Top Ten Reasons We Love Chile

by Liz Caskey on June 16, 2011

1. Wild Geography: Let’s face it, Chile has wild geography. It lays like a noodle along South America’s southern Pacific coast spanning over 39 latitudes. If you were to fly from Arica to Punta Arenas, that’s akin to going from Boston to LA in the US. However, when flying North to South in Chile, you go from hot deserts, to the end of the world with ice and glaciers. In between, you pass through the Mediterranean basin over 800 miles long, the verdant lake district and northern Patagonia akin to the temperate rain forests of British Columbia and Southern Alaska. Most of it is pristine, virgin and untouched. It’s a huge playground of mountains, sea, fjords, volcanoes, vineyards, deserts, rivers, the mysterious Easter Island and similarly, vibrant cultures.  Variety? OMG. You could spend a lifetime exploring all the nooks and crannies of Chile and never get bored. As you hear in Patagonia, “There is a place on Earth where if one was any closer to one’s Creator, you could shake his hand.” Chile’s nature is inspiring and divine.

Santiago, Chile; via nischg (flickr)

2. Vino, Vino, Vino: Chile’s wine can be summed up in a couple words: quality and diversity. With one of the few Mediterranean areas in the world like California and South Africa, here is where you’ll find many of the world-class vineyards producing a staggering amount of varietals. Riesling, Gerwurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah (in several different styles from Rhone to Shiraz), Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Carignan, Merlot, Grenache, Mouvedre, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, País, Merlot…shall I continue? I think you get the point. Add to that two Mountain ranges (the Andes and Coast) that create a myriad of micro valleys, the maritime influence of the Pacific creating coolness, pristine water following in the Rivers through the valley, and you have tremendous potential and infinite terroir expressions. Luckily, Chile’s opted to go for quality and fine wines and the winemakers are doing just that. Crushing it.

3. Seafood: With 2,600-plus miles of coastline, there is some serious seafood in this country. Due to the Humboldt Current coming up the Pacific coast from Antarctica, the Chilean Sea is considered among the most productive marine ecosystems in the world as well as the largest upwelling system, moving nutrient-rich water towards the ocean surface. The result? Sealife teems in Chilean waters. In fact, it’s one of the highlights of living here. The sea is just as much a garden to eat from as is the wonderful foodstuffs. Much of Chile’s fishing industry is still artisan as fishermen head out into the cold waters in small, wooden fishing boats to procure dozens of varieties of fish from corvinato to congrioto vieja. In some places, they still harpoon the fish from the rocks. In Southern Chile, we feast on black-lipped oysters year-round, sublime sea urchins and nearly a dozen indigenous shellfish. On any day, I can walk to Santiago’s Mercado Central, just five blocks from my apartment, and have 15 different kinds of fish and a dozen varieties of crustaceans, bivalves, and squid or octopus. Blessed? Most definitely, especially with all the great white wine.

The many wines of Chile; via jamesonf (flickr)

4. Produce: Chile is produce paradise. Everything grows here. We eat on a huge variety of foodstuffs from fava beans to asparagus, artichokes, wild mushrooms (several varieties), heirloom beans, pumpkin, squash, corn, tomatoes, organic lettuces, wild greens, quince, pomegranate, berries, chilies, twelve kinds of avocado, and much, much more. I fill my house each week with tons of fresh, healthy produce, the base of our diet. With the intense sun, fertile soil, and fact that they don’t pick until ripe, the food here tastes different. It has a depth and intensity I have not tasted anywhere else (ok, perhaps parts of California). As a cook, I am constantly in wonderland. It’s easy to be lean and healthy when surrounded by such bounty, seriously.

5. Santiago Rocks: Cosmopolitan, hip, stylish, growing. Santiago is stepping into its own. Although it’s a big capital, it’s compact “Santiago proper” is a city of neighborhoods that feel broken down into smaller towns. It is vibrant, ever changing, and reflecting the prosperity happening in all of Chile. I love calling it home. Santiago is more than a stopover now. The Financial Times called it Latin America’s city of the future. I agree.

6. Skiing, Horses, Surfing: Nature is a playground here. There are very few places where you could (in winter) head up to Valle Nevado to ski for the day, then head down in only three hours to the coast for Pisco Sour at sunset. Horses are a big passion here in South America and even if you’re a novice, saddle up with the arrieros, or horsemen, to get a unique view of the Andes. If you’re into rodeos, you’ll find they are the most civilized endeavors ever, as Tony Bourdain discovered when we shot “No Reservations” in Chile. Better break out your best jeans, shirt, and cowboy hat.

7. Mediterranean Paradise: The climate here is delicious. Warm, dry, sunny, rainless much of the year (except winter), it is mild and a delight. Love the weather in LA? Then Santiago will be your bag. I guarantee it.

Produce from Mercado La Vega; via Naturaleza (flickr)

8. Friendly natives, kissing optional: People here are nice, really nice. If someone in Santiago gives you some ‘tude, ignore them, it’s the typical plight of city-goers anywhere. Chileans want to make you happy. They are usually honored you’ve come so far to visit them. They can be shy at first and take some time to welcome you into their circle, but remember this is a small country where people know each other their whole life. They will bend over backwards to help you. They are honest, giving people that understand solidarity (look at the earthquake and reconstruction efforts). I love that in Chile (and all of Latin America and Europe) people peck on each other’s cheeks when meeting. Guys are not afraid to give a hearty hug to their mates. It’s so personal and much more connective than the typical “hey” I grew up with in the US.

9. Chill lifestyle: That’s right, my life here is chill and I love it. Living in the US and that frantic, keep-up-with-the-rat-race pace seems light years away, thankfully. I take time to enjoy life. We sit down to eat lunch together, have coffee with friends, and walk a little slower through the park. Families join together every Sunday for lunch. I feel eternally grateful every day to have domestic help in my home. Patience can be required for the al tiro attitude (meaning anytime from 5 minutes from now to 2 days), but at the end, things get done and we live in the now. Not the “yesterday” mentality I had in New York. That sense of never catching up, never getting to my destination, and being terrified—so I worked more. What a drag. Life is happening now and I want to enjoy it. Thankfully, Chile (and Latins in general) get this and make time for it. That does not mean we don’t crank and get work done. It’s about understanding that if you don’t savor your precious life NOW, when will you? That is what I call quality of life and lifestyle. I live so well here.

Plaza de Armas in Santiago; via kyle simourd (flickr)

10. Boom times: Chile’s GDP is expected to grow 6% this year, up over 15% from 2010. That’s pretty impressive. It’s boom times for this country, and not just if you’re in the copper business. Things are blossoming here. Foreign Direct Investment is pouring in with new projects from IT and software to luxury hotels, ecological initiatives and carbon offsets. Socially, more and more kids are going to college and there’s even talk in Congress of passing a law to make gay unions legal. Chileans are traveling abroad more. It’s becoming a more worldly, happening place. Boom times.

What are your reasons to love Chile? Please share in the comments. Let’s go on a Chile loving rant!

{ 1 comment }

Rob March 5, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Wow! You make a great case for Chile. Gotta go!

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