With the 2016 Rio Olympics on the spotlight, South America is once again re-emerging as one of the most popular travel destinations on the planet. If you fancy a totally different kind of South America adventure, then let us guide you through Chile, one of the most understated countries in the region and, without a shadow of a doubt, also one of the most rewarding.
Tired of the humdrum of everyday life and looking to spice things up? Add a sprinkle of Chile and have yourself a most delectable adventure. The secret to happiness is just a plane ride away!
Back in my tour guiding days, I vividly remember crossing the land border between Bolivia and Chile and emitting a most notable ‘sigh’ of relief. I love Bolivia with a fervent passion, don’t get me wrong, but travel through a developing country comes with its fair share of frustrations at times. Crossing into much more modern Chile meant that my job – and in essence my life – was about to get infinitely easier.
Chile boasts a stable economy and is a relatively untroubled land, where the risk of itinerary disruptions due to strikes or political upheaval are minimal, to say the least. The roads are in great condition, the towns and cities are awesome, the capital is trendy and modern, the food and wine are INCREDIBLE and the sheer variety of attractions mean that even a one-week journey is jam packed full of fun, interesting and exhilarating experiences. If you’ve travelled extensively through South America, you’ll know how soul reinvigorating it is to be able to travel through different landscapes within a short period of time. If variety really is the spice of life then Chile, with her incredible diversity, may just be the tastiest country in all of Latin America.
Here are just a few reasons why adding a little Chile may just be the secret to happiness you’ve been searching.
Travel through Chile is safe and hassle-free
Like all Latin American countries, Chile has suffered its fair share of turmoil in the past but has now emerged as arguably the most stable nation in the whole continent. Its woes are all but a distant memory, its infrastructure is top notch (take the metro in Santiago and you’ll understand what I mean) and the sheer variety of highlights makes this one of the region’s most rewarding destinations. Travel through Chile is easy, safe and hassle-free. Like a little pocket of Europe in a sometimes chaotic continent, Chile is ideal if you’re short on time and high on expectations. You can zoom from one corner of the country to another with ease and the only ‘adventures’ are the ones in which you choose to participate!
There’s a mind-boggling variety of natural attractions
Chile is wedged tightly between the Andes Mountains on the east and the frigid Pacific Ocean on the west, and as one of the world’s longest and narrowest country, its unique topography offers an astonishing array of impressive natural wonders. From the dry arid splendours of the Atacama Desert to the luscious wine growing regions of the Maipo Valley, the breathtaking fjords and glaciers of Patagonia, as well as luscious forests, amazing lakes and impressive volcanoes. If you could sum up the very best natural attributes of South America, and squeeze them all into one small and compact space, Chile is precisely what you’d get. Chile is Mother Nature at her best!
Chile is an active traveller’s dream destination
Some people are happy to hang back, relax and ‘enjoy the view’, whilst others want to get thrown right into the thick of the action at neck-breaking speed. Lovers of adrenalin rushes will have an absolute field day in Chile, with a myriad of exciting adventures offered at every turn. In Chile, you can ski, snowboard, surf, hike and bike, you can trek volcanos and kayak among glaciers, and horse ride in some of the most magnificent national parks in the whole continent. And at the end of a hard day’s play, there will be some therapeutic hot thermal bath in which to soak those exhausted but elated bones. If you love nothing more than immersing yourself in pristine nature, and getting an almighty adrenalin kick while you’re at it, then Chile is bound to blow your mind.
Patagonia…a hiker’s paradise image
The food & wine are to DIE for!
Travel is all about compromise, I understand that, but sometimes one really does want one’s cake and eat it too. While some travel destinations offer awesome attractions but mediocre cuisine, Chile is a fantastic ‘all-rounder’, where gastronomic indulgences are served up even in the most back of beyond nooks. And Chile is not just a cake, mind you, but a whole 15-course degustation meal of colossal proportions, where you need not sacrifice any pleasure in order to appreciate its best parts. Just a taste of Chile is enough to convince you that this is one of the best culinary destinations in all South America. From avocado-filled everything to crispy empanadas with a rainbow of fillings, addictive corn cake (pastel de choclo), alfajores smothered in dulce de leche and the kind of seafood chowders (caldillo de congrio) that can make grown men weak at the knees. For years, Chilean cuisine tried a bit too hard to ‘modernize’ its staples, but recently there’s been a resurgence in restaurants serving up the kind of authentic dishes grandma, or abuela, used to prepare. Take merken for example. This smoked paprika, coriander and cumin powder is actually native to the country’s Mapuche tribe, yet was all but forgotten in local cuisine for decades, until it came back in fashion with a vengeance. Ideal with grilled meats, merken makes for a mouth-watering marinade and is now found extensively on restaurant menus, most especially in the capital, Santiago.
Oh…and don’t even get me started with Chilean wines! Renowned for producing some of the best drops in the world, Chile boasts no less than 13 stellar wine regions, reason enough for many to visit.
Chile is one of the best unplugged destinations in South America
I’ve never met anyone who spent considerable time in the Atacama Desert and didn’t end up longing for it ever after. There’s something about this incredible place that steals not just your heart but also your soul, and holds them hostage forever. Unplugging from the hustle and bustle of modern-day life, and spending endless nights stargazing in the Atacama Desert is the kind of therapy everyone should indulge in, at least once in life. The beauty of Chile? Unplugged options are copious. From the Atacama in the north to the southernmost corners of Patagonia and the glorious Torres Del Paine National Park. Even small and remote towns like Pucon, in the superb Lakes District, can gift you that ‘million miles from nowhere’ feeling. Wild, uncluttered and uncrowded, Chile’s best unplugged corners may just be what your soul craves most.
Cultural experiences abound
Often described as the most modernized country in Latin America, Chile is not without its cultural appeal. If you develop an unabashed addiction for merken, then head on down to Pucon and you’ll find yourself in the heart of Mapuche land. This region is home to the largest indigenous population in the country, where Mapuche people still live in traditional straw huts the way they have done for centuries. Workshops are set up to encourage and safeguard Mapuche traditional weaving, and a few are even open to the public.
Flying to South America is a breeze from Australia, LATAM Airlines offers one stop daily flights from Sydney to Santiago, Chile, the gateway to South America, on board its next-generation fleet of 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. Their passengers can also fly from other cities within Australia using codeshare flights with our partners
Ready to up that happiness scale? Chimu Adventures will be happy to help you ADD CHILE to your itinerary and you’ll be in for one truly unforgettable adventure.
Author: Laura Pattara
“Laura Pattara is a modern nomad who’s been vagabonding around the world, non-stop, for the past 13 years. She’s tour guided overland trips through South America and Africa, travelled independently through the Middle East and is now in the midst of a 5-year motorbike odyssey from Germany to Australia.”