Photo: Vera & Jean-Christophe
Chile’s Carretera Austral, or Southern Highway is one of the world’s great drives. The road is an improbable project, started in the 1970s to connect far-flung Chilean towns and villages to the rest of Chile by road, rather than small plane or overland via Argentina. Even now, traveling the length of this remote (mostly gravel) 1200-km road takes days, and gives travelers a taste of untouched rural Patagonia, the way it has looked for thousands of years. There are giant rivers with snaking tributaries in and placid lakes in blue, green, turquoise and every color in between. Stands of thick forests, including giant, sequoia-like alerces trees line parts of the road, and in the early summer, colorful lupins in yellows, purples and pinks fringe the lakes. Glaciers and steep mountains complete the picture of rugged Patagonia. Below are a few of the towns and highlights you’ll see on your way down this road.
Photo: Rafa Alves
Pablo Neruda is one of Chile’s favorite, and best-known poets, and also served as a diplomat in Argentina, Spain and Mexico. He was born in 1904, won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971 and died shortly after Chile’s coup d’etat, in 1973. His poems range from historical epics to love poems, surrealist writings and whimsical odes, including one to an artichoke. He is well known internationally and his time in exile in Sicily (for political reasons) was fictionalized in the movie Il Postino.
Photo: SF Brit
For penguin peepers, glacier chasers, cruise fans, and those who love to visit far-flung places, Antarctica delivers. There are long days of summer sunshine, glassy waters and a constantly-changing seascape. Dolphin, whale and albatross sightings are practically guaranteed. From closer to the coast, or from landings, penguins, sea lions, different species of seals (including sometimes southern elephant seals) are also a sure thing.
How can you compare the beautiful places of the world, and decide which one is the most beautiful? Virtual Tourist ran a contest to have participants choose the 8th wonder of the world, and Chile’s vast Torres del Paine National park won. About 500 million votes were cast, and Torres del Paine beat out Guatemala’s Tikal, Belize’s Great Blue Hole, and Old Town Dubrovnik, as well as about 300 other nominated wonders.
Chile’s long, narrow geography with 3,000 miles of coastline, mean visitors and locals can have beach access almost any time they want, and even go from the Andes to the Pacific in a single day. Every beach, from north to south (and on Easter Island) has its own personality, with some being connected to fishing villages, while others are right outside of cities, and bring together families on weekends and all summer long. Some are protected, shallow coves with calm water, and some frothy and rocky. And then there are the surf beaches.
Photo: Cristian Perez
Volcanic activity in Chile’s main adventure sport destination, Pucón, assures visitors of a few things. First, on clear days, there is a great view of snow-covered Volcán Villarrica (travelers can climb with a guide), second, visitors are sure to take a photo of the signs downtown advising of volcanic conditions, and third, a visit to the local hot springs is a great way to spend an afternoon, evening, or even a few days.
There are hot springs to suit most tastes, from rustic to Asian-inspired, family-friendly and boutique. Below is a description of some of our favorite.
Santiago, Chile, is a large city of almost 7 million people, and hotels to suit most budgets. And while some of the world’s most well known 4 and 5-star chain hotels can be found in the city, but for a more personal touch, a boutique hotel may be just what you had in mind. Below are three of Santiago’s best-reviewed boutique hotels, one in Bellavista, and two in Providencia.
Photo: Manuel Bahamondez H
Cajón del Maipo, a valley etched into the foothills of the Andes, and a short drive from Santiago, Chile, is where well-heeled Santiaguinos take weekend drives and where the wealthy buy homes perched on steep overlooks. It’s also a great place to go rafting, hiking, horseback-riding, camping, or just take a day trip up into the mountains. There is plenty of food and drink to sustain you, no matter what you choose to do. And if a single day isn’t enough, there are plenty of places to stay as well.
Photo: Ben Bowes
Chile’s variety of natural landscapes, from glaciers and granite spires in the far south, to Valdivian rainforest in the mid-south, and up through all the shades of the Atacama desert in the north, create a great backdrop for a variety of adventures. To add another element of adventure, choose from one of the following non-conventional hotels that span the length of the country, and include domes, traditional stilted houses and a hotel that itself looks like a rainfall-covered mountain.
Many travelers know Santiago for the sleek, uptown neighborhoods of Las Condes and Vitacura, with glassed-in towers, an area referred to as “Sanhattan,” and the brand new Costanera Center, which at 300 meters (nearly 1,000 feet) is the tallest building in South America, and home to a new, multi-level mall.
And while what’s new in Santiago can keep you busy for a pleasant afternoon, the city’s history is far older than that, and digging a little deeper gives travelers a look into the history’s regal past, when palaces and little enclaves were built into what is now the bustling downtown.