Activities, Tours, and Day Trips in Chile
Chile is a long, narrow country stretching along South America's western edge, with more than 6,000km of Pacific Ocean coastline. Santiago, its capital, sits in a valley surrounded by the Andes and Chilean Coast Range mountains. The city's palm-lined Plaza de Armas contains the neoclassical cathedral and the National History Museum. The massive Parque Metropolitano offers swimming pools, a botanical garden and zoo.
Chile is nature on a colossal scale, but travel here is surprisingly easy if you don't rush it. Preposterously thin and unreasonably long, Chile stretches from the belly of South America to its foot, reaching from the driest desert on earth to vast southern glacial fields. Diverse landscapes unfurl over the stretch: parched dunes, fertile valleys, volcanoes, ancient forests, massive glaciers and fjords. There's wonder in every detail and nature on a symphonic scale. For the traveler, it's boggling how so much has stayed intact for so long. The very human quest for development could imperil these treasures sooner than we think. Yet for now, Chile guards some of the most pristine parts of our planet, and they shouldn't be missed.
In Chile, close borders foster backyard intimacy. Bookended by the Andes and the Pacific, the country is narrow. No wonder you start greeting the same faces. Pause and it starts to feel like home. Perhaps it's because you've landed at the end of the continent, but one thing that stands out is hospitality. Buena onda (good vibes) means putting forth a welcoming attitude. Patagonians share round upon round of mate tea. The ritual of relating and relaxing is so integral to the fabric of local life, it's hardly even noticed. But they do say one thing: stay and let your guard down.
Chile's narrow shape also gives it a varied climate, ranging from the world's driest desert - the Atacama - in the north, through a Mediterranean climate in the center, to a rainy temperate climate in the south. The climate and other details of the far south, including the regions of Aysen and Magallanes, remain a mystery to people from central Chile. The northern desert contains great mineral wealth, including copper, gold, arsenic, and lithium reserves. The desert in the north also contains archaeological ruins and Andes Highlands, all of which make an interesting and unforgettable destination. In central Chile, the heart of the country, you can visit the main cities, famous vineyards, and some of the best ski resorts in the Southern Hemisphere. Southern Chile is where you will find Biobio, Araucania, Los Rios, and Los Lagos, the land of the Mapuches, lakes, rivers, and Chiloe island. Even further south in the areas of Aysen and Magallanes and the Chilean Antarctica, you'll find the Western Patagonia, with its fjords, ice caps, lakes and forests. Easter Island (Rapa Nui or Isla de Pascua)is a lonely island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and is home of one of the most mysterious civilizations in the world.
Enjoy the famous wines in the area. Before wine became an export commodity for the luxury set, humble casks had their place on every Chilean table. Grandparents tended backyard orchards. Now, Chile has become a worldwide producer catering to ever more sophisticated palates. Rich reds, crisp whites and floral roses, there is a varietal that speaks to every mood and occasion. But at home, it's something different. Chileans embrace the concept of la buena mesa. It's not about fancy. Beyond a good meal, it's great company, the leisure of overlapping conversations with uncorkings, and the gaze that's met at the clink of two glasses.
In Chile, adventure is what happens on the way to having an adventure. That is to say, adventure is everywhere. With dramatically varied climates from deserts to glaciers, there's no limit to what you can find to do here. Explore a glacier or visit the salt flats, see the world's driest desert or gawk at lakes and waterfalls. Watch some penguins in their natural environment or sit back and enjoy some wine. The possibilities are endless. Plans may be made, but try being just as open to experience. Locals never rush, so maybe you shouldn't either. 'Those who hurry waste their time,' is the Patagonian saying that would serve well as a traveler's mantra.