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Chileans say that, when God had nearly finished with creation, there was a little of everything left, so he threw it in a narrow strip of land and called it Chile.

On the surface this country, with its almost comical geographical shape, is unassuming, a sliver of land dwarfed by more muscular countries on a continent teeming with beauty. But look closer and you’ll see a place of extremes and contradictions, where virtually every climate and topography imaginable exists to offer lasting experiences for travellers intrepid enough to make the journey.

Few countries have quite such a split geographical personality. Here, you can often glimpse the snows of the high Andes from the Pacific Ocean, ski in the mountains in the morning and be surfing off the coast by afternoon, with time left over for a pisco sour by sundown.

To the south, the country is hemmed in by thick temperate rainforest, fast-flowing rivers, icefields and glaciers, while to the north is the memorable Atacama Desert, with its endless space and pristine skies, where some places have not seen a raindrop for centuries. The desert’s geoglyphs bear testament to the ingenuity of some of prehistoric America’s most complex civilizations, while an intermingling of the old world with the new has produced some of the most enduring aspects of Chilean culture, such as the legend of the Inca princess La Tirana, which spawned one of the country’s biggest religious fiestas.

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