From desert to glacier, beach resort to ski resort, Chile is known for its spectacular extremes!
Things to See and Do
From desert to glacier, beach resort to ski resort, Chile is known for its extremes. The Patagonia region in the south is one of its most popular destinations, yet Torres del Paine National Park and the San Raphael Lagoon still feel untouched.
In central Chile, you’ll find vineyards as well as premier Andean skiing spots less than an hour away from Santiago. With its emerald-coloured lakes, giant cactuses and boiling geysers, northern Chile’s otherworldly landscape never fails to impress visitors. Arica is the country’s northernmost city, bordering Peru, and a gateway to the Altiplano.
Its beaches, mountains and historic buildings draw visitors from Bolivia as well as travellers crossing the border. Be sure to visit Lauca National Park, a UNESCO Global Biosphere Reserve that covers 137,883 hectares of the pre-Andean range. It’s home to more than 130 species of bird and boasts volcanic lagoons, archaeological heritage and one of the most elevated lakes in the world, Chungara Lake (4,514 metres).
San Pedro de Atacama is a small village nestled on the foothills of the Andes and a great base to explore the region’s uncanny attractions. From San Pedro, visit the volcanic hot springs, Thermas de Puritama, or the Geysers el Tatio, where more than 80 geysers are still active.
See throngs of flamingos at Chaxa Lagoon. Marvel at the lunar landscape of the Valley of the Moon or the vast Salar de Atacama, Chile’s largest salt flat. For a lesson in the area’s heritage, visit the ruins of pre-Columbian Tulor Village and an ancient 12th-century stone fortress, Pukara de Quitor.
Northern Chile is rich in unexpected landscape and stunning vistas, ideal for exploring, hiking and trekking—at times, you’ll feel like you’re on alien ground.
Daily flights connect Vancouver and Toronto to Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport in Santiago. Direct flights to Santiago take about 10 hours, but most flights have one stopover and take more than 13 hours.
The main domestic airlines are LATAM Airlines and SKY Airline Although buses are considerably cheaper, a trip from the capital to the north will take more than 20 hours. Chile’s main bus companies, serve most major cities in the north. Or consider renting a car—you’ll find familiar companies such as Avis, Budget, Hertz and Dollar in major cities.
Kate Harris is an explorer and writer, both a Rhodes and Morehead-Cain scholar, and award-winning/bestselling author of Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road.