Squeezed between the depths of the Pacific and the volcanoes, peaks and glaciers of the Andes, Chile stretches from the driest desert in the north, to the ice fields of the south. In between you will find numerous landscapes from deep fjords and mountain-ringed lakes, to dunes, vineyards, fertile valleys and dark forests. The capital Santiago is cosmopolitan and sophisticated, while out in the Pacific, time has all but forgotten magical Easter Island and its treasure trove of moai.
I don't want an uneventful and safe life, I prefer an adventurous one
When to go
Travel to Chile's Central Valley, Santiago and the Atacama in the north is possible year-round. The best time to travel to Patagonia and the Lake District is from mid-November through mid-March.
Great museums, top-notch restaurants, grand architecture, unique neighbourhoods, pretty parks, a dazzling backdrop and a bustling nightlife - this is Santiago, the cosmopolitan, energetic capital of Chile. Take it all in on foot, or on an easy funicular ride up Cerro San Cristóbal, the summit of which provides unparalleled views.
Valparaíso & Viña del Mar
While neighbours, Valparaíso & Viña del Mar are polar opposites. Viña is Chile’s premier beach resort and, with its casinos and restaurants, one of its glitziest. Valparaíso, with its colourful houses, steep streets and some of the best street art in Latin America has attracted poets, painters and philosophers throughout its history.
Torres del Paine
There are no views like it on earth - the towering granite pillars of Paine, reflected in the waters of Lago Nordenskjöld. Combine it with the expanse of Glaciar Grey, the azure lakes, the hiking and trekking routes meandering through forests and over mountain passes, the large herds of guanacos and the overwhelming sense of being in the wilderness, and you begin to understand why UNESCO protected Torres del Paine is a must-see for every visitor to Patagonia.
Laguna San Rafael National Park
Wetlands and pristine rain forests form the vegetation at San Rafael National Park. But the star of the show is the glacier by the same name: huge blocks of ice calve off the glacier's 4 km wide, 70 metre high front, a spectacle you can observe from a safe distance on board a zodiac or cruise boat.
Fertile farmlands, snow covered conical volcanoes, old-growth forests and clear lakes are hallmarks of Chile's Lake District. This region is home to no less than eight national parks and offers limitless options for hiking, trekking up or skiing down volcanoes, rafting and kayaking the raging rivers, canyoning and horseback riding.
Churches of Chiloé
The rural, tranquil, wet and windswept Chiloé archipelago offers densely forested wilderness, coastal villages where wooden houses are perched on stilts, along with more than 150 old wooden churches and chapels. The islands are home to an independent seafaring people whose heritage is a unique blend of Spanish and indigenous culture.
Two snow-capped volcanoes loom over picturesque Puerto Varas, a town rich in German colonial architecture. The town makes a great base for kayaking and canyoning enthusiasts, or those in pursuit of climbing, fishing, hiking and even skiing.
A mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, Pucón is set on dazzling blue Lago Villarrica. After a day in the great outdoors, the town offers great restaurants and a bustling nightlife. And for those wanting to take it easy for a day, there are the area's many thermal springs and the town's gorgeous black sand beach.
The verdant green valley floor spectacularly offset against the brown of the surrounding hills, the vine covered, quiet and extremely beautiful Elqui Valley is the heartland of Chile's pisco production.
The stunning colours of Laguna Verde seem to jump out at you as you first approach, located as it is in a landscape of subdued browns and ochres, in the shadow of the world's highest volcano.
Valle de la Luna
As the sun sets over the lunar-like landscapes of the Valley of the Moon, the landscape of volcanoes and the wind-eroded hills and sand dunes of the valley itself turn to purples, reds, pinks and golds.
Parque Nacional Lauca
Herds of llamas and vicuñas, remote geysers, snow-covered picture-perfect volcanoes, breathtaking Altiplano scenery and sparkling lakes form the centre pieces of Lauca national Park, at 3000-6300 metres, Chile's highest. Lago Chungará is one of the world's highest lakes and extremely rich in bird life.
El Tatio geysers
One of the world's largest and the earth's highest geothermal field, volcano-ringed El Tatio is fed by over 80 geysers and even more gassy fumaroles. Come at sunrise and see billowing clouds of steam and water rise high into the air.
One of the world's most remote places, and certainly one of the planet's most mystical, tiny Easter Island was home to a mysterious and now vanished culture. The remains of this culture are the famous moai: huge stone carved statues, believed to be the living faces of deified ancestors. Aside from the moai, the island offers a huge volcanic crater, great surfing and snorkelling, a ceremonial village and platforms as well as a quarry where the moai were cut.
Hike the Andes
Spectacular Torres del Paine and the mountains around Pucón and Puerto Varas offer some of the finest hiking in Latin America.
Cruise the fjords
Breathtaking sunsets, stunning fjords and mountains and fascinating wildlife - it is all in a day on a cruise through the Chilean Fjords. Choose from 3, 5, 6 or 7 nights and enjoy side trips to the far reaches of the continent, including legendary Cape Horn.
Visit with penguins
Near Punta Arenas in the fjord lands of the south, 120,000 Magellanic penguin can be found on tiny Isla Magdalena. The colony at Seno Otway is smaller but easier to reach.
Wildlife of the Andes
As you hike or drive through the Andes mountain range you have a good chance to spot llamas and its distant cousins, the alpaca, guanaco and vicuña.
The outdoors mecca of Futaleufú is famous for its rafting trips down the river with the same name. With class 3 to 5 rapids lying below snow-capped mountains and glaciers, this is one of the best rafting trips anywhere in the world.
Between September and March, huasos (cowboys) in their traditional finery steal the show at the many rodeos in the Central Valley. Experience expert horsemanship and a piece of national culture of Chile.
Colchagua valley wine tasting
A mere two-hour drive from Santiago, the pretty Colchagua Valley offers some of Chile's best wineries such as Casa Laspotolle, Montgras, Viu Manent and Laura Hartwig. The valley is particularly well known for bold, full-bodied Cabernet, Carménère, Syrah, and Malbec.
Chasing Pablo Neruda
Chile's best known literary giant, Nobel Prize-winning Pablo Neruda and his work is remembered at the three houses he lived in: Santiago's La Chascona, Valparaíso La Sebastiana and the museum on Isla Negra just to the south of Valparaíso.
Hiking Volcán Villarrica
Don your crampons, boots and ice-axe and make the four hour non-technical trek up Volcán Villarrica, just outside Pucón. The views from the rim of the smoking crater are simply stupendous.
Termas de Puyuhuapi
A great getaway set on the shores of a fjord, isolated and hard-to-access Termas de Puyuhuapi is a resort offering day and overnight guests access to steaming hotsprings.
Visit a glacier
Take an exhilarating boat ride in San Rafael National Park or Torres del Paine and witness huge blocks of ice calve off the fronts of enormous glaciers.
In the heart of the beautiful Elqui Valley, the charming town of Pisco Elqui is home to the Mistral Pisco Distillery, producers of some of the finest pisco of the country. Take a tour of a distillery, followed by a tasting of Chile's national cocktail.
Paragliding in Iquique
Winds coming off the Pacific and over the giant sand dunes create near-perfect conditions for paragliding, making Iquique the continent's capital for this exciting pastime. As you soar through the skies, enjoy incredible views of the sand dunes far below.
One of northern Chile's most popular destinations, seaside Bahía Inglesa offers a long white-sand beach and a trendy vibe, making it a great place to take a dip in the turquoise waters and soak up sun.
Northern Chile’s night skies are some of the clearest in the southern hemisphere, as witnessed by the many observatories located here. Visit Elqui Valley’s Cerro Mamalluca observatory and gaze into the endless mysterious depths of the universe.
Sunset at Valle de la Luna
Hike across this aptly named moonscape and as the sun sets see the surrounding landscape of volcanoes, wind-eroded hills and sand dunes turn to purples, reds, pinks and golds.
Tapati, Easter Island
The annual Tapati Rapa Nui, a vibrant festival celebrating the island’s Polynesian culture with traditional dancing, a bareback horse race, woodcarving, basket weaving, singing and dancing contests and surfing competitions, all set amid the mysterious moai statues.
Tour code: WACH
Why we love this trip: All the spectacular scenery Chile has to offer with some great activities thrown in.
Places visited: Santiago, wine area, Valley of the Moon, Atacama Desert, Tatio Geysers, Puerto Varas, Lake District, Alerco Andino NP, Puerto Montt, Punta Arenas, Torres del Paine
Signature Experiences: Hike the Andes, wildlife of the Andes, visit a glacier, wine tasting, seeing stars, sunset at Valle de la Luna
Length: 13 days
Accommodation: good quality hotels and ecocamp
Included meals:12 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 3 dinners
Transport: vehicle, air, raft, bicycle, on foot
Departures: Set small-group departures Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from October to mid March
Customizable? We can tailor this for private groups, price on request
Price: Small group departures priced from $4949
Tour code: VHIP
Why we love this trip: spectacular hiking in all the parks Patagonia is famous for
Places visited: Buenos Aires, Puerto Natales, Torres del Paine, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, El Calafate, Perito Moreno, El Chalten, Fitzroy
Signature Experiences: hiking the Andes, glacier trekking & ice climbing, dance the Tango, join the football craze, sip the wines of Mendoza, wildlife of the Andes
Length: 13-19 days
Accommodation: hotels, refugios, camping (depends on trip length)
Included meals: all breakfasts, all meals if camping
Transport: private vehicle, air, on foot
Departures: Set small-group dates and daily private departures October through March
Customizable? Yes, price on request
Price: Small group departures priced from $4165 (13 days), $4655 (15 days) or $5499 (19 days)
Chile in Depth
Tour code: XCID
Why we love this trip: All the highlights of Chile in one trip
Places visited: Santiago, Valparaiso, Atacama Desert, Valle de la Luna, El Tatio Hot Springs, Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas, Llanquihue Lake, Osorno Volcano, Chiloe Island, Punta Arenas, Torres del Paine National Park, Lago Grey, Puerto Natales, Easter Island
Signature Experiences: Hike the Andes, wildlife of the Andes, wine tasting, chasing Pablo Neruda, visit a glacier, seeing stars, sunset at Valle de la Luna, Tapati Easter Island
Length: 18 days
Accommodation: 15 nights hotels, 2 nightgs guesthouse
Included meals: all breakfasts
Transport: private vehicle, air
Departures: set small-group dates and daily private departures November through March
Customizable? Yes, price on request
Price: Small group departures priced from $6250
Trekking the Towers
Tour code: VTTT
Why we love this trip: Patagonia best trekking in a two-week trip
Places visited: Buenos Aires, Torres del Paine National Park, Lago Grey, Puerto Natales, El Chalten, Fitzroy, El Calafate, Perito Moreno
Signature Experiences: Hike the Andes, wildlife of the Andes, visit a glacier, glacier trekking & ice climbing, dance the tango
Length: 11-15 days
Accommodation: hotels, huts & camping
Included meals: all breakfasts, lunches and dinners while trekking
Transport: private vehicle, air, on foot
Departures: set small-group dates and daily private departures November through February
Customizable? We can run this trip for private groups, price on request
Price: Small group departures priced from $4840
Tour code: VCPA
Why we love this trip: See the fjords of Patagonia and reach places you can only get to by ship
Places visited: 15-day cruise: Ushuaia, Punta Arenas, Estancia Olga Teresa, Magellan Forest Reserve, Puerto Natales, Torres del Paine, Angostura Guía, Laguna San Rafael, Chacabuco, Simpson River National Reserve, Coyhaique, Chiloe, Valparaíso; 8-day cruise: Ushuaia, Cape Horn, Wulaia Bay, De Agostini Sound, Águila Glacier, Magdalena Island, Punta Arenas, Ainsworth Bay, Tuckers Islets, Pia Glacier, Glacier Alley
Signature Experiences: 15-day cruise: Hike the Andes, cruise the fjords, wildlife of the Andes, views over Santiago, wine tasting, visit a glacier, feel like a gaucho at an estancia; 8-day cruise: hike the Andes, cruise the fjords, visit with penguins, wildlife of the Andes, visit a glacier
Length: 4, 6, 7, 8 and 15 day itineraries
Accommodation: cabin aboard a comfortable expedition cruise vessel
Included meals: all meals while on board
Transport: comfortable expedition cruise vessel
Departures: 15-day cruise: late March only; shorter cruises regular departures October through March
Customizable? We can accommodate private groups
Price: 8-day departures on Mare Australis or Via Australis priced from $2366; 15-day cruise aboard the G Expedition from $7999