Since the 8.8 richter earthquake in 2010, we have had a ridiculous amount of earthquakes all over the country. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this blog while we are facing a "seismic swarm" according to experts, here in the central zone which have had a range from 5,8 to 7,1 Richter! Even so, it seems that this reality has not scared away tourists at all.
We probably are the most seismic country on the planet, but the truth is that instead of making that an issue, in Chile, we take advantage of it. We even have a drink called “terremoto” (earthquake in Spanish), which is made of pisco (grape liquor, another national institution!) pipeño (a type of sweet fermented wine) and pineapple ice cream, a favorite drink on our national holidays. It is sweet and misleading. Probably you will understand why it is called that way after you drink a few glasses and try to stand up from your chair without success.
Despite that, Chile has gained some popularity lately. We have appeared as a favorite travel destination in various media rankings. And without going any further, it was just voted the best destination to visit in 2017, according to The Daily Telegraph. The truth is that Chile has many things to offer, that are so diverse as our long territory and coasts, and make everyone forget about the teluric aspect.
Since our childhood in school, teachers in Geography classes describe our country as a "long and narrow strip of land”. We have 4,300 kilometers long North to South (8,000 kilometers if we consider our Antarctic territory) and because of that we have a diversity of landscapes and climates that make tourist and nationals enjoy the country all year round. From the driest place on Earth, the mystical Atacama desert, to the breathtaking forests and ecosystem of deep Patagonia, top ranked adventure destination.
For the exotic taste, there is Easter Island; six hours by plane from Santiago, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (yes, teachers in school were wrong, we are not only a long strip of land!). In this Unesco World Heritage Site, you can get a closer look to the rapa nui culture and lifestyle, and visit their enormous monolithic statues called moais.
And I would add a place sometimes ignored by tourists: the unique island of Chiloé, located in the Lakes Region. I would definitely say that is truly the most authentic place of our country, with no similar comparison to any other place on Earth. Chiloé stands for itself. As an island, is has developed with the sea. It has a strong fisherman culture, with houses built above the water, magical tales of ghosts and enchantments related with the ocean, and of course, delicious sea food gastronomy. The coziness of this Southern city is given by the wool and wood that are transformed into sweaters and kitchen articles that you can buy in the arts & crafts markets.
But even though our diversity, there is a truth that unfortunately does not change: we are a centralist country. I would venture to say that Chile can be divided into two: The capital city and the province or “provincia”, which is practically, the rest of the national territory!
Half of our population lives in Santiago, the capital city, located at the foot of majestic Andes mountain chain. As a metropoli, it is a very stressful city, chaotic during peak hours, and polluted especially in winter. But I must say that, leaving those negative issues aside, Santiago has become a more interesting city to live over the years. Many restaurants and coffee shops have opened, and lively neighborhoods have developed, as Lastarria (the hipster one), Bellavista (gastronomical and more touristic) and Italia (indie and design district), as well as many cultural activities as gastronomical fairs, art expos, and massive festivals of music, theatre and dance –like "Santiago a mil" during January or the international “Lollapalooza” during April–.
Of all of my friends, few were born and raised in Santiago. The majority are from outside – from “the provincia”– and have come to the capital for study or work reasons. Santiago is the main place to pursue university studies and is the commercial and business hub of the country.
There is a famous musical where the lead character, Carmela, arrives to the capital city from a small town called San Rosendo complaining: “there, life is healthier, but nothing happens,”. It is true. Life in “provincia” is calm and quiet. The shops close for lunch. Naps are an institution. And there are still areas where the cell phone signal is not working. But this is precisaly what we love from Chile and we miss all year round. Our countryside. The beach. The lakes. The little towns. The “amasado” bread. The “cazuela” or chicken casserole. The warmth and simplicity of our people, like Carmela.
When there is a long weekend, we usually move outside Santiago. Or I must say we runaway as crazies blocking the main routes and making our holidays a little bit of hell for some hours. Those who can, go to rest in their cottages located in the countryside, others go to visit their relatives in the smaller cities, others go on adventures to the beach, the desert or the lakes.
The metropoli is in the search of their identity. But our nature doesn´t need to search for anything. It is pure, it is perfect. We were so lucky to develop our nation in this territory, called “the happy copy of the Eden”, in our national anthem.
And please, I’m not trying to be a patriot here. I don´t like to see myself as a part of a territory marked by political borders. This has nothing to do with borders, but with people deeply connected with their soil, their nature, their environment. We share some of our beautiful landscapes and of course, some cultural traditions with Perú, Bolivia and Argentina. I feel proud and amazed about this wider identity. And I cannot talk about Chile without strongly recommending you to have this real andean experience.