Coastal sunshine and glacial peaks
Chile is often described as the “land of poets,” having produced Nobel laureates like Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral. Yet the moniker seems earned in the land itself—full of extremes. A slender ribbon of coast, Chile hems the western edge of South America between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes. Though merely 217 miles east to west, it’s the longest country north to south at 2,600 miles. Its peculiar shape and distinct geography make for a full spectrum of climates from the deserts of Atacama to the icecaps of Patagonia.
Chile cannot be rushed. Adopt the buena onda or “good vibes” mentality of its people as you journey from place to place. Stargaze in the salt flats of the Atacama Desert, kayak amidst icebergs in Torres del Paine National Park, and savor local varietals in the Casablanca Valley. Enjoy an “Earthquake” or Terremoto in Santiago—the wine and pineapple ice cream concoction that’ll leave you weak in the knees—and be sure to watch the sunset over the Pacific in the colorful port town of Valparaíso.
Santiago has been the capital of Chile since colonial times. Now about seven million Chilenos call this sprawling city home. Stroll through the neoclassical ambiance of Plaza de Armas or explore the winding streets of Bellavista where local artisans often sell their wares. Grab an Italiano hot dog—chock-full of avocado, onions, and tomatoes—to power your exploration.
Built on the steep hills rising from the Pacific Ocean, the port town of Valparaíso is known for the vibrant colors of its buildings. Ride up the unusual cityscape the funicular railway to overlook the coast. Visit Sebastiana, the quirky former home of Pablo Neruda, learn more about this Nobel laureate from the attached museum. Watch the sunset with a steaming bowl of Cazuela Mariscos, a traditional seafood stew.
Over 1,100 square miles of Patagonian wilderness, Torres del Paine National Park is a must-see for nature lovers. The Cordillera Paine is the focal point of this park as the transition from the subpolar forests to the Patagonian steppes, but there is no shortage of natural spectacles. Track the elusive puma an expert guide or hike the footpaths where guanacos peacefully graze to see the deep blue icebergs of Grey Lake.
Easter Island—or Rapa Nui in Polynesian—bobs in the Pacific Ocean 2,290 miles off the coast of Chile. This UNESCO world heritage site is best known for the almost 900 stone head statues or Moai. See these monoliths at one of the ceremonial altars or ahu and summit Terevaka, the highest peak for a panoramic view of this spectacularly remote land.
The venting stratovolcano at an elevation of 8,700 feet towers in the lake region of Chile. Similar in appearance to Mount Fiji, Osorno is one of the most active volcanos of the southern Andes. With Llanquihue Lake at its base for a scenic overview, the drive or hike up the mountain is well worth 37 miles.
The largest Island in Chile, where the houses or palafitos ignore the border between land and sea—standing on partway in the water atop wooden stilts. The island is known for its seafaring culture, even the churches are built like boats. Most of these unique houses of worship from the 18 and 19th centuries are UNESCO world heritage sites and made completely of wood with rounded ceilings like a ship's hull.
Chile’s busiest tourist season is during the Summer, as many outdoor attractions close during the winter months. Because of the country’s length, Chile has several climates. In the north, the Atacama Desert is extremely arid with hot days and cold nights. Central Chile, where you will find wine country as well as the capital city, has a Mediterranean climate with Summer temperatures ranging from 60 to 90 degrees. Patagonia in the south is known for extreme weather and may be inaccessible during Winter and Autumn. Easter Island is sub-tropical with high humidity and best visited during temperate seasons of spring or autumn. Note that the country is in the southern hemisphere so the seasons are reversed, with winter June to August and summer December to February.
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