A long, thin slither of a destination, Chile is lined by the Pacific to the west and the awesome Andean range to the east, making for a country of extremes. This is a place where the landscape is first and foremost: get ready to experience an epic world of marvellous vistas.
In A Nutshell
There is a lot of flying usually involved in a trip to Chile. It's a great distance between the buzzy metropolis of Santiago and the volcano-strewn Andean Lake District, where the peaks impress and the lakes have all manner of great adventures. Another flight is required to venture further south to Southern Patagonia where the Torres del Paine National Park lays bare some of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world to trek among. North of the capital, up near the tip of the country that borders Peru and Bolivia, you'll find the Atacama Desert. At high altitude, this amazing area is home to weird and wonderful creatures and some truly exotic landscapes. Not to be forgotten, far from the mainland of Chile is the fascinating Easter Island (Rapa Nui) which has a history and people unlike anywhere else in the world—this is a place for the truly intrepid. Finally, there is the verdant wine country that that you can venture to by car from the capital to taste some of the best wines on the continent, and the coastal city of Valaparaiso, an enticing port town a short hop from the capital.
Need To Know
- From North America there are direct flights to Santiago, and if coming from European cities there is usually a simple connection in Madrid.
- We recommend visiting for 10 days to three weeks, and mainland Chile can be paired well with Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, or a trip to Easter Island.
- Chile is fantastic for trekkers, hikers, families, and lovers of epic scenery.
- No visas are necessary for North Americans or Europeans.
- No shots are required for your entry into the country, but we suggest you visit a travel health clinic before your departure to make sure you have all the vaccinations you need.
- Self-drive is easy and doable, but not many people have the time because of the vast distances to cover in Chile. Internal flights with LAN are preferable to maximize the number of regions you can visit.
- Keep in mind that the Atacama Desert is at a high altitude, so you may experience altitude sickness.
- The wine industry in Chile is huge, as you may know from all the Chilean imports in stores. Food is also fantastic, with plenty of beef thanks to the cattle ranches, and seafood fresh from the long coastline.
- The national language is Spanish, but English is also widely spoken.
When To Go
Chile is great to visit all year round, but for Patagonia and the southern area you’ll need to stick to September through March—otherwise it gets too cold and many hotels close up for the winter. As you might expect, it never rains in the Atacama Desert, so you can visit it anytime. Santiago gets chilly in July and August, but if you’re a skier consider a visit then; it’s the best place to ski in Latin America.
Chile has a relatively high standard of accommodations, and there are some excellent Chilean-only chains like the Explora lodges. Rustic lodges are prevalent outside the city, and many also have the ranch feel similar to those in Argentina. In Santiago we tend to use a handful of relatively new boutique hotels; there are now quite a few great options. Service levels are high across the board, but keep in mind that they are still not quite up to North American hotel standards.
Market Tour of Santiago—To feel the heart of the city of Santiago, it is best to head to the markets, where locals mix with visitors in a joyous cacophony of noise, smells and friendly folk.
Day Trip to Valparaiso—A charming port town on the dazzling Pacific, this colourful, quirky city has an allure and history that makes walking its vertiginous streets a pure pleasure.
Star Gazing in the Atacama—You feel so close to the stars in the highlands of the Atacama that it stirs wonder at the never-ending clear night sky. Clouds are rare here in the driest desert on earth so you are always ensured a view to remember.
Trekking in Torres del Paine—You will be hard pressed to find a more ruggedly beautiful mountainscape than the one in Torres del Paine, with the lakes, glaciers and twisted mountains all vying for your gaze, treks here are a hikers dream.
Cycle Santiago—Discover the ebb and flow of the city by passing through the different districts of the buzzing city on a bike. A great way to immerse yourself in the life of the city and feel like a local as you navigate the boulevards of Santiago on two wheels.
What They Say
You and your colleagues put together one of the best family vacations we've ever had. We loved the hotel venues and their people. Everything went as planned and when we did need/want to tweak the day, everyone jumped to help.
— Gabrielle C.
Explora Lodge—in a trip with so many highlights this is still the tops! Adored it. Everything about it, food, service, guides, treks, excursions, but best of all sitting in the hot tub with champagne enjoying the view. Also the drive to the lodge was amazing. Thanks so much! Our trip was FANTASTIC!
— Patrick S.