Chile is a land of tremendous contrasts, containing every imaginable landscape, from the driest deserts in the world in the north to the vast, glacier covered wilderness of Patagonia in the south. It is also home to some of the most hospitable people in the world, and has a fascinating political and cultural history. Many people plan a trip to Chile starting in Santiago, with several days to a week in Patagonia, and a few days in another part of the country. Review the following information to get a sense of your options.
The Chilean capital is a fun and historically interesting place to spend a day or two either at the beginning or end of your trip to Chile. It is a sprawling metropolis, sitting right at the foot of the Andes mountains. There are several different neighborhoods that are worth visiting, including Barrio Bellavista (where Pablo Neruda lived), the historical center, and Providencia. There are many fine bars and restaurants to choose from. The city also has a beautiful hilltop park that offers spectacular views of the entire area.
There are few places in the world that can rival the spectacular beauty of Patagonia, the vast and sparsely populated region at the southern end of Chile. You can see the entire horizon covered in glaciers, massive granite towers, rare and beautiful wildlife, and the Strait of Magellan. Our trips take you to Torres del Paine National Park, pictured at left, the highlight of Chilean Patagonia. Options exist for doing lodge based excursions or more ambitious refuge-based or camping expeditions.
The Lake District lies several hundred miles south of Santiago, and offers some of Chile’s most beautiful scenery. It is a land of snow-capped volcanoes, rushing rivers, and pristine lakes. The region was settled by immigrants from northern Europe, giving it a distinct cultural identity and architectural heritage. Opportunities for adventure tourism are limitless: rafting, hiking, sea kayaking, and biking are all popular activities in this area during the months from November to April. Another option is to make the famous Chile/Argentina Lakes Crossing by ferry, from Puerto Varas over to Bariloche on the Argentinian side. The scenery is spectacular and you pass through remote mountain lakes between the two countries.
In the last couple decades Chilean wines have become famous all over the world. You can add a day or a couple of days visiting the wine country, a relatively unexplored and un-touristed part of Chile. Options include adding a day to your stay in the Santiago area to visit some of the great wineries close to the capital (Santa Rita, Cusino Macul, or Concha y Toro), or taking two or more days to explore some of the wineries further off from the capital, in the Colchagua Valley area.
San Pedro de Atacama is a land of serene, desolate beauty. The desert is one of the driest in the world, with some areas that have no recorded rainfall. Volcanoes dominate the horizons, and there are lagoons of otherworldly colors where pink flamingoes stop to feed. Outstanding local lodges carefully integrated into the local environment help make a trip to San Pedro de Atacama an exceptional experience. If you like desert environments, San Pedro de Atacama is something you should seriously consider in your trip to Chile.
The cities of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar are close to Santiago, on the Pacific Coast. Valparaiso is probably the most architecturally distinctive city in Chile, built around a hillside overlooking the ocean. Vina del Mar has long been the favorite destinations of Chileans flocking to the beach in the southern hemisphere’s summer months (Dec to Mar). Up the coast a bit is the beautiful small town of Zapallar, where you can find a more exclusive atmosphere along a lovely stretch of coast. A good option can be to rent a car and drive from Santiago to Zapallar via Valparaiso and Vina del Mar.