Chile is bookended by the Pacific Ocean and the Andes. As a result, the geography is different at almost every turn.
It’s home to some of the driest and highest deserts on earth – the Atacama Desert is one of the best places for star gazing and catching glimpses of faraway galaxies. The Lake District is excellent for family holidays filled with trekking and fly fishing. Torres del Paine is where you’ll find the southern ice fields and the famous W Trek, a five-day hike along frozen-in-time valleys flanked by ginormous granite towers. The horse riding here can be some of the best in the world.
Take a short hop from the capital city, Santiago, and you’ll find yourself in paradise for wine lovers. The Central Valley is famous for its Carménère and Syrah wines and a bottle of either makes the best accompaniment to a traditional Chilean meal of empanadas (filled pastries), cazuela (chicken or beef stew with rice and potatoes) or asado (barbecued beef, chicken or pork).
Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as it’s known to its Polynesian inhabitants, is a lonely volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean 3,700km to the west of Chile. It features some 300 statues (called moais) and other stonework whose origins still puzzle scientists to this day.
Chile is also home to six UNESCO world heritage sites. Valparaiso, on the coast, is an atmospheric port city with labyrinths of steep streets and brightly coloured clifftop houses. The stilt houses that teeter on the edges of the Chiloe archipelago, a group of islands just off the coast in the Los Lagos Region, are particularly picturesque – this is where you’ll also find the protected churches of Achao, Chonchi and Quinchao, built using techniques taught by the Spanish Jesuits more than four centuries ago.
When to go
Santiago, the Central Valley and Atacama Desert are year round destinations. October to March is peak season in the south but trips during September or April are still possible if you prefer things a little quieter.