Spindly Chile stretches 4300km – over half the continent – from the driest desert in the world (near San Pedro de Atacama) to massive glacial fields. Filling up the in-between are volcanoes, geysers, beaches, lakes, rivers, steppe and countless islands. Slenderness gives Chile the intimacy of a backyard (albeit one fenced between the Andes and the Pacific). What’s on offer? Everything!
With easy infrastructure, spectacular sights and hospitable hosts, the hardest part is choosing an itinerary. Consider the sweeping desert solitude, craggy summits and the lush forests of the fjords. Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and the isolated Isla Robinson Crusoe offer extra continental exploits.
But don’t forget that Chile is as much about character as it is setting. Its far-flung location fires the imagination and has been known to make poets out of barmen, dreamers out of presidents and friends out of strangers. A few wrong turns and detours and you too will be part of this tightly woven family who barbecues on Sunday. Don’t forget to bring an extra bottle of red to the long, lazy dinners that await
-Visit the glaciers in Patagonia either by cruise or from a lodge/hosteria
-Enjoy Chilean wines; Chilean wine from the Maipo or Rapel Valleys is increasingly turning into respected
-Enjoy the incredible landscapes in northern Chile, the Atacama Desert. By foot, 4wheel drive, mountain bike or horse
-Hiking in the Andes will give any traveler a rare chance to explore the Chilean countryside
-Sample Chilean cuisine; being a long narrow country, many Chilean dishes are influenced by the ocean, among them the abalone and fish stew.
-Take hundreds of photos on Easter island of the very photogenic moas (statues)
-Horse trek with gauchos in Patagonia
Meike’s top Chile destination:
Torres del Paine. If you love trekking then this national park should be in top of your list. It’s not an easy to reach destination, but visiting Torres del Paine can be combined with the Glaciers National Park in Argentina (Perito Moreno). Words can’t descrive the beauty of the landscape.
When to go:
Chile always has a region ripe for exploration whatever the season. But if your heart is set on one part of the country, pick your dates carefully.
Chile’s southern charms, including Torres del Paine and the Lakes District, are best visited in summer (December through March) as some are all but impenetrable in winter (June through September). The summer’s long days boost outdoor fun, though the spring months of November and December and fall months of March and April can be nearly as good.
Meanwhile Chile in the winter can be a wonderland for skiers; the country’s resorts attract hordes from July through September. Middle Chile is best in the verdant spring (September through November) or during the fall harvest (late February into April).
The Atacama Desert can be explored all year, but summer days sizzle and nights are bitterly cold at higher altitudes throughout the year. In the northern altiplano, summer is the rainy season, which usually means an afternoon downpour. Easter Island and the Juan Fernández archipelago are cooler and quieter outside summer; March is an ideal time to visit. High season is December through March.
Flight time: 16 hours via Madrid or Paris flight time with 2 hrs transit time (no direct flights ex London)
Time Zone: UTC/GMT -4 hours
Visa (for British Citizens): No – for stays up to 90 days
Currency: Chilean Peso