Snaking a staggering 4300km in length along the Pacific coast of South America, Chile spans an astonishing variety of terrain. From the lunar landscapes of the Atacama Desert to the luscious climes of the Lake District, Chile is full of contrasts.

Chile has a landmass 750,000 square kilometres, which is wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes. The Latin American nation has three land boarders shared with Argentina to the East, Bolivia to the North East and Peru to the North West. As of 2015, the Chilean population was 18 million people.

From the Northern tip to the freezing South, Chile has a plethora of travel options. The southern town of Pucon is right next to an active volcano, which towers over Lake Villarrica. With a large ski resort nearby, Pucon is the ideal retreat. It was in these fertile valleys that Chile’s indigenous ancestors, the Araucanians, first settled.

Closer to the centre of the country lies the metropolitan sprawl of Santiago. The capital is a testament to Chile’s relative stability and prosperity, with a wealth of museums, galleries and parks to rival any European hot spot. When you get to the heart of the city, you’ll see the presidential palace, La Moneda. Thirty years ago this was the site of one of South America’s bloodiest coups. General Pinochet’s dictatorship left the country scarred.

Today, Chile finds itself under the governance of its first woman president, Michelle Bachelet. Bachelet was initially elected and served from 2006 to 2010, and regained power in 2014. With her centre-of-left policies, she is reducing the gap between rich and poor, which is among the worst in the world. There has never been a more exciting time to visit Chile.

In the north, there are some dizzying landscapes. The Altiplano is the highest part of the Chilean Andes and is filled with glaciers and geysers. Further on you’ll find La Tirana, a small desert town that once a year explodes into a frenzy of music, costumes and dance. The religious festival attracts thousands of believers and is a spectacular display of Chilean vitality.