You'll start to feel the difference once you are about 400 km south of Santiago and you reach the historic city of Chillán and the ski resort and hot springs on the slopes of Nevados de Chillán. As you continue past the Biobío River and drive another 800 km towards Castro on the island of Chiloé, the scenery becomes even more rural and the vegetation takes on a thousand green hues. Here, the rhythm of life seems to be set by the slow crackling of the wood in the fireplace. As the rain falls, the skies grow clearer and recover their deep blue color. The entire region smells of wood and the wet earth that provides employment in the fields of agriculture and livestock, and the people are warm and welcoming. Welcome to Southern Chile and the Biobío, Araucanía, Los Ríos and Los Lagos Regions.

Several modern highways have been built to bring you to the area's main cities (Chillán, Concepción, Temuco, Valdivia, Osorno, Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt). Villarrica and Pucón offer skiing in the winter and lakeside water activities during the summer, and Chiloé will charm you with its leisurely pace and ancient traditions.

You'll find plenty of accommodations, from sophisticated hotels and campgrounds with all the modern conveniences to eco-lodges and bed and breakfasts. The area also offers a chance to engage in a wide range of activities. Enjoy a soak in a hot spring beneath a starry sky, practice water sports on any number of rivers and lakes, take a day off to go fishing or explore the area's over 30 natural monuments, nature preserves and national parks and comfortable ski resorts.

If you prefer more peaceful activities, there's superb food to be had and opportunities to learn about local indigenous communities or explore the picturesque villages that were founded by European immigrants in the 19th century.

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