Chile, this long and slender country that serves as the "hub" of South America, is truly a land of remarkable diversity.
Chile's most significant highlights are undoubtedly rooted in its varied landscape and breathtaking scenery. The Patagonia region, which shares borders with Argentina, stands out as a starkly beautiful and untamed territory. Here, you'll encounter prominent glaciers, towering mountains, fjords, and rivers, creating a paradise for adventurers and photographers alike. For those seeking a more gentle adventure, consider cruising through this mesmerizing landscape, where you can get up close and personal with the natural wonders while enjoying the comforts of a small ship cruise. Another beloved destination is the Atacama Desert, renowned as the driest desert in the world. Here, you can blend soft adventure, hiking, and walks with sightseeing of the salt flats and ancient canyons.
On your South American journey, it's highly likely you'll pass through Santiago, the capital city of Chile. Santiago is not only a crucial financial hub but also boasts numerous cultural attractions and shopping opportunities, making it a city of vibrant urban life amid the country's breathtaking natural wonders.
Chile's diverse geography and cultural richness make it a captivating destination with something to offer every traveler, from desert adventurers to wine enthusiasts and history buffs.
Atacama Desert: Located in northern Chile, the Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on Earth, boasting stunning lunar landscapes. Here, you can embark on soft adventures, including hiking and walks, and explore salt lake pans and ancient canyons, all set against the backdrop of this otherworldly desert.
Easter Island: Easter Island, situated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, is a unique blend of Polynesian and South American cultures. This mystical Chilean island is renowned for its "moai," massive stone statues believed to represent ancestors of the island's inhabitants. Exploring Easter Island provides insight into its intriguing history and enigmatic stone sculptures.
Lakes District: The Lakes District in southern Chile is a magical region characterized by its pristine lakes, majestic mountains, and awe-inspiring volcanoes. Your journey may take you to the charming island of Chiloe before crossing the Andean lakes and mountains by bus and boat to reach Bariloche in Argentina.
Patagonia: Bordering both southern Chile and Argentina, Patagonia is a land of towering peaks, massive glaciers, and pristine lakes. Consider joining a small ship expedition to venture to the southernmost point of South America, where you can immerse yourself in the wilderness and dramatic landscapes.
Valley of Colchagua: The Valley of Colchagua is home to many of Chile's boutique wineries. This fertile valley begins in the Andean mountains and stretches westward to the Pacific Ocean. It has a rich history of wine production, with over 15 vineyards producing various red wine varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, Syrah, and Malbec.
When to go / useful information
When to go
Chile's climate varies significantly depending on the region:
Northern and Central Chile: These regions have a temperate climate, with the north, including the Atacama Desert, enjoying virtually sunny days year-round. This makes it an ideal destination for travelers seeking sunny and dry weather.
Southern Chile, including the Lakes area, Puerto Montt, and Puerto Varas: This region experiences a more humid and cool climate. The abundance of lakes and proximity to the Pacific Ocean contribute to its unique weather patterns.
Chilean Patagonia: Traveling to Patagonia is typically best between October and April when the weather is milder and more favorable for outdoor activities. During the winter low season, Patagonia can become much colder, making it less ideal for certain activities.
Understanding the climate variations in different parts of Chile can help you plan your visit to make the most of your desired activities and preferences.
Currency: Chilean Peso.
Language: The official language of Chile is Spanish. However, Rapa Nui is spoken on Easter Island, and Aymara is an indigenous language also spoken in some regions.
What makes it special: Chile is a country of incredible diversity, offering a wide range of scenic wonders from north to south. The capital city of Santiago has a distinctly European feel and serves as an excellent starting point for first-time visitors to South America. Not far from Santiago, you'll find the picturesque wine valleys of Colchagua, where you can explore numerous vineyards and wineries while staying in the charming town of Santa Cruz.
One of Chile's standout regions is the north, particularly the Atacama Desert. The town of San Pedro de Atacama serves as an oasis in the world's driest desert. From here, you can embark on explorations of otherworldly landscapes, including salt mountains, desert canyons, lagoons, geysers, and flamingo-inhabited salt lakes. During the day, venture into the desert, and in the evenings, enjoy the vibrant local market, friendly locals, and a wide array of bohemian cafes and restaurants.
Chile also offers fantastic cross-border crossings with Argentina, allowing you to journey from Santiago across the Andes Mountains to Mendoza or from Puerto Varas across Andes lakes and mountains to San Carlos de Bariloche. Both routes provide scenic and memorable journeys.
Lastly, Chilean Patagonia is a natural wonder, seamlessly connected with Argentine Patagonia. This region is a paradise for walkers, hikers, adventure seekers, and sightseers alike, offering glaciers, towering granite peaks, snow-covered mountains, and more.
Weather: Northern and central Chile have a temperate climate, with the north, including the Atacama Desert, enjoying nearly year-round sunny days. In contrast, the southern region, including the Lakes area encompassing Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas, down to Chilean Patagonia, experiences a humid and cool climate. Travel to Patagonia is recommended between October and April when the weather is more favorable.
Social Customs: Chileans have perfected the art of outdoor eating with the local barbecue, known as "asado." Gather around a fire, cut off chunks of meat, engage in conversation, and enjoy local wines – it's a fantastic culinary tradition stemming from the Chilean cowboys, or "huasos." You can experience this tradition within some of the journeys offered.
Chile's national drink, the "pisco sour," is not to be missed. You'll likely encounter this popular beverage throughout your travels, so be sure to give it a try!