Set between the spine of Latin America (the Andes) and the warm Pacific Ocean, Chile offers a great breadth of landscapes and experiences for inquisitive travellers. Whether you visit the shimmering blue glaciers, hot springs and rainforests, or seek grasslands, beaches and mountains, Chile supplies them all in abundance. And what’s more, the country is peopled by the greatest asset of them all: Chileans! Open, friendly and discerning, they’re one of the best reasons to visit Chile. Here’s a shortlist that covers a few others, too…
A gorgeous blend of old and new, Santiago is home to Club Hipico – the regal racetrack, superb street vendors (selling sopaipillas – fried dough), bustling markets, and the sprawling Parque O’Higgins (Chile’s second largest public park). Drive along Alameda Avenue past the grand buildings on your way to the centrepiece, the sculpture-lined Plaza de Armas. Alternatively, if you prefer panoramic views of the frosted Andes, head up San Cristobal Hill, before resting and treating yourself to the nation’s favourite refreshment – the Pisco Sour.
Overlooking the ocean, Valparaiso has myriad pathways and several funiculars to help travellers get up and down its 45 hills. Once a major stopover for ships travelling between Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, nowadays it’s better known for its pastel-coloured houses and nearby vineyards, which form part of Chile’s fastest growing wine region, the Casablanca Valley. Famed for its crisp Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as its Pinot Noir and Merlot, visit for wine tastings framed by spectacular backdrops.
Dominated by the two snow-capped volcanoes, Osorno and Calbuco, Puerto Varas (or “The City of Roses”) has built a reputation for its kayaking, climbing, hiking, skiing and fishing opportunities over the last few years. That’s because it sits on the southern shores of the 330-square mile Llanquihue Lake, which, despite its peaceful ice caves, sweeping promenade and black-sand shores, is very much a water-sports destination. Also known for its German architecture (the town was founded by 19th century German immigrants), follow the locals and escape to the Petrohué waterfalls if you want to see a real chute bubble and froth.
Torres del Paine National Park
A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the Torres del Paine National Park contains cascading waterfalls, roaring creeks, shimmering lakes and endless horizons of jagged mountain peaks. Deep within its 436 square miles of territory, visitors will discover gigantic glaciers, caves the size of houses, as well as herds of guanacos and flocks of birds. Even better, if any want to see all its sights without missing out on their creature comforts, almost all of the park is serviced by cafés offering interesting menus, cocktails and great company.
Benardo O’Higgins National Park, Patagonia
As exclusive as a national park can possibly get thanks to its location, Bernard O’Higgins National Park is enveloped by countless glaciers, ice fields and fjords. Named after the famous Irish General who helped liberate Chile from Spanish rule, the park is inhabited by indigenous Chileans known as the Kaweskar and is topped by the Lautaro volcano which towers at 3,607 metres above sea-level. It’s a glacier called Pio XI that represents the main attraction in the park, however. The largest in the southern hemisphere, it covers roughly 786 miles in total.
If you would like to see ragged mountaintops or wander through Chile’s vibrant markets, why not book a Trafalgar trip such as the Patagonian Grand Adventure or the Cultures & Contrasts of South America?