What are some notable facts about Chile

A gigantic hiking route will connect 17 national parks with one another

In 1976, the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet ordered the construction of Route 7, an ambitious road that would stretch for about 1,200 km through Patagonia's relatively deserted landscape in southern Chile. This remarkable wilderness consists of dense coastal rainforests, overwhelming fjords, glaciers, volcanoes and the steep, towering peaks of the Andes that stretch down to the tip of the continent.

Over the next decade, more than 10,000 soldiers reportedly worked on building the road that became known as the Carretera Austral (Southern Highway). Many people lost their lives in what was considered Chile's most ambitious infrastructure project of the 20th century. Carretera Austral was opened to traffic in the late 1980s, but construction of the road continued, further and further south.

Today the road is being redesigned with adventurous tourists in mind - as a connection to a wilderness that is one of the most spectacular and pristine in the world. As more than 4 million hectares of land in the region are now becoming new national parks or expanding existing parks, part of the Carretera Austral - which is largely still an unpaved clay road - is being appropriately rebranded as the Ruta de los Parquos.

This “route of the parks” will be 2,400 km long and connect 17 national parks with each other.

“This opens up the possibility of imagining road trips that could take several weeks in total,” says Rick Ridgeway. He is a vice president of the clothing company Patagonia and a board member of Tompkins Conservation - the umbrella organization that runs Conservación Patagónica and the Conservation Land Trust, which is responsible for establishing national parks in Chile and Argentina.

"It's an exciting performance," says Ridgeway of the plan to connect 17 parks. “The Chileans are also excited about it. It's a way to spark the imagination of people who envision seeing some, if not all, of these new sanctuaries on an extended road trip. "

THE LANDSCAPE DONATION

It's one of nature's greatest stories: Last month, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and American philanthropist and conservationist Kristine McDivitt Tompkins vowed to expand Chile's national park system by more than 4 million hectares. That is a larger area than Switzerland.