Geography

The coast of Chile

Thousands of miles of beaches, rocky cliffs and forested fjords separate the Chilean mainland from the roiling Pacific Ocean. Dive in - with a wetsuit!

Thursday, November 03, 2011 Category: Tourism - Enviroment
Chile’s central coast is a popular vacation spot with tourists. (Photo by Gurkha Lodiak/Flickr) Chile’s central coast is a popular vacation spot with tourists. (Photo by Gurkha Lodiak/Flickr)

The long, slender ribbon of land between the Chilean Andes and the Pacific Ocean is characterized by a beautiful, diverse coastline. From the sunny desert beaches in the north to the rugged Patagonian fjords in the south, Chile’s coast represents the variability of the country’s geography and natural wealth.

The beaches

Anyone who has visited the palm-studded beaches in the central coast’s stylish beach resorts - Viña del Mar, Algarrobo, Maitencillo, Concon, Reñaca - will have discovered for themselves that the Chilean waters are frrrrreezing. Thanks to the Humboldt current from Antarctica, the waters of Chile’s splendid white sand beaches are too cold for comfort throughout most of the central coast.

Beach lizards will start to smile once they’re north of the picturesque colonial city of La Serena, and as you head further north, you’ll be rewarded with more and more sunny days and warmer seas. Some of the most popular northern beach towns include Caldera, Iquique and Arica - which boasts nearly 365 days of sunny weather.

The poetry

Chile’s central coast may be a moody host for sunbathers and swimmers, but there must be a certain magic in its briny air as it has lent inspiration to many of Chile’s most beloved artists. The litoral central, as its commonly called in Chile, is also known as the “Coast of Poets”, most notably because Pablo Neruda chose to build two of his three homes on its shores. Neruda, the father of Chilean poetry and the winner of the Nobel Prize, chose to spent most of his later years in a fabulous house in Isla Negra, and also kept a house in Valparaíso. In one of his best known poetry anthologies, Canto General, he writes:

I say to you that the ocean knows it, the life
of its circlings vast as the sands, pure and innumerable...
(From Enigmas)

The action

Further south, the stunning scenery of Chilean Patagonia - with its wealth of fjords and forested inlets overlooked by towering volcanoes - hosts a variety of adventure activities, from sea-kayaking to fishing to austral cruises.

The Humboldt current nourishes one of the richest marine sectors in the world, responsible for about 20 percent of the global catch and home to a diversity of sea life. Whale-watching tours in southern Chile usually run from December to March, when populations of blue whales, humpback whales and gray whales make their long migration to the nutrient-rich waters of southern Chile. 

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