Chile boasts a landscape of contrasts, from the desert terrain of the Atacama Desert in the north, to the lush forests, snow-capped volcanoes, fjords and glaciers of Patagonia in the far south, and is home to a proud, friendly and charming population who are predominantly Mestizo (of Native American and European, mainly Spanish, descent).
Apart from its spectacular salt pans, mining industry, valleys and ancient history, Chile’s world-famous Atacama Desert is also one of the best places in the southern hemisphere to star-gaze, due to its dry air, clear skies and three-hundred cloudless nights per year. Indeed, the unforgiving and stark terrain is an internationally important location for scientific study, home to world-renowned observatories and a third of the world’s telescopes.
Further south, in central Chile, hedonistic hearts can be indulged in Santiago, Chile's capital city, where French-Colonial and Spanish Baroque architecture serves as a backdrop and home to jazz clubs, theatres, a cathedral, Bellas Art Museum and the Lastarria neighbourhood, with its galleries, restaurants and coffee shops. The city is framed by the glorious mountains of the Andes and is surrounded by fertile valleys that produce the region's most famous bounty – wine. In season, this cosmopolitan metropolis is also a great stepping stone to nearby ski resorts, where skiing and snowboarding are popular winter pursuits. While in Santiago, do sample traditional Chilean cuisine and indulge in the national cocktail, Pisco Sour, whose base ingredient is brandy made with the skins of white grapes.
With Chile's South Pacific outpost, Easter Island (Rapa Nui), less than a six-hour flight from Santiago, a trip to the Chilean mainland can be combined with onward adventure, particularly if you enjoy water-based and land-based pursuits and wish to explore the island's mysterious Maoi statues, believed to symbolise the sacred Polynesian ancestors of the modern-day residents of Easter Island. Most of the island forms the protected Rapa Nui National Park and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995.
Back on the mainland, there are a number of centuries-old west coast cities that boast a traditional feel and have a distinct Colonial past, including Valparaiso – another UNESCO World Heritage Site, just an hour’s drive northwest of Santiago, comprising a jumble of multi-coloured houses and tangle of narrow cobblestone streets – and Puerto Montt, south of Santiago, replete with a rich Germanic heritage, whose influence can still be found in its cuisine, architecture and culture – even beer!
Patagonia, in southern Chile, is a spectacular area to discover and is ideal for adrenaline junkies, walkers, climbers and hikers, nature-lovers and those who love fishing. Tierra del Fuego is perfect for fly-fishing and one of the best places in South America, if not the world, for trout fishing in rivers and lakes. From October to March, the Straight of Magellan has a thriving colony of Magellanic Penguins and is a great place to whale-watch (in season), while the wilderness area northwest of Punta Arenas offers opportunities for mountain-climbing, horse-riding, rafting and exploration of the spectacular ice fields and mountainous terrain in and around Torres del Paine National Park.
|Time Difference||-7 hours
Health facilities, hygiene and disease risks vary worldwide and you should take health advice about your specific needs as early as possible. We highly recommend that you seek specialist advice from your Doctor and, where recommended, obtain vaccinations or tablets for protection against, for example: Malaria, Hepatitis A, Polio and Typhoid. In some cases, treatments for Malaria should begin well in advance of travel. Travellers may also be required to show Yellow Fever Certificates on arrival in certain destinations ie, some African countries. Please note that you are strongly advised against scuba-diving for 24 hours before travelling by air. We would also like to draw your attention to the risk of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and recommend that you consult with your doctor before travelling.
Visa and Advance Passenger Information
All passengers must ensure they have valid, acceptable passport, any required visa and any other documentation for both the final destination and any stop-off points en route. Please make sure that Advance Passenger Information is submitted in advance to travel for all destinations. Failure to hold correct documentation or submitting incorrect details with Advance Passenger Information or Visa applications may result in refusal of carriage or entry into a country. Please check with the relevant Embassy regarding visa requirements well in advance of your travel date. Charges may apply for some visas.Travelling With Children or Without an Adult
Children travelling without both parents should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country (for example, South Africa) or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. Please contact the relevant Embassy for the county you are travelling to for further information.
Chile is a very narrow, long country, measuring almost 3,000 miles in length and an average of only 112 miles in width, and as such, it has several different climates. In fact, the only climate you won't find in Chile is a humid, tropical one. Much of the country is mountainous (which also contributes to the varied weather patterns), with the eastern side home to the Andes mountains. In the north, the temperatures can be very hot during the day and very cold at night, with the desert landscape receiving hardly any rain (northern Chile is one of the driest regions in the world and the Atacama Desert is the world's most arid, whose average rainfall is no more than 15mm per year). The southern third of the country comprises rugged, mountainous terrain, dense forest and a cool, wet climate with snow on higher ground, however, the Punta Arenas region in the far south, boasts low annual rainfall as it is sheltered by the southern Andes. By contrast, the central belt of Chile has a Mediterranean climate with virtually no rain and warm temperatures in the Chilean summer (from October to April) and mild, changeable weather in the Chilean winter (from May to September). Generally speaking, the further south you go, the colder and rainier it becomes, with abundant snow in winter as you venture closer to Antarctica.
These figures show monthly average maximum temperatures and monthly average rainfall for Chile.
In northern Chile's Atacama Desert, the colourful village of San Pedro de Atacama is the archaeological capital of Chile and visitors can marvel at soaring volcanoes, lava fields and rolling dunes, set against a backdrop of endless blue sky. The desert has been culturally shaped by Incan and Spanish influence over many centuries, most notably illustrated by regional festivals, and is also famous for its mining areas, with mineral-rich landscapes providing large deposits of copper and salt. Due to the dry air and clear skies that are a feature here, this awe-inspiring landscape provides perfect conditions for star-gazing, with no fewer than three-hundred clear nights per year providing the backdrop for internationally important scientific study of the stars.
Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt
More fantastic scenery can be found at Puerto Varas, which sits on the shore of Lake Llanquihue, overlooked by snow-capped volcanoes, Osorno and Calbuco. Known as the 'City of Roses', owing to its flower-lined streets, the best way to explore the city is to walk from one end to the other, stopping off to refuel with a local beer and Lomito, a traditional sliced pork sandwich popular amongst the Chilean people. Whilst en route, you might like to shop for handicrafts, handmade chocolates and woven items as well as enjoy spending some time exploring the local history, which includes the 19th century homesteads of German settlers, antique churches and museums that chronicle the history. Alternatively, there are outdoor pursuits available, such as kayaking, fishing and trekking, along with the nearby Saltos del Petrohue waterfalls to visit and Lake Todos Los Santos, an emerald-green-coloured lake nestled amongst a lusk hillside forest. Just thirty two kilometres along the coast from Puerto Varas is the bustling port city of Puerto Montt, which also has a German colonial heritage, including colonial architecture. Join a walking tour of the city to learn about its history and architecture, notably the Llanquihue Bank building, Inmaculada Cocepcion School and a number of ornate local residences. Additionally, Puerto Montt boasts an art gallery, museum and fantastic, abundant seafood (particularly salmon), which can be enjoyed in its restaurants. Find a restaurant with a great view of Calbuco Volcano and sample Cancato (seafood stew) and sea urchins (Erizo) - both are popular local dishes.
Torres del Paine National Park
From Punta Arenas, it is possible to explore the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Torres del Paine National Park. It's a eaceful, rural wonderland of colossal granite peaks, rocks, snow-clad mountains and glacier-fed lakes created at least twelve-million years ago. Boasting seventeen hours of sunlight per day in the summer months, the park is perfect for exploring by car and on foot, with 97 kilometres of roads that wind their way through the dramatic scenery and a number of hiking trails available to those who enjoy walking. Torres del Paine is home to many species of mammals and birdlife, including the puma, rhea, Andean Condor, flamingo and guanaco, Chile's version of the llama.
Easter Island, otherwise known as Rapa Nui, is the world's most remote, inhabited island and boasts a strong Polynesian colonial history, which is celebrated annually during its February Tapati Festival. It is thought that the first Polynesian settlers arrived on the island in the 6th century and spent at least the next thousand years in 'splendid isolation' until it was rediscovered in the early eighteenth century. Replete with gorgeus pink-sand beaches, volcanoes, gently undulating grassland, marine life and deserted caves, the island enjoys a warm, sub-tropical climate year-round, making it perfect for outdoor activities, both land-based and water-based, families and couples who enjoy the thrill of adventure and outdoor pursuits. While here, you must explore Easter Island's mysterious statues, believed to symbolise the sacred ancestors of the Polynesian inhabitants. Carved out of volcanic rock some time between 1250 and 1500AD, each of the nine-hundred sculptures is unique and ranges in size from two metres to twenty metres. The island was rediscovered on Easter Sunday in 1722 by Jacob Roggveen (hence its European name) and was annexed by Chile in 1888 following a desperate period in the island's history, which included disease (brought to the island by visiting whalers and which ravaged the population), slavery, kidnap and a smallpox epidemic. The Chileans tried to colonise the island, but it was not a substainable proposition due to a lack of profitable agriculture. Today, the island is inhabited by just two-thousand residents, most decending from the original Polynesian settlers, and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Santiago and Maipo Valley
Chile's capital city is a fabulous cosmopolitan contrast to the spectacular landscapes that abound in the northern and southern regions of Chile, and despite offering a more contemporary take on this fascinating country, it still manages to boast some fabulous rural scenery, due to its location, nestled in the foothills of the Andes. Home to six-million people, the metropolis offers excellent up-scale restaurants, shopping opportunities (from designer good to local handicrafts), bookstores, museums and nightlife and comprises several, contrasting, districts. Perfectly placed as a base for exploration further afield, it is possible to ski and snowboard (in season) less than an hour from the city centre and discover one of Chile's greatest exports - wine. Just a few kilometres outside the city is a lush, rural oasis, known as Maipo Valley, which is famous the world over for its delicious Cabernet Sauvignon wine. The valley's wine-making traditions stretch back as far as conquistador times - as it is they who created the first vineyards in the area - and today, there are several wine routes to explore in the valley, with opportunities for wine-loving visitors to enjoy vineyard tours and wine-tastings. Do try Pipeno, a country-style white wine that is one of the secrets of Maipo Valley.
Just an hour from the modern city of Santiago is Valparaiso, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002 and is affectionately known as 'Pancho' by the local residents. The city is Chile's largest and oldest port, dating back to 1536, and is surrounded by a number of hills that wend their way down to the coastline. Densely dotted amongst these hillsides stand hundreds of multi-coloured houses and a collection of beautiful colonial architecture that line the many narrow cobblestone streets - head to Mirador Diego Portales to the east of the city, for the best views of it all. The city isn't sleek or glamorous, but boasts a great deal of charm, which ensures it is as popular with today's travellers as it was in the past, when artists, poets and philosophers were drawn to the city by its unusual persona and faded beauty. While here, pop into a restaurant to enjoy Chorrillano, a local dish of fried seak, egg, onion and potato.
Please contact us for flight information.
San Pedro de Atacama
Whilst staying at the Awasi Hotel , there are a number of excursions into the Atacama Desert that you can enjoy on full or half day trips, accompanied by a private guide. Visit quaint villages hidden amongst the valleys (including Aiquina, filled with stone and mud houses topped with straw roofs), archaeological sites, salt flats and the stark plains of The Altiplano, home to the world's highest navigable lake, Titicaca. There are approximately 160 species of birds in this desert landscape, so it's great for bird-watching, plus the wide-open spaces are the perfect places to enjoy a dreamy nocturnal star-gazing tour with a local guide. The options for how you explore the area are varied and include strolling, horse-riding, trekking and bike-riding.
Lovers of the outdoors and rural scenery will really enjoy staying in Puerto Varas, where the nearby Osorno Volcano - in Vicente Perez National Park, sixty kilometres from Puerto Varas - provides a number of opportunities for leisure pursuits such as trekking, hiking, mountain-biking and bird-watching. This impressive-looking, dark green and snow-capped landmark - whose most recent eruption was in 1869 - takes approximately six hours to climb and, from the summit, it is possible to look down towards beautiful Lake Llanquihue, emerald-green Lake Todos Los Santos and some of the forty craters that have formed at the volcano's base. Also popular for skiing (in season), the Osorno Volcano has a ski centre, two chair lifts and a restaurant, from where it is possible to enjoy a leisurely lunch and spectacular panoramic views any time of the year.
Easter Island (Rapa Nui)
Explora Rapa Nui, on the iconic Easter Island, offers a collection of twenty half-day or full-day explorations that can be enjoyed on treks, bike-rides and whilst participating in water-based activities. Accompanied by English-speaking guides, the pursuits have varying degrees of difficulty, meaning there are great opportunities to enjoy the island whether visiting as a family or a thrill-seeking couple. Four half-day excursions can be enjoyed by mountain-bike, with bikes, helmets, gloves and child seats (if required) supplied by the hotel. The terrain has fairly gentle inclines and if you'd rather explore on your own, rather than take a guide along with you, that's absolutely fine, too. Otherwise, you might enjoy a half-day exploration focusing on the famous Moai statues (of which there are hundreds on the island), a volcanic crater and fabulous panoramic views - a perfect option for families. If you prefer enjoying activities on the water, you may wish to go on a half-day boat trip where you'll be able to try your hand at fishing, using traditional techniques, along with visiting coves, observing the abundant marine life and perhaps enjoying a spot of snorkelling in the crystal-clear water.
There are no fewer than fifty explorations to choose from during a stay at Explora Patagonia, including easy to very demanding treks lasting half a day or a full day. The scenery, flora and fauna are incredible in and around Punta Arenas, with opportunities to view condors and other birds, enjoy lake crossings by catamaran and explore ancient forests. Whilst here, it would be a great shame if you missed the opportunity to discover the incredible UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Torres del Paine National Park, a rural wonderland of colossal granite peaks, rocks, snow-clad mountains and glacier-fed lakes created at least twelve-million years ago. Chile has a great equine history and Explora Patagonia offers a number of horse-riding excursions for riders of any level of ability. The property has its own stable of twenty-six horses and, along with exploring the nearby lagoons, waterfalls and ancient forests on horseback, it is possible to visit a ranch, meet gauchos (Chilean cowboys) and enjoy mate-drinking with them, along with assisting with shearing sheep, driving livestock and even breaking in horses.
Chile's capital city boasts the usual attractions a large cultural city has to offer, such as great architecture, splendid museums and galleries, theatres, parks and restaurants but, while staying at Mandarin Oriental, Santiago you may also wish to spectate at a polo match or horserace. Alternatively, just forty minutes outside of the city by car, there's Cajun del Maipo to explore, comprising a river valley dotted with hamlets, vineyards, orchards and roadside stalls selling local fruit, honey, bread and cider. Of course, Chile is one of the up-and-coming South American wine producers and the hotel will happily organise a private vineyard tour with wine-tasting, if that is an activity that might appeal.