Off the Beaten Track in Chile
The vast and distinctive landscape of Chile makes it ideal for anyone seeking adventure. From the barren deserts in the north to the windswept cliffs of the south coast, Chile has something to offer every type of traveler. It’s ultra-modern cities and world-renowned vineyards are perfect contrasts to the waterfalls, sand dunes, mountains and beaches found at every turn in this varied country. Plus, its unusual shape means that you can snowboard one day and hike through the desert the next.
But although Chile is a popular place for holidaymakers, there are a plethora of places still left to explore. So, whether you’re planning a two-week vacation or spending a few months backpacking around the country, there are plenty of undiscovered gems in Chile that make it one of the most interesting holiday destinations in the world.
If you’re looking for an adventure filled with natural wonders, it doesn’t get much better than the southerly Navarino Island. As well as spotting penguins, whales, dolphins and seals, travelers can visit the nearby Cabo de Hornos National Park and the Omora Ethnobotanical Park to see the miniature forests of mosses and lichens that are unique to the island. To take the adrenaline levels up a few notches, check out Dientes Trek, a tricky trail culminating at the 860-meter-high Virginia Pass where the views make all the effort to get there worth every step. The winds can be extremely high here, so make sure to pack plenty of layers.
Viña del Mar
With more than 3,000 miles of coastline, it is no surprise that Chile is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. But if you want to holiday where Chileans holiday, then you need to head to Viña del Mar (which means “Vineyard by the Sea”). Not many foreign tourists opt to stay here, instead preferring to spend their vacation at the nearby bohemian and colorful town of Valparaíso, from which Pablo Neruda drew much of his inspiration. Valparaíso is a charming mess of street art, hippy cafes and fascinating architecture and is worth a visit. By contrast, Viña del Mar has perfectly maintained boulevards neatly lined with palm trees, stunning stately palaces and beautifully manicured public parks. It’s what makes it such a popular destination for Santiaguinos. The beaches here are second to none, with Playa Reñaca the most popular, so head to Playa Caleta Abarca for a quiet dip in a secluded cove.
If you’re heading to Chile by plane, chances are that you’ll land in Santiago for your trip. But instead of writing it off as a busy city with too many tourists, it’s worth hanging around for a few days, as there are a lot of quirky and fascinating places to visit. The city is full of lots of unusual vibrant street art, especially in the neighborhood of Barrio Yungay, so hire a bike and try to see as many impressive pieces are you can. The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda used to live in the city, so take a tour of his home to see what it was like as an eccentric artist. Those who love people watching would do well to check out Plaza de Armas where the unusual sounds, sights and smells can entertain you for hours!
The driest desert in the world, the Atacama is famous for its arid landscape and stunning views of the night sky. However, not many people know that it is also the home of the seriously impressive El Tatio geyser field. Best viewed at sunrise when the geysers are at their most remarkable, it’s a good idea to head here right before dawn so that you’re here in plenty of time to catch the majestic natural wonder. While the huge plumes of white steam are undoubtedly the biggest attraction, the local wildlife is also worth looking out for as the birds leave their hiding spots in search of breakfast among the giant cacti. After a few hours of soaking up the stunning sights, take a dip in one of the healing hot springs — but remember to bring a towel!
Of course, there are many, many more gems to discover in this country, but writing about them all would mean there would be nothing left for others to find! Chile is one of the most diverse and fascinating places any traveler can visit, so put this beautiful country right at the top of your bucket list, and you won’t be disappointed.
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