The altiplano of *Norte Grande has a wide variety of natural scenery including salt flats, volcanoes, lakes and geysers. *San Pedro de Atacama (map) and surrounding area offer one of the most spectacular combinations of archeology and awe-inspiring natural sights. San Pedro was the cradle of the Atacameño Culture. *Antofagasta is the largest city.
The Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world. Among the most remarkable are those of *Azapa Valley (map), *Lluta Valley (map), the *Atacama Giant (map). *Arica (map) is a coastal city with beautiful beaches and is also a starting point for travelers heading east to *Putre for enjoying the majestic Puna landscape of *Lauca National Park (map).
Inland from *Iquique, the desolate pampas are home to a few scattered towns and villages. Among those, the most interesting is the ghost town of *Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works (map), declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 2005.
Norte Chico boasts some of the best beaches and exclusive coastal resorts in the country, such as *Bahía Inglesa and those of *La Serena, and *Coquimbo. These also see an increase in national tourism during the summer months. *Elqui Valley is a very popular destination. Here, the dazzling green of the valley floor contrasts nicely with the barren brown slopes of the mountains that flank it. *El Tatio Geyser Field (map), the largest geyser fields in the Southern Hemisphere and the third largest in the world.
Zona Central. This area is home to the main ski resorts in Chile. *Santiago, the capital and main urban center of Chile, home to many historic sites and heritage. *Valparaíso is a wonderful, amphitheater-shaped city, whose historic quarter has been recognized as a World Heritage Site.
Zona Sur. The Chilean Patagonia, the circuit of the *Seven Lakes (map) and various national parks like *Conguillío (map), *Vicente Pérez Rosales (map).
*Zona Austral is a premier destination for Ecotourism and Adventure travel. It features countless islands and islets, a maze of steep-sided fjords and channels, large glaciers and icefields and exuberant unspoilt temperate rainforests. *Torres del Paine (parquetorresdelpaine.cl, map) – one of the most beautiful national parks in the world.
*Punta Arenas (map) — one of the southernmost cities of the world.
The most common entry point for overseas visitors is the Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport, 15 km (9.3 miles) north-west of downtown Santiago.
The bus system is sophisticated and provides a cheap and comfortable way to get from town to town. Local companies will usually stop at many stations along the way, however, you can always ask if there’s a non-stop or directo service. ( Turbus | Pullman | + Geminis) The quality of service varies quite a lot.