, and claims to be the most remote inhabited island in the world.
Torres del Paine in Patagonia
Southern Chile is very cold, and is on the wet side of the Andes mountains. In Southeastern Chile near the border of Argentina is the breathtakingly beautiful national park Torres del Paine. Glacial lakes with heavy sedimentation give the lakes a light blue color, and peaks rise high above these lakes to create dramatic landscapes. The smallest deer in the world, the pudu, inhabits this area, along with foxes, pumas, over a dozen bird species, and two other mammals endemic to the area, the
guanaco and the huemul. The park has become very popular over the years for hiking tourism, and it’s easy to see why once this majestic area is seen in pictures.
Chile is an amazing country that encompasses some of the most extreme places on Earth. Chile is unique in its landscape and its very location on Earth, with the Equator passing right through it while also reaching so far south as to almost reach Antarctica. Chile would be a very memorable adventure if given the chance to explore this epic land.