Beginning in the far north – Arica, the home of the famous and beautiful San Marcos Cathedral, is an excellent tourist centre, with good beaches and conditions ideal for deep sea fishing. You can travel south through the Atacama Desert, from the port of Antofagasta, the main stopping point for air services, shipping lines and rail connections. From here visit Chuquicamata, the world’s largest open cast copper mine, and the archaeological oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama.
Further south lies the lovely bathing resort of Bahia Inglesa, and further south still is the stunning provincial capital of La Serena. At the mouth of the Elqui, La Serena boasts fine buildings and streets, and attractive reproductions of Spanish colonial style architecture. Excursions can be made to the rich fruit-growing region of the Elqui Valley, and tours can be arranged to the Mamalluca Observatory, the largest in the southern hemisphere.
The stunning snow capped peaks of the Andes provide the perfect backdrop to rolling green fields, vineyards and orange groves. Here in the more temperate and pastoral region of Chile, lies Valparaiso, the principal port. The Valparaiso Sporting Club offers a race course, polo grounds and playing fields, and to the north the fashionable seaside resort of Vina del Mar, casinos, clubs and modern hotels. There are excellent roads from Valparaiso to Santiago. Here you will find all the conveniences of a modern capital city.
Fine views of the city can be found at the San Cristobal Hill, also a zoo, gardens and restaurants. From Santiago you can reach the skiing resorts of Portillo, Farellones and the more fashionable Valle Nevado. Immediately south, in the heartland of Chile, are many vineyards where the famous Chilean Carmeneres and Cabernet Sauvignons are produced. Continuing south you reach Talca with its fine parks and museums. The Fernandez Islands lie to the west of Valparaiso, Robinson Crusoe territory; these can be reached either by plane or boat from the Chilean mainland.
Easter Island lies west of the mainland. All over this fascinating and beautiful island can be found the incredible Moai, gigantic stone figures up to 9m high, also the crater of the volcano Rano Kao, the rock carvings at Oranoco and the museum in the main town of Hanga Roa. The best method of travel to the island is by plane. Tours can be arranged with a tour guide, and jeeps, trucks, motorbikes and horses can be hired.
The beginning of the stunning Lake District is marked by Temuco. LakeVillarrica, the Trancura and Cincirarivers combine to create not only beauty but an angler’s paradise! A visit to the impressive waterfalls at Laguna de Laja is recommended and also Lake Todos los Santos is well worth a visit. Pucon is a hub of activity, with canyoning, canoeing, horseriding and trekking all available, as well as the various hot springs to relax in at the end of the day. The picturesque town of Puerto Montt and nearby, the colourful small fishing port of Angelmo lie at the southernmost end of the railway line and the Pan American Highway. Picturesque colourful houses on stilts are the classic image of Chiloe Island, with its fascinating mythology and virtually unexplored national parks.
Further south still, the more intrepid traveller will make their way into the harsh landscape of Chilean Patagonia, with its fjords and spectacular glaciers. The stunning Torres del Paine national park is the main reason to explore the Magallanes region, and is one of Chile’s most staggering features, with its turquoise glacial lakes, towering snowy peaks and rugged hills covered in guacanos, Torres del Paine is a trekking and climbing paradise.
Squeezed between the Andes and the Pacific, Chile is one of the world’s most geographically unique countries, with its 4300 mile length stretching over more than half the South American continent. From the rain-starved Atacama to the stormiest reaches of the splintered Magallanes region, Chile is an easy country to travel, with an excellent transport system, affectionate people and more importantly something different and unfailingly beautiful to look at every step of the way.
In recent years Chile has become one of Latin America’s success stories, most evident in capital with its booming financial district and increasingly cosmopolitan lifestyle. With the mountains an ever-present feature of the landscape, you can be sure never to get lost – directions in the capital are limited to heading ‘up’ towards the mountains, or ‘down’ away from them. Tuck in to some tasty homemade bread with the ubiquitous spicy salsa called pebre before a barbecue, take a sip of your first delicious Carmenere wine, and enjoy the mild Santiago evenings before heading up, or down, to explore the rest of this beautiful country.