There are many varied and spectacular landscapes to catch the eye of the traveller. From the deserts of the north to the fjords and glaciers surrounded by natural beauty in the south. It is a country which thrills nature and outdoor lovers with its fantastic trekking; long Pacific beaches great for surfing, swimming and fishing; and winter ski resorts. SANTIAGO Situated at the base of the Andes, Santiago was established in 1541 and is a blend of old and new. The Virgin Mary guards the city from the peak of the 869m-tall Cerro San Cristobal, part of the Parque Metropolitano recreational area. The main points of interest are located within a relatively small area, called Santiago Centro. The city’s attractions include the colourful Mercado Central (markets); the historical centre of Plaza de Armas with its many cafes, restaurants and bars; the pedestrian mall of Paseo Ahumada and the huge Palacio de La Moneda, a former mint, presidential residence and the site of Allende’s last stand. Santiago also boasts its fair share of museums, and must sees are the Pre-Columbian Museum, the Museo de Santiago, and the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Mercado Central occupies an entire block and is Santiago’s central market. It has a distinctive wrought-iron edifice dating from 1872 and is the place to go for fresh fruit, vegetables and fish. It also has a number of eating places and is a great place to “people watch”. Barrio Bellavista known as the “Paris quarter” is one of the city’s liveliest neighbourhoods, with countless ethnic eateries and an active crafts fair on Friday and Saturday evenings. VALPARAISO & VINA DEL MAR Approximately 120km north-west of Santiago, Valparaiso is Chile’s principal port and second-largest city. An intriguing city it is situated on a narrow strip of land between the waterfront and hills. Cobbled streets, precipitous cliffs and hilltop suburbs accessed by funicular railway and steep footpaths all add to this interesting city. It more closely resembles a medieval European harbour than a 21st century commercial port, and is often called the “Pearl of the Pacific”. A further 10km north is Vina del Mar (known as the “Garden City”) and Chile’s premier beach resort. A popular destination for tourists and locals with it’s manicured public gardens, horse-drawn carriages, turn-of-the-century mansions, white sandy beaches, it is also home to Chile’s National Botanical Garden comprising of 151 acres of native and exotic plants. Both destinations are popular day trips from Santiago. THE LAKES DISTRICT Stretching for hundreds of kilometres between the ocean and the Andes are scores of glittering emerald lakes set amidst snow capped volcanoes, pine forests and waterfalls. The most popular way of seeing the Lakes District is to take the two day lakes crossing by coach and boat from the colourful port town of Puerto Montt (Chile) which was settled by German colonists in the mid 19th century to Bariloche (Argentina) with an overnight stop in the picturesque village of Peulla. PATAGONIA The southern-most tip of the Americas, it is a region of wild, untamed beauty with glaciers, lakes, snow capped peaks, volcanoes and fjords. It encompasses the massive Tierra del Fuego Archipelago and the famous San Rafael Glacier. Gateway is Punta Arenas or Balmaceda. Torres del Paine National Park (Towers of Paine) soars more than 2000m above the Patagonian steppe and offers abundant wildlife and spectacular alpine scenery, perhaps South America’s finest National Park with its granite pillars that dominate the landscape, turquoise lakes, waterfalls, glaciers, forests and abundant wildlife. It is surrounded in natural beauty and a paradise for those interested in the outdoors. This 240,000 ha reserve is a popular trekking area. Gateway is Puerto Natales (112km away) which is the terminus for the scenic ferry from Puerto Montt. Best time to visit is between October and April. Explora Lodge is a unique lodge in the Torres del Paine NP where guests can choose from five daily excursions tailored according to weather conditions and personal preference, either by van, horseback, foot, launch or mountain bike – all led by specialist naturalist guides. See our South America brochure for a 4 day package ex Punta Arenas. Punta Arenas is located at the foot of the Andes, on the western side of the Strait of Magellan and is Patagonia’s most interesting city featuring many mansions and buildings that date back to the late 19th and early 20th century. Near Punta Arenas are two major “jackass penquin” colonies, best time to view are between October and April. SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA DESERT San Pedro de Atacama in the northern region of Chile (2440m above sea level) is a vast desert of amazing volcanic formations, hot springs, geysers and the giant salt lake of Salar de Atacama. The historical oasis of San Pedro de Atacama is a perfect base for excursions to the world’s highest fuming geyser field, the El Tatio Geysers at 4300m above sea level, the Valley of the Moon where flood and rain have left oddly shaped polychrome desert landforms and the salt encrusted lakes of the pink flamingos. The desert can be visited at anytime of the year as the temperature can range from 30ºC during the day down to 0ºC during the night. Explora Lodge has a variety of day explorations which allows guests to experience the beauty of this remote region whilst staying in sophisticated accommodation. There is a daily choice of 8 to 10 explorations tailored to individual requirements and weather condition that including walking, horseback riding, mountain biking and visits to points of interest. See our South America brochure for a 4 day package ex Calama. EASTER ISLAND (aka Rapa Nui) One of the world’s most remote inhabited islands, its total area is just 117sq km and its closest inhabited neighbour is 1900km to the west. The island has a maritime and very humid climate with a minimum temperature of 10ºC in winter and maximum of 27ºC in summer (Jan-Feb). Strong winds often lash the island and tropical downpours can occur year round. LAN flys to Easter Island. The island is scattered with hundreds of colossal moai, these tall and heavy statues, carved from volcanic rock, were transported great distances from the quarry to the coast and erected on great stone ahu (platforms). The islanders also created the large ahu’s on which the moai were erected, burial cairns (large piles of rock where bodies were entombed) and the foundations of the unusual hare paenga (boat-shaped thatched houses). SKIING IN CHILE The ski season runs from June to early October. El Colorado, 45km east of Santiago has 19 lifts climbing to 3333m above sea level with 22 different runs and a vertical drop of 903m. La Parva is only 4km from Farellones, and has 30 separate runs ranging from 2662m to 3630m, with a vertical drop of 968m. Valle Nevado, is 14km from Farellones and is a high-altitude ski area, ranging from 2805m to 3670m with 27 runs up to 3km in length. Portillo is known for its dry powder and is Chile’s most famous ski resort and the site of several down-hill speed records. Altitudes range from 2590m to 3330m on its 11 runs and it is located 152km from Santiago. FOOD Chile’s most popular snack is the empanada, a tasty turnover with vegetables, hard-boiled egg, olives, beef, chicken, ham and cheese or other filling. Most common fillings are ground beef and cheese. Sandwiches are another popular snack. Breakfast usually comprises of toast with butter or jam and tea; eggs or sandwiches are also common. Many restaurants offer set menus for lunch and dinner encompassing the most common dishes. Beef, in a variety of cuts and styles of preparation is the most popular main dish throughout Chile. The country is also known for its abundance of seafood. SHOPPING Popular purchases are the lapis lazuli, black pottery and copperware, along with carved wooden moai from Easter Island.
Capital: Santiago National Language: Spanish Religion: Roman Catholic Population: 14.8 million Visa: NZ passport holders do not require a visa for Chile. Passport must be valid for at least six months Government: Elected President and Senate Currency: Chilean Peso (Ch$) Tipping & Bargaining: Customary to tip 10% of restaurant bills and round up taxi fares. Bargaining is acceptable in markets only. Credit Cards: American Express, Visa and MasterCard are ideal for cash advances, but fluctuations in rate can be high. Electricity: 220 volts, 50 cycles.
The Atacama Desert (northern Chile) is temperate and ideal year round. Santiago and middle Chile are best September to April. The Lakes District is best visited October to April. The best time to ski is between June and August.