Where: Traversing Chile
Why: From Chilean Patagonia to the south and the otherworldly Atacama desert in the north, Chile is one of the world’s finest touring destinations, backed by excellent hiking trails, stylish accommodation and a solid domestic air network.
October saw the launch of the Route of Parks, a 1,740-mile joining up of trails across Chilean Patagonia’s National Parks. Plus, this year sees the 60th anniversary of Patagonia’s Torres del Paine as a National Park and the area will also be a great place to view the total solar eclipse on 2 July. UK operators noting strong sales for Chile include Jacada Travel, which enjoyed a 41% surge in bookings last year, while those adding Patagonia product include Chimu Adventures, which has grown its choice of set and private itineraries for 2019-20.
Stretched out along South America’s south-west edge, Chile is a classic touring destination whose dramatically diverse geography supports a staggering range of experiences and active adventures.
North of the centrally located capital Santiago — a jumping-off point for the nearby Andean ski resorts of Portillo and Valle Nevado — lies the seaside resort of Vina del Mar and the port town of Valparaiso, with its fine restaurants, boutique hotels and funicular railways up steep streets. Further north, San Pedro offers a gateway to the Atacama Desert.
Immediately south of Santiago lies surfing centre Matanzas, Central Valley wine country and upmarket Colchagua Valley properties such as Casa Silva. Further south, past the Teutonic charms of Chile’s Lake District, lies the folklorically fascinating island of Chiloe and Chilean Patagonia, with its beckoning Pampas, glaciers and frozen fjords.
Pair it up
With their long shared border Chile naturally pairs well with Argentina, not least on Patagonian self-drives. Rainbow Tours alone offers three interesting Argentina and Chile pairings, including the 15-day Across South America, which also features Brazil. In the north, three-day 4×4 tours link San Pedro de Atacama with Uyuni, Bolivia, crisscrossing the mind-bending Salar de Uyuni salt flats between photo stops and salt hotel stays.
How to do it
Pura Aventura’s Ruta Uncovered self-drive from Santiago to Cape Horn offers the perfect way to celebrate the launch of Patagonia’s Route of Parks. A sample 45-day trip is priced from £14,430 per person, including flights.
Q&A: Fiona Martin, Head of Marketing at Tierra Hotels
What makes this such a must-see destination?
Chilean Patagonia is an area of extreme, remote, wild beauty, nearly at the end of the earth. Experiences include a breath-taking range of walks at all levels of ability, kayaking on Lake Grey, visiting the Grey Glacier and horse riding with gauchos.
How to get the most out of a visit?
Don’t miss trekking to the base of the Torres Towers and make the very best of your visit by staying in a beautiful lodge such as Tierra Patagonia, where every room has a view of the Towers. Peak season is December to March but in October and April there are fewer people and more animals around.