Seemingly pinched between Andean behemoths and Pacific waters, slender Chile is brimming with iconic landscapes, elegant cities and an array of eye-catching wildlife. Hike alongside heavenly lakes, spot blue whales in choppy seas, ski in the high Andes, or luxuriate in thermal springs, sipping wine beneath snow-dusted volcanos.
Implausibly slim, Chile is both restricted and enriched by the superlative natural barriers that define its spectacular landscapes. To the north, visit the inhospitable Atacama Desert – the world’s driest – and find scorched-red dunes, rocky plains and unimaginable geological formations shimmering orange and gold. Meanwhile, bristling along Chile’s eastern spine the world’s longest mountain range – the snow-capped Andean peaks rising in angular majesty separating you from Argentina. Venture into this exciting terrain, hiking beneath mighty granite towers in Torres del Paine, or amid the azure lakes of western Patagonia; or perhaps pick through primeval forests for views over the immense glaciers that spill from Chile’s southernmost archipelago.
Exploring this vast and pristine wilderness, you’ll meet endearingly hospitable people – poncho-wrapped alpaca herders and gauchos in straw chupalla hats – and you’ll savour delicious seafood, and exquisite wines from the sumptuous Colchagua Valley. Nature-lovers can find flamingos, elephant seals, penguins and the elusive Patagonian puma, while charming and colourful towns such as hillside Valparaíso see grand colonial buildings rise between brightly-painted houses in typical Latin American quirkiness. Chile’s cosmopolitan capital, Santiago offers gentle strolls revealing European architecture and leafy avenues, all cast against a magnificent mountainous backdrop. Fly to Easter Island to uncover the ancient mystery of its enigmatic Moai statues, or sail around Chiloe Island, home to 16 UNESCO-recognised churches, keeping your eyes peeled for the fabled ghost ships that drift in the thick morning fog. And that’s not to mention the hot springs, smouldering volcanos and mighty fjords that await discovery in this most varied and bewitching of holiday destinations.
The driest place on earth after the two poles, only cacti grow in this rock-strewn Martian land of canyons, dunes and vacant salt lakes. Visit the aptly-named Valley of the Moon, catch sunrise over the steaming columns of the El Tatio geyser field, or for unbeatable views take a hot air balloon to fully comprehend this uniquely desolate corner of the world.
Dominated by the dramatic shafts of the Paine massif, whose towering granite spires are circled by giant Andean condors, Chile’s most famous national park hosts spellbinding Patagonian panoramas. From luxurious hotels, hike paths that snake between stunning lakes, into thick forests, across the wonderfully multi-coloured steppe and to the edge of eerily-glowing blue glaciers.
An curiosity in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Easter Island’s world-famous stone heads pepper green hillsides, gazing forlornly out over blue horizons in a silent homage to their mysterious creators. Beyond the iconic Moai statues, there’s leisurely hiking opportunities up to gaping craters, excellent snorkelling and diving, and pristine white beaches upon which to mull the mystery over one more time.
Nestled between Chile’s Mediterranean valleys and the subpolar south, self-drive into a realm of fairytale beauty pitted with peaceful green lakes, dotted with snow-capped volcanoes, and draped in dark and misty Valdivian forests. Explore Chiloé Island’s quaint churches, spot pudu – the world’s smallest (and cutest) deer – or buy handicrafts made by Chile’s colourful indigenous Mapuche. For those on a larger South American odyssey, access to Argentina is provided by the stunning Carretera Austral road.
Encircled by mountains and invested with a pleasant Latin ambiance, Santiago is burgeoning with sophisticated seafood eateries, boisterous bars, and grand colonial cathedrals and museums. Climb San Cristobal Hill to admire the capital’s incredible setting or, for a large slice of paradise, delve into the sprawling vineyards that fill nearby Colchagua Valley, where sheer indulgence meets peaceful seclusion under the influence of Chile’s exquisite range of wines.
Known as ‘The Jewel of the Pacific’, eccentric Valparaíso is proudly bohemian and joyfully colourful, its historic hillside districts linked by intricately-painted ascensores (funicular railways) while charming wharfs waft the enticing aromas of seafood specialities and traditional chorrillana street food into the maze of cobbled lanes around the seafront. It’s a hodgepodge mess of crumbling villas rejuvenated by street art, creating an infectiously care-free atmosphere quite apart from that of Santiago.
Unlike neighbouring Argentina where the steak is king, Chile’s extensive coastline provides the staples for the country’s delicious array of seafood dishes – from sumptuously-stewed conger eels to mouth-watering fried sea bass and tasty shredded king crabs. Perfect mid-stroll snacks can be found in the form of fried sopaipillas, Chilean hotdogs and chacarero sandwiches crammed with beef strips and mashed avocados.
Highlights of Chile
13 days from £8,545 pp incl. flights
Travel the length of Chile on this luxury holiday, comparing – on exclusive private tours – the otherworldly landscapes of its deserts and big-name national parks to the tumbling lanes of its charming seaside towns and the leafy bustle of mountain-framed Santiago.
Patagonia’s Glaciers & Fjords
16 days from £10,305 pp incl. flights
Compare Chilean and Argentinean Patagonia as you cruise the icy fjords from Ushuaia and explore Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Park – all while enjoying our collection of curated luxurious lodges and boutique hotels.
Torres del Paine & Antarctic Cruise
16 days from £18,540 pp incl. flights
Witness towering rock spires in Torres del Paine National Park, relax on the shores of Lake Sarmiento and savour exquisite wines on this itinerary, designed to celebrate the best of Chile's natural treasures – including its proximity to the wild, frozen expanse of the West Antarctica Peninsula.