01 Feb Chile: One Country, a Myriad of Vacation Experiences
Chile is a real wild card of a destination, a fascinating country that is unique even by South American standards. With a territory that stretches across three separate regions (South America, Antarctica and Oceania), and measuring a distinctive 4,300 km in length but only 350 km at its widest, there isn’t anywhere else on Earth quite like Chile. The country comprises a mixture of landscapes and climates, including the dry deserts of the north, the abundant wine valleys of Casablanca and Colchagua Province and even the glacial straits on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, spending time here does give you a myriad of vacation experiences.
The most remarkable thing about Chile is that you can visit it many times over but never take the same trip twice. The awe-inspiring Torres mountain and its surrounding national park are a big draw for nature lovers, as trekking across the Andes is on the bucket list of many adrenaline fans out there while the country’s islands, including Easter Island and Chiloé Island, are the perfect destinations to explore Chile’s unique culture and ancient folklore. On Chiloé Island alone there is a total of 16 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. So, if you’re thinking of making Chile your vacation destination in 2019, here’s a glimpse of the best places to visit in the country.
The Hills of Valparaiso
Also known as “The Pearl of the Pacific” (La Perla del Pacifico), Valparaiso is a major Chilean seaport and historical center and precariously sandwiched between the waters of the Pacific and rugged cliffs. I’ve picked Valparaiso over the bustling capital city of Santiago, especially for first-time visitors, because you can spend an entire vacation in this city alone. It’s picturesque: winding cobbled streets and precarious footpaths will take you across the city’s 40 hills, and it features an incredible 16 historical ascensors (funicular railways) that you can ride on to ensure you don’t miss a single detail.
Two of the most vibrant hill towns are Cerro Concepcion and Cerro Alegre. However, downtown Valparaiso still has plenty to offer, especially in the shape of the Plaza Sotomayor sanctuary. Don’t forget to check out the city’s famous street art, too, the best of which you’ll find at the Open Air Museum situated close to Pablo Neruda’s famous La Sebastiana villa.
Cosmopolitan Viña del Mar
Viña del Mar, which translates as Vineyard by the Sea, is a colonial city known for being the site of the holiday villa of the politically-prominent Carrera family. Known locally as Ciudad Jardin (Garden City), Viña del Mar is very much Chile’s answer to Monte Carlo. With its sprawling mansions and palaces, expansive public parks and its beautiful beaches, Viña del Mar is the most cosmopolitan city on this list. The daytime living is leisurely here, with sunbathing on the beach, strolling through the lush Quinta Vergara park and taking in some cultural artifacts at the Artequin museum are all part of the highlife.
When the sun goes down, you’ll still find plenty on offer in this vibrant and international tourist destination. Enjoy a decadent night out, starting off with cocktails at the Hollywood Experience, a quick spin of the roulette wheel at the Enjoy Casino & Resort del Mar (which also hosts to professional tournaments) and finishing up in one of the many nightclubs or EDM temples — Viña del Mar’s not shy of a party or two.
Find an Oasis in San Pedro de Atacama
Standing 2,400 meters above sea level, the northern town of San Pedro de Atacama is an otherworldly destination. With a landscape and environment that wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi movie, salt flats, mountain ranges, volcanoes and geysers, hot springs, turquoise-colored lakes and of course, the arid desert scenery of the Atacama surround San Pedro de Atacama. This region is renowned with stargazers for its crystal-clear nighttime skies, so it’s a genuinely romantic spot to visit, too.
One of the must-dos when staying in the region is to take the famous hot air balloon ride. Lasting around 45 to 60 minutes, the ride begins at dawn, and you’ll follow the sun gently as it rises over the exotic and mysterious desert.