The Republic of Chile occupies a narrow strip of land between the Andes mountain range and the Pacific Ocean. Like many South American countries, Chile has a storied past that include middle power with an emerging economy). On a visit to Chile you can see traces of its ancient Incan past, understand its colonial development, the years of vibrant populist politics and the terrifying military regime that left thousands of people dead or missing.
Set a course for the northern desert to see Incan geoplyphs – large drawings etched into rock by the Aboriginal inhabitants to the continent. The Atacama Giant can be found in the Atacama desert and is thought to be the largest prehistoric anthropomorphic figure in the world, almost 120 metres high. Geoglyphs can also be seen on the walls of the Azapa Valley, which is now largely an olive growing region. If you’re interested in ancient Chile, don’t miss the San Miguel de Azapa Archaeological and Anthropological Museum’ s collection of ancient cultural artifacts and the oldest Chinchorro mummies (dated to 6,000-8,000 BCE).
The colonial history of Chile is on display at Santiago’s Plaza de Armas, where Pedro de Valdivia founded the country in 1541. It remains a centre of social activity in Santiago and it’s here that you can see buildings that date back to the founding days of the city such as the Royal Court of Justice and the Central Post Office (formerly the Governor’s Palace). On the north side of the plaza, visitors should check out the Palacio de la Real Audiencia – the elegant building where Chile held its first congress after attaining independence. Now the building is a museum that traces Chile’s history from conquest to independence, to dictatorship, to the present.
The Museum of Memory and Human Rights was opened in 2010 to give voice to the victims of torture and oppression during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Here, visitors will be faced with the testimony of people who were tortured as possible Communist sympathizers, see example of Pinochet-era propaganda and ultimately witness the healing process that is still occurring in this country. The Villa Grimaldi is one of the only remaining concentration camps from this period (most were plowed or burned) and has now been turned into a park called the “Park for Peace”. Here visitors can see a replica of a prison cell and a watch tower, and read plaques throughout the park that commemorate what happened there.
On the Pacific coast is the town of Valparaíso, famous for its brightly coloured houses and bohemian spirit. Get lost in its labyrinth of streets that wind up the hillside and occasionally reveal breathtaking views of the ocean.