Chile has not really registered as a travel destination to me and the point that attracted me to this country was that I did not need a visa to travel there amd the skiing is one of the best in South America. The countries that generally comes to visitors’ mind when speaking of South America is usually Brazil, Peru and Argentina.
While I have never visited the other countries in South America, I came back from Chile feeling very overcome with the friendliness of Chileans. Landing into Chile makes visitors feel welcome, and everywhere you go from the receptionist in the hotel to the security guards at the airports, they seems happy, contented and willing to strike up a conversation with you. In general, their attitude to life seems very easy-going and sincere smile creates an atmosphere of graciousness.
In terms of tourist infrastructure, the country probably ranks above average than its peers. Its capital city Santiago has a very good metro and subway network that is clean and functional. Meanwhile I got to fly domestically to 3 airports and all 3 are clean, well maintained and would be a dream for most travellers. I did not find long queues or overcrowded and run down facilities. What I saw was adequate infrastructure with access to the basic needs when travelling including charging your devices on the go, tasty fast food to bring onboard flights and proper signs to direct travellers.
And there is the basic needs of safety in mind for all travellers especially when they visit a new country for the first time. In this regards, Chile is considered very safe. Aside for the need to be wary of your own personal belongings, the people in Chile are generally decent people not prone to violence. In fact, I would say they even have a laid back attitude to life unlike the West-Coasters in North America.
Something I enjoyed out of visiting Chile is the varied terrain and cuisine that the country has. Geographically, the country is a long thin strip of land extending more than 2/3 of the South American continent. This means that visitors could enjoy the beach in the north of the country and then go skiing the next day in the south of the country. From fertile plains to river valleys and majestic volcanoes, the country has so much to offer nature lovers.
This extensive natural landscape also meant fresh produce. Chile probably produces some of the most famous South American wines and they have the fresh ingredients to match those wines. Conger eels, king crabs, abalones, shellfish and sea urchin can all be obtained from the market and together they create a heaven for seafood lovers. Count me a fan of seafood in this instance.
Cost of living is the other benefit to travelling in Chile since dining out is not always expensive and with dishes like Steak a la pobre or translated as poor man’s steak, visitors can enjoy even high-end food like steak for cheap. Even abalone is used as a topping in salsa!
As I explored the country beyond the capital region, one word came into my mind and that was sustainability. Many developed nations have been focused on being sustainable after years of economic development and how to allow growth and development to co-exist. The way I see it, Chile’s economy is pretty resilient when compared to its larger neighbours of Argentina and Brazil. The country and its citizens looks to do things step by step and there is incremental growth without the high inflation that can sometimes come with rapid development. Slow it may be, but steady is the pace of development. That means the government does not undertake wasteful development and instead tries to balance the needs with the income of the nation. In a way, that means visitors should not expect the glitziest mall or the most ground breaking amenities. But they can expect contentedness and resourcefulness of the people.
The latter is even more predominant in the southern tip during my journey to Patagonia and Torres del Paine. Extreme weather conditions might have meant that part of the world is unliveable but the Chileans have built a great infrastructure for travellers to visit the area and local architects have built boutique hotels that incorporate the surroundings. In a way, that have allowed the people to harvest local fruits like calafate and hunt the guanacos for their meat, yet still retaining the beauty of the area.
And that sustainable way of life is what I find most worthy of the country. While there might not be the world’s best ski resort or the world’s most awarded restaurants, the country can offer some of the most scenic ski resorts and majestic vistas, along with some of the freshest produce and seafood. With that, I think Chile actually is one of the under-rated destinations in the world!