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Given its great expanse, one of Chile's main characteristics is its astonishing variety of landscapes. It is a narrow strip of land with a coastline 2,620 miles long, with an average width of approximately 110 miles. In the north, the barren Atacama Desert with its many archaeological treasures, followed by the Central Valley, a vast region of 700 miles and in the South, the majestic Andes mountain range, descending into the Pacific Ocean. In this framework made by the mountains and the sea, we find the world's most arid desert, fields of fruits and beautiful beaches; volcanoes, lakes, woods and the world's second largest rain forest, plus fyords and canals, pampas and glaciers.

Chile’s territory includes sovereignty in Antarctic with research bases, and a small settlement of Villa Las Estrellas for the civilian population.

In Oceania, Chile is also present with Easter Island (Rapa Nui), a small island of volcanic origin placed in the center of the Pacific Ocean and considered the most isolated point on the globe. The people of Easter Island call it Te Pito Te Henua, or The Navel of the World.

Chile’s present population is estimated over 14 million, mainly of Spanish descent with a strong German, French and Italian influence, which have resulted in a homogeneous and cosmopolitan population. Certain ethnic minorities exist concentrated in small areas of the territory, such as the Aymaras in the Altiplano (in the north of Chile), the Easter Islanders, of Polynesian origins and the Mapuche culture concentrated around the city of Temuco.

Weather conditions in Chile vary from north to south. The north (January through December) is warm, dry and hardly sees any rain. The Central Region is mild, December, January and February being the warmest months, and June through August the coolest. But the valleys are always pleasantly green due to the irrigating of the many small rivers that flow from the Andes. In the Southern area, the climate is cold in winter and surprisingly mild in summer.

During the decade of the 80's only five countries in Latin America showed economical growth — one of these was Chile — this is one of the reasons why it is considered as the most stable nation in South America and the most secure, attracting investments by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The economic growth in Chile is based in a practically non-existent deficit and low inflation rates; the economy has also been stressed on a strong impulse of exports, the more important being fresh fruits, fish-meal, paper, wood and also copper and alloys.

The present challenge of the Chilean economy is to ensure its stable growth, and at the same time, to re-distribute the income this development generates in the social system.

Due to its varied geography, diverse climates, stable economy exceptional sights, good food and famed wines, Chile has now emerged as a fist class destination for international travelers. It is a unique and surprising experience, a place for the interests and activities for everyone. A world where nature and adventure are within your grasp, where you can ski on the slopes of active volcanoes, climb mountains of sail through thousand year old icebergs. You can also camp as if you were on the surface of the moon, or practice rafting in rivers wilder than those of Alaska. A country where you can see the planet's oldest mummies, admire hieroglyphs of extraordinary beauty, enjoy the amazing geysers, bathe in thermal waters or look on baffled by the moais of Easter Island.

Visa Requirements For U.S. and Canadian Citizens

USA and Canadian citizens traveling on tourism or on business trips are allowed to enter Chile without a visa for a period of 90 days, renewable in Chile. At the immigration booth a USD $100 (USA) and USD $60.00 (CA) fee has to be paid in cash. This fee is based on the principle of reciprocity. The fee is paid only once and it is valid until the expiration of the passport

Shopping, Banking and Payments

US Dollars and Euros could be exchanged in banks and authorized bureaus. American Express, VISA, Diners and Master Card are widely accepted. There may be difficulties in changing traveler's check outside Santiago. The best exchange rate is the one negotiated by your own bank with the Chilean banking, therefore, cash withdrawn from you’re saving or checking account would save you in fees and commissions. ATMs are available almost everywhere in Chile with Spanish and English instructions and the usage fee is normally $1 USD.

Banks and Exchange Bureaus are open Monday to Friday from 9 amto 2 pm. Business Office hours are generally from 9 am to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 7 pm.

Most stores in the big cities are open from 9 am to 8 pm, although in the outskirts and provinces other than Santiago, they generally close for siesta from 1 pm PM to 4 pm. On Saturdays, they open from 9 am to 1 pm and Shopping malls are opended Sundays from 9 am to 10 pm.

Cafés, cake shops and pizzerias are open most of the time except between 2 am and 6 am.

Most restaurants serve lunch from 12:30 pm and dinner from 8:30 pm. Light fare menus are served in many restaurants and diners at all times. Most American fast food chains are available in Santiago, Vina del Mar and the Lake region.

Federal Holidays

January 1st - New Year’s

March/April* - Easter / Good Friday

April 2** - Veterans’ Day and tribute to the fallen in the Malvinas War

May 1st - Labor Day

May 21 - Navy Glory Day

June 29 - St Peter & St Paul's Day

August 15 - Assumption of the Virgin Mary

September 18 - Independence Day

September 19 - Army Glory Day

October 12 - Columbus Day

December 8 - Immaculate Conception Day

December 25 - Christmas Day

* Floating Holiday

** If the date falls on a Tuesday or Wednesday, the holiday will be effective on the preceding Monday; if it falls on Thursday or Friday, the holiday will be effective the following Monday.