I want to see as much as possible on the way to Cusco and perhaps get a beach break for a few days. Where do you recommend? Julie, via email
On the route from Santiago to Cusco you will pass some of the most stellar attractions both Chile and Peru have to offer.
Firstly, I would recommend spending a few days in Santiago, where you can indulge in world-class seafood and cultural highlights such as the 18th-century cathedral Metropolitana. Next, head towards Chile’s rugged coastline. Just two hours by bus will bring you to the bohemian city of Valparaíso, where you’ll find cobbled squares and quirky buildings, much like a South American version of Lisbon.
Continue your journey by bus along the Chilean coastline. Stop off at the laidback beach town of La Serena, and nearby Coquimbo for a great coastal nightlife spot. Further north, you’ll find Bahia Inglesa. With a long white sand beach and clear turquoise waters, it’s easy to see why this is one of Chile’s most popular beaches.
Finish by heading inland to the Atacama Desert, where you can try biking, sand boarding and horse riding in the out-of-this-world landscape.
Then hop on a bus from San Pedro (the closest settlement to Atacama) to Iquique where you can sample some great surf breaks before crossing the Peruvian border. Once you’ve crossed into Peru, if you have time, visit the world’s largest high altitude lake, Titicaca.