Chile is a land of extremes, from the world’s driest desert in the north to the icy fjords and glaciers of the south. Squeezed between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes, this long, narrow country stretches nearly 3,000 miles from Peru to the southernmost tip of the Americas.
The iconic Atacama desert, drier than any other on the planet, and Torres del Paine in southern Patagonia - with its sculpted granite peaks, lakes and glaciers - are not to be missed. There are fertile wine regions, temperate rainforests and thousands of volcanoes, many of them active. Clear night skies make for superb star gazing. You can hike, ride, ski and fish; take to the water in a raft or kayak; or skirt the southern ice fields on a remote self-drive adventure. Off the west coast lies Easter Island with its celebrated monolithic figures and Polynesian culture.
Wildlife is equally diverse: flamingos flock to arid salt flats and condors soar at high altitude; you might be lucky enough to spot guanacos or pumas in one of the country’s nature reserves. The cold, nutrient-rich waters around Patagonia are excellent for penguin, seal and whale watching.
Chileans are friendly and welcoming. Their towns and cities are as vibrant as any in South America, yet you are never more than a few hours from pristine wilderness.
Here are some of our Chile highlights
Driving Chile's southern highway, the Carretera Austral, is quite an adventure. The unpaved road is over 1,200km long and links tiny villages in northern Patagonia. Glaciers, mountains and even marble caves can be seen along the way, making it a spectacular journey.
The vast Atacama desert is one of the driest places in the world. The impressive geyser fields at El Tatio, the great Atacama salt lake, and other worldly Moon and Death valleys and just some of the areas highlights.
The gem in Patagonia's crown, Torres del Paine National Park is home to some of the country's most dramatic scenery: sheer granite walls, turquoise lakes, glaciers and a sea of ice that stretches far into the distance.
The mysterious island
More than 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile's mainland, Easter Island is a unique and remote Chilean outpost. First inhabited by Polynesians, this intruiging island is most famous for the Moai giant statues.
We had the most marvellous time in Chile. The guides looked after us well, and all arrived bang on time, were courteous and attentive. Of course the loss of the rest of our trip was out of everyones control, and a great shame, but we had a grand holiday nonetheless. We did feel you held our hands for us as the need to exit loomed, and we very much appreciate having our flights sorted.
Any clients going to Santaigo are firmly recommended to find time for Valparaiso in our opinion. We ate at some wonderful restaurants - lunch on the terrace at La Conception was a high point, as was lunch at Tres Pesces. The Art Nouveau Palacio Baburizza is wonderful, and the street art in this part of town is amazing - so many photos! We failed to make the bus system work for us, enjoyed the funicular, but walking to Pablo Neruda’s house was worthwhile and straightforward (getting anywhere on foot with a good pair of lungs is no problem!)
We are so pleased we included Chiloe. We did a whistle-stop tour of 6 of the wooden churches and it was a great reason to drive through the bonny countryside and onto Achao island. If we had more time a drive to the west coast would have been nice, but we did go to Punihuil in the north to see the tail end of the penguin season which was certainly worth the trip, more soo earlier in the season. Good roads for the entirely of our driving, and where we did use dirt tracks the car coped beautifully.
We drove from Puerto Varas to Petrohue via the falls and the river (wow! no wonder you put the photo on your bookmark!) and then took a walk in the sunshine on the volcano Osorno, finishing with a drive up to the ski resort to enjoy the sundown views. The Alerce Andino National Park was a high spot and we had a glorious walk in the woods. It was thrilling to see birds and frogs here. Before flying out we drove to Frutilar for the morning which was a lovely drive, town a bit cheesy, exploiting the german past but still nice.
The transfer from Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine was for just 4 of us, and we saw flamingos and rheas on the way. It included a stop at an estancia, with a tour of the old farmhouse and a lamb asado barbecue so that was great! A long road trip but road was good and views wonderful, we had clear skies all day. Excursions were all fabulous - to Grey Lake on the boat, the French Valley, and a shorter day trip to view the Torres. Gobs well and truly smacked! - AC