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Top 5 Chile Myths - Busted!

Close your eyes and picture Peru. Now Brazil. And Argentina. Even if you’ve never travelled further South than Texas or further West than Morocco, you can probably conjure up some images and ideas about what these countries mean to you, and it might not be too wide of the mark. Now picture Chile and you start to come up against a blank canvas. The fact is many people seem to have a gap in their general knowledge where Chile should be. As a result the gap gets filled with clichés and myths, or spillover from neighbouring countries, which often turn out to be completely untrue. Here we debunk the top 5 myths about Chile!

 

glaciers in torres del paine, chileMyth #1: Chile is a hot country

Our myth buster says: Well, yes and no. Chile is a hot country. It’s also a cold country. It’s also temperate. It’s also rainy. It’s also the driest place on Earth. When it comes to the climate, Chile is impossible to pigeonhole. Bear in mind that it spans a distance comparative to travelling from the frozen North of Norway to the Saharan South of Algeria and this split personality starts to make sense. In the depths of Chilean Patagonia in the far south of the country, glaciers creep along icy mountain slopes and snow is a real possibility even in the middle of summer. In the centre of the country, where the capital Santiago is found, the weather is temperate and similar to the Mediterranean. In the Atacama Desert to the North, there are areas where no rainfall has ever been recorded, and yet the temperature doesn’t get much above 25° celsius, making it on the cool side for a desert. From Antarctic tundra to full-blown desert, make sure you know exactly where you’re headed and pack accordingly!

 

chilean clam and parmesan gratinMyth #2: Chilean food consists of steak / guinea pig / chili

Our myth buster says: There are very few traditional Chilean restaurants to be found outside of the country itself, so without actually hopping on a plane to visit it can be hard to get a sense of what Chilean cuisine is like. Perhaps they go in for endless beef steaks like in Argentina? Perhaps they grill guinea pigs like in neighbouring Peru? Maybe they just put chili peppers in absolutely everything? In fact, if that’s what you’re expecting, Chilean food will be a revelation. Traditional dishes include corn bakes, chicken stews, beans cooked in a squash sauce and lots and lots of fresh fish and seafood. Somewhat surprisingly, all this fresh fish has also given rise to the huge popularity of sushi, which can be found everywhere in the capital Santiago. You’ll also find traditional empanada pastries - beef, seafood, cheese etc... - and juicy seasonal fruit. Palta, or avocado, is another national favourite in Chile and might turn up with your breakfast, or appear on top of a hotdog.

 

valparaiso, chileMyth #3: If you’ve been to Argentina there’s no point going to Chile

Our myth buster says: For some reason, Chile is often left out of the loop when it comes to doing the tour of Latin America. Being on the far West of the continent it’s just that little bit further away and some people make the mistake of thinking that if they’ve seen Argentina, well, they’ve pretty much seen Chile anyway. False! Separated along its whole length by the Andes mountain range, Chile developed and maintained its own culture and distinctive character. Chile and Argentina may share Patagonia and may both have rolling valleys packed with vineyards, but there are some things in Chile that you just won’t find over the border. The Atacama Desert and Easter Island are just two examples of entirely unique attractions. Picturesque, coastal Valparaiso is another place you won’t find anywhere else, which is why it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003.

 

santiago, chileMyth #4: Chile is all low buildings and traditional markets

Our myth buster says: Whilst it’s true that Chile was traditionally a rural, agricultural zone, and many areas outside of the capital remain this way, the country is experiencing something of a boom in development. In uptown Santiago you can sip your Starbucks coffee as you wander through shiny new malls featuring all of the international brands of clothing, jewellery and electronics that you’d expect to find in any thriving metropolis. The upmarket business district of blue glass and steel towers has even been nicknamed ‘Sanhattan’ in reference to its resemblance to another bustling business centre. However, that’s not to say that you won’t find areas of the capital that feel distinctively Chilean. The Bellavista neighbourhood, for example, is known for its collection of bohemian bars and cafes, restaurants and art galleries, often tucked in buildings that hark back to centuries gone by.

 

dancing chile's national danceMyth #5: Chileans are the most reserved people in Latin America

Our myth buster says: This myth is put about by other Latin American countries, travellers passing through, and occasionally some Chileans themselves. The myth goes that whilst most other Latin Americans are loud, vibrant and outgoing, Chileans tend to be more reserved and keep to themselves. Whatever the truth of this statement - and how often do sweeping stereotypes covering entire nations turn out to be true? - one thing you can be sure of is that Chile is a friendly, warm and welcoming country. With a blossoming tourism industry, there’s plenty to see and do in Chile and lots of people who are keen to help you discover it.

 

Now come and learn about the real Chile for yourself, by booking a Chile tour with Cascada!

For more common misconceptions about Chile, check out our Top 5 Patagonia Myths - Busted! and look out for upcoming myth-busting features on the Atacama Desert and Easter Island!