The thing that strikes you upon arrival into Chile is the warmth, which is somewhat a contradiction as Chile is known most famously for its highlights in cooler climes and, in fact, one theory of the origins of the name Chile is the derived from the Quechua description of this land being ‘chiri, or ‘cold’, as recorded by the Incas from Peru when they ventured south on one of their many exploratory sojourns. Whatever the origins or climatic theme, the people of Chile are indeed a welcoming culture and generously share their smiles and love for this long, diverse country, and, no, it’s not all cold. You realise this the minute you arrive at Santiago airport from the warm personal greeting.
Situated south of the equator, Chile enjoys the same seasons as the likes of Australia, New Zealand and southern Africa. Yet, as it is the longest (not to be confused with largest) country in the world, it traverses a myriad of both climates and landscapes, the common feature being that these landscapes are supported by the backbone of the Andean mountain range and are as extreme in their beauty as they are in their diversity. A perfect place to connect with nature and strip away the cluttered layers of modern living and remember what life is all about.
San Pedro de Atacama
In the far and relatively warmer north, the Atacama is the driest, non-polar, desert in the world and largely isolated from boom town growth of bustling cities and manic highways, rendering the air clean and impeccably clear. The landscapes are ethereal, luna-like, carved by the hands of wind and sun alone, as the rain doesn’t hang around long enough to sculpt and, being elevated, this parched land of ancient and active volcanoes is canvassed by incredible deep blue hues of a sky seen from high altitude. It’s in the Atacama that the traveller can really feel close to the cosmos, as the sky lights up at night demonstrating a celestial spectacular, here avid stargazers weep at the un-shrouded view of their beloved galaxy and, for the would-be astronomer , the true enormity of ‘out there’ is witnessed for the first time. Light pollution plays no part on this stage, this is the universe 100% unplugged.
The Andes in Chile
Travelling further south as the precipitation returns to the land, those warm hospitable people, aforementioned, have been hard at work in picturesque valleys using their ingenuity, toiling the soil at the base of the Andes, cultivating, harvesting, brewing and distilling, to create world class wines and pisco during the warmer months, then, when winter returns they head to the hills with skis and snowboards in hand, carving tracks down slopes on the Andes in spectacular and abundant surroundings. All this lies a proverbial stone’s throw from the cosmopolitan city of Santiago, where small town European charm still emanates in the midst of the biggest city in Chile. Where world class restaurants can be found serving unique gourmet food accompanying the finest class of wine. This is where the traveller revels in life’s little pleasures and lives 100% in the moment.
Following a pit stop of central Chile where plenty of activity, gourmet food and great wine renders the traveller fit, refuelled and calmed, it’s time to head further south on this expedition of personal discovery and adventure.
Patagonia de Chile
Next stop Patagonia, here travellers, once again, leave a large part of Chile’s population behind and head back into the wilderness, surrounded, this time, by snow, ice, lakes and emerging mountain ranges. As if the landscape is teething, from the vast plains of Patagonia erupts the crowns of the Cordillera Paine, a relatively newborn mountain range by worldwide standards, thrusting its rock formations skyward through the jaw of the Torres del Paine National park. Cordillera Paine is only approximately 12 million years old, a mere babe compared to the big sister Andes who is celebrating a 25 million year existence and even she has not graduated earth’s mountain range pre-school, as such, the formations of these ranges are still being shaped by erosion and display formidable edges and angles, creating dramatic and awe inspiring vistas. An adventurer’s playground, time spent amongst these mountain ranges offers both armchair and active adventurers an escape back to nature, a disconnect from busy and reconnect with quiet, here silence allows travellers to hear their neck creak and their hearts beat, whilst they stare at spine tingling views, here travellers see the world as it was for those who will be, this, the earth emerging, 100% raw.
And yet the Chile offers more as the further south the traveller ventures. Etched into the western side of the Achilles of Chile and nestled below some of Patagonia’s largest ice fields are the inlets that make up Chile’s fjord lands. Carved from the surrounding glaciers, Chile’s fjords display to the traveller an earth seemingly emerging from an ice age, as glaciers continue to plunge and calve, eating away at the granite below, whilst exposed rocks become homes for micro life for the first time, which, in turn, slowly biodegrades to make new soil for flora to flourish and feed wandering fauna, in due course this also biodegrades to make homes for more life and so it evolves before our eyes, yet this evolution is all so relatively fresh, as if witnessing the beginning of time, a true unveiling. Wildlife is the warm welcoming party in these fjords as human population is rare and the weather is simply something the traveller prepares for and embraces. Here ecosystems can be witnessed up close and personal, this is 100% organic
Is there more east, west, south and north, indeed there, is from bursting geysers to enigmatic cultures, great lakes, ancient forests incredible wildlife and that endearing Latino lifestyle. Chile holds oh so many secrets, including, perhaps, the secret ingredient to life, if you want to try this magic recipe, its simple, pack your bags and ADD CHILE.
Written by Meg Hall
Watch Chile in HD
Travelling to Chile from Australia is simple, LAN Airlines operates seven one-stop flights each week from Sydney to Santiago, Chile, with onward connections to over 115 destinations in South America. LAN also offers non-stop flights between Sydney and Santiago four times per week in codeshare partnership with oneworld partner airline.
Founded in 2004, Chimu Adventures is an Australian owned company offering fully flexible, guaranteed itineraries to Latin America, including Chile. Catering to clients of all ages,
Chimu’s philosophy is simple, “use specialised knowledge to work with our clients, accommodating their individual needs at reasonable prices.
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Author: Meg Hall
“During my first trip to Latin America I found myself travelling solo down the Amazon River. At the time I wondered if it was a good idea, in the end I had an experience that would change my life for the better as I found my personal boundaries had widened.”
Now having now experienced Chimu on the ground in both Antarctica on my own and in South America with my precious cargo, my two young sons, several times, I can hold my head high and say, “it is the only way to travel”. The only difficult decision to make is when to go! I cant wait to get back!