Torres del Paine
Rising out of the flatlands of Patagonia, Torres del Paine offers some of the continent’s best trekking and rock climbing. There’s something here for everyone – from the day tripper to the hardened multi-day trekker. The multi-day trails take you past awe-inspiring rock formations and blue-green lakes, within touching distance of glaciers.
Almost slap-bang in the middle of the country, Pucon is Chile’s adventure capital. A town that feels like it’s ona permanent holiday, expect to climb local volcanoes, raft clear rushing rivers, or do some Andean hiking or horse-trekking.
The old port serving the capital is Chile’s most endearing old city. Elegant Colonial buildings have a dignified, if faded, grandeur. Be sure to ride the old-style funiculars up to the heights overlooking the port.
Chile sits on one long geological fault line, which means it gets plenty of earthquakes, but also plenty of hot springs. From the most basic mud pools up in the mountains to chi-chi 5-star resorts, no one should visit Chile without “taking the waters”
In a country of extremes, the Atacama desert tops them all: the worlds oldest, driest and highest desert. There are places here where it has never rained. Ever. It’s not all inhospitable though, the small town of San Pedro de Atacama is a backpackers’ paradise of adobe buildings and chilled-out bars.
In the surrounding desert you can climb mountains of salt, sandboard on ancient dunes or marvel at the nearby El Tatio geysers – the highest geyser field in the world.
In 1991, North American Douglas Tompkins bought 42000 acres of Chile’s temperate rainforest to protect it from development. Since then the resulting national park has grown to almost 800,000 acres. Free to visitors, it offers a fantastic experience of one of the region’s most at risk eco-systems, where giant alerce trees cling to steep-sided valleys cut by rivers and fjords.
Vina del Mar
The place where the beautiful people head to be seen, Chile’s premier beach resort is heaving with surfers, bikinis and throbbing nightlife.
The southern fjords
The southern half of Chile is so mountainous that boats are just about the only way of getting around. The most famous is the Navimag, from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales. This four-day trip takes you through fjords, past glaciers and snow-capped mountains.
3,600km from the Chilean mainland, Easter Island is instantly recognisable for it’s the giant carved stone heads called Maui that adorn the slopes of the island. Cast adrift in the middle of the Pacific, Easter Island is not on the way to or from anywhere, but it’s utterly unique, and worth the trip if you can get there.