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Chile

Highlights

Patagonia
The most famous region of Chile, Chilean Patagonia offers all the dramatic landscape one would expect from the world's ultimate land's end. Here the South American continent falls away in a dazzling explosion of islands, glaciers, icebergs and mountains. It is truly one of mother nature's grand finales. Chilean Patagonia is itself composed of two sub-regions; the northern Aisen and, to its south, Magallanes. Aisen is home to Parque National Laguna San Rafael, while Magellanes hosts the incomparable Parque National Torres del Paine.

Parque Nacional Torres del Paine
The tall granite pillars of the Torres del Paine, seemingly reaching for the sky above the Patagonian steppe, are the postcard icons of the Chilean Patagonia. The towers, some of which are over 2,600 meters high, drop abruptly into a valley bursting with sparkling blue lakes, tumbling creeks and rivers, cascading waterfalls, huge glaciers, impenetrable forests, and copious plant and animal species. Torres del Paine is one of those places on the planet where the hand of nature has been especially creative. The rich and apparently limitless nature of Parque National Torres del Paine provides an ideal environment for observation and exploration. The 180,000-hectare park has been designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, protecting the guanaco that graze on the open steppes, the shy Chilean deer and many more mammals, birds and flora.

The Lake District (Los Lagos)
South of Chile's Biobio River begins a land where earth and water play liberally together, producing visions of startling natural beauty. Known as the Lake District, it is a region where azure, mirrored lakes hold the reflections of ice-capped volcanoes, ancient trees and, of course, the indomitable Andes. The Lake District is also an ideal embarkation point for Argentina: the region has four passes that lead through the Andes.

Atacama Desert
The coastal Atacama Desert is the driest in the world and almost totally barren. Featuring a landscape reminiscent of the moon but even more dramatic in that the Atacama has as its backdrop the towering Andes, which block tropical storms from the Amazon Basin to the east. During the time of El Nino (changes in circulation of the sea surface occurring an average every seven years) there can be torrential rains in some areas of the desert, causing flash floods and sudden, ephemeral bursts of vegetation.

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