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WHERE WE ARE

CHILE is a long, narrow country that extends from the Andes Mountains to the Pacific Ocean on the southwest side of South America, from latitude 17° 30' S in the Altiplano to 56° 30' S at the far end of continental Chile and 90° S in its Antarctic territory. Chile has a unique geography: its territory includes Easter Island, in Polynesia, 3,700 km from the mainland, as well as territory in Antarctica (Chile Antártico, 1,250,000 km2). Continental and insular Chile, which includes the mainland and offshore islands and archipelagos, covers 756,096 km2.


Chile's main territory is roughly twice the size of Germany and consists of a strip of land 4,200 km long and 90 to 440 km wide. In the far south, the land is transected by hundreds of islands and fiords. Santiago is the country's capital and largest city in terms of population and employment, with 6,061,185 inhabitants as of the 2002 census. Located on parallel 33° S, at roughly the same latitude as Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Santiago is the country's main political, economic, cultural and industrial center. It is the gateway to Chile and one of the most modern capital cities on the continent.


GETTING THERE

Given that Chile is located on the southwest coast of South America, you will likely fly to Santiago, the country's capital city and location of its main International airport. You can also get here by road from neighboring countries -Peru, Bolivia and Argentina-, or by sea, arriving at one of the country's seaports.


By plane:

Chile has seven international airports (located in Arica, Iquique, Antofagasta, Easter Island, Santiago, Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas). The largest is Santiago's airport, Aeropuerto Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez (SCL), which offers international connections to North and South America, Europe and Oceania. Seventeen airlines offer regularly scheduled flights from Santiago's airport, which also boasts a complete infrastructure of shops and restaurants, a Duty Free store and VIP lounges. It is easy to find a hotel nearby. Three airlines also operate domestic flights to the country's main cities, which are serviced by seven international airports and 28 airfields.


By bus or car:

Getting to Chile by road means crossing one of the border passes between Chile and its neighboring countries. From Peru, the single access point is between Tacna (Peru) and Arica (Chile) at Paso Concordia in the Arica-Parinacota Region. You can enter the country from Bolivia in the Arica-Parinacota Region via Paso Visviri or through the altiplano via Paso Chungará-Tambo Quemado. Both connect with the International highway that runs between La Paz (Bolivia) and Arica (Chile). Three additional passes will take you to Iquique: Colchane-Pisaga, Cancosa and Abra Oriente de Napa. To get to Antofagasta, take the Paso Salar de Ollagüe and Portezuelo de Cajón, one of the most popular routes, as it runs through the Salar de Uyuni (Bolivia) and passes through San Pedro de Atacama and the Salar de Atacama salt flat (Chile). If you are coming from Argentina, there are more than 50 border crossings from which to choose. The most popular are the Calama-Salta Route, the Copiapó-Tucumán Route via Catamarca, La Serena-San Juan, Santiago-Portillo-Mendoza, San Martín de Los Andes-Pucón, Lago Nahuel Huapi-Lago Frías-Lago Todos los Santos-Lago Llanquihue, and Osorno-Bariloche. Chile's seaports, especially Valparaíso, attract cruise ships from around the world.


GETTING AROUND IN CHILE

Chile has an extensive network of well-maintained highways. Major roadways include the Panamericana, which is called Route 5 north between Arica and Santiago and Route 5 south between Santiago and Puerto Montt. This highway runs through most of mainland Chile. Three main highways run through central Chile to the coast, including the Autopista Del Sol, which connects Santiago with the port city of San Antonio and beach towns such as Cartagena, Algarrobo and Isla Negra; Route 68, the road from Santiago to Valparaíso, which will take you to coastal cities and beach resorts such as Viña del Mar, Reñaca, and Concón; and the Carretera del Vino (Route I-50), which runs from Rancagua through the Colchagua winegrowing valley.


In the south, excellent highways connect Route 5 with coastal cities such as Valdivia and Concepción. South of Puerto Montt and into the broken landscape of Northern Patagonia, you must take a combination of ferries to reach the Carretera Austral (Southern Highway), the main roadway through this region, which offers some of the most stunning natural scenery in all of South America. To reach the islands of Chiloé, take a ferry from Pargua (65 km west of Puerto Montt), crossing the Chacao Channel (35 minutes) to Isla Grande de Chiloé. The other islands in this area can be reached via water taxis or ferries, or even by kayak. If you want to visit Easter Island, you will have to fly from Santiago. The same is true for Juan Fernández Island (also known as Robinson Crusoe island).If you want to get to Southern Patagonia, there are daily flights from Santiago and Puerto Montt to the gateway city of Punta Arenas. You can also get there by road from Argentina.


Most major highways in Chile have emergency services, service stations, restaurants and, of course, toll booths. Dozens of bus lines offer passenger service to the country's main cities. Buses usually travel at around 80 km/h, which means that the trip from Santiago to Puerto Montt (1,024 km) would take approximately 13 hours.


Information from Sernatur

www.chile.travel


Useful information about Chile