Look at Chile on a map and you’ll see a thin, unassuming strip of land clinging to the edge of South America. Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover it’s a country full of incredible sights and experiences that you desperately need to explore as soon as possible! Here, the great outdoors truly is great, whilst the cities are chic and cosmopolitan, and the wine is always delicious making it the perfect destination for your holiday to South America.
But where to begin? Well, how about our top 5 Chile experiences for 2019??
Witness a Total Solar Eclipse
On July 2, 2019 a total solar eclipse will darken the skies over Chile in one of the galaxy’s greatest spectacles. The full eclipse, when the moon passes in front of the sun, lasts 2 minutes and is only going to be visible across a small strip of Chile and Argentina. A prime viewing spot is Chile’s Elqui Valley, a place known for its supreme space-gazing credentials and home to many observatories. In the middle of Chile’s winter, the eclipse will occur just before sunset when astronomers and enthusiasts alike will be gathering to witness this exciting, rare event. The Elqui Valley also happens to be a wine region and hub of local booze ‘pisco’ so we’ll probably all be sipping a glass of local wine or two while we wait!
Sip Chilean vintages
Chile is one of the world’s top 10 wine producers, making 1.214 million tonnes of the good stuff a year. Many prime wine regions are within 100 miles of capital Santiago and are both easily reachable and easily navigable if you fancy embarking on a wine-based adventure. The closest region Maipo, which specialises in ruby red Cabernet Sauvignon, is virtually a Santiago suburb, whilst Casablanca, known for Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, is en route to the seaside city of Valparaiso, and makes a perfect stop-off. If heading out into the winelands sounds like hard work, or you’re short on time, there are plenty of fabulous bars and restaurants in Santiago with extensive wine lists – just make yourself at home and get tasting! Why not time your visit with a wine festival, where there will be plenty of tastings of the region’s finest offerings, usually staged in March and April to celebrate the harvest.
Penguins, penguins, penguins
Chile is one of the best places in the world to see penguins, and who can resist a penguin? A number of species of these cheeky birds – Magellanic, rockhopper, king, Humboldt and macaroni – can be found mostly along the southern coast and the Tierra del Fuego, an island in Patagonia. Here, they gather in huge colonies, some numbering over 100,000 individuals, where they live year-round, or simply stop for a few months to lay their eggs and raise their young. The easiest penguin trips are from the Patagonian city of Punta Arenas, where you can day trip to the Magellanic penguin colonies of Isla Magdalena or Seno Otway from November to January.
Get star-struck in the Atacama Desert
Incredibly dry, high altitude and no light pollution combines to make the Atacama Desert one of the premier spots on the planet for stargazing; so much so that advanced international observatories call it home. Whilst you get an eyeful of stars just strolling through the town at night, a must do when visiting the town of San Pedro de Atacama is to head deeper into the mysterious terrain of the desert to tour the star-filled skies with an astronomer. You’ll see lots of stars, constellations and even the Milky Way with the naked eye, and gaze through telescopes at planets, galaxies and nebula.
Ride the funiculars of Valparaiso
The city of Valparaiso is Chile’s most colourful and charismatic. A thin strip of land sandwiched between the sea and sheer cliffs serves as the industrial heart of a long-time port, whilst on top of the cliffs sit higgledy-piggledy neighbourhoods, complete with pastel-coloured mansions and cobbled streets. You can climb up steep streets and stairways to explore this UNESCO World Heritage upper city, but it’s much more fun, and easier on the legs, to ride one of the late 18th century funicular lifts that slide effortlessly up the incline. At the top, wander the vibrant avenues, full of boutiques, bars and cafes, admiring beautiful views out over the Pacific and the magnificent and imaginative street art that graces many of the quaint streets.
Meet the moai of Easter Island
A small dot of land besieged by thousands of miles of ocean, Easter Island (Rapa Nui in Polynesian) is an isolated and enigmatic place to explore. The famous stone heads, moai, are a big part of the mystery – no-one is sure how they were moved across the island from the stone quarries they were carved in or, in fact, their purpose. Standing facing them, as they gaze stoically out to sea, is a striking experience as you try to fathom out their secret for yourself. With its roots in Polynesia, there is also plenty of fascinating culture to discover, some dramatic volcanoes, lush landscapes and beautiful beaches.
Hike a Volcano
As part of the Pacific ring of fire, Chile’s landscapes are dotted with volcanoes, extinct, dormant and active. Many of their symmetrical peaks add to already spectacular scenes, be it in the barren panoramas of the Atacama Desert or amongst the lushness of the glorious Lake District. Now, whilst you are able to climb these volcanoes (many of them need technical knowledge), not all of us fancy such a slog, but what about a nice hike on the gentle inclines on the lower slopes? There’s lots of nature thanks to the fertile soil, and you can get just high enough for some nice views. We’d recommend Volcan Osorno for a lovely potter about, close to the town of Puerto Varas in Chile’s Lake District.