Vamos Expeditions

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    “My Vamos Expeditions’ leader was a superb travel planner and tour guide. I have found her to be very detailed and always on top of the situation even when faced with problems which seemed to be out of anyone's control. It is worth every cent and a whole lot more.” see more

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Bolivia > General Information

Area: 292,258 square miles
Capital: Santiago
Languages: Spanish.
National Holidays: January 1, Easter, May 1, October 12, November 1, December 8, and December 25.
Population: 15,665,216
Religions: Roman Catholic 89%, Protestant 11%, small Jewish and Muslim populations
Time zone: The west coast of the South American continent is roughly aligned with the east coast of North America. In other words, Santiago, Chile (west coast) is due south of Miami, Florida and New York and is in the same time zone. Assuming it is standard time, when it is noon in New York, it is also noon in Santiago, Chile.

The 5th smallest Country in South America. Chile has a 2,640 mile Pacific coast line stretching from the border with Peru to the tip of Cape Horn. Bolivia and Argentina flank its eastern border; to the west is the Pacific Ocean; and to the south, the South Pole. One third of Chile is covered by the Andes. Five distinct regions make up the country: the Northern Desert, the Central Valley, the Lake District, Patagonia, in the south, and remote Easter Island 2,400 miles offshore in the Pacific.

At the southern tip of Chile’s mainland is Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in the world and beyond that lies the Strait of Magellan and Tierra del Fuego, an island divided between Chile and Argentina. The southernmost point of South America is Cape Horn, a 1,390-foot rock on Horn Island in the Wollaston group, which belongs to Chile. Chile also claims sovereignty over 482,628 square miles of Antarctic territory.

Chile’s population, unlike that of Peru or Ecuador, does not have strong Indian heritage or appearance. There is virtually no evidence of an Inca influence in the faces or culture of its residents. In fact, Chileans look northern European in appearance, largely because during the Spanish reign, very few European settlers and Indians intermarried. It is the European traits, therefore, that were passed on.

In terms of economy, Chile remains the world’s largest source of natural nitrates and their by-product, iodine. Chile is also the chief supplier of minerals in Latin America, including copper, coal, iron, gold, silver, oil, manganese, and sulfur. Forestry products- pulp, logs, sawn wood, and manufactured goods- are the second largest export item. Wine is both a consumer good and an export item. Chilean wines are so noteworthy, in fact, that France is one of Chile’s primary wine customers.

Brief History of Santiago

The first expedition group to set foot in Santiago was led by Don Diego de Almagro, who set out from Peru around 1535 on a quest for gold and silver. When he reached the site which is now Santiago, he bypassed the area’s vast copper deposits (now the backbone of Chile’s economy) and ultimately went back empty-handed. Don Pedro de Valdivia led the next expedition. His trek culminated in 1541 with the founding of the city of Santiago at the base of a short hill that the Indians called Huelen (“pain”). Today this site is known as the Santa Lucia Hill, and serves as a pleasant park in the heart of the city. Marking the historic spot is a stone replica of Pedro de Valdivia’s letter to his king, commending this new territory and imploring the king to send more settlers. It was also from Santa Lucia Hill that, hundreds of years later, Don Casimiro Marco del Pont, the last Spanish governor, defended the city from attacks by Independence-seeking Chileans. Fighting continued until 1818 when an arny under the Argentine general San Martin and Bermardo O’Higgins won the final victory. Bernado O’Higgins went on to become Chile’s first Director Supreme, and he ruled from the growing city of Santiago.

It was O’Higgins who first had the idea of using Santa Lucia Hill as a cultural attraction when he tried to build an observatory and Parthenon atop it. But decades were to pass before patriot Don Bengamin Vicun Machenna actually turned O’Higgins’ vision into a reality. From 1872 to 1874, he oversaw the work done by convicts that transformed the hill from an eyesore to the attractive park it is today.

At present, Santiago is Chile’s capital politically, economically, and culturally. But despite its status as the country’s leading metropolis, it retains many delightful small-town qualities. The day-to-day pace is leisurely, and the people casual and friendly. Yet the town also offers a lively cultural life with its twelve theaters, two symphony orchestras, two ballet companies, and three respected universities.