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Ultimate Patagonia Photography Itinerary

Patagonia is one of the most incredible destinations in the world for many reasons. Its remote geographic location makes it a little more difficult to reach by the masses since there are no major cities nearby. Since a good majority of people who visit Patagonia are hikers, they come in by bus which means that the mornings and evenings are exceptionally quiet compared to other national parks throughout the world. That’s just an added bonus though, the best part about Patagonia is the unrivaled landscape. As a well-traveled photographer, I can honestly say that I have never seen a place that compares to Patagonia. Continue reading for the ultimate Patagonia trip itinerary.

Where is Patagonia and how do I get there?

Patagonia is a vast region in the southern portions of Chile and Argentina. It is possible to cross between the two countries via numerous highway border crossings. Patagonia has two small airports. One is Presidente Carlos Ibáñez International Airport (PUQ) located in Punta Arenas, Chile and the other is El Calafate International Airport (FTE)  located in Argentina. If you are traveling from another country, you will first have to fly into Santiago prior to Punta Arenas or Buenos Aires prior to El Chalten. The Buenos Aires route often requires a taxi transfer from Ezeiza International Airport (EZE) to Aeroparque Internacional Jorge Newbery (AEP) airport before making your final flight to Punta Arenas.

Getting around Patagonia

If you’re interested in a dedicated photography tour, I lead an incredible 12 day photography workshop throughout Chile and Argentine Patagonia. The trip is designed for photographers who want to be at the best locations at the best times without having to rush.

Another option to get around Patagonia is to rent a car or campervan. It is relatively easy to drive in Patagonia since it is a sparsely populated region. If you plan to stay in hotels a car will suffice. If you plan on camping, a camper van may be a better option since the weather can be quite unpredictable. Keep in mind if you rent a car or campervan you will more than likely have to fly in and out of the same country which will result in some backtracking.

Fine Art Print | Limited Edition of 200 | Golden light trikes the face of Cuerno Principal and Cuerno Oriental in Torres Del Paine, Patagonia. These two monoliths are park part of a larger cluter of peaks known as the Paine Massif in the southern portion of the Andes Mountains.
Sunrise in Patigonia is a special thing to witness. This one was particularlly dramtic due to the dark storm clouds that were building just to the north of the Paine Massif. © Mike Wardynski Photography

Torres Del Paine

There’s a lot to see and photograph in the southern portion of Patagonia so that is where this itinerary will focus. It does not matter if you start your trip in Punta Arenas or El Calafate but for the sake of time I do recommend flying into one country and out of the other. For the purpose of this article we will start in Chile and end in Argentina. Torres Del Paine National Park is about a four hour drive from Punta Arenas. On your way to Torres Del Paine, make sure to stop in Puerto Natales for lunch. Puerto Natales is a small port town an hour and fifteen minutes from Torres Del Paine and offers a few nice views across Golfo Almirante Montt.

Once you have filled your belly and have taken in the views of Puerto Natales, it is time to continue to the iconic Torres Del Paine National Park. Torres Del Paine is without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places on the planet. From the chiseled peaks of the Paine Massif to the impossibly blue waters of Lake Pehoe, Torres Del Paine is absolutely jaw dropping. The park is a popular destination amongst hikers and backpackers but you don’t need to hike to enjoy the amazing scenery. There are many great vistas right off of the road. You can easily spend 3 or 4 days in Torres Del Paine.

El Calafate and Los Glaciares National Park

After you have had your fill of Torres Del Paine it is time to cross the border into Argentina. The town of El Calafate is a three hour drive from Torres Del Paine but keep in mind that there is a border crossing that can add an hour or more to the trip. El Calafate is an adorable little town with a lot of small shops, bars and restaurants. It’s a great place to rest your head after your three to five hour drive.

You cannot visit El Calafate without paying a visit to Los Glaciares National Park. The park is only a 45 minute drive or bus ride from town and contains one of the few glaciers in the world that is not shrinking. The glacier moves at a rate of 2 meters per day so it is common to witness the glaciers calving into the bay.

El Chalten

After a night or two in El Calafate you must check out El Chalten. El Chalten is a small town that is popular amongst backpackers. Most people get around on foot there since the town is only a few miles long. Fantastic views of Mount Fitz Roy can be had as you approach and once you are in town you have access to world class hiking trails. There are a variety of lakes and scenic vistas awaiting those who are willing to lace up their hiking boots. After your hike, there are quite a few restaurants and bars to cap off your evening. You can easily spend three nights or more in El Chalten, especially if you are a hiker or backpacker.

After your time in El Chalten has come to an end, I recommend driving back to El Calafate for one more night to relax and decompress before flying home.

Additional Tips About Patagonia

• Bring trail bars if you like to have them while hiking. Trail bars are very difficult to find in Patagonia and most of them do not taste very good. Empanadas make a great hiking snack on the other hand and can be found just about everywhere.

• You cannot take fresh food across the border. No fresh food is allowed to cross the border including honey. The Chilean side is more strict than the Argentinian side when it comes to these regulations.

• There are ATM machines in all of the towns throughout Patagonia but they can run out of money, especially on the weekends. It is a good idea to bring enough cash in both currencies to last you a day or two in case you run into credit card issues.

• Some gas stations only accept cash.

• The wind can be unbearable and sometimes unsafe to venture out in. Pay attention to the weather and don’t go out in extreme conditions.

Are you ready?

Patagonia is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. If you are a serious hiker or photographer then Patagonia should most definitely be on your bucket list. I have traveled all over the world and Patagonia still sticks out as one of the most photogenic places I have ever been to. If you want to go to the best photography locations in Patagonia, I invite you to join my twelve-day photography workshop through Chile and Argentina.

On the workshop, we will do glacier tours via foot and boat, photograph blue lagoons, and capture some of the most iconic mountain peaks in the world from a variety of locations. The trip includes some of the best lodging accommodations in all of Patagonia including Hosteria Pehoe which offers some of the most photogenic views of Torres Del Paine right from the lodge!

Read more about Mike Wardynski.

How to decide the best season for your Chile Trip 

Chile is a very long country and its climates vary from deserts to sub-tropical to plateau. When you know where you want to go, here are our top tips to decide when for the best weather, availability of hotels, and prices! 


Patagonia

Shoulder Season

If you want to experience smaller crowds and save some money, you may want to consider visiting Patagonia during the shoulder season from October-November and March-April, when there are fewer tourists and the seasons are starting to change. 

 

Spring 

Spring in Patagonia occurs from September to November. While the temperature is still a bit chilly, it begins to fade into milder, warmer weather.

It’s also a great season to avoid the crowds; with hiking trails throughout the region reopening after winter, visitors will find national parks and landmarks relatively quiet, having the advantage to see animals that the bigger crowds might drive away, such as pumas!

Patagonia’s climate in the springtime will be the wettest as the winter begins to melt away and winds are usually high. Yet you will gain the advantage of seeing Patagonia change from freezing winter into the colorful tones of Spring.

 

Fall

Due to the great geographical diversity of Chile, there is a very particular attraction at this time. Depending on the town you visit, you can find an impressive variety of colors and contrasts.

In Patagonia, the reddish and yellow colors are contrasted with the green moss and dark browns of the logs and ground. When there are early snowfalls, we can appreciate an additional attraction to this landscape.

The Ocean and the Coastal Mountain Range are other places with great vegetation and are completely stained, giving us stunning views of the mountain and sea. 

 

What are the advantages of traveling during fall?

Along with its incredible landscapes, most of the destinations go into the low season, so it is possible to visit these places with fewer people. Every year it becomes more popular to travel in these so-called “shoulder seasons” so destinations are increasingly prepared to receive adventurers. Many professional photographers visit these places during this season of the year.

Winter Season (Low Season)

Patagonia in the winter is between June and August. It is a season that hasn’t been as popular in the past due to the harsh weather, extremely cold temperatures, and snow/ice. However, it is a season that is gaining more and more popularity because of the unique and amazing landscapes that are only possible to see during winter, such as the peak of the towers with snow!

It is a season that is certainly for the adventurous souls seeking to experience the raw wilderness of the region, at a time when you’ll see a significantly small number of tourists.

While hikes such as the O and the W circuits are closed, there are ways to experience Torres del Paine in an adapted way, such as the Carretas Hike, the Portería to Portería traverse, full-day Paine or Base of the Towers winter hike.

One thing to have in mind when visiting Patagonia in winter is to have more full days available, so you can switch days for the activities evaluating the weather locally.

 

Summer Season (High Season)

The Patagonia summer season goes from December to February; these are considered the high season months when temperatures can reach 72 degrees, making this season the most wanted. There is also a much clearer sky during this time, therefore, it is less likely to get a cold day for your photos at the base of the Towers or Glacier Grey. Patagonia is very unpredictable, though, so the weather is not always consistent! 

This season is also known for its extreme winds that can reach over 120 miles/hr. Usually, larger groups come to Patagonia at this time as the weather is generally more stable.

Usually, summer weather in Patagonia is ideal, with all the trekking trails open and in perfect condition. All of the most iconic hikes are easily accessible, such as the Tower base, French Valley and travelers can explore the area and its wildlife in its abundant glory.


Easter Island

 

Easter Island is a magical destination that, for most people, might be a once-in-a-lifetime journey because of the remoteness. Therefore, it is very important to know which is the best time to visit Easter Island.

All seasons are great to visit this mysterious island, it’s just a thing about your interests, availability, and budget.

Summer Season

The summer season in Easter Island begins in December and runs through the end of March. Temperatures are higher, so temperatures are ideal for those who enjoy sunbathing and swimming in Anakena Beach, but can also be slightly suffocating for those who seek to explore by bike or hiking.

This is also the time for summer vacations in Chile, so plane tickets and hotels tend to raise their prices.

In February, the Tapati Rapa Nui festival takes place. This is the most important cultural event in Easter Island, where the population is divided into two clans that get through different tests and competitions to choose the Queen and King of the island.

To attend this unique festival, you need to plan your trip several months in advance to find reservations and reasonable prices for plane tickets.

 

Low Season

This season extends from late March until November. Temperatures tend to be “lower”, but Easter Island is a subtropical island so temperatures are warm and humid in the summer and more mild in winter. The average daily temperature ranges from 23/24 °C (74/75 °F) in the period from January to March to 18.5 °C (65 °F) in the period from July to September, making the milder temperatures ideal for exploration by bike and hiking. 

Low season prices are more convenient and you can find better offers for flights and accommodation. The number of tourists is significantly lower, so attractions are less busy and there are more hotel options.

 


 

Atacama Desert

 

The Atacama Desert is a place you can visit all year round with amazing views of lunar landscapes, geysers, altiplanic lagoons, and pink flamingos. It is the perfect place to experience remoteness!

High Season

It runs from December to February and is the most popular season for exploring the Atacama Desert. The refreshing day temperatures and warmer nights make for a pleasant time to travel to the desert.

For the best stargazing, the high season is the time to visit. The sky is incredibly clear all year round, but nights during the winter season months are very cold, making stargazing in summer more pleasant since this is an activity that needs to be done at night. 

The summertime also brings an increase in humidity, with rainfall not entirely uncommon at this time of year.

 

Low Season

The low season starts in March and runs until November. While nighttime in the Atacama does get a bit brisk (around 28 degrees Fahrenheit on average), most of the days are still sunny and clear with average highs in the 70s, allowing for days full of adventure and exploring instead of being stuck inside. 

Traveling during the low season always brings the bonus that there will be much fewer tourists around, which can make visiting sites like the Tatio Geysers or Chaxa Lagoon a much more peaceful experience.

There is a lower demand for accommodation, so there are better deals too!

 


 

Why Chile is well positioned for post-pandemic travel

Although it’s still early to draw conclusions, there are some factors by which indicate that Chile has a tremendous advantage in a post-COVID world. 

Like most countries, Chile was highly affected by the entry of the virus and its first wave. However, the country was able to respond positively even when the health centers were at maximum capacity. Upon landing in the country in March, the worst rates of contagion were during the months of May and June, during which the curve had its highest growth and peak of infections. In July and August, there was a sharp drop in the curve, allowing a reopening of daily activities from September onward.

Although the authorities and experts do not rule out the possibility of a second wave hitting Chile, there are certain factors by which we believe that the country will have a positive reactivation in the sector.

 

Here are 5 reasons why Chile is well-positioned for travel in 2021-2022

1.- “There is no free rein”

Unlike certain freedoms that existed during the summer of countries in the northern hemisphere, the Chilean authorities have reported that they will extend their restrictive measures for the entire summer period, regulating and coordinating the different regions and communes of Chile according to their behavior and infection rate.  

 

2.- “Early arrival of the vaccine”

It is expected that 80% of the Chilean population will have been vaccinated by the end of the first semester (2021). It’s important to mention that Chile was the first Latin American country to receive the Pfizer vaccine and to begin its vaccination process in December 2020. In negotiations with laboratories, the country agreed to purchase 20 million doses with the companies Pfizer / BioNTech and Sinovac. Chile has a population of approximately 18 million inhabitants, so the entire process could be relatively “fast”. 

 

3.- “Coordinated systems”

Health protocols have been rigorously applied, especially by establishments that seek to protect their operation and sources of work, such as transfer services, restaurants and accommodation, among others. Although there has been strong criticism of many measures that have been applied and the rebels are not lacking, there is a general consensus in the population to follow the rules and maintain self-care. 

 

4.- “Chile, a destination of Nature and Adventure”

Without a doubt. there is a tendency for people to travel to destinations rich in nature and adventure activities. Chile has consistently stood out in the adventure community and has been deemed as the best adventure destination from the World Travel Awards for the past 5 years (2015-2020).  

 

5.- “New and better services”

The pandemic has forced us to examine whether the tourism industry was following the correct steps. Tourism and hotel operators have been able to use this period of respite to reflect and reimagine their products, forcing greater personalization of services, and placing an emphasis on smaller groups, and a heightened awareness of the environment. These changes help promote more responsible tourism, which ultimately translates to a better experience for the end-user.

 

 

What To Pack For Patagonia

You’re almost ready for your big trip to Patagonia. Plane tickets are bought, passport is ready and you have an agenda full of exciting, adventure-packed activities. The last thing to do is pack— and it can be tough to narrow down exactly what you’ll need. To make it easier, we’ve put together a guide of basic things to bring to Patagonia.

1. Outdoor Gear

If you are heading to Patagonia, there is a good chance you will take part in some outdoor adventure activities. To enjoy your time outside safely, you need to bring some basic items.

  • Trekking Boots – Invest in a pair of proper trekking boots. Wearing gym sneakers to hike is dangerous and will most likely ruin your shoes. Boots that are built for trekking are durable for various weather conditions and have good grips to help you avoid falling on slippery terrain. Pick a boot that is comfortable for you. High ankle boots typically provide extra ankle support and may keep mud, rocks or sticks from getting inside. We recommend buying a half or one size bigger than usual as you will wear thick socks to hike. Additionally, try out the shoes before coming to avoid blisters or pain while trekking.
  • Hiking Poles – Along with a good pair of boots, hiking poles can really help keep your balance so you don’t fall or get hurt. Choose your poles by standing straight and bending your arm at a 90 degree angle. Your poles should be to the level of your wrist.
  • Camping Equipment – Many travelers who come to Patagonia, take part in the famous, “W” or “O” hike in Torres del Paine national park. These hikes are multiple days long and require you to come prepared with equipment to camp. Don’t forget a tent, thermal sleeping bag, hiking backpack and a portable stove.

2. Warm Clothing

Patagonia lies on the end of the world, not far from Antartica. That means it gets cold! In Chile’s summer months, you may be able to wear lighter clothes during the day. However, you’ll need to bring some warmer clothes for nighttime. If you’re there during the colder months, prepare for snow and icy temperatures during the day and night.

  • Lots of Layers – As the temperature can vary, multiple layers will help you stay comfortable. It’s also a good way to dress for outdoor sports and adventure activities. We recommend bringing a variety of clothing. This includes: long-sleeved thermal shirts, thermal form-fitting pants, trekking pants, a wind breaker, thick socks, a polar fleece and a soft shell jacket. Waterproof clothing is ideal!
  • A Hat, Gloves and Scarf To prepare for the cold, consider bringing a thick pair of waterproof gloves, a warm hat and a scarf. Additionally, a cap or sunhat for warmer temperatures is useful.
  • A Good Coat Bring a comfortable coat on your trip. Pick something warm, waterproof and easy to move in.

3. Travel Essentials

There’s a few items essential for any traveler. These will make your trip more comfortable and enjoyable.

  • A Day Backpack You will most likely go on different day trips and adventures, when you come to Patagonia. A day backpack is useful for these trips, helping you hold snacks, water, your wallet and anything else you may need.
  • A Sturdy Water Bottle Of course you can always purchase bottled water when you get to Chile. But here at EcoChile, we like to be kind to our earth. Tap water is safe to drink in Chile, so bring your own water bottle when you travel. It is useful for adventure activities and is Eco-friendly.
  • Camera This one is important! After all, you are coming to one of the most beautiful places on earth. Don’t forget a camera to capture all your incredible memories.
  • Toiletries and a First Aid Kit — Come prepared with your lotion, toothpaste, soap, personal medications, etc. It’s also not a bad idea to bring a small, personal first kit in case of emergencies.
  • Converters – The electrical plugs in Chile use 220 voltage. If your country uses a different type of outlet, make sure you bring a converter.
  • Money – Don’t forget to change your currency into Chilean pesos. Many stores also accept the following credit cards: American Express, Visa, MasterCard and Diners Club.
  • Miscellaneous Items – A few other items that may be useful include: waterproof equipment for backpacks, sunscreen or lip protection and plastic bags to keep clothing dry.
  • A Strong Mind and Body – This last one isn’t something you need to pack, but it is something important to note. All travelers coming to Patagonia should be both mentally and physically prepared. Prepare for high winds, rainfall and potentially strenuous treks and activities. If you are not used to hiking, we recommend doing cardio twice a week for about a month leading up to your trip.

 

Now you are set for an exciting trip to beautiful Patagonia! If you have any questions or would like more detailed information, feel free to send us a message via email or our online messaging service. We are always happy to help in anyway we can.

 

10 must-visit places in the Atacama Desert

Valleys of Martian-red rock, snowless white ground, jewel-toned lakes: all over its more than 40,000 square miles, the Atacama is full of stunning landscapes and cultural sites that astound everyone who visits. But there are some that rise above the rest as being truly emblematic of this unique high desert, which has attracted humanity for thousands of years with its timeless beauty, and who then leave their mark on the land. Made by man or made by nature, these are the top must-visit places in the Atacama Desert.

Valle de la Luna

Barely ten minutes from San Pedro de Atacama you’ll find a wonderland of otherworldly rock formations, coated in what appears to be snow. But appearances can be deceiving: that white substance covering the ground and craggy walls is actually salt! The Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) is a truly lunar place, with sandy dunes and salt-covered ground hemmed in by rock walls of bright red. There are plenty of hiking paths that lead to amazing viewpoints, as well as driving roads. Best time to visit for views and to escape the heat is at sunset.

 

El Tatio Geysers

Roughly an hour and a half from San Pedro is one of the highest and biggest geyser fields in the entire world: the El Tatio Geysers. Meaning either “oven” or “grandfather” in the extinct Kunza language of the Atacameño people, the field is covered in eighty active geysers, as well as hot springs, fumaroles, and sinter deposits (a kind of chemical sediment that forms the strange rock formations found around geysers all over the world). Pathways cross the field allow you to walk past the different geysers and immerse yourself in their plumes of mist and steam at safe distances. It’s like something out of a sci-fi movie and, as it’s best to visit in the early morning, a great way to start the day.

 

The Hand of the Desert

To reach this giant sculpture of a hand rising out of the desert floor requires a more than four-hour drive from San Pedro, but if you’re planning on visiting the nearby port city of Antofagasta or want to go for a long drive, it’s worth the trip. Surrounded by stark white desert on all sides, the 11-meter tall hand is a striking contrast to the barren landscape and makes for a fantastic photo op.

 

Tara Salt Flats

The Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia are by far the most famous salt flats in South America, and while the Tara salt flats may not be as vast, they are equally beautiful. Located within the Los Flamencos National Reserve at more than 14,000 feet above sea level, the Tara salt flats are comprised of flat plains of crusty salt, as well as high desert lagoons frequented by local wildlife like flamingos and vicunas, grasslands, and bizarre rock formations like the Pacana Monks, which are vertical rock stands said to resemble the posture of monks.

 

Piedras Rojas

One of the most striking aspects of the Atacama desert is the richness and contrast of colors, from rocks to salt to water, and nowhere is this contrast more apparent and stunning than at the Piedras Rojas (Red Rocks). The expanse of bright-red rocks, which get their tint from iron oxidation,  border on the soft turquoise blue of the Salar de Aguas Calientes lake with colored mountains bordering on the horizon. It’s a deeply beautiful landscape and is an ideal spot for nature and landscape photographers.

 

Miscanti and Miñiques Lagoons

Sitting at over 13,000 feet high, nestled in the shadows of colorful hills and snowy mountains, these high-altitude lagoons are about as picturesque as it can get. The blue lakes, whose colors shift in the sunshine, are surrounded by shrubs and desert grass, and they’re great sites for bird and wildlife viewing. With no other human dwellings nearby except for the ranger station, here the peace and quiet is total and you can allow yourself to be immersed in this high desert beauty.

 

Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works

While many people come to the Atacama to experience its wealth of beautiful natural landscapes, it also has a vast, multicultural history, which started with indigenous tribes who either lived in the region or migrated through before the Spanish arrived and then colonists came for the saltpeter boom. Saltpeter, which is another term for sodium nitrate, was mined all over the Atacama throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s. When a synthetic version was created in Germany, the industry collapsed, leaving the region dotted with the abandoned factories and mining towns that sprung up for workers and their families to live in.

One of the biggest and best preserved is Humberstone and the Santa Laura plant. Nearly a five-hour drive from San Pedro, it’s only forty-five minutes from the coastal resort town of Iquique, which is a great spot for swimming, surfing, and paragliding off the massive sanddunes behind the city.

 

ALMA Observatory

One of the most famous of the Atacama’s many scientific observatories, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array consists of 66 radio telescopes that use millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths to probe deep space for answers to the mysteries of the universe. The telescope field and Operations Support Facility are located a short drive from San Pedro on the Chajnantor plateau at over 16,000 feet high. Scientists come from all over the world and wait years for just a few nights at the helm of these telescopes. The facility is closed to the public for night tours but there are day tours on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

 

Yerbas Buenas Petroglyphs

Time and nature are ruthless in destroying what humanity builds, but at this pile of red rocks roughly 45 minutes from San Pedro, something of ancient mankind has managed to endure. The rocks are covered in an astonishing array of well-preserved petroglyphs and rock carvings. There are over a thousand in total, many of llamas and other creatures that were important in the lives of the Atacameno people. Dating back 10,000 years, it’s a truly awe-inspiring spot that offers a glimpse into the lives and beliefs of a tribe who called this desert home thousands of years ago.

 

Puritama Hot Springs

Need a day of rest and relaxation? Head out of San Pedro for a day at these secluded hot springs, shaded by desert grass along the bottom of a rocky canyon. A series of geothermically-heated pools are connected by a series of red walkways, and there are bathrooms and changing rooms onsite. Pretty and peaceful, it’s a lovely place to escape for a day and relax.

 

 

What To Pack For Chile’s Lake District

Are you ready to come to Chile’s Lake District? Get ready for some incredible viewpoints and loads of exciting activities. We have put together a brief packing list to help get you ready for the big trip.

1. Rain Protection

In the Lake District, it rains a lot! The rain is unpredictable and it is frequent. It is important to come prepared for showers.

  • A Raincoat Invest in a good raincoat for the trip! This is essential. We recommend something that is easy to move in and has a hood.
  • Water Resistant Shoes and Clothing Bring at least one pair of water resistant walking shoes. Additionally, pack water resistant clothing if you have any (ex: pants).
  • Extra Socks Pack a few extra pairs of socks to help protect your feet from the rain.
  • Plastic Bags — Throw a few plastic bags in your suitcase. They are useful for storing wet clothing or other wet items.

2. A Variety of Clothing

Bring a range of clothing for your trip to the Lake District. It is relatively cool in this part of Chile, but can get a bit warmer in the summer months.

  • Clothes for Warmer Weather Pack a few T-shirts for the warmer days. Also pack a swimsuit and sandals in case you visit the hot springs.
  • Clothes for Cooler Weather — It’s always important to bring clothes for cooler temperature when you visit Southern Chile. We recommend bringing: a fleece, long pants, long sleeved shirts, a hat, gloves, a soft-shell, etc.
  • Trekking Clothes – There are a lot of great trekking and adventure opportunities. Make sure you bring clothing to partake in different sports and outdoor activities.

3. Travel Essentials

There’s a few items essential for any travel enthusiast visiting Chile. These items will make your trip more comfortable and enjoyable.

  • Proper Medications Don’t leave home without your necessary medications.
  • Trekking Equipment Come with trekking boots and trekking poles if you plan to partake in any hikes. High ankle boots give a bit more protection and we also recommend walking in them at home before using in the Lake District. Trekking poles can be selected by standing straight and bending your arm to a 90 degree angle. The pole should be at the level of your wrist.
  • Day Backpack You will most likely go on different day trips and adventures when you come to the Lake District. A day backpack is useful for these trips, helping you hold snacks, water, your wallet and anything else you may need.
  • A Sturdy Water Bottle Of course you can always purchase bottled water when you get to Chile. But here at EcoChile, we like to be kind to our earth. The water is safe to drink in Chile, so bring your own water bottle when you travel. It is useful for adventure activities and is Eco-friendly.
  • Toiletries and a First Aid Kit — Come prepared with your lotion, toothpaste, soap, etc. It’s also not a bad idea to bring a small, personal first kit in case of emergencies.
  • Camera This one is important! After all, you are coming to one of the most beautiful places on earth. Don’t forget a camera to capture all your incredible memories.
  • Converters – The electrical plugs in Chile use 220 voltage. If your country uses a different type of outlet, make sure you bring a converter.
  • Money – Don’t forget to change your currency into Chilean pesos. Many stores also accept the following credit cards: American Express, Visa, MasterCard and Diners Club.

This should wrap up everything you may need for Chile’s Lake District! However, if you have any questions or would like more detailed information, feel free to send us a message via email or our online messaging service. We are always happy to help in anyway we can.

 

 

 

The best places to eat and drink in the Atacama

The Atacama is not exactly known as a foodie destination. But rest assured, there’s much more to the dining scene here than just backpacker fare (although you will find tasty burgers and pizzas). Relying on seasonal ingredients, meat from local animals like llamas, and desert herbs and flowers for flavor, a truly unique regional cuisine has grown up over centuries of humans etching a living from this land.

Inventive new chefs are taking these building blocks and opening exciting and delicious new restaurants, bistros, and cafes around San Pedro, while many family-run restaurants continue to preserve classic recipes for pure, uncomplicated enjoyment. And fresh seafood is always in abundance, as the ocean is never far away, and so fresh fish, shrimp, mussels, and crab are right at your fingertips even in the middle of the desert. So, to experience the fruits of Chile’s high desert, these are the best places to eat and drink in the Atacama.

 

Las Delicias de Carmen

A short walk off San Pedro’s main drag, this charming and unassuming spot may have the occasional tourist but more often than not, it’s packed with locals. Ask someone from San Pedro where to go to eat and they’ll say Las Delicias de Carmen. Named after the woman who owns the joint, Las Delicias specializes in gigantic servings of traditional Chilean and Atacama fare; the soups and stews like patasca (made with beef, white corn, and potatoes) are especially good. Go for a casual but delicious time.

 

Adobe

The alfresco dining patio at this chicly rustic spot, which features Southwestern-style wooden pergolas, brown adobe walls, wood tables, and a communal bonfire space, is always packed, as much for the ambiance and decor as the food. Serving Chilean and international cuisine, the dishes are delicious and filling (we recommend their meat or fish dishes) and they also have a great drinks menu with plenty of wine and strong pisco sours.

 

La Casona

Featuring hearty servings of Chilean and South American cuisine (I’m talking giant empanadas, heaps of perfectly cooked meat, fresh seafood, the works), La Casona is always bustling. Some of their most popular dishes are Chilean “chupes”, which are like meat pies made with crab or mussels, and “pastel de choclo”, which is a baked corn pie with chicken and other ingredients. A full bar serves a great selection of wine to go with the food, as well as beer and cocktails. The dining room itself is also charming, with white walls, dark wood paneling, and an adobe fireplace, and there is an outdoor dining space as well.

 

Babalu Heladeria

Chileans love ice cream, and nothing helps beat that Atacama heat than some cool, refreshing ice cream. There are several good ice cream joints around town but Babalu is especially well-known for its inventive artisan flavors that use local ingredients like rica rica or quinoa. Grab a cone or cup on a hot day and enjoy!

 

Baltinache

With only a handful of tables that are always occupied, you can be sure that the food at Baltinache is worth the wait or even making a reservation in advance. And it is. Inspired by the historic cuisine of Atacama indigenous cultures, local ingredients and flavors get reimagined in contemporary ways and plated with creative flair. The restaurant itself is also lovely, with white-washed walls covered in drawings and hangings of native petroglyphs found out in the desert.

 

Lola

San Pedro is not much of a night-life town, but Lola always guarantees a good time. Part bar, restaurant, and late-night hangout spot, they make crazy good cocktails that go down way too easy after long days of exploring, and offer fun entertainment like karaoke.

 

Tierra Atacama

On every trip, you should treat yourself to a truly fancy meal, and in San Pedro, that should be at Tierra Atacama. Part of the luxe Tierra hotel chain, at their innovative restaurant you get to experience a multi-course tasting menu that takes traditional Chilean ingredients and dishes to new heights, featuring succulent meat and seasonally fresh fruits and vegetables. Start with a rica rica sour, the local take on pisco sours but flavored with the native rica rica herb, and then move on to their excellent wine menu to pair with the meal.

What To Pack For Easter Island

Are you ready to travel to one of the most unique spots on earth? Easter Island is a gem, far away from mainland Chile. We can’t wait for you to get here! But first thing is first, you need to pack. Sometimes it is tough to figure out what you need, and to make it easier we’ve put together a detailed packing list for you to follow:

1. Clothes for the Island

You should bring a range of clothing for Easter Island. We recommend the following:

  • T-shirts and Shorts – Bring clothes for warmer temperatures! A few pairs of shorts and a variety of T-shirts will work.
  • Warmer Clothes – Just in case, it’s always a good idea to come prepared with some warmer clothes in case it cools down. Pack a sweatshirt, long sleeve shirt and a pair of long pants.
  • A Raincoat – Bring a light raincoat in case of showers.

2. Beach Necessities

Prepare to spend time on some beautiful beaches. This means you’ll need beach wear and accessories!

  • Sunscreen— It’s important to protect your skin from the strong sun on Easter Island. Try to bring a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 and remember to reapply throughout the day.
  • Aloe – In case of sunburn, bring some aloe for your skin. You’ll be happy to have this if you burn easily!
  • Sunglasses – The sun can get bright on Easter Island! We recommend bringing a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  • Swimsuit – Pack a swimsuit so you can enjoy the beautiful waters.
  • Beach Towel – Stay dry on the beach by bringing a beach towel. It’s a good idea to bring two in case one gets very sandy.
  • Flip flops or Sandals – For lazy days on the beach, bring a pair of flip flops or sandals to walk around in.

3. Travel Essentials

There’s a few items essential for any travel enthusiast visiting Chile. These items will make your trip more comfortable and enjoyable.

  • Proper Medications Don’t leave home without your necessary medications.
  • Trekking Equipment Come with trekking boots and trekking poles if you plan to partake in any hikes. High ankle boots give a bit more protection and we also recommend walking in them at home before using them on Easter Island. Trekking poles can be selected by standing straight and bending your arm to a 90 degree angle. The pole should be at the level of your wrist.
  • Day Backpack You will most likely go on different day trips and adventures when you come to Easter Island. A day backpack is useful for these trips, helping you hold snacks, water, your wallet and anything else you may need.
  • A Sturdy Water Bottle Of course you can always purchase bottled water when you get to Chile. But here at EcoChile, we like to be kind to our earth. The water is safe to drink in Chile, so bring your own water bottle when you travel. It is useful for adventure activities and is Eco-friendly.
  • Toiletries and a First Aid Kit — Come prepared with your lotion, toothpaste, soap, etc. It’s also not a bad idea to bring a small, personal first kit in case of emergencies.
  • Camera This one is important! After all, you are coming to a very special place! Don’t forget a camera to capture all your incredible memories.
  • Converters – The electrical plugs in Chile use 220 voltage. If your country uses a different type of outlet, make sure you bring a converter.
  • Money – Don’t forget to change your currency into Chilean pesos. Many stores also accept the following credit cards: American Express, Visa, MasterCard and Diners Club.

📸: VSCO. 

With this you are set! Get your bags ready and prepare for a fantastic trip to the beautiful Easter Island. If you have any questions or would like more detailed information, feel free to send us a message via email or our online messaging service. We are always happy to help in anyway we can.

8 things I wish I knew before visiting the Atacama Desert

The Atacama Desert is one of the popular destinations in Chile. It sits in the north of the country, squeezed between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. Famuosly, the Atacama is the driest non-polar desert on the planet, receiving less than 0.6 inches of rain in an entire year. The lack of moisture, unforgiving sun, and desert winds have, over millennia, created out-of-this-world landscapes. Come here to wonder at the lunar valleys, high-altitude lagoons, cracked salt flats, and endless horizons.

Full of natural wonder and with a cultural history dating back thousands of years, it’s a must-visit. But, being such a harsh and isolated environment, there can be some unexpected surprises for first-time visitors. So, take it from someone who knows the area: here are 8 things I wish I knew before visiting the Atacama!

1. There’s so much more to see and do besides San Pedro

When people talk about the top places they want to visit in the Atacama, generally they’re referring to San Pedro de Atacama and its surroundings. These include the El Tatio Geysers, Valle de la Luna, Chaxa Lagoon with its flamingos…the list goes on and on. San Pedro itself is a small adobe town with roughly 4,000 inhabitants. It serves as the hub of Atacama tourism and the starting point for many adventures.

But the Atacama spans over 40,000 square miles; there’s a lot more to see and do outside of San Pedro. You can head to the coast to enjoy the beaches or go surfing at Iquique. Explore the area’s modern history with a visit to saltpeter ghost towns like Humberstone. Head further out of town to seek out the impressive Hand of the Desert monument. There’s so much to do here, so don’t restrict your Atacama exploring to just San Pedro.

 

2. July-August is the best time to visit for stargazing

The summer months of December through February are high season for tourists. But, if you love stargazing and astronomy, the best time to visit is definitely during winter. The altitude, arid weather, and lack of light pollution and radio interference mean that good stargazing can be found year-round (except during full moons). Nonetheless, the skies are at their absolute clearest and most brilliant in July and August, making for amazing stargazing even without telescopes.

 

3. It gets really cold at night

Even though you’re going to the desert, don’t think that it’s gonna be all sunshine and heat. The Atacama’s elevation means that the temperature plummets at night: down into the forties or lower. Make sure you pack cold-weather clothing like jackets, sweaters, long pants, gloves, and hats too! That way, you can do nighttime activities like stargazing or visit the Tatio Geysers in the early morning. Just peel those layers off as the day warms up! And if you forgot to pack warm clothes, don’t worry; you can find cozy items made from local alpaca and llama wool at shops around San Pedro.

 

4. The altitude will affect you

San Pedro is located nearly 8,000 feet (nearly 2.5 km) above sea level: more than a mile high. All over the Atacama, visitable elevations can increase to the same altitude as Everest base camp (17,600 feet). So yeah, the Atacama is pretty high, and the dry air and desert climate doesn’t help. It’s entirely possible that you’ll experience some altitude sickness during your visit. This can manifest as headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Generally, taking it easy the first few days by not pushing your body too hard, drinking lots of water, and avoiding alcohol will help your body adjust. Or take a tip from the locals and try coca tea, made from coca leaves.

 

5. Want to visit the Tatio Geysers? Be prepared to get up early

Paying a visit to the Tatio Geysers is a must when visiting the Atacama. This is the highest geyser field on the planet at over 14,000 feet (4,000m) above sea level! But the best time to see the steam rising from the geysers is at dawn, when the air is cold enough for the steam to erupt in giant plumes. Since the geysers are an hour and a half drive from San Pedro, that means that you’ll need to get up super early (I’m talking 4 am!) to make the trip.

And don’t forget to wrap up; not only is it early, but you’re also nearly doubling your elevation, so wear layers! But the sight is well worth the early rise and most tours bring along breakfast and coffee to enjoy at the site.

 

6. Most observatories aren’t open for nighttime tours

The Atacama is home to some of the most advanced observatories in the world. Scientists and astronomers come from all over to use their state-of-the-art telescopes to explore the night sky. One of the most famous observatories, ALMA (which stands for Atacama Large Millimeter Array), is located just a short drive from San Pedro and their impressive telescope collection attracts a lot of interest. Lots of visitors want to see the facilities and possibly even go on stargazing tours.

However, since ALMA and other places like it are working observatories, they are not open for nighttime tours. Many do offer daytime tours on the weekends, though (at ALMA, they offer tours of the Operations Support Facility on Saturday and Sunday mornings). For stargazing, there are plenty of other astronomy tours (like those offered by San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations) around San Pedro and further north at tourist observatories in Valle de Elqui.

 

7. There is no airport in San Pedro

Even though most people start and end their Atacama trips in San Pedro, you’re not gonna be stepping off the plane there. The nearest airport is in Calama, a mining town known as the ‘Gateway to the Atacama’, roughly an hour and a half away. From Calama, you can either take buses or rent cars to get to San Pedro, but most tours include transportation from Calama to San Pedro in their packages.

 

8. Pack a swimming suit

Even though you’re going to the heart of the world’s driest desert, that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to get your feet wet! A short drive from San Pedro you’ll find the Puritama Hot Springs, a series of eight geothermal hot springs hidden by desert grass inside a rocky canyon. And, out on the salt flats, there are several salt-water lagoons that you can swim and float in. So don’t forget that swimsuit!

The top things to do in Patagonia

From the tops of its highest peaks to the rocky, wind-battered shores, Patagonia is a place that’s full of adventure and wonder. Whether your goal is to see spectacular landscapes or to experience a place whose culture was forged in adversity and resourcefulness, you’ll find it here. But as a region, Patagonia covers hundreds of square miles: too much to see and do in any one trip. What are the top things to do in Patagonia? Here are our recommendations!

 

1. Do the base of the Torres Hike

It’s not a trip to Torres del Paine if you don’t make the hike to the base of the park’s famous Torres (Towers). A roughly eight hour round-trip hike that ranges from intermediate to advanced level of difficulty, anyone in good physical condition can make this iconic trek. Starting from near the Las Torres Hotel at the base of the Paine Massif, you hike up and through the Pass of the Winds and then descend into the Ascencio Valley. After hiking along the base of the valley through forests and over streams, you reach the bottom of a giant jumble of rocks, the remains of a glacial moraine. Hiking to the top is the most difficult part of the hike, but it’s well worth the effort because then you can enjoy your lunch and a drink of water with a view of the three granite pillars for which the park is named.

As the most popular hike in Torres del Paine, the trail and viewpoint are frequently busy, which is why some visitors choose to spend the night at the Chileno Camp and Refugio Cabins in the Ascencio Valley and then get up early to hike to the lookout and watch the sunrise over the Towers and lake. The rising sun paints the spires the most amazing shades of red, orange, and pink, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

 

2. Sail to the Grey Glacier

Located on the western end of the Paine Massif alongside the final leg of the W Trek, the Grey Glacier covers over 100 square miles from its origins in the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, funneling down valleys to finally spill into Grey Lake. The front wall towers nearly a hundred feet over the lake’s waters, and if you’re lucky, you can see icebergs of all different shapes and icy blue shades crashing into the lake.

While from the W trail you have a better vantage point to appreciate the sheer scale of the glacier, nothing can compare to sailing right up close to the front wall itself. At the far end of Grey Lake near the Lago Grey Hotel, you can board a giant catamaran that will take you right up to the glacier itself. And then, on the return trip, you can enjoy a pisco sour served with glacial ice taken from calved icebergs!

 

3. Go puma tracking

Seeing a puma in the wild is an incredibly rare experience, but Torres del Paine is actually one of the few places where you’re the most likely to get to see one of these majestic cats in their natural habitat. After fires in 2011 and 2012 destroyed large areas of lenga forest, the local guanaco population moved to better grazing grounds on the pampas, which are closer to many of the park’s roads and tourist infrastructure. And when the guanacos moved, their natural predator, the puma, followed. As such, it’s now easier than ever to see these wild cats either from the road while driving or while out hiking on the pampas. If you want to increase your chances of seeing them, go puma tracking with a local expert, who, based on knowledge of the land and animal behavior, knows exactly when and where to look to increase the chances of seeing a puma.

 

4. Attend a traditional asado

Before Patagonia was known for its trekking, it was a place of vast estancias and South American cowboys, all working in service of the millions of sheep that brought prosperity to the region through their wool. It’s said that Patagonia was built on the back of a sheep, and one of its most iconic culinary traditions, the asado, involves a young sheep as well. A slaughtered and skinned lamb is butterfly-strapped to a special spit, angled over a fire of hot coals, and then left to cook in the rising heat for hours. The result is the most delicious lamb you’ll ever have, with crispy skin but succulent and tender meat. The roasted lamb is usually served with sides of potatoes, pebre (a topping similar to pico de gallo), and plenty of red wine.

Nowadays, asados are mainly held for special occasions, and some estancias perform them for visitors so they can experience this most Patagonian of meals for themselves and learn about the estancia lifestyle. So during your Patagonia adventure, be sure to pay a visit to an estancia and enjoy a delicious asado!

 

5. Go for a horseback ride at an estancia

In addition to the asados, living the estancia life for a day offers a unique glimpse into the culture that helped colonize this region. Many estancias near Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares, while still working as sheep ranches, have now opened their doors to visitors so they can experience this lifestyle for themselves. One example is Estancia La Peninsula, an estancia located on the far side of Last Hope Sound from Puerto Natales, the gateway town to Torres del Paine. Here, you can go on horseback rides through forests and fields and along coastlines to epic lookouts showcasing the majesty of the region’s fjords. Then, at the end of the ride, you can watch sheep-shearing and sheep-herding demonstrations to see how these ranches are run and operated. But going for a horseback ride across the pampas is just about the most Patagonia activity ever and is a great way to see and appreciate the landscapes, so be sure to sign up for one!

 

6. Ice hike on Perito Moreno

The grand dame of Patagonia’s most accessible glaciers, the 240-foot-tall Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park is always swamped with visitors. But anyone can take a picture from a lookout or go for a boat ride close to the front wall: the ultimate way to experience the Perito Moreno Glacier is to walk on it! Even though the glacier is famous for its frequent calvings, it’s actually very stable and safe so you can go for guided ice-treks along the glacier’s surface, traversing iced-over crevasses that cut deep into the heart of the glacier, passing ice caves, and crossing streams of meltwater. And you don’t even need any prior experience to do so; that’s how safe it is! Then, before returning to the nearby town of El Calafate, stop for a celebratory drink at GlacioBar, an ice bar that’s the first bar in the world to be made out of glacial ice!

 

7. See the king penguins of Tierra del Fuego

Second only in size to emperor penguins, the king penguin can stand up to three feet tall and reach almost forty pounds as adults. Sporting sleek black and white feathers and orange markings, king penguins are normally only found on the Antarctica’s more temperate outer islands like South Georgia. This is what makes the king penguin colony in King Penguin Park near Porvenir, Tierra del Fuego so special: it’s the only known breeding colony outside of the species’ normal breeding grounds. To reach the main island of Tierra del Fuego requires a ferry crossing from Punta Arenas and a car ride to Inutil Bay where the colony is located; here, visitors can walk around the park on designated paths and walkways that allow them to observe the penguins and their nesting areas from a safe distance. While the colony can be visited year round, visiting from September to March offers the best chance of seeing the most penguins.

 

The best places to eat on Easter Island

Similar to many other Polynesian cultures, Easter Island cuisine – Pascuense cuisine – was and still is to this day strongly influenced by and dependent upon the offerings of the surrounding ocean. Fish and seafood like mahi-mahi, tuna, swordfish (kana-kana), octopus (heke), lobster, sea snails, eels, and shrimp are all commonly used in traditional Easter Island cooking. These delicacies are complemented by fruits and vegetables like bananas, pineapples, pumpkin, sweet potato, taro, and coconut.

📷: imaginaisladepascua.com

In the past, most foods were prepared by wrapping the ingredients in banana leaves and roasting them in an “umu pae”, an earth oven. Some of the most traditional recipes include tunu ahi (grilled fish on hot stones), po’e (a type of bread pudding made from flour, pumpkin, and plantains/bananas), and ceviche.

But it can be argued that the quintessential dish of Rapa Nui is the Easter Island curanto. The dish include meat, chicken, vegetables, seafood, and other ingredients, all cooked on top of hot stones placed in a hole in the ground and covered with plantain leaves. This feast was only prepared for special events and was a huge community event, as it still is today.

Nowadays, elements of traditional Chilean and European cooking have integrated themselves into the island’s gastronomic history. Nonetheless, many of the restaurants around Easter Island and in the town of Hanga Roa still offer Rapa Nui dishes. The classic tastes of the land and sea reign, as they have for centuries. When visiting the island, make sure you get to taste the real Rapa Nui. Here are the best places to eat on Easter Island.

 

1. Haka Honu

This casual oceanfront eatery specializes in fresh, seasonal seafood dishes that are endemic to Easter Island. It’s said that this place gets first pick of the catch of the day. Native fish like mahi-mahi, kana-kana, and tuna served with fruity sauces and garnishes are popular menu mainstays, as well as tangy ceviche. International dishes like burgers, salads, pasta, and steaks are also available. Drinks-wise, beer and cocktails pair especially well with the sunset ocean views and the fresh-pressed fruit juices are perfect for quenching your thirst.

While popular with tourists, during the low season it’s also the haunt of choice for the locals. So if you’re visiting during winter, head here for the party! Accepts credit cards.

 

2. Te Moana

Cue the Moana songs! Well, actually no… While you won’t find singing Disney princesses and crabs here, you will find some of the island’s best traditional Rapa Nui dishes, as well as Chilean and Polynesian fare. Fresh fish is available daily, and their octopus and langoustine dishes are big crowd pleasers. But a real treat is enjoying a meal prepared on their outdoor, waterfront grill; watching your meal cook while the sun sets over the ocean beyond is a thing of beauty. They also do great fruity cocktails, complete with flowers. Seating options include indoor or outdoor veranda. Accepts credit cards.

3. Tia Berta

If you’re craving a taste of mainland Chile while on the island, pay a visit to Tia Berta’s. Famous for her huge, delicious, and filling empanadas. Seafood empanadas are her forte, including tuna, tuna with cheese, shrimp with cheese, and mariscos (assorted seafood like mussels). The menu also includes traditional fish soup (caldillo de pescado) and ceviche. Open for brunch and lunch. Cash only.

 

4. La Kaleta

Looking for the best meal in town? It just might be here. In 2016, a leading Chilean newspaper named La Kaleta the best regional restaurant in the whole of Chile. The proof is in the pudding – or rather, the ceviche! Ever since – and especially during the summer season – this place is always packed for lunch and dinner.

It’s not just because of the food, either: the white-washed, thatched roof restaurant is located just steps from a sandy beach and has unobstructed ocean views. Their seasonal ceviche is always a hit, as well as their fish, seafood pasta, and “Papas Vaiani”: fried potatoes, octopus, and shrimp covered in a cheesy sauce. They also have one of the best wine lists on the island. Accepts credit cards.

 

5. Te Moai Sunset

Pretty much every restaurant worth its salt on Easter Island has an ocean view, so how do you stand out from the pack? Offer an ocean view with Moai as well, that’s how! This hip newcomer to the Rapa Nui dining scene is set back from the beach on a small bluff. It offers an enchanting, panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean with the Ahu Tahai and Ahu Ko Te Riku in the foreground. It’s the perfect spot for dinner, and the food is just as winning as the view.

Succulent ceviche, catch of the day fresh from the ocean, shrimp and octopus risotto, and fish stew are just some of the highlights. An exceptional cocktail list and diverse wine menu complete the experience. Be sure to start your evening by enjoying an aperitif while lounging in the hanging wicker chairs on the outdoor patio. Accepts credit cards.

 

6. Hani Hani Tunu Ahi & Bar

For visitors and locals alike, it’s always a good time at Hani Hani’s. This popular restobar is a lively nightlife spot that also offers a full menu for dinner, as well as bar food. They prepare fresh meat, fish, and other seafood on their special barbecue. Good raw options are also available. like the house specialty of Ika Mata: prime cuts of fresh raw fish and ceviche combined with fruit and veggies. Decorated with a Polynesian theme and with an extensive drink menu, this is the place to be for a fun night out on the town. Cash only.

 

7. Mahalo Terraza & Bistro 

This laidback but refined bistro puts a unique twist on traditional island and Polynesian dishes. With elegant platings and inventive combinations, ceviche, filet of fish, shrimp curry, and other dishes are some of the house specialties, each with nicely paired wines. Located in an upscale bungalow with subdued Polynesian decor, Mahalo’s perfect setting (did we mention the ocean view dining terrace?) and delicious cuisine makes for a lovely date night spot. Their cocktails are especially refreshing. Accepts credit cards.

 

8. Te Ra’ai

Want to experience a traditional Easter Island curanto feast? Te Ra’ai is unquestionably the best. The family that owns the restaurant has been preparing curanto for generations, offering it to the community for Tapati (the week-long cultural festival) and to visitors to introduce them to Easter Island cuisine.

To make curanto (Umu Rapa Nui), a large hole in the ground is filled with hot coals or hot stones, with plantain leaves placed on top. Meat, chicken, fish, sausage, etc. are laid on top of the leaves, covered with another layer of leaves and ingredients like fruits and veggies. One final layer of leaves tops the curanto and then the food left to cook. The result is a steaming smorgasbord of delicious flavors.

At Te Ra’ai, you can taste the traditional curanto for yourself, as well as see how it’s prepared. In addition, the restaurant also offers cultural shows, music, and plays, complete with costumes and make-up. This place is extremely popular, especially during high season, so reservations are recommended. Accepts credit card.

 

9 things I wish I knew before visiting Easter Island

With the advent of the Internet and the popularity of travel guides and travel blogs, it’s easier than ever to find out information about places you want to visit. It can help you plan your trip better, make arrangements in advance, and decide on what you want to see and do. But even with all that info floating around, there are still things that can surprise you when you reach your destination.

Doing some research in advance is especially important if you’re traveling to an isolated place like Easter Island. Located 2,182 miles from the mainland, here you are literally in the middle of nowhere. It definitely helps to be prepared and know what to expect! What kind of money should you bring? Are there ATMs? How can you get around the island? Not to fear, we’ve got you covered! Here are 9 things I wish I knew before visiting Easter Island.

1. You won’t always have Internet

Easter Island is extremely isolated and, in many ways, cut off from the rest of the world. While it has modern infrastructure and amenities, the distance means that sometimes the Internet doesn’t want to cooperate. WiFi is only available in the main town of Hanga Roa at hotels and Internet cafes (most restaurants don’t offer WiFi) but even then, the connection can be patchy.

In 2016, the Chilean government implemented its WiFi ChileGob program on the island, a public service project that provides free WiFi in public places. However, this too is only available in Hanga Roa and doesn’t always work. But being on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific seems like the perfect place for a digital detox, so feel free to ditch the devices and focus on enjoying your stay!

 

2. It’s not always sunny and tropical

Yes, Easter Island is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and part of Polynesia. But that doesn’t mean it’s always a South Pacific idyll. Technically, Easter Island falls under the category of having subtropical weather, meaning that, in general, the weather is warm and humid, but during winter temperatures can drop into the 50s. Easter Island also gets a lot of rain (which is spread out throughout the year but usually peaks during the winter months of June to August), which can make the island feel unseasonably chilly, so don’t forget to bring raingear as well! Find out more about when is the best time to visit here.

 

3. Anakena Beach is cash-only

Anakena Beach, located on the opposite end of the island from Hanga Roa, is the only swimmable beach on the island and so is extremely popular among visitors and locals alike. With a large, half-moon beach of white coral sand, tranquil waters that are protected by the cove, and gently waving palm trees, it’s a slice of Polynesian paradise in the middle of nowhere.

With no hotels or accommodations in the vicinity, most people travel to the beach for the day from Hanga Roa, and local vendors have set up food stalls and stores; picnic sites, bathroom facilities, and a parking lot are also available to cater to these day trippers. But the one thing you won’t find is a credit card machine: everything on Anakena Beach operates on a cash-only basis. ATM machines can be found in Hanga Roa, so be sure to withdraw enough for the whole day!

 

4. You’re not allowed to touch the Moai

The Moai are amazing examples of art, design, and engineering that boggle the mind. Who wouldn’t want to touch a piece of history like that, especially because many of them are located close by the trails and paths? But still: keep your hands off! The Moai are protected by local law and touching one even comes with a fine; one tourist was fined more than $17,000 USD! This is mainly because, due to time and exposure to the elements, the Moai are naturally deteriorating, but having tourists constantly touching them speeds up the process. So, remember to keep your hands to yourself and instead pick up a Moai figurine as a souvenir.

 

5. Getting here is expensive and requires some advance planning

To combat over-tourism and because the island is so small, flights to Easter Island are limited and pretty pricey: round-trip fare from Santiago in high season can be upwards of $500 per person or even get into the thousands of dollars. There are several ways to snag cheaper flights, though: visit during the low and shoulder season, book well in advance, or plan out a longer trip (flight fares go down if you’re staying on the island longer instead of just visiting for a few days).

 

6. There are no buses on the island

Easter Island is pretty small: only 63 square miles. With everything concentrated in Hanga Roa, that means that there are no local buses running routes around the island, except for tour buses. However, since the island is so small, that makes it easy to get around on your own. You can rent a car (there are several car-rental agencies), or go cycling (which is especially popular as the island is mainly flat and makes for easy riding). You can also hire a local taxi (there’s no Uber here!) to take you to certain sites.

 

7. Everything is charged in Chilean Pesos

Since Easter Island is legally a part of Chile, the primary currency accepted on the island is the Chilean Peso. But since so many visitors come from the United States, US dollars are also widely accepted. There are several money exchange offices in Hanga Roa, or you can convert your dollars to pesos in the Santiago airport before leaving the mainland.

 

8. That Moai at the bottom of the ocean? Yep, it’s not real

You’ve likely seen pictures of a Moai resting on the bottom of the ocean near the island, with people scuba diving nearby. Sounds like an amazing experience, right? Well, yes, but you should know that the Moai is actually a fake. It’s a leftover prop from the 1994 movie Rapa Nui. But still, makes for a great scuba diving adventure!

 

9. It’s not just the flight that’s expensive

Any way you swing it, Easter Island is a pricey destination. In addition to the flights, food and lodging can also be costly, especially since lots of things on the island need to be flown there from the mainland. But there are ways to save money and stretch out your budget. You can bring customs-approved snacks and food from the mainland, making reservations well in advance, and visiting outside of peak tourist season.

Plus, taking extra care to make sure you’ve packed everything you’ll need while on the mainland will help in avoiding any last-minute, “oh no, I forgot to bring…” purchases while on the island, where they’re guaranteed to be more expensive. But everything that Easter Island has to offer more than justifies the hefty price tag.

 

10 reasons to visit Chiloé During your Chilean Adventure

Just off the coast of Chile’s verdant Lakes District can be found a magical place full of mystery and beauty: the archipelago of Chiloe. This chain of islands consists of the main island and many smaller ones scattered into the surrounding ocean. You can only access it from the mainland by boat, ferry, or plane, and its centuries of isolation has created a wholly unique culture and way of life.

Here there are legends about trolls and ghost ships and nearly 300 kinds of potatoes! Plus, the locals (known as Chilotes) are so friendly they’ll invite strangers in for tea. In addition to its unique culture, the natural environment is stunning. it’s a wonderful place for outdoor sports like hiking, kayaking, and bird-watching. Here are ten reasons to visit Chiloe during your Chilean adventure!

1. Kayaking at Chepu

With its many lakes, channels, and bays, Chiloe is prime territory for excellent kayaking, both for sport, to enjoy the landscape, and to look for local wildlife like birds and otters (known as “”chungungos”). But arguably the best place to go kayaking is at Chepu. This tidal river and wetlands area is located about an hour and a half from the island capital of Castro.

You can start by kayaking down the river to the open ocean where you’ll encounter the sunken forest, an eerily beautiful place of sunken trees poking out of the water. The area was formed when the 1960 earthquake – the biggest ever recorded – sunk the land and caused a tsunami. A great time to visit and go kayaking is in the early morning as the sun is rising. It’s the best time to look for animals and to enjoy this majestic place at its most peaceful.

 

2. Visiting the UNESCO Churches

One of Chiloe’s main claims to fame are its astonishing wooden churches. They built under the supervision of Jesuit priests who came to the archipelago in the 18th and 19th centuries. The churches were made with local wood and traditional methods, so no metal nails were used in the making. Everything was pieced together through ingenuity and wooden spikes. The results were a collection of steepled, brightly painted, and thoroughly impressive altars. It’s no surprise that 16 of them were declared UNESCO monuments in 2000. While all of them are a wonder to behold, the churches in Castro, Achao, Nercon, Dalcahue, Tenaun, and Chonchi are the most popular.

 

3. Seeing the palafitos

Poised along the waterfronts of Castro are some of the most iconic sites on Chiloe: the palafitos. These multi-colored wooden houses perch over the water on stilts. In the past fisherman would ride in and out with the tide from the porch of the house. The outsides are also covered in artfully stencil Chilote tiles made from the alerce tree. Palafitos used to be a much more common sight around the island, but many of the coastal ones were destroyed in the 1960 earthquake and tsunami. Most of the palafitos are still lived in by locals, but several in Castro have been converted into charming boutique hotels.

 

4. Visiting the penguins at Ancud

There are penguins on Chiloe? Yes, indeed! There are several nesting sites along the coast but the most famous one is located near Ancud. Here you can find colonies of Humboldt and Magellanic penguins. This nationally protected area, the Puñihuil National Monument, is also significant as it is the only known shared breeding site for both species of penguin. To see the penguins, you take a tour boat out to the three islands where the sites are located. Note that the waves can make the ride can a little bumpy at times but being able to see penguins in the wild is worth it.

 

5. Hiking through the island’s protected lands

Chiloe is blessed with a wide variety of landscapes, from dense forest to coastal cliffs to wetland. Many of these habitats are protected as national or privately owned parks. The most famous is Chiloe National Park on the Pacific Coast, which has amazing examples of the island’s temperate rainforests, great hiking paths, and amazing ocean views. At the far of the main island, Parque Tantauco is great for coastal hiking and keeping an eye out for migrating whales.

 

6. Trying a traditional curanto

This Chilote tradition is similar to a clambake (baked clams) but much larger, and possibly better! A large hole is dug in the ground and the bottom is covered with red-hot stones. Then, huge local nalca leaves are added and stuffed with mussels, chicken, sausage, potatoes (Chiloé is famous for its many species of potatoes), milcaos (a kind of potato pie) and other types of seafood. Another layer of leaves is added to lock in the heat and steam and the whole pile is left to cook for several hours. Open the leaves when they are ready for an authentic chilote feast with a delicious aroma and flavor!

 

7. Exploring Castro

The capital city of Castro is Chiloe’s cosmopolitan center and the place where most people stay during their explorations of the islands. Here you can find the stunning Church of San Francisco: a wedding-cake-like church covered with yellow and purple siding that towers over the Plaza de Armas. You can also see other examples of traditional Chilote architecture, like the palafitos. You’ll also be able to sample some of the island’s best culinary offerings. Rucalaf, Travesia, El Mercadito, and El Cazador: Casa de Comida are several of the best, offering fresh, delicious seafood and traditional Chilote recipes. Wander the streets, watch the tide go in and out of the channel, and soak up the local vibe!

 

8. Reaching the end of the Pan-American Highway in Quellón

Everyone knows the Pan-American Highway: that ribbon of asphalt running from the top of North America in Alaska all the way down to the end of South America. The route splits north of Santiago and the eastern prong takes the road all the way down to Ushuaia. But the Pacific-side route ends at the far end of the main island of Chiloe in the town of Quellón. Here, you can take your picture with the official marker. On clear days you can see volcanoes dotting the horizon on the mainland nearby.

 

9. Discovering beautiful handicrafts at artisan markets

Thanks to its physical separation from the mainland, the islands of Chiloe have developed their own unique culture. You can see it in their amazing artistic handicrafts made by local artisans. Some of the best examples to be found are the woolen goods. These cozy sweaters, hats, and ponchos made from the wool of the island’s many high-quality sheep. You can also find mugs for yerba mate (an herbal drink that is widely used throughout Patagonia), as well as wood-and-wool wall hangings and figurines of figures from Chilote mythology like the Caleuche ghost ship. The artisan markets at Dalcahue, Castro, Achao, and Ancud are some of the best places.

 

10. Visiting the Muelle de las Almas

While this spot is very popular with tourists and so can sometimes be a bit crowded, it’s well worth the trip and the wait. This wooden dock — an art installation by architect Marcelo Orellana — extends off the edge of an rounded hill overlooking the stormy Pacific coast of the island. The end of the dock seemingly disappears into the blue sky. The views are amazing and standing on the end of the dock with the sea in the background makes for a phenomenal photo-op.

 

Why You Should Experience Chile like a “Chilote”

Just a 30-minute boat ride from mainland Chile, lies a beautiful archipelago called Chiloé. These incredible islands draw tourists from all over due to the beautiful nature, colorful buildings, tasty dishes and unique culture. Chiloé is special because it feels different from the mainland. Islanders call themselves “chilotes” and take pride in the place they live. There are countless reasons to put in Chiloé on your travel bucket list. Here are some of the biggest:

Picturesque Landscapes

People who come to Chiloé are often in awe of its landscape. The islands are marked with bright green hills, fields of yellow flowers and peaceful waters. There are various ways to take in the scenery and enjoy the outdoors.

Go on a Trek:

Chiloé has a lot of natural attractions, many which offer fantastic trekking options. One of the best treks is called “Muelle de las Almas,” which translates to “Dock of Souls.”

It takes somewhat between one and a half to three hours to go there and back. The length of time depends on the hiker’s abilities and weather conditions. Trekkers should be prepared for any weather condition, no matter what the season. It rains often in Southern Chile, which can cause very slippery and muddy terrain. All visitors should wear proper hiking shoes that have a good grip, in addition to hiking sticks and some water.

The trek takes visitors through untamed forest, up misty hills and to a stunning view of the ocean alongside evergreen cliffs. The ending point is a wooden dock over the water. It’s the perfect place to snap a photo and take in the gorgeous view.

Take a Boat Ride:

Chiloé is an archipelago made up of more than 30 different islands. Therefore, a great way to explore the area is by boat.

There are several different boat tours that allow tourists to see different parts of Chiloé. One popular boat trip shows visitors different wildlife in the area. You can spot all sorts of creatures, such as penguins, dolphins, whales and various birds.

Additionally, many visitors enjoy kayaking around the archipelago. On a kayak, visitors can go to little villages, explore the wetlands and travel freely from island to island. It is a peaceful activity and a great way to spend the afternoon.

Historic Feel

Additionally, many visitors love Chiloé is because of the island’s historic atmosphere and old fashion charm. The Chilote islanders steer towards tradition, keeping many of their homes and buildings in the original, unique style. You can see and learn about these old fashion buildings when you come to Chiloé.

Go Church Hopping:

Back in the 17th century, the Spanish Jesuits came to the Chiloé archipelago. On the islands, they started to build churches which drew inspiration from both indigenous and Spanish architectural style. At least 70 churches were built using unique architectural and design techniques. Today, 16 of these churches are UNESCO World Heritage sights and serve as some of the top tourist attractions in Chiloé.

In Castro, Chiloé’s capital city, the most famous church is the Church of San Francisco. It sits in the center of town and is easily spotted from a far due to its bright yellow and purple colors. The church takes a more Neo-Gothic style, and is without a doubt one of the prettiest churches on the island.

Additionally, visitors like to check out the Church of Santa Maria de Loreto, which is one of the oldest churches and Church of Quinchao, which is one of the largest. There are many different churches you can visit and each one has its own special qualities.

Unique Culture

Chiloé’s culture is so interesting because it differs from the rest of the country. To get a true feel of the islands, make sure you take the time to learn the culture.

Admire the Colorful Palafitos:

When you think of Chiloé, the first image that often comes to mind is a rainbow array of small wooden buildings on stilts. These buildings are called palafitos, and in Chiloé, there are a lot of them. Inside the palafitos are restaurants, people’s homes and boutique hotels. These buildings are both visually pleasing and functional for a community that lives alongside the water.

There are a few viewpoints where you can admire at these colorful buildings from afar. Additionally, you can rent a kayak and paddle right next to them. Locals will smile and wave as you paddle towards the buildings, showing off the true, friendly spirit of Chiloé.

Wear Traditional Clothing:

The Southern half of Chile is known for having cold, windy and even unpredictable weather, especially during the winter months. To keep warm during winter days, Chilotes wear clothing that is made from wool. Visitors can purchase handmade hats, socks, ponchos at small, local markets, known as “ferias.” These items are useful while traveling on the island, and serve as a great souvenir or gift to bring home.

Additionally, if you come to Chiloé during the September independence holidays, you can see the traditional outfit of a Chilote at one of the many festivals and parties on the islands. Males dress in wool hats and high socks, and they use a collared shirt and a woven vest . The women dress in a black skirt, white collared shirt and a black bandana in their hair.

Try Foods Native to the Island:

Although Chilotes enjoy traditional Chilean food from the mainland, they also have a special cuisine of their own.

For the main meal, you must try the most famous dish of Chiloé  — curanto. This dish consists of various shellfish, potatoes and meat, all cooked together in a hole in the ground. The meal is filling, and perfect for meat and seafood lovers. Additionally, a potato pancake called Milcao can be enjoyed on the side. This snack is unique because it is cooked together with both raw and mashed potato, which is then either fried or baked.

After a hearty meal, leave room for dessert. In Chiloé , you can try an apple empanada, a sweet twist on the traditional empanada. This snack resembles a small apple pie and is a great way to finish a meal.

 

 

The best places to eat and drink in Patagonia

Remote and desolate, Patagonia doesn’t exactly strike one as a foodie destination. But think again: those vast plains and wild waters actually hide a wealth of flavorful treasures just waiting to be discovered. And as more and more visitors are heading to the region, new restaurants are popping up all over, either serving classic recipes that have been a part of the local culture for generations or creating something new from the unique ingredients the land provides. Either way, rising restaurants, distillers, and brewers are all eager to introduce travelers to the tastes of Patagonia. Here are the best places to eat and drink around Patagonia!

Puerto Natales

Santolla – Specializing in dishes made with the mighty centolla crab, which is fished from nearby fjords, Santolla manages to feel both homey and fancy at once. Housed in upcycled and renovated shipping containers, start the meal with a Calafate Sour (a local twist on pisco sours but made with Calafate berries) before diving into their menu options. The chupe de centolla – a crab casserole made with huge chunks of tender meat, cheese, and bread – is a guaranteed winner, or go big and order a whole cooked king crab to break into.

 

Baguales Brewery and Restaurant – Not in the mood for pizza but still want some good, old-fashioned grub with a cold, refreshing beer? Sitting catty-corner to Mesita Grande on the other side of the square, Baguales is all about non-fussy, filling bar food, from delicious burgers to wings to quesadillas. And definitely indulge in a draught or two of their beer: made in their own microbrewery at the back of the restaurant, their award-winning brews include a Pale Ale, Brown Porter, Imperial Stout, and experimental varieties like an herbal ale made with mate, a popular herbal drink in Patagonia.

 

Mesita Grande – It’s not a backpacker town without a good pizza joint, which trail-weary hikers returning to Puerto Natales will find in Mesita Grande. Located on the corner of the main square, this airy and warm pizzeria encourages its patrons to get to know their fellow diners by seating them at communal dining tables. Baked in a wood-fired oven, their giant and scrumptious pizzas range from classics like plain cheese to regional specialties like the Mesita Grande, topped with cuts of Patagonian lamb, or the Pacifica, topped with smoked salmon. Wash it all down with Calafate sours, local craft beers, or Chilean wine.

 

Last Hope Distillery – Looking for a late night drink? Head to this hip bar and tasting room where, since 2017, owners Kiera Shiels and Matt Oberg have been making authentic Patagonian gin and whiskey using regional ingredients taken from the surrounding countryside. Named after Last Hope Sound, Last Hope Distillery is also the southernmost distillery in the world. Their whiskey is still aging but their two gins are ready to go: a standard London Dry and a Calafate Gin, flavored with Calafate berries. Floral and smooth, they go great on their own or mixed, and the bartenders serve what have to be some of the most creative cocktails at the bottom of the world. They also offer gin and whiskey from around the world, and can even do flights.

 

Aldea – The companion restaurant to the popular Amerindia Hostel across the street, Aldea is all about introducing visitors to Patagonia’s rich flavors, prepared in authentic ways and elegantly plated. While they have excellent veggie options, where they really shine are their meat dishes, like leg of hare or Patagonian lamb. They also have arguably the best-curated wine menu in Puerto Natales, so splurge for an accompanying bottle.

The Singular Restaurant and El Asador – From the waterside promenade, you’ve likely seen a large cluster of redbrick buildings on the far side of the water. That’s The Singular Patagonia, one of Patagonia’s most luxurious hotels. But even if you’re not staying there, pay a visit to a) be amazed by the architecture of the hotel, which is comprised of a repurposed former cold storage plant, and b) to reserve a meal at their signature restaurant, where Patagonian classics get reimagined with European flair.

Everyone who eats here leaves raving, so treat yourself. Or, if you’re a voracious carnivore and want even more asado meat, try their speciality grill, El Asador, where prime cuts of local meat are flame-grilled to perfection alongside other Chilean classics like empanadas. Everything gets washed down with red wine or fantastic cocktails.

 

 

El Calafate, Argentina

La Tablita – The oldest and arguably greatest of El Calafate’s parrilla steak houses, a meal here is sure to satisfy any red-blooded red meat lovers. From classic cuts to sweetbreads to the quintessential Patagonian lamb, it’s a meaty bonanza, chased with giant glasses of some of Argentina’s best red wines.

Mi Rancho – This charming, family-run restaurant that specializes in feel-good meals like huge servings of locally-caught trout, hearty pastas, and rich risottos is so popular that it’s strongly recommended you get a reservation in advance. The cozy dining room of exposed brick and warm wood and the always efficient and friendly waiters make dining here the perfect end to a long day of hiking in nearby Los Glaciares.

 

GlacioBar – You came to Patagonia to see glaciers, but betcha didn’t think you’d end up drinking inside one! Ok, not really, but in this ice bar, all the walls and ice features are made from glacial ice, so technically, you’re inside a glacier! Housed underneath Glaciarium, an interactive center where guests can learn more about the history and science of Argentine Patagonia’s many glaciers, here you can bundle up and enjoy cocktails and drinks served in glasses carved from ice.

 

La Lechuza – For post-hike pizzas and local treats, there’s no place better than La Lechuza. Serving huge pizzas heaped high with toppings, the place is always busy, making it a great place to gab with locals or fellow travelers. They’re also well known for their empanadas, served either fried or oven-baked style. Pair it with a local craft beer and you’re good to go!

 

Pura Vida – Locals and visitors alike both swear by this quaint eatery. Making everything from empanadas to stews, they’re especially famous for their incredibly tasty and filling chicken pot pies and their lamb stew. For vegetarians struggling to find a good meal in a meat-centric country, they also have an extensive and equally delicious vegetarian menu.

Chopen Brewery – This brewpub and microbrewery is a great place to go with all your new friends you’ve made on the trails, as their stand-out dishes are shareable platters; their most popular one is a mix of local smoked meat and various cheeses. Samples of their various beers are offered upon arrival, which include an IPA, Scotch Ale, Pilsen, and Porter. All are good and thirst-quenching after a long hike.

 

 

El Chalten, Argentina

 

Techado Negro – This quirky, ramshackle diner, covered with corrugated iron on the outside and with brightly painted walls on the inside, may not look like one of El Chalten’s best restaurants at first glance, but looks are deceiving. Their menu is composed of Argentine and South American classics like stews, steak, and empanadas, and their wine menu is nicely selected to pair well with the dishes. Come for the food, but definitely stay for the fun, convivial atmosphere.

El Chalten Brewery – Bring on the beer! El Chalten is a small town but of course they have their own local craft brewery. Popular opinion says to try the Pilsen. To pair with their tasty homebrews, the menu consists of yummy pub grub like sandwiches, pizzas, and stews. They also have a lovely beer garden for those rare, sunny days when you can sit outside with a cold beer and soak up the sunshine and the views of Mount Fitz Roy, which looms over the town.

 

La Tapera – Housed in a rustic log cabin that on cold days is heated by a central wood-burning fireplace, this local favorite is all about the comfort food. Giant bowls of hearty stew are the menu highlights, as well as huge empanadas, steaks, and other feel-good foods. Meals are also accompanied by fresh, homebaked bread that will make you never want to eat store-bought again.

Maffia – Pasta, pasta, and more pasta. That’s what you’ll find at this Argentine-style trattoria, which serves fresh, homemade pasta dishes like sorrentino raviolis stuffed with rich, delectable fillings like trout, meat, or sauteed veggies and covered with your choice of sauce. And, as it’s an Italian-Argentine restaurant, plenty of red wine goes with the meal!

Discovering The Route of Parks of Patagonia

With its snow-capped peaks, crawling glaciers, and sweeping pampas grasslands, Patagonia is arguably the top adventure travel destination in the world right now. Visitors are drawn to popular national parks like Chile’s Torres del Paine and Argentina’s Los Glaciares to come face-to-face with some of Mother Nature’s finest handiwork, and, like so many before them, fall into the spell of this timeless region at the bottom of the world. In addition to amazing landscapes, there’s also the chance for encounters with native wildlife like pumas and guanacos, as well as opportunities to discover cultural legacies like the estancia sheep farms that gave birth to South America’s version of the cowboy, the gaucho or baqueano. 

© Rodolfo Soto

 

But not only is Patagonia a global leader in adventure travel; it’s also a leader in sustainable, conservation-minded tourism. This growing reputation is largely thanks to a recently-launched initiative that was decades in the making: the Route of Parks of Patagonia. 

 

What is the Route of Parks of Patagonia?

As the name suggests, the Route of Parks of Patagonia — or, in Spanish, La Ruta de los Parques de la  Patagonia — is a literal route or network that connects 17 national parks in Chilean Patagonia, stretching 1,700 miles and protecting some 28 million acres of land. The route starts in northern Patagonia on the edge of the Lakes District and extends down through the Aysén and Magallanes regions, finishing in Tierra del Fuego. Along the way, it offers access to a wealth of landscapes from temperate rainforests and coastline to mountains and grasslands. Visitors can drive, hike, cycle, and boat within the individual parks, as well as follow roads and ferry routes along the entire route to discover some of Patagonia’s most precious natural and cultural gems. 

© Chris Morrison

 

Launched in late 2018, the mission of this new route is not only to protect these pristine wildernesses for current and future generations, but also to involve local communities in their preservation and maintenance. The project aims to create jobs and promote regional economies centered around conservation and sustainable tourism instead of ecologically-destructive ranching, mining, or logging industries.

The route encompasses preexisting national parks like Torres del Paine, Queulat, and Cerro Castillo. However, it was the creation of a handful of new national parks that made the launch of this epic network hit major headlines around the world. This was possible thanks to the Chilean government being gifted an unprecedented million acres of private land for the specific purpose of creating new protected lands and rewilding environments that were previously used for commercial interests. And that historic land gift came from two people: Doug and Kris Tompkins.

 

Creating the Route of Parks

The origins of the Route of Parks starts way back in the early 1990s, when Esprit and The North Face founder Doug Tompkins first purchased land in southern Chile. He saw the potential for conservation and returning these ecologically-ravaged landscapes to their original splendor. After meeting and marrying his second wife Kris Tompkins, the former CEO of Patagonia, Inc., the duo made conservation their number one priority, founding Tompkins Conservation and working toward preserving the wild spaces of Chilean Patagonia. 

© Tompkins Conservation

 

Over the decades, they bought up millions of acres of land throughout southern Chile, facing significant criticism and pushback from locals who were suspicious and wary of outsiders buying up huge tracts of real estate, viewing them as land-stealers undermining the livelihoods and natural patrimony of local communities. But their hard work, patience, and perseverance paid off, as gradually their true intentions — to support and aid towns and communities located near the parks by offering sustainable jobs and economic opportunities connected to the parks, as well as natural conservation — became apparent as they worked on a deal with the Chilean government to donate the land and establish the Route of Parks. 

Although the Tompkins have done conservation and rewilding work in many parks and protected areas, the heart of their efforts can be found in Patagonia National Park, located in the Aysén region. After first visiting the area’s Chacabuco Valley in 1995, the Tompkins acquired this former ranching land in 2004 and set about the massive task of taking down guanaco fences, selling the livestock, eliminating non-native species, and restoring native flora and fauna to the area. The herculean effort paid off in this splendid national park, which is bound to become one of the most popular on the Route thanks to its southern beech forests, bright turquoise lakes and rivers, spectacular peaks, and grasslands populated by guanacos and pumas. Here, visitors see the Tompkins’ vision in full realization, as not only has the landscape been restored, but local communities are involved in park operations, and tourism infrastructure has been created, including trails, camping areas, bathrooms, a museum, and a grand park lodge. 

© Vale Neupert

 

The million-acre land gift was finally made official in April 2019, marking the biggest donation of private land into public hands in history. The donation and the Chilean government’s contribution of nearly 9 million acres for new national parks and protected areas meant that a total ten million acres was added to Chile’s protected lands. Five brand-new national parks were established — Patagonia, Pumalín Douglas Tompkins, Melimoyu, Cerro Castillo, and Kawésqar — and the borders of three pre-existing parks were expanded: Corcovado, Hornopirén, and Isla Magdalena.

Sadly, Douglas never lived to see his vision fully come to fruition, as he sadly passed away in December 2015 from hypothermia due to a kayaking incident. Kris continues her conservation work with Patagonia National Park and the other parks on the Route, as well as Iberá National Park in neighboring Argentina.  Most recently in 2023, she has been working with the Chilean government to create the Cape Froward National Park at the southern tip of Chile. 

© Justin Hofman

The return of the pumas

In addition to the restoration of landscapes and the long-term preservation of untouched wild areas, one of the major components of the Tompkins’ rewilding vision is having native species like guanacos, huemul deer, and Darwin’s rheas once again return to these lands. But their greatest success — and biggest obstacle — lies with pumas.

As their native prey like guanacos and huemul deer return to their natural habitats, pumas will follow. But for many ranchers, farmers, and locals throughout Patagonia, pumas are viewed as pests that kill livestock and create problems. The deeply-ingrained cultural dislike of pumas throughout the region has created an unfortunate opinion that they should be eliminated through hunting. Although hunting pumas was outlawed in 1980, the sentiment remains. So, in attempting to allow pumas to return to their former hunting grounds in these new parks, the Tompkins had to fight a secondary battle: that of working with locals to change their minds about pumas, as well as showing how conservation can be an economic benefit through sustainable tourism. 

© Rodolfo Soto

 

Although it’s a long, slow process to undo generations of dislike or even outright hatred against these creatures, there are signs of success. “Leoneros” or hunters that were formerly tasked by ranchers with hunting down and killing pumas in order to protect livestock now help Tompkins Conservation and CONAF, Chile’s national parks branch management branch, with tracking, tagging, and monitoring the species, allowing cultural traditions and livelihoods to live on but with a conservation-minded endgame. 

The growing trend of “puma-spotting tourism” also shows that there should be a vested interest in the continued preservation of the species for biodiversity, environmental, and economic reasons. Especially in Torres del Paine National Park, where there are an estimated 50 to 200 pumas, puma-tracking tours are wildly popular among visitors. After fires in certain sectors of the park pushed the guanaco population into the grasslands near many of the main roads and tourism infrastructure in the park, the pumas have followed, making it easy to see pumas while driving around. But for the best sightings, many visitors pay top dollar for tracking tours. Experienced local trackers use their skills to find pumas and  allow visitors to catch unprecedented glimpses of pumas engaging in natural activities like caring for their young or hunting. With tours enabling visitors to observe pumas in their natural habitat without disturbing them, wildlife tourism has become more and more popular, especially as photographers and filmmakers take advantage of this access to capture once-in-a-lifetime footage of these big cats. 

 

Getting up-close with Patagonia and its pumas in your own home

Although you have good odds of seeing a puma during a visit to Torres del Paine or elsewhere along the Route, one of the best ways to learn more about these astonishing creatures and their key place in the Patagonian ecosystem is by watching the work of renowned Chilean naturalist and wildlife filmmaker Rene Araneda, who has worked with Tompkins Conservation in the past, bringing the wonders of Chilean Patagonia’s wildlife to TV screens around the country and world. 

© Smithsonian Channel

 

Capturing the wild landscapes and native flora and fauna of Patagonia for TV shows like Animal Planet’s Wild Expectations and CHV’s Wild Chile, Araneda has also devoted much of his career to documenting the pumas of Patagonia, including with the recent documentary Into The Puma Triangle. Working with American wildlife filmmaker, Casey Anderson, the team of this Smithsonian Channel wildlife documentary was able to capture never-before-seen behaviors from pumas in Torres del Paine, most incredibly observing pumas — who are normally solitary creatures — living as a pack or “pride” similar to those lived in by lions. 

 

Offering intimate glimpses into the lives of these elusive cats, filmmakers like Araneda help educate the public about them, combating prejudice and misinformation and showing how humans and nature can live side by side harmoniously together. 

© Vale Neupert

 

How to plan your Route of Parks adventure

If you feel like the Route of Parks is calling your name, now’s the time to learn more and start planning your trip! To learn more about the parks, you can visit the official Route of Parks website here. And if you need help planning a trip, check out our Route of Parks itineraries – Classic and Patagonia –  that will take you to many of the highlights along the Route, including Aysén, Patagonia National Park and Torres del Paine. Hit the links below for more information and, if you have any questions, you can reach out to one of our expert trip planners.

Mike Wardynski – Patagonia Photography Workshop Expedition Leader

My name is Mike Wardynski, AKA Nature Mike.

I’m a landscape and travel photographer based out of Oakland California. At the forefront of landscape photography, I specialize in photography workshops, luxury fine art prints, and licensing. My work has been featured in Design Milk and Focus on the Story amongst many other avenues. Leading 25 – 30 photography workshops per year, I keep a busy schedule.

I grew up in Michigan and after graduating with a broadcasting degree and realizing I was a much better photographer than a musician, I packed up my van and headed to a little park known as Yosemite. There I would spend three and a half years working in the wilderness department for The Yosemite Conservancy. It was during those years that I deliberately made the decision to dive headfirst into the photographic rabbit hole for good. While working in the park, I spent much of my time lugging camera gear around the high country and hanging out with my friends at the Ansel Adams Gallery.

I currently reside in the SF Bay Area where I work as a photography instructor. My travels have given me the opportunity to photograph the Kiluaea eruption from air, as well as document dolphins in the Pacific Ocean. I’ve witnessed unbelievable light unfold before me and in an instant disappear. Those are the moments that I live for. I love sharing my passion for photography and nature with others and I’m grateful for the path that has to lead me here.

Feel free to reach out at any time if you would like to discuss a workshop, prints, or licensing.

ARTIST STATEMENT

Nature is at the heart of my work. Not only because it is often my subject, but because it is where I find inspiration. Human beings are spiritually connected to the planet as a whole. Interconnectivity is where the spirit thrives. Through photography, I remind the viewer of their connection to the earth. We do not own the planet; we are part of it. It is our responsibility to protect as well as enjoy our environment because it is an extension of ourselves. One cannot harm the environment without harming themselves, just as one cannot heal the environment without healing themselves. Imagery is a powerful tool; I use it to start the conversation of conservation. How will you help heal our home?

Why it’s a good idea to plan your vacation to Chile now

Once it’s safe to travel again, we know that you’ll want to get back out there traveling and exploring as soon as possible to make up for time lost; we want to do the same thing too! But the travel landscape is bound to be a bit different after the pandemic, making it more important than ever to plan ahead in order to protect your health, safety, and money.

Here’s how planning a trip a year or so in advance will benefit you:

Photo: Ecocamp

Increased availability 

Booking farther in advance will give you more options for activities and accommodations. Furthermore, many 2020 travel bookings that had to be canceled because of COVID-19 were pushed into 2021, meaning that there might not be as much availability as you’d expect during certain seasons and at popular destinations. Plan and book well in advance to guarantee finding the best hotels, excursions, and transport available. 

Photo: Leona Amarga

Flexibility

In the wake of COVID-19, the travel industry has implemented extremely flexible booking, postponement, and cancellation policies to help protect clients and  operators like tour companies, hotels, and airlines. We at EcoChile have also outfitted our tours with the most flexible, accommodating policies possible, working with leading travel insurance companies, so that if something comes up and you need to cancel or change anything, we’ve got your back. 

Photo: Patagonia Camp

Good Opportunities 

Like many in the travel industry, we’ll be offering special promos and early-bird specials to entice future travelers. So take advantage of those deals while they’re available: you’ll be saving money yourself and helping support an industry that has been hit hard by the pandemic. And when you book late, there will likely not be special rates, so book well in advance!

Photo: Patagonia Camp

Not only are all these logistic reasons important, but it can also be fun to have something to look forward to. Instead of rushing to plan and organize a trip a few months in advance, you’ll be able to relax and look forward to your perfectly organized trip!

 

10 things I wish I knew before visiting Patagonia

You’ve heard about Patagonia. It’s that place at the bottom of South America with all those amazing mountains and glaciers. You can see intriguing wildlife like guanacos, pumas, and Andean condors. It has some pretty great treks that aren’t too difficult and therefore are really popular. Sounds like a good place to go for your next vacation!

Yes, absolutely: Patagonia is a place that everyone should experience at least once. But before hopping on that plane, there are a few things you should know about visiting Patagonia that will help you get the most of your trip. Here are nine things I wish I knew before visiting Patagonia, so you can plan ahead and be prepared to make your Patagonian vacation the best it can be!

Patagonia is actually two countries

Yes, Patagonia is a region, but it spans the southern end of two countries: Chile and Argentina. This means that, if you’re starting your Patagonian trip in Torres del Paine and then heading to Los Glaciares, you’ll be passing from Chile to Argentina and, as such, will need the proper travel documents like a valid passport. Thanks to a special reciprocity agreement between Chile and the US, there is no fee for a tourist visa to Chile for US travelers. A tourist visa for Argentina costs $160 USD but is valid for multiple entries for the next ten years. Both countries allow visitors to stay for 90 days, and there are methods for extending the visa if necessary or desired. For other countries, you’ll need to check and confirm any exact visa requirements. This also means you’ll be checked at the border by customs officials; in general, border control in Chile and Argentina is pretty lenient, but both are highly protective of their biodiversity, so flowering plants and anything with seeds are not permitted.

Summer isn’t necessarily the best time to go

Yes, summer is generally considered the best time to visit due to the lengthy days, fair weather, and reduced wind. But even in summer, good weather isn’t guaranteed, so don’t base all your trip plans around the expectation that the weather will cooperate. Plus, with summer being the peak travel season, that means that many of Patagonia’s most popular destinations, like Torres del Paine or the Perito Moreno Glacier, can become overcrowded. So if you’re looking for the more quintessential Patagonia experience of escaping into the wilderness with no one else around, spring or fall would be your best bet. There are fewer people around, popular treks and viewpoints are less crowded, fares are reduced, and you can see seasonal colors like fall foliage. And the weather is still fairly good during spring or fall, so why not give traveling in shoulder season a try?

Pack for all four seasons

Even if you’re visiting during summer, pack like you’re going to be hit by a snowstorm, a rainstorm, a heat wave, wind, hail, and gentle sunshine all on the same day. Because it’s entirely possible you will be! Patagonia’s weather is famously unpredictable: even if the forecast calls for sunshine, the mountains and massifs of this region command their own weather patterns. It can be sunny down on the pampas, but rainy and stormy in the mountains. So always be prepared and pack for all seasons, no matter what the forecast says! And if you’re unsure, ask your guide: as locals who have worked in the region for years, they’re well-versed in the local weather and can likely give you a better idea of what to expect on tomorrow’s hike than Weather.com.

The wind is truly formidable

Sitting at the tail end of South America, Patagonia is subject to brutal wind and weather formed in the middle of the Pacific and intensified passing over Antarctica and the Drake Passage. With nothing in their way, these winds — known as “westerlies” — hit the continent at speeds of a hundred miles an hour (although that’s extremely rare) and can knock grown men off their feet. In some cities, during the windy season, ropes are strung between buildings so people have something to grab onto and won’t get blown into traffic. It also makes flights quite an adventure! So watch yourself when out hiking (using trekking poles will help you be able to sturdy yourself), and be sure to pack sturdy weather gear like jackets and especially hair-ties, or you’ll be dealing with tangled hair at the end of the day and all your photos will feature “Patagonia hair”!

The right kind of boots can make all the difference

You came to Patagonia to see the sites, and to get to them, you’ll need to hit the trails. As a trekking Mecca, you’ll likely spend many days hiking and walking, and as Patagonian terroir ranges from rocky moraines to dirt paths, investing in a good pair of sturdy hiking boots is the difference between enjoying the hikes and ending the day with bleeding, blistered feet. If you don’t already have a trusty pair of hiking boots, buy some well in advance and BREAK THEM IN BEFORE THE TRIP.

It’s not a food desert

We know that you likely didn’t choose Patagonia for your vacation because of its culinary prestige, but you’d be surprised! The main tourist towns of Puerto Natales, El Chalten, and El Calafate actually have happening food scenes, ranging from cozy restaurants serving traditional Patagonian dishes like asados and king crab casserole (known as chupe de centolla) to trendy eateries getting more experimental. At the region’s top hotels, there are even restaurants serving the kind of high-end fare you’d find in some of the world’s best restaurants! You can reward yourself with locally-made craft beer at taprooms and gastropubs as well, and there’s even good, real coffee available! After all that hiking, you’re likely to have worked up an appetite, so don’t just resign yourself to a pack of ramen or a pizza (although there are crazy good pizzerias); walk around town and help yourself to the tastes of Patagonia!

 

Stick to the trails and obey park rules

You’d be surprised how often this needs to be said, but people visiting Patagonia’s beautiful national parks frequently disobey park rules by littering, hiking off-trail, camping in undesignated sites, making campfires when they’re not allowed, and more. The rules exist for a reason: to protect these landscapes so that not only you but others can enjoy them, now and for future generations. Sticking to the trail is actually incredibly important because hiking off-trail can harm local flora. So it’s essential to listen to park rangers and follow the rules: stick to the trails, pick up after yourself, and only set up camp where it’s allowed. And it’s not just empty threats: past fires in Torres del Paine have gotten people banned from the park and even fined thousands of dollars.

Patagonia is HUGE

Even though it looks big on a map, you can’t really comprehend the distances until you’re here. Vast distances of pampas separate the massifs that have made this region famous, like Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares, so be prepared for some lengthy car rides or flights. But even that isn’t without its rewards: on car rides you can see local fauna like flamingos, guanacos, and Darwin’s Rheas, and on planes, you can look out the window and get a bird’s-eye view of those spectacular glaciers and peaks.

Getting in shape before the trip will help make it more enjoyable

Most of the day hikes and multi-day treks in Patagonia can be done by anyone in good health and with a normal level of fitness, but there are some — like the base of the Torres hike in Torres del Paine — that are a higher level of difficulty. Even when not hiking in the mountains on “Patagonian flatland”, that still requires a lot of hiking up and down hills and gulleys. So, if you’re not a big hiker, doing some easy to intermediate trails near your home can help your body get back into the rhythm of hiking so you don’t tire out too quickly on your Patagonia hikes and can actually enjoy the experience.

Unless it says otherwise, DO NOT GO SWIMMING

It’s possible that, on social media, you’ve seen envy-inducing pictures of people taking a dip in the lake at the base of the Torres or in other lakes in Patagonia’s national parks. This is a big no-no! These lakes are full of fresh water rich in sediments and minerals from the glaciers, and in order to keep them clean, swimming is strictly forbidden. So please, save the swimming for the pool back at your hotel, and if you see someone breaking the rules and swimming in the lakes, speak up or report them to park authorities.

8 Must-Do Activities in Santiago

Santiago is usually the point of entry to Chile, but many people quickly bypass the city on the path to exploring the more talked-about natural wonders in the south or north. However, Chile’s capital definitely has a unique charm and boasts exciting activities whether you’re looking for luxury, comfort, or affordability.

Here are some of our top picks for activities in Santiago:

Tour Santiago’s city center

If you only have a limited time in Santiago or want to become acquainted with the most famous landmarks all at once, we highly recommend starting in Plaza de Armas, Santiago’s central square, and taking a guided tour. From there, you can easily access the City Square, Palacio La Moneda (government house), the Supreme Court, and the Opera House. Plaza de Armas has a contagious bustling energy and the adjacent cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago) is visually mesmerizing – definitely worth a visit.

A 15-minute walk away, Barrio Lastarria, which is the place to be for upscale bars, restaurants, and trendy nightlife. If you’re lucky, you might also encounter street artists, food vendors, and various live musical performances. This makes for a great first day or half-day introduction to Santiago’s architectural highlights.

Discover hidden treasures at a museum

Santiago has a collection of amazing museums, many of which give free entry every day or at specific times of the month. In Plaza de Armas, you can take a peek into the Museum of National History, which walks you through the country’s history and heritage. In Quinta Normal, you can visit the National Museum of Natural History, with its impressive collection of animal habitat and dinosaur exhibits, and the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, which portrays in heart-rending exhibits human rights violations performed by the Chilean state between 1973 and 1990. Through testimonies, videos, letters, artwork, and photographs, you can learn more about the military coup, repression, resistance movement, and policy changes – a different side of Chile’s multifaceted past.

The Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art offers a fantastic array of historical art and artifacts from indigenous groups across South America, Central America, and Mexico. For true art fans, the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts has a small art collection enclosed in awe-striking architecture.

Hike San Cristobal

If you’re looking for exercise and picturesque scenery, Cerro San Cristobal provides great hiking and biking trails and beautiful views of the entire city. You can ascend the 860 m hill by gondola and, on the way down, visit a small 12-acre zoo, which is home to many exotic animal species.  From the top, you can check out the Statue of the Virgin Mary and a small church. Both the cable car and the funicular are a fun experience for people who don’t want to hike all the way up and down. During the summer months, you can enjoy a refreshing treat from vendors of ice cream and mote con huesillo, a sweet peach juice and husked wheat (mote)..

For a leisurely romantic stroll, the Santa Lucia Hill is an architecturally stunning park close to the city center with an array of monuments, fountains, and statues.

Sample Traditional Cuisine at La Vega Central

One of the traveler’s favorite locations in Santiago is La Vega Central because you can find literally anything, from sit-down meals and snacks (huge sacks of flavored cereal, nuts, candy, and chips), to the most affordable fruits and fresh produce in the city. Many tourists find the food in Chile higher in price by Latin-American standards, but here you can grab a delicious traditional lunch for $3-$5 USD, such as fried fish, pastel de choclo (corn pudding), prietas (sausage), cazuela (soup of corn, pumpkin, and meat), and porotos granados (stew of white beans, corn, and vegetables). The market does get crowded on weekends and at peak times, so off-hours are often more enjoyable for sampling Chilean specialties.

For the freshest seafood, Santiago’s Mercado Central opens early selling a variety of fish, which you can either take home to cook or savor at one of the nearby restaurants.

Picnic at Park Bicentenario

For a relaxing picnic, Park Bicentenario supplies lawn chairs and umbrellas until around 8 pm and first-rate people-watching. You can even stumble upon an open-air ballet performance in the evening during the weekend. Located in the upscale Vitacura neighborhood, the park is beautifully landscaped with palm trees, playgrounds for the children, and a charming lagoon.

Stroll through a crafts market

You can’t leave Santiago without taking home a few souvenirs. Santiago has a number of malls with recognizable brands, theaters, and grocery stores. In our opinion, the best arts and crafts – paintings, leatherwork, ceramics, woodcarving, and more – are available in Pueblito Los Dominicos and Centro Artesanal Santa Lucia.

6 Unmissable Spots to Visit on Easter Island

Visiting Easter Island is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences; a tiny speck of land located far out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a trip here is a chance to go back in time and immerse yourself in a wholly unique way of life. Known as Rapa Nui in the local indigenous language, the island has become internationally famous for its Moai: immense, human-esque rock statues that are dotted around the island. The mysteries surrounding their creation and how they were moved from place to place beguiled historians and archaeologists for years, and their size and stature mean that they have to be seen to be believed. With hiking and cycling trails, idyllic weather, sweeping oceanic vistas, endless fresh seafood, and a warm and welcoming local population who are eager to share their culture, it’s one of those destinations that has to go on your bucket list.

 

But even though all of Easter Island is worth exploring, there’s only so much time per trip and you want to make sure you hit all the highlights, the best that Rapa Nui has to offer. From the tips of volcanoes to pristine beaches to sacred sites, these are the 6 unmissable spots to visit on Easter Island!

 

Rano Raraku

An extinct volcanic crater attached to Ma′unga Terevaka, the largest of Easter Island’s three dormant volcanoes, Rano Raraku is one of the most historically and archaeologically important sites on the entire island for one big reason: it was a Moai factory.

 

On the slopes of Rano Raraku, Rapa Nui islanders found a massive quarry of tuff (a type of rock made from volcanic ash). Comparatively soft and easier to carve than most other rocks, tuff was ideal for crafting Moai, so 95% of the island’s famous statues came from the Rano Raraku quarry.

 

Used by islanders as a source of tuff for over 500 years until the early eighteenth century, at the quarry you can see for yourself the design evolution of the Moai statues. Various incomplete Moai dot the site, as well as the surrounding hillsides. Some of the most striking differences between these Moai and the ones at sites like Ahu Tongariki include their lack of pukao tophats or the fact that several are buried up to their shoulders instead of showing the whole body. In fact, it’s actually these hillside Moai statues that are some of the most famous examples of Moai on the island: since they are buried up to the neck, it is from them that the world got the term “Easter Island Heads”, as this was before excavation revealed their subterranean bodies. With 400 Moai in and around the quarry (including one attached to the quarry wall that’s 71 feet long and weighing an estimated 200 tonnes), the discovery of Rano Raraku was key to helping the world understand how the design and creation of the Moai were carried out over time.

 

There are various paths running around the site that take visitors past the quarry and the “Easter Island Heads” on the hillside. You can also climb up to the rim of the crater, which now holds a freshwater lake; it’s worth the climb for the panoramic view of the island and ocean.

Ahu Tongariki

A short walk from Rano Raraku, you’ll find one of the most instantly recognizable sites of the island: the row of 15 Moai statues standing side by side with the ocean in the backdrop.

 

Placed on top of an ahu (a large stone platform), Ahu Tongariki is the largest ahu on Easter Island. In the past, it was the capital of Hotu Iti, an area spanning the eastern portion of the island that was governed by a clan of the same name. During the island civil wars in the late 1770s and early 1800s, the Moai were toppled off the platform (many others around the island met a similar fate). Then in 1960, an earthquake off the coast of Chile (a 9.5, the strongest ever recorded) caused a tsunami that swept the ahu and its Moai inland. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the ahu was restored to its original place and grandeur, following a five-year retrieval and renovation project.

 

A wonder to behold any day of the year, Ahu Tongariki is especially amazing to see during the Summer Solstice, when all the Moai face the setting sun head-on. The site is also popular for watching the sunrise over the ocean with the ahu in the foreground.

Rano Kau & Orongo 

On the southwestern headland of Easter Island can be found one of the island’s most striking geographic features: the enormous crater of the Rano Kau volcano.

 

Rising 1,063 feet up from sea level, Rano Kau is an extinct volcanic crater (like all the other volcanoes on Easter Island), making its immense, circular crater a must-visit for views of the island, ocean, and the freshwater lake in the base of the crater. A single trail leads to the rim (a tiring but relatively easy hike), where you can take in the crater’s conical walls, the lake and surrounding vegetation, and the ocean beyond. The crater – which is more than a mile across –  is especially interesting because, thanks to the tall walls that shelter the base from winds, the crater has formed its own micro-climate; vines and figs grow especially well here. From the far end of the crater, you can also see where the outer walls of the volcano plunge down as steep sea cliffs into the Pacific Ocean.

 

Here, you’ll also find Orongo, a stone village that used to be an important ceremonial center. Made up of 53 circular stone houses, which were built low to the ground and without windows, Orongo was the site of one of the most spectacular and dangerous feats in Rapa Nui culture. Every year, a competition was held to bring back the first “manu tara” (sooty tern) egg of the season. The terns nested on a small island just off the coast called Motu Nui; to reach the island, contestants had to climb down the sheer volcanic sea cliffs, swim to the island, grab an egg, and then repeat the journey back up the volcano. Incredibly dangerous, many participants were killed during the race, either by falling from the cliffs, being eaten by sharks, or drowning. The man who finally emerged as the victor was dubbed the “Tangata manu” (Birdman).

 

Now a World Heritage Site inside Rapa Nui National Park, you can visit Orongo and see for yourself just how treacherous the race was.

Ana Te Pahu & Ahu Akivi 

Easter Island was created more than 750,000 years ago by volcanic explosions. During its formation, flowing lava created subterranean channels all over the island, which hardened into rock and formed cavities in the earth. Ana Te Pahu (meaning “the cave of the drum”) is the largest of these volcanic caves.

 

Located near the base of Ma′unga Terevaka, in the past, the cave was likely used as a place of shelter, since the cave entrance is easy to access. A nearby chamber of the cave holds a water reservoir and archeologists have found evidence of ancient cooking stoves. The entrance to the cave was also surrounded by banana trees, earning Ana Te Pahu its second name “the cave of bananas”.

 

Visitors can explore the cave on their own, as there are rudimentary paths, but it’s recommended that they bring sturdy walking shoes and a flashlight.

 

Near the cave, you’ll also find one of the island’s Ahus, Ahu Akivi. Although not as well-known as Ahu Tongariki, it’s one of Rapa Nui’s most sacred sites. Erected sometime in the 16th century, the seven Moai on the ahu were believed to be the reincarnations of important leaders or kings on Easter Island, and so were built and placed facing the Pacific Ocean (instead of inland, like other ahus) as auspicious symbols of protection and luck for the clans of each Moai leader. The site was also used for astronomical observations, serving as points for precision measurement by lining up with the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes (the only Ahu on the island to do so).

Anakena Beach 

Visitors to Easter Island primarily go to discover the island’s unique history and culture. But don’t forget that Easter Island is still a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with lovely weather, tranquil ocean views, and sandy beaches that are perfect for days of rest and relaxation. Anakena is the island’s main beach: a protected cove of white coral beaches, turquoise water, and waving palm trees. Idyllic and isolated, it’s the perfect spot to spend a day enjoying the sun and surf after days of cultural immersion. The water stays warm enough for swimming all year round, and there are nearby restaurants, picnic areas, and facilities for day trippers from Hanga Roa (the main town on the island).

 

But Anakena is more than a pretty beach: it’s actually the cradle of Rapa Nui’s culture and civilization. The first king of the island, Ariki Hotu Matu’a, landed here with his tribe and established the first colony on Easter Island, and later, the beach and surrounding lands were the home of the royal Miru tribe and an important cultural center. All this is known from the many archaeological artifacts found around the beach and nearby hills, as well as two ahu.

Ahu Te Pito Kura & Paro Moai 

Ahu Te Pito Kura forms part of a historic complex of buildings, strategically and symbolically located at the center of the site. The ahu has only one Moai, Paro, which was pulled down and destroyed at some point in the past (it’s believed it happened in the mid-1800s). But Paro is more important because it was the largest Moai ever made and transported on Easter Island.

 

Made in the Rano Raraku quarry more than 8 kilometers away, moving this behemoth statue – which weighs more than 80 tons and is 32 feet long – must have been an incredibly difficult and strenuous feat. Today, Paro lies face down where he first fell, with his pukao hat a short distance in front of him.

 

But the site holds other treasures, like the Magentic Stone. Legend says that this large and spherical stone was brought to Easter Island by its first king Hotu Matu’a and that it possesses special energy called “mana”, which acts as a sort of magnet. This can be explained by the presence of large quantities of iron content in the stone, causing it to heat up quickly and affect nearby compasses. In the past visitors were able to place their hands on it to try and feel the energy within, but after some inappropriate behavior, it’s no longer allowed. The stone is what gives the site its name: “The Navel of the World”.

 

The top things to do in the Atacama

Covering tens of thousands of miles, the Atacama, the world’s driest desert, is full of opportunities for adventure and discovery. But, with such a vast expanse of space, there are far too many things to do than you can fit into a single trip. So what are the best activities that will provide you with the ultimate Atacama experience? These are our picks for the top things to do in the Atacama!

Visit the El Tatio Geysers

Sitting over 14,000 feet high, the El Tatio Geyser field, which is comprised of eighty active geysers, is one of the highest geyser fields in the world, as well as the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and the third-largest globally. Nestled at the base of stratovolcanoes which are the source of geothermal activity, Tatio is one of the most popular sites in the Atacama. The best time to visit is in the early morning when the cold air enhances the steam rising from the geysers, resulting in dramatic plumes that cover the area in mist. And always obey the rules and stay on the path: the temperature of the water and steam reaches dangerous levels and can cause bodily harm, so never leave the marked trails. Otherwise, feel free to wander and marvel at these feats of nature!

 

Go stargazing

Thanks to a winning combination of extreme altitude, very little rain, and no large cities (which means there is virtually zero light pollution or radio interference), the night skies of the Atacama are some of the clearest on Earth. Many top observatories are based in the Atacama (like ALMA), using some of the most advanced telescopes on the planet to produce cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs in the field of astronomy. But you don’t need to be a scientist to appreciate the night sky here: just walk outside or drive a short distance from San Pedro and you can see the Milky Way and other celestial bodies with the naked eye. There are plenty of stargazing tours available around the Atacama, where, with the aid of professional or amateur astronomers and high-quality telescopes, you can find constellations, look for planets and moons, and much more.

Swim in a salty lagoon

Dotted throughout the salt flats that surround San Pedro are lagoons of refreshingly cool water, making them great spots to beat the heat during those high desert summers. But thanks to the location, the water in these lagoons have incredibly high levels of salt, making floating in them feel like you’re completely weightless. There are several such lagoons you can visit, like Laguna Baltinache, but Laguna Cejar is the most popular. The bright blue waters of the lagoon stand out against the stark white of the salt flats, making it both a relaxing and picturesque spot.

Watch the sunset in Valle de la Luna

Just outside San Pedro is one of the most out-of-this-world (literally) places to visit: Valle de la Luna. Meaning “Valley of the Moon”, the strange rock formations and salt-encrusted ground make the landscapes look like something you’d see on the moon. There are various driving and hiking trails around the area, all of which lead to incredible viewpoints and can be enjoyed throughout the day, but the best time to visit is at sunset, when the combination of light, shadow, and color has to be seen to be believed.

Look for native wildlife

Although the barren desert-scapes may look utterly inhospitable to life, the Atacama is full of unique wildlife that has adapted to the harsh environment. You’re bound to see vicuña (smaller, undomesticated relatives of llamas and alpacas) all over the place, as well as domesticated llamas. The Andean fox is a common sight, and when passing by heaps of rocks, you’re likely to spot vizcachas (rodents that are similar to chinchillas) sunning themselves. The birdlife in the Atacama is also extremely diverse, but one species of bird you’re guaranteed to see at the Chaxa Lagoon (roughly an hour outside of San Pedro) are bright-pink flamingos, which gather in huge flocks to feed. And if you’re really lucky and know where to look, you may even see pumas stalking herds of vicuña.

Walk around the historic town of San Pedro 

This small town of adobe buildings and dusty streets is the center of Atacama tourism, so while you’ll be spending most days heading out into the surrounding desert for adventures, it’s worth taking a day to roam San Pedro’s streets. You’ll find plenty of artisan shops, restaurants, bars, historic architecture, and museums to visit. San Pedro has a very laid-back, chill vibe, so exploring its meandering avenues, enjoying local food, and buying souvenirs is a great way to unwind after long days of exploring.

Go back in time at Pukara de Quitor

Terraced across a hillside overlooking a verdant river valley, this Pre-Columbian fort, built by the Inca in the 12th century, was used as a defensive fortress against invaders. Comprised of rooms, corridors, and lookouts made from rock and mud walls, the site is incredibly well-preserved and you can walk around it to enjoy the vistas of Licancabur Volcano on the horizon and think about the battles that were once fought here.

Mountain bike at Quebrada del Diablo

The rugged canyons and valleys of the Atacama are perfect for outdoor sports enthusiasts, especially mountain bikers. The Quebrada del Diablo (“Devil’s Throat”) dried-up riverbed is an excellent spot for it, with the trail surrounded by rock walls of bright red.

 

Go for a sunrise hot air balloon ride

If you thought the dramatic landscapes of the Atacama were beautiful on the ground, just imagine how they look from a bird’s eye view! At dawn, when the rising sun colors the desert in red and gold, it’s a truly awe-inspiring sight. You can book sunrise hot air balloon tours near San Pedro, which include transport to the launch site and a multilingual guide. While the balloon ride is a bit pricey, it’s well worth the cost for the unforgettable views from the balloon’s basket, passing over serene desert landscapes and with mountains and Licancabur Volcano in the distance.

 

6 Must-Visit Places in Patagonia

In a region as vast and rich in natural wonder as Patagonia, it can be hard to know what sites to prioritize for your visit. Everything is beautiful in its own way, from the mountains to the glaciers to the plains, so how do you choose? What are the can’t-miss places? Well, if you want to see and experience the best of what Patagonia has to offer, these are our six must-see places in Patagonia!

Base of the Torres

One of the most popular and well-known hikes and viewpoints in Torres del Paine National Park, the Torres are the three granite spires for which the park is named. Rising up from the middle of the Paine Massif, with a vividly-electric turquoise lake at their base, reaching this iconic view requires a full day hike. You start from near the Las Torres Hotel and then climb up and into the mountains via the “Paso del Viento” or Pass of the Winds. After hiking through a forest on the Ascencio valley floor, the final push comes when you climb up a rocky glacial moraine. But at the top is one of the most spectacular views anywhere in Patagonia: three pillars of rock, shaped by wind and ice, standing stark against the sky, with the lake below. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the view before climbing back down.

 

Grey Glacier

Another of the most popular attractions in Torres del Paine National Park is the Grey Glacier. Located on the western end of the Paine Massif, the front wall of the glacier towers over a hundred feet high, and frequent calvings litter Grey Lake with fantastically shaped icebergs in unbelievable hues of blue and white. The Grey Glacier flows out from the Southern Patagonia Icefield and, upon reaching its terminus in Grey Lake, is split by a small island in the middle of the lake. Boats and catamaran tours are able to get up close to the front wall, but you can also kayak on the lake at a safe distance from any icebergs or waves caused by calvings. You can even go on ice-hikes on the glacier itself! An amazing feat of time and nature, the size and might of Grey Glacier has to be seen to be believed.

 

Paine Massif

The Paine Massif (also known as the Paine Cordillera) is the mountain group that makes up the centerpiece of Torres del Paine National Park. Made of granite and other rocks that have been molded by the movements of glaciers and Patagonia’s intense weather for centuries. What’s left are impressively-shaped mountains like the Torres or the Cuernos (The Horns), two mountain peaks of light and dark rock that stand prominently at the front of the massif and are one of the park’s most recognizable landmarks. In the interior of the massif, the French Valley also features astonishing rock formations like the Sword and the Shark Fin. At all points along the W Trek and while driving around the park, you can admire the massif’s many different mountains and rock forms from all angles, each more impressive than the last. An especially good viewpoint is the Mirador Cuernos, located near the Pehoe Lake catamaran launch, and which looks upon the Cuernos and the front of the massif.

 

Mount Fitz Roy

The crown jewel of Argentine Patagonia’s Los Glaciares National Park, you’ll likely recognize Mount Fitz Roy – it’s the mountain on the Patagonia Clothing logo! Rising to a prominence of more than 6,000 feet, this cathedral of rock and snow can be admired on several different treks around the park, including the Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre Circuit (which reaches an elevated viewpoint of the two mountains and the glacial lakes at their base), and the Mount Fitz Roy Trek, which leads to the shores of the aquamarine Laguna de los Tres in front of the mountain. Fitz Roy is also a treasure in the mountain and rock climbing communities and has been scaled by the likes of Alex Honnold, Dean Potter, Yvon Chouinard, and Douglas Tompkins.

 

Cerro Torre

The other famous (or perhaps infamous) mountain in Los Glaciares, Cerro Torre is a jagged cluster of granite spikes that pierces the skyline like a crown. Comprised of several mountains, with Cerro Torre being the most prominent, its 4,000-foot peak is often covered in rime ice, blown by high-powered winds. Cerro Torre has gained a certain reputation in the rock climbing community, as doubt has been shed on whether the first person who claimed to have summited it, Cesare Maestri, actually did so. Ever since, due to the high winds, weather, and technical difficulty, Cerro Torre is only attempted by the most experienced of climbers and even then has claimed a fair number of lives. For the rest of us, we can content ourselves with views of the mountain from the ground, such as one of the most popular viewpoints at the edge of Torre Lake.

 

Perito Moreno Glacier

Arguably the most jaw-dropping of all of Patagonia’s glaciers, this icy behemoth has become famous for its staggering height (240 feet) and frequent calvings, making it a popular stop for those hoping to see icebergs fall from its front wall. Covering 97 square miles and stretching 19 miles in length from its origins in the Southern Patagonia Ice Field to its terminus in Lake Argentina, the glaciers’ proximity to land makes it easy to visit viewpoints right up close to the front wall. If you want to get even close, you can also boating along the front wall. The glacier’s stability makes it possible to go on ice hikes along the top, and some tours even allow you to finish the hikes with whiskey served on glacial ice! In addition to its size, its colors are also part of its splendor: every shade of blue and white blends and swirls together into a natural masterpiece that puts painters to shame.

 

8 off-the-beaten-path destinations you can visit in Chile when traveling restrictions are lifted

 

While the COVID-19 pandemic is still far from over, many countries around the world have tackled it successfully enough to start reopening their borders and attractions to visitors, with health and safety measures set in place. Many people are eager to get out and explore the world once again but want to do so safely, making visiting off-the-beaten-track, remote, and lesser-known locations where there will be fewer crowds a top priority for travelers.

 

Luckily, Chile is absolutely full of such destinations. Our skinny country has far more to offer besides just Patagonia and the Atacama Desert, so if you’re looking to travel to Chile once it’s safe to do so, we invite you to discover one of its hidden gems. From remote valleys to secret hideaways, many of Chile’s finest natural treasures are overlooked by visitors, which is their loss but your gain. Here are eight of our favorite off-the-beaten-track destinations around Chile that you can visit once travel restrictions are lifted.

 

Codpa Valley

Located in the far north of Chile near the city of Arica, Codpa Valley is an ancient oasis hidden amongst the rocky desert hills of the northern Atacama. Despite its arid environment, the valley is extremely fertile and lush, full of fruit trees, desert trees, and other greenery that are fed by a pristine river. The valley gets its name from the small village of Codpa, which was founded by Spanish colonizers and is home to a famous church that was built in the late 1600s and is one of the oldest churches in the country.

 

Today, the valley is best known for its agricultural output (producing fruits like guava and mango), its importance in the early days of Chile’s colonization, its indigenous history and culture, and the production of pintatani wine, a sweet red wine that is still made in the same way the Spanish settlers once did. Codpa is rarely on tourists’ radar but for those willing to take a chance, you’ll discover a timeless culture and way of life that has endured for generations, preserved by the heat and desert sands. There are hotels and accommodations throughout the valley, and visitors can spend their days visiting historic villages, learning about the agricultural products of the region, immersing themselves in the history and making of pintatani wine, and discovering native culture at pre-Hispanic sites like the Ofriaga petroglyphs.

Salar de Maricunga

While most visitors to the Atacama Desert stick to the main landmarks and attractions near the town of San Pedro de Atacama, this high-altitude desert has many more beautiful, remote places worth exploring. One of these is the Salar de Maricunga, a vast salt flat located in Nevado Tres Cruces National Park. Stretching 8,300 hectares, the stark-white salt flats dazzle the eyes, and the surrounding landscapes are also dotted with lakes and lagoons in vibrant shades of blue. On the horizon, you can see Ojos del Salado, Chile’s highest peak and the highest active volcano in the world, as well as the other mountains of the Nevado Tres Cruces volcanic massif. The park is also an excellent place to see migratory flamingos during the summer months. Far from the tourist crowds of San Pedro, here you can enjoy Chile’s altiplano away from the noise of humanity, with no sounds but the high-altitude winds and the occasional squawk of a flamingo.

Llanos de Challe National Park

You may think the Atacama is stark and lifeless, largely devoid of plants and animals. It’s why the landscapes are so often compared to Mars or the Moon. But not so. Head from the interior of the desert to the Pacific Coast and it’s a whole other world, as you’ll discover at Llanos de Challe National Park.

 

Here, the coastal hills receive frequent moisture coming in off the Pacific in the form of dense cloudbanks and fogs; locally, they’re called Camanchacas. These mists allow plant life to flourish, giving this national park its own unique ecosystem and incredible biodiversity full of endemic and rare plant life including flowers and cacti. If you’re lucky and visit when the El Niño–Southern Oscillation takes place, you can even witness the famous flowering desert phenomenon, where the blank desert fields spring to life with vibrant flowers and plants. It’s also one of the best places outside Patagonia to see guanacos thanks to a large native population.

Elqui Valley

Although it’s not one of Chile’s Greatest Hits attractions like the Atacama or Patagonia, the name “Elqui Valley” may ring a bell to you; that’s because, in 2019, a total solar eclipse passed over this area and for a few brief minutes the eyes of the world were on Elqui. But this network of mystical valleys in Chile’s Norte Chico, a region between the arid Atacama and the lush central valleys near Santiago, deserves more than a passing glance. First off, it’s the birthplace of Chilean pisco: a grape-based brandy that is the country’s national drink. The valley floors are crisscrossed with patchwork vineyards, and many pisco distilleries open their doors for tastings and tours so you can learn all about this unique spirit. Immerse yourself in Chilean culture by discovering the life of one of Chile’s Nobel Prize-winning poets, Gabriela Mistral, who was born here, and outdoor lovers will also enjoy going on hikes or horseback rides throughout the hills or biking down the winding roads.

 

The altitude and clear-skies also make for incredible stargazing, arguably even better than in the Atacama. The hilltops here are dotted with professional and public observatories, with tours and stargazing sessions that will absolutely blow your mind. This closeness to the skies is believed to have imbued the region with a special cosmic energy; with extraordinarily high electromagnetic readings, people here feel like they have a direct connection to the universe, making it a hotbed of alternative beliefs and hippie communes. So if you need to have your chakras realigned want to reconnect with the universe, this is the place to do it.

Altos de Lircay

From dense forests and snowcapped peaks to fields of hexagonal stones believed to be UFO landing sites (yes, really), the Altos de Lircay National Reserve is truly an out-of-this-world destination. Located in the Maule region, this reserve is often bypassed by visitors heading to the more famous Radal Siete Tazas National Park nearby.

 

The park has many hiking trails, either for day trips or longer, multi-day treks, and its isolated nature makes it perfect for backcountry camping and hiking. The trails pass through the park’s abundant woodlands, with many ending at mountaintop viewpoints that offer spectacular vistas. One of the most popular trails leads to an area called El Enladrillado, a tabletop plateau of flat, hexagonally-shaped stones. The bizarre nature of the landscape has led some to believe UFOs land here, making it a popular spot for “believers” to visit. But even if you don’t believe in extraterrestrial life, the amazing views and otherworldly rocks are worth the hike. In addition to hiking and camping, there are also horseback riding trails as well.

Conguillio National Park

This dramatic national park, located in the Araucania region of central Chile, is often overlooked by travelers because it’s not in the more popular adjacent Lakes District or down in Patagonia. But that’s their loss, because it’s easily one of Chile’s finest hidden gems, not only because there are fewer crowds so you can better connect with nature, but because the scenery is unreal. Dominated by the mighty (and still active) Llaima Volcano, this landscape is prehistoric: full of stark black lava flows, Technicolor lakes, and ancient forests. The main distinguishing feature of the park are the forests of Araucaria trees; towering giants that can live for thousands of years and are characterized by their bare trunks and curving crown of spiny branches. There is one Araucaria located in the park, the Mother Araucaria, that is over 1,800 years old! There are several small towns with cabins and hotels on the parks’ outskirts, but many choose to stay in the park, camping or in cabins, for more direct access to the park’s many hiking trails and outdoor recreational activities like kayaking on Lake Conguillio. You can also see amazing local wildlife like woodpeckers, condors, and foxes.

Carelmapu and Humedal de Maullín

This massive ecosystem of wetlands, swamps, tidal bays, rivers, estuaries, marshes, and flats covers 1,350 hectares in southern Chile, serving as protected lands for the incredible variety of birds that reside in or migrate through the area. At least 28 species of birds use these abundant wetlands as a resting place along their migratory path, and studies have found nearly a hundred different kinds of birds use the area overall. This makes this a fantastic place for birdwatching and to learn more about Chile’s fascinating flora and fauna. Throughout the protected reserve, there are designated areas for kayaking and boating, as well as hiking paths, cycling trails, and viewpoints from which to take in the views and wildlife.

 

To best experience the Maullín wetlands, stay in one of the nearby towns like Carelmapu. This charming village sits on the edge of a peninsula that juts out into the ocean, surrounded by dramatic scenery like seaside cliffs and lush fields and forests. Truly, the vibrantly-green landscapes look like something from coastal Ireland or England, and Carelmapu even means “green place” in Mapudungun, the language of the native Mapuche tribe. The town dates from early colonial days when it was a fort, so there are some interesting historic buildings to visit that showcase local architecture, like the Church of Carelmapu that is built in the same style as the famous Chiloe Island churches.

Patagonia National Park

This 752,503-acre national park is one of the newest additions to Chile’s many protected lands, having been part of the major land donation gifted to the Chilean government for conservation by Doug and Kris Tompkins. But Patagonia National Park, which is located in the southerly Aysen region, was one of the Tompkins’ pet projects for rewilding and rehabilitation, removing farm infrastructure to entice native species like guanacos and pumas back. Today, the park is thriving, full of wildlife and spectacular scenery like rolling grasslands, dramatic rivers, turquoise lakes, endemic forests, craggy mountains, and more. As the park is still relatively new, visitor numbers are still low, so you can be among the first in the world to fully appreciate its beauty and tranquility, as well as contribute to its legacy of preserving Chile’s natural places for the future. There are many different hiking trails throughout the different sectors of the park to enjoy, as well as other attractions like visiting the confluence of the Chacabuco and Baker River or going for scenic drives. The park is also home to the Lodge at Valle Chacabuco, a spectacular wilderness lodge in the style of the historic hotels of US national parks, as well as campsites.

12 Different animals you could see in Torres del Paine National Park

Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia is one of the most popular outdoor adventure destinations in the world, and for good reason. The park has spectacular glaciers, mountains, grasslands, lakes, and rivers, and is essentially a nature-lover’s idea of paradise. Many people visit to do day hikes to popular spots like the French Valley, the Grey Glacier, or the base of the Torres, or others do the W circuit or Paine treks. And on all the many different treks and activities you can do to explore the park, you’re bound to see some of Torres del Paine’s unique and diverse fauna: animal life. While this is not a definitive list, here are 12 of the animals you can see in Torres del Paine National Park!

 

Photography: @justinhofman

 

1. Pumas – The king of Patagonia, puma sightings in Torres del Paine have become increasingly common in recent years after fires forced the guanaco population into the areas of the park with more roads and tourism infrastructure. The pumas live solitary lives except when the females are raising their young, which take several years to mature. They prey on guanacos, as well as sheep, which has led to anti-puma sentiment among ranchers and farmers, who hunt them to protect their herds. But conservation and educational outreach programs are turning the tide of opinion on these powerful predators.

 

Photography: @alvarosotov

 

2. Huemuls – If you catch a glimpse of these very shy and elusive deer, which are featured on the Chilean coat of arms, you are really lucky! Sighting a huemul is more rare than sighting a puma. These deer, which are endangered from diseases contracted from farm animals like sheep, loss of habitat, and hunting. With a brown coat and large ears, huemuls are also about half the size of regular deer.

 

Photography: @dagpeak

 

3. Darwin’s Rhea (Nandus) – Similar in appearance and size to an ostrich or an emu, these large birds – which have grey plumage and ruffled feathers – live and travel together in flocks as big as 30 individuals. Similar to their cousins, the ostrich, and emu, they are flightless and elude predators by running at incredible speeds on strong legs. Females lay clutches of up to 50 eggs, which, when they hatch, take three years to fully mature. As its name suggests, it was first recorded by Charles Darwin during his journey on the Beagle.

 

Photography: @justinhofman

 

4. Guanacos – A relative of the alpaca and llama, these spindly-legged camelids are some of the most common sights in the park, roaming around in large herds or as individuals (if you see an individual, they are a young male who does not have a harem of females). Competition between males (especially during breeding season) is fierce and fights are common, during which they try to bite their opponent’s testicles. The guanaco diet consists of grass and other plant life, and they mainly live and around seen out in the pampas part of the park, where the herds roam. Their main threat is from the puma, and herds have sentries on hilltops to keep a look out and raise the alarm should they see anything.

 

Photography: @cristinaharboephotography

 

5. Condors – The Andean condor is truly a sight to behold: with a wingspan that can reach ten feet, they are one of the largest bird species in the world. Condors are scavengers, using the thermals and air currents over the park to soar high and keep a lookout for leftovers (carrion) like dead guanacos, which they can spot from incredible heights and distances. You can often see them flying high over the park or coming home to nest on cliff faces.

 

Photography: Antonia Cornejo

 

6. Armadillos – There are two different kinds of armadillos in Torres del Paine: the Piche Patagon and the Quirquincho Peludo. The main difference between the two is when they are active, as the dwarf forage for food and explore during the day and the hairy are nocturnal. Both subspecies dig burrows to live in and feed off of grubs, roots, and shrubs. Sometimes they are hunted for their meat or their tough, protective body armor, but in general, they are left alone.

 

Photography: ©Ian&KateBruce

 

7. Hog-nosed skunk – Surprise, surprise, there are skunks in Patagonia! They’re not a common sight, as they mainly come out at night, but they can sometimes be seen nosing around and foraging for insects, grubs, and wild vegetables. They live in deep burrows that they dig themselves in the pampas, more desert-like areas of the park, and they can be seen out and about during spring, summer, and fall, as during winter they close off their burrows and live off of stored food. And, of course, like all skunks, if threatened or startled, they will spray a stinky, nasty-smelling substance in self-defense.

 

Photography: Oxana Protchenko

 

8. Southern grey fox – The Patagonian fox (or chilla) are a likely sight while out exploring the park or hanging out at your accommodations, as they are curious and are often found just out exploring or hunting for their daily diet of rodents, berries, eggs, or other small prey. With a greyish brown coat (which they are sometimes hunted for) the fox can also be identified by its distinctive “yip” call. Also, these foxes are actually not even foxes at all but are a member of the lycalopex family, which are often referred to as “false foxes”.

 

Photography: @valentina_neupert

 

9. Red fox (culpeo) – These adventurous and nosy red foxes are renowned for their “auspicious” and bold hunting style (their name comes from a Mapuche word for madness). In the past, their diet was mainly made up of rodents, birds, berries, and eggs, but since sheep were introduced here in the 1800s, the foxes have definitely taken advantage of the easy prey and have made the sheep their primary targets. With beautiful fur of red and brown, the foxes are sometimes hunted for their furs, despite protection laws.

 

Photography: @emintehess

 

10. Geoffroy’s Cat – A sighting of one of these is a real treat, as sightings are incredibly rare since they are nocturnal hunters, coming out at night to catch small birds and rodents. About the size of an average house cat, the Geoffroy’s cat has a soft coat of tawny brown or light grey covered with black spots and stripes. In the past, they were hunted for their pelts and were even listed as endangered for a while, but new laws and protections have allowed the populations to bounce back. Some naturalists wait their whole lives to see a Geoffroy’s cat, so if you see one during your stay at the park, you are truly lucky.

 

Photography: @pablo_martinez_morales

 

11. Magellanic woodpecker – Torres del Paine is home to some spectacular bird species, like this jet-black with red faced beauty. They are mostly commonly found in the forested part of the park, drilling into trees for insects, grubs, and other edibles, as well as creating homes for their families. If you are patient and quiet while walking through the forests in the park, you may hear the distinctive “tock, tock, tock” of their hammering.

 

Potography: avesdelnea

 

12. Austral parakeet – Parakeets? In Patagonia? You bet! These birds, which are identifiable by their green and red plumage, can be found in the park’s forests and woodlands, feeding off of berries, seeds, and other plant life.

 

 

KING PENGUINS OF TIERRA DEL FUEGO

Did you know this is the only king penguin colony in South America?

Thanks to the initiative of scientists, landowners, biologists, vets and archaeologists, the Pingüino Rey Private Park seeks to raise awareness among visitors of the value of the bird life on the island and prevent the endangerment and extinction of this species. This place has the right conditions for nesting, resting and feeding – which you may be able to observe, depending on the season. Here, you’ll learn about this amazing animal, which is considered to be the second largest of the world’s 18 species of penguin, measuring up to 95cm tall!

The large island of Tierra del Fuego is separated from the mainland by the Strait of Magellan, surrounded to the south by the Beagle Channel, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean on the Argentinian side and to the west by the Chilean territory of the Pacific Ocean. This area is noted for its large number of fjords, its Cordillera de Darwin mountain range, its inhospitable climate and important bird life, especially the “King Penguin” colony that visit the private park.

Itinerary Idea

DAY 1:

PUNTA ARENAS & SURROUNDINGS

You will have excellent service at the Yegua Loca hotel located in the city of Punta Arenas. Depending what time you arrive, you’ll have time to explore, get to know the surrounding area, and prepare for your adventure on the following day.

DAY 2:

PUNTA ARENAS – TIERRA DEL FUEGO / KING PENGUIN PARK

After breakfast, a van will pick you up between 7:00-7:30 am to begin your trip to the Pingüino Rey Private Park. You will take a ferry across the Strait of Magellan towards the chilote bay located on Tierra del Fuego, where the first activity will consist of a city tour around Porvenir before continuing on towards the Park. There, you will have time to observe, take pictures, and learn about this amazing colony that now contains over one hundred penguins distributed over grassland areas, coastal bays and the Park’s gentle hills.

Once you have finished exploring the Park, you’ll head to the Cerro Sombrero, another part of the island, where you can explore the town and enjoy its facilities. Later, you’ll head back to Punta Arenas.

 

DAY 3:

PUNTA ARENAS – SANTIAGO AIRPORT

When your stay in Punta Arenas reaches its end, a van will pick you up from the hotel at an agreed time according to the time of your flight and take you to Punta Arenas airport where you will catch your return flight to Santiago.

Everything you need to know to plan the ultimate ski trip to Santiago, Chile

When flying into Santiago, Chile, the first thing that catches your attention are the mighty peaks of the Andes mountains. Running down the spine of Chile, the Andes are one of the most dramatic geographic features throughout the country, and Santiago sits nestled right up against the base of the Cordillera;

A mass of snow-capped peaks that towers over the city and from look-out points like Cerro San Cristobal and the Gran Torre (the tallest skyscraper in South America) makes for a phenomenal picture. But those mountains do much more than just provide a dramatic backdrop to the city: they offer some of the best downhill skiing in South America.

Several of Chile’s finest ski resorts are located just a short drive from Santiago, making it a prime winter destination for cosmopolitan adventures and powdery thrills. But not every ski resort is created equal: some are better for families with young kids who need beginner slopes, whereas adrenaline junkies crave dramatic off-piste runs and staggering vertical drops.

Luckily, there’s something for everyone at Santiago’s ski resorts, and we have the run-down on each and every one of them! Here’s everything you need to know to plan the ultimate ski trip to Santiago, Chile, or, let us do the planning for you and book one of our ski trip packages!

When is the best time to go?

The ski season in Chile starts in late June and generally ends in September, but some resorts stay open into early or mid-October. The best time to go is in July, as it’s the height of the season and you’re most likely to have the most snow and best weather conditions. However, middle July also coincides with winter break for Chilean schools and many Santiago families plan family ski trips during those two weeks, so it can also sometimes be a bit crowded. If you want to plan a trip during this time, it’s best to book well in advance.

What kind of skiing is there outside Santiago?

Located in the heart of the Andes, Santiago’s ski resorts primarily offer downhill skiing on a variety of runs that range from beginner to expert. Snowboarding is also permitted but is easier at some resorts than others (for example, due to the terrain around Portillo, they recommend that only experienced big mountain freeriders take on the slopes), but Valle Nevado, La Parva, and El Colorado offer runs and Terrain Parks for snowboarding and to practice freestyle ski and snowboard tricks.

But downhill is definitely king here, especially at Portillo. It was here that the 200 km an hour speed record was broken by legendary Alpine skier Steve McKinney, and the sheer vertical drops are frequented by professional downhillers from all over the world.

How far are the resorts from Santiago?

It varies depending on which resort. Portillo is a two-hour drive from Santiago, but Valle Nevado, La Parva, and El Colorado are only about an hour and a half away, making them ideal spots for day trips if you don’t want to stay at the resorts and prefer to stay in town.

How do I get to the resorts?

There are easy to access roads to Portillo, Valle Nevado, La Parva, and El Colorado, so you can bring your own car or take tour buses that run during the season. The roads to La Parva and Valle Nevado operate on the one-way system during ski season, with cars going up from morning to early afternoon, and then down from early afternoon to evening (exact time subject to change and weather). Several of the roads, like the route to Portillo and El Colorado, have tiny switchbacks and can be dangerous in bad road conditions, so careful driving is always urged. Transportation to and from the resorts are included in our ski programs.

Why should I go to Santiago, Chile for my ski trip?

Good question! There are several great reasons. Firstly, winter in Chile falls during summer in the United States, making it a great excuse to escape the balmy summer heat and enjoy some chilly Chilean thrills. Secondly, winter is low season for international tourism in Chile, so airfare is generally cheaper.

Also, the proximity of the ski resorts to Santiago makes it easy to plan additional activities in and around Santiago during your trip. You can do city tours, visit world-class museums, experience seasonal cuisine at Santiago’s many top-rated restaurant, go wine-tasting in the nearby wine valleys, visit the UNESCO-certified city of Valparaiso, and much more. So there’s plenty to do in addition to hitting the slopes!

Which resort is best?

There are several big ski resorts located near Santiago: Portillo, La Parva, Valle Nevado and El Colorado. The question of which is best really depends on what kind of ski vacation and experience you’re looking for. Here, we’ll outline what each resort offers:

Portillo – Located in the Aconcagua Valley about two hours northeast of Santiago (roughly 102 miles), not only is Portillo where pro alpine skiers come out to play and practice, but the resort itself is well worth the visit. Perched on the edge of a high mountain lake that’s said to be the resting place of an Inca princess, the blocky hotel’s sunshine-yellow exterior shines like a beacon out over the landscape of white snow and black rocks. With sheer mountains rising all around and the aquamarine lake shimmering below, it’s a captivating view.

Although Portillo has an international reputation for its expert-level slopes where champs train for events like the World Cup, Portillo is also an ideal spot for a family vacation. There are beginner slopes for young children or those without much experience, and classes are available. Stats include a vertical drop of 2,500 feet, and 35 runs serviced by 14 lifts. There are groomed or off-piste runs (which are accessible weather and avalanche risk permitting), and for the real thrill-seekers, heli-skiing is also available to airlift you to the tippy top of sheer peaks for epic downhill runs. On average, Portillo receives nearly 300 inches (25 feet) of snow during the season, so there’s always fresh powder.

Other services include ski-in/ski-out to the main hotel and rental lodgings, equipment rental, on-site restaurants and bars for apres-ski cocktails and fine dining, a gym, daycare center, a medical center, spa with massage and sauna, entertainment options, photo service (to snap those epic pics of you shredding down the slopes!), and yoga room. The main hotel also has a heated pool and hot tub out on the back deck overlooking the lake, perfect for relaxing with a pisco sour after a long day on the slopes.

La Parva – Sharing the same ski area as Valle Nevado and El Colorado, La Parva occupies the middle of the three ski valleys. While not as well-known as Portillo or Valle Nevado, La Parva offers plenty of great powder and usually during high season is less crowded than the other resorts, making it ideal for families or groups who want quick and easy access to Santiago. And just like its sister resorts, it offers some excellent views: gazing down, you can see the entirety of Santiago sprawling out at the base of the mountains.

With 40 slopes ranging from beginner to advanced and a vertical drop of 3,201 feet, visitors can spend their days enjoying downhill skiing, snowboarding, and heli-skiing on the 118 inches of snow that the resort annually receives. For experts, La Parva is especially popular because it’s close to some of the region’s best extreme off-piste downhills. But La Parva also offers a range of more unique activities like Snowshoeing Nights, where guests can go snowshoeing on designated trails to take in the nighttime scenery. There are groomed and off-piste runs and a Terrain Park is currently in the works. A ski school and equipment rentals are also available.

Apart from the skiing, La Parva is especially well-known for its restaurants: there are five different dining establishments spread out over the resort. While some offer hearty basics like sandwiches and burgers, La Marmita and San Tropez are two favorites for their international cuisine menus, so you can enjoy fondue or raclette while gazing out over the snowy valley. There’s also a bar for those apres-ski drinks.

For accommodations, La Parva has many different apartment and rental options, most of which are ski-in, ski-out. As there are no hotels amenities are limited and vary depending on the different lodgings, but basics like first aid and entertainment are readily available.

Valle Nevado – If you’re looking to stay closer to town but still want the real ski resort experience, Valle Nevado is the place to go. Renowned as one of South America’s most modern and efficient ski resorts, it’s part of the largest skiable area on the continent (combined with La Parva and El Colorado, the two other nearby ski resorts that share the three ski valleys which are collectively known as “Los Tres Valles de los Andes” (The Three Valleys of the Andes). The design and layout of the eight different hotel and apartment complexes was inspired by classic French ski resorts, bringing an air of Old World refinement.

While Portillo offers the drama of sheer cliffs and dramatic peaks, Valle Nevado also has the kind of view that will stop you in your tracks (or on your skis). Located above the treeline with a top elevation of 17,815 ft above sea level, the resort offers sweeping views of the rooftop of the world covered in snow, with mountains, hills, and valleys stretching off to the horizon. You can look and ski for miles. There is one drawback to having this epic view, however: whenever there is bad weather, visibility is very low.

With 44 runs serviced by 17 lifts (groomed and off-piste), there’s plenty to keep you occupied during the day. There are slopes from beginner to expert, with a ski school and classes available during the season. Valle Nevado also boasts of a first-rate Terrain Park, where skiers and snowboarders can practice tricks.

Average annual snowfall measures around 276 inches (23 feet), and the runs have a maximum vertical drop of 2,657 feet, perfect for speedy downhill enthusiasts. Heli-skiing, snowboarding, and freestyle are also available on specific slopes. Services include ski-in/ski-out and equipment rental.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. Valle Nevado is also renowned for having a fantastic apres-ski scene, with six different restaurants and eateries serving everything from pizza and empanadas for a quick grab-and-go lunch to elegantly-plated and prepared meat, fish, pasta, and seafood dishes for a fancy night out. But the party really gets going when you hit one of the four bars, where the bartenders whip up speciality cocktails, as well as Chilean classics like pisco sours. Local craft beer is also in abundance. There’s also shopping, heated pools and spas, fitness centers, medical center, and even game rooms, kid zones, and a cinema.

El Colorado – The third of the three ski resorts that make up the Three Valleys of the Andes, El Colorado is by far the biggest, with 112 slopes spread out over 1,100 acres. The groomed and off-piste runs range in difficulty from beginner to advanced, with classes available for all levels. Due to the majority of El Colorado’s runs being easy or intermediate and the close proximity to Santiago (similar to La Parva, it’s roughly an hour and a half drive from the city), El Colorado is especially popular with families. But there are still plenty of epic downhill runs for thrill-seekers, with vertical drops of up to 2,962 feet. Snowboarders and free stylists can also get their kicks at two designated terrain parks.

As with La Parva, El Colorado sits perched on top of gentle slopes that yield both amazing skiing and views. From the runs you can admire the snowy Andes that surround the resort, with Santiago spread out in the distance. To take advantage of such epic vistas, photography classes and night time snowshoeing excursions are offered. At the Curcuro Chairlift, you can also try the Panoramic chair, which offers jaw dropping panoramic views of the three ski resorts, the mountains, and Santiago.

As a popular family resort, there is plenty to keep the kids (and Mom and Dad) occupied outside of slope time. There are several restaurants (El Mirador is a favorite choice for its large dining terrace that offers views of the resort and mountains), a pub for apres drinks, a ski school for lessons, gear rental, entertainment options, and more. There’s also first aid stations, a supermarket, and a pool. Lodging consists of two different hotels, as well as rental apartments.

This all sounds fantastic! How soon can I get there?

Sooner than you think! Winter is fast approaching in Chile, so if you’re interested in learning more or want to book a tour, contact our expert trip designers here!

Off the beaten track activities on Easter Island

Without a doubt, Easter Island is a bucket-list destination: seeing those giant Moai statues with your own eyes, hiking up volcanoes, learning traditional dances, dining on island cuisine, and lounging on coral sand beaches while listening to the waves. Even though Easter Island is only 63 square miles, there’s a ton of things to do packed into such a small space. Here are the Off the beaten track activities on Easter Island!

Hanga Roa – Before the Europeans came to Easter Island, the Rapa Nui islanders lived spread out all over the island. But now, everything is centralized in the main town of Hanga Roa. Located on the island’s western coast, here is where you’ll be based during your visit: the airport is just outside of town, all the hotels and accommodations are here, tours depart from here, and most of the best restaurants and stores are located here as well. Hanga Roa is also the only place on the island you can get WiFi.

Meaning “wide bay” in the native language, it’s a charming town of just over 3,000 that’s easy to navigate on your own and a great place to experience how historic and modern Rapa Nui have come together to coexist (check out the graveyard to see how Christian and Rapa Nui beliefs and iconography blended; looking out over the ocean, the graveyard is a fascinating blend of crosses and Moai).

In addition to exploring the rest of the island, it’s a good idea to set aside a day or two just to get to know Hanga Roa, as there’s plenty to do and see. By the oceanfront, you can walk along Pea Beach, a scenic strip of white beach where you can soak up the sunshine, look at native flora, and even catch a few waves in the sheltered harbor.

Further along the coast, you’ll also find the stately Ahu Tahai and Ahu Ko Te Riku, two beautifully preserved examples of classic ahus (a large stone platform with Moai arranged in a row along the top) and Moai (you’ve likely seen pictures of Ko Te Riku, with its singular Moai staring with its wide, white-painted eyes). You can also visit the fishing port, enjoy some of the island’s best food at spots like La Kaleta, Te Moai Sunset, and Haka Honu, and be wowed by traditional Rapa Nui dances and music at Kari Kari,

Sebastian Englert Museum – Even though you can see evidence of Easter Island’s ancient civilization all over the island, most of the remnants of the island’s past are now protected inside museums and archives, and one of the best collections of Easter Island artifacts in the world is housed right on the island at the Sebastian Englert Museum in Hanga Roa.

The only museum on the island, it’s named after Sebastian Englert, a German priest who came to Easter Island in 1935 and then dedicated the rest of his life to understanding, documenting and preserving Easter Island’s culture. The museum represents his life’s work: a collection of more than 15,000 artifacts including tablets of Rongo Rongo writing, a rare example of a female Moai, a reconstructed Moai eye, stone tools, and more. Information about the collection and overall Rapa Nui history and culture is available in English, French, German, and Japanese. For a more in-depth look into the island’s history and customs, this is a must-visit.

Ana Kakenga – Known as “the cave of two windows”, this ocean-front cave is famous for its rock-framed views of the Pacific Ocean, but the cave itself – a volcanic tube that was once used as a shelter by different Easter Island tribes – actually is rumored to have a tragic past. It’s said that the cave was the final refuge for a pair of young lovers who, fearing retribution for their forbidden love by their respective tribes, hid there as a last resort.

But it’s easy to see why they would choose this cave as their final place to be together: after climbing down through the opening in the ground that leads into the subterranean cave, you can see the ocean through two rock “windows”, each located down a different passage. With the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks and the picturesque ocean view, it’s quite romantic and makes for a great snapshot.

While open to the public, it’s recommended that you visit Ana Kakenga with a guide, because the entrance (a small hole in the ground) can be difficult to find on one’s own as there’s no signage. A narrow opening that requires a tight squeeze to get through, it’s easier with a guide to direct you and also help you navigate the cave.

Ahu Vinapu – Most of the Moai and Ahu around the island are male in appearance, but Ahu Vinapu is home to one of the few examples of female Moai. Made of red scoria rock, which is the same type of stone used to make the pukao “top hats” seen on male Moai around the island, the female Moai resembles a column and most details have been erased by time, but archaeologists still believe it is feminine in nature. The most notable female Moai, now housed in the museum, was found near this site.

The ahu, which is part of a large ceremonial complex consisting of several ahus with downed Moai, is also important because of how the ahu was constructed. Large pieces of stone were carved and fitted together in a manner similar to how the Incans of Peru constructed their incredibly complex stone cities in places like Machu Picchu and Cuzco. Archaeologists believe these similarly “fitted stones” suggest that there was communication between the Rapa Nui people and the Incans, or, as another theory goes, that the ahu was built by the Incan emperor Tupac Yupanqui when he went on an exploratory trip of the Pacific Ocean around 1480. Several other theories exist, but as no solid evidence has yet come to light, how Ahu Vinapu was built remains one of the unsolved mysteries of Easter Island’s past.

Ahu Vinapu is just a short drive from Hanga Roa, and you can easily navigate and walk the site on your own. It’s a good idea to go with a local guide, though, to provide more background information.

Puna Pau – While visiting sites like Ahu Tongariki, you’ll likely notice that some of the Moai are wearing hats: rounded squares of red stone with a smaller cylindrical piece on the top. These stone hats are called “pukaos” and the stone to make them came from a special place: the quarry at Puna Pau.

Located inside a small crater near Hanga Roa, Puna Pau was a rich resource of scoria, a low-density, reddish rock. Whereas most of the Moai figures were carved from tuff (a darker but also relatively soft type of volcanic rock) taken from the Rona Raraku quarry further up the island, scoria was only used to make the pukaos, Tukuturis (a different kind of sculpture from the Moai), and petroglyphs. Nowadays, the site itself is lovely, with rolling green hills dotted by burgundy-red boulders; a pathway through the hills taken you to the quarry itself.

Ahu Huri A Urenga – Ancient civilizations seemed to have quite a knack for knowing the stars (perhaps even better than we do with all our modern technology), and the Rapa Nui were no exception. At the entrance of Ahu Huri A Urenga, a water well and small indentations made in the stones would collect rainwater to reflect back the stars for observation and study. It is believed that this site was vital for the Rapa Nui calendar, as solar observations taken at the site helped mark the start of seasons and even regulations (like fishing). The ahu platform and the Moai on it (which is one of the few examples of Moai with hands) also directly face the sunrise on the winter solstice. The site was also used for funerals, as there’s a crematorium located at the back of the complex.

Trekking or cycling at Terevaka – Terevaka is the largest of Easter Island’s three volcanoes, and the summit offers wonderful views of the island and ocean. As such, it’s a popular place to go for a hike or for cycling. Despite being the biggest, it’s a fairly easy hike for everyone: the surrounding landscape of undulating hills with ocean views is pretty flat, and the gently-rising slopes aren’t too strenuous.

The summit can be a bit windy, but the views are worth it. Rent a bike in Hanga Roa for the day to go cycling on the trails, or just lace up your hiking shoes and start walking!

Ovahe Beach – Most people don’t go to Easter Island for adventure; aside from some light hiking, cycling, and scuba diving, the majority of visitors are here to experience the culture. But even with such a lightweight schedule, a relaxing day at the beach is always a good idea! While Anakena, the most popular beach on the island, is absolutely lovely, if you’re looking for solitude and to see a lesser-known part of the island, head to Ovahe Beach.

Like Anakena, Ovahe beach was also the site of an islander settlement but now it’s primarily known for its rugged beauty. The small, pink sand beach is surrounded by rocky sea cliffs, making it a perfect place for sunbathing. The warm turquoise waters are a popular spot for snorkeling, as the offshore coral reefs and rocky outcrops are frequented by native sea creatures like sea turtles and fish. However, the currents are stronger here than at Anakena and as the beach is isolated, there’s no lifeguard on duty so caution when swimming is urged. Ovahe is also one of the last refuges for native coastal flora on Easter Island, so you can see local flowers and plants.

What to pack for a trip to Atacama desert

Located in the north of Chile, the Atacama Desert is the driest desert in the world, making it one of the most out-of-this-world places to discover in Chile.

 

You can see martian valleys, salt flats, high altitude geysers and hot springs, volcanoes, and some of the clearest night skies anywhere in the world (the Atacama is a world-renowned spot for astronomy). If you’re lucky, you’ll see some of the special creatures that call this place home, like vicunas (related to llamas and alpacas), flamingos, and foxes. You can go hiking, look for archaeological ruins and evidence of ancient tribes, soak in salty lagoons, and get up close and personal with the universe while stargazing. With so much to see and do in the Atacama, you’ll need the right equipment.

There are several important things to remember when packing:

 

 

Pack layers: Despite being the high desert, during the winter and at night the Atacama gets very cold, so it’s a good idea to bring warm weather clothing which you can then take off as the day progresses. This is also a good idea for coping with the heat.

Protect your skin: You’re vacationing at nearly 8,000 feet above sea level. The sun is very strong here, so be proactive about protecting yourself. Using a sunhat, sunscreen, and protective clothing are just a few ways to take care of your skin, as well as trying to stay out of the sun during the main part of the day.

 

 

The following is EcoChile’s list of recommended items to bring on your trip to the Atacama desert.

Clothing:

Hiking boots – There is some excellent hiking to be had in the Atacama Desert, especially around San Pedro de Atacama in Valle de Luna and Valle de Arcoiris. Bringing a pair of sturdy and comfortable hiking boots will make the experience all the more enjoyable for you. While the exact best brand or type of shoe varies depending on personal preference, shoes that are made of a more breathable material and have a thick sole are best suited for desert hiking, to combat the heat and to protect your feet in case of accidentally stepping on something sharp.

Hiking socks (moisture wicking, lightweight) – You’ll probably be sweating a lot during day hikes in the Atacama, so lightweight socks that’ll help wick moisture away during the day will aid in comfort and hygiene.

Lightweight hiking pants – Hiking pants made from a lightweight, airy material will make a world of difference when it comes to comfort and cooling down during the heat of the day. Pants that can unzip into shorts are a great option as well, as you can start out with long pants during the cold morning and then transition to shorts during the heat of the day.

Long pants (jeans or leggings) – For hiking you’ll want more flexible, breathable hiking pants but for just walking around town and in the cooler evenings and mornings, bring along some jeans or cotton leggings for something warm.

Windbreaker – Atacama is not very windy but during your tour in the moon valley it can get very blustery.

 

 

Underwear

Solar protection blouses/shirts – The heat in the Atacama is formidable, so during the day you’ll want to strip down to as few clothes as possible. Wearing a light t-shirt or tank top is a good idea, but for further protection (apart from sunscreen), wear a loose, airy solar protection shirt or blouse over the undershirt for covering your skin more and an extra bit of stylish flair.

T-shirts/ short sleeve shirts– Loose, comfortable t-shirts are ideal for hiking during the heat of the day.

Sunhat – Protect your head from those high desert rays!

Fleeces/ sweaters – Warm clothing? In the desert? Oh yes! Even in the dead of summer, the altitude of the Aticama (San Pedro, the starting point for most Atacama tours, sits at 7,900 feet above sea level) means that the nights get very cold. So if you’re going to do any stargazing (highly recommended, especially in winter when the night skies are clearest) or getting up early in the morning to see the Tatio geysers, you’ll want some warm sweaters and fleeces to bundle up in.

Shorts/ capri pants

Warm hat and gloves – For those cold nights and mornings!

Swimsuit – Despite being the driest desert on Earth, there are plenty of swimming opportunities in the Atacama. You can go swimming and sunbathing at cities on the coast like Iquique, and near San Pedro you can lounge in thermal hot springs at Puritama hot springs or float in refreshingly cold, buoyant high-altitude salt water lakes. For these occasions (and also to take advantage of hotel swimming pools and hot tubs), it’s a good idea to include a swimsuit.

Flip flops – To visit sites like the Puritama hot springs or Lagunas Baltinache, you’ll want to have a pair of flip flops for moving from pool to pool.

Heavy-duty sandals – For easy day trips that won’t require a lot of hiking, crossing streams during multi-day treks, or when exploring towns like San Pedro, some sturdy sandals (like Tevas) will definitely come in handy, as well as giving your feet a break from stuffy hiking boots.

 

 

Gear:

Backpack – For day trips, you’ll need a comfy backpack to carry your essentials for the day: sunscreen, water bottle, hat, glasses, layers, etc. Something lightweight would be best, made with a breathable, airy material.

Sunglasses – The high-desert sun can cause serious eye damage, so be sure to pack some shades! For those who wear contact lens, we recommend swapping them for prescription glasses for the duration of your trip, as the Atacama can get windy and sand can blow into your eyes, get under your contact lens, and irritate your eyes.

Camera – The Atacama is a visually stunning place, with volcanoes, geysers, salt flats, shimmering high altitude lakes, and diverse wildlife, and you’ll want to bring a good camera to capture those sights.

Binoculars – The vast distances of the Atacama desert and excellent camouflage abilities of the animals that live here can make it tricky to notice wildlife or passing points of interest while hiking or driving, so pack a pair of travel binoculars to use in such moments.

Reusable water bottle – Not only is using a reusable water bottle environmentally friendly, it’s important! Spending time in the high, arid desert of southern Chile takes a toll on your body so drinking plenty of water throughout the day, whether you’re physically exerting yourself or not, is important.

 

 

Miscellaneous:

Sunscreen – Not only are you in a desert but a high altitude one: the sun is extremely strong here and the white sands and salt flats are strong reflective surfaces, so be sure to apply sunscreen all over and reapply throughout the day. SPF 50 or higher.

Eye drops – For those with contact lens or prescription lens, the dry climate of the high desert may be a strain on the eyes, so don’t forget some eye droplets to add a little moisture.

Medication – If you have any prescription medication, be sure to bring along plenty for the trip, just in case the pharmacies where you’re staying don’t carry what you need. Keeping some Advil or Ibuprofen on hand as well in case of headaches caused by the altitude is also a good idea (see below).

Remedies for altitude sickness – Altitude sickness is a frequent problem for visitors to the Atacama; luckily, for most, the symptoms are relatively mild and go away within anywhere from a few hours to a day or so. Symptoms include headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, fatigue, shortness of breath, rapid pulse, and having trouble sleeping. While there are plenty of regional solutions for dealing with altitude sickness, such as drinking coca tea or chewing coca leaves, if you have medication or at home remedies that help you deal with altitude sickness, be sure to bring them along. Otherwise, doing things like drinking plenty of water, slowing down and taking deep breaths when feeling out of breath or fatigued, sitting down when feeling lightheaded, eating carbs, and avoiding alcohol are several ways to help your body adjust to the altitude.

Lip balm (with SPF protection)

Snacks – Pack some light snacks like protein bars and fruit for day hikes to give you that little extra boost of energy when the heat of the day is getting to you.

Basic first aid – Even though your guide and hotels will have first aid kits, it never hurts to bring some band-aids along on day trips just in case.

Cash and credit cards – In Atacama tourist centers like San Pedro, most of the stores, restaurants, etc., will accept credit cards but for outlying towns, it’s best to always keep some cash on hand.

Aloe vera lotion – In the event you do get a sunburn, keep some aloe vera lotion on hand to massage onto the burn at the end of the day to help soothe it and speed up the healing process.

Feel free to ask your expert trip designer any questions you may have about this packing list.

Happy packing and we’ll see you in the Atacama!

Spending a day on a traditional Patagonian estancia

One of Patagonia’s most enduring legacies is the estancia: vast estates of pampas (hilly grasslands) populated by huge herds of sheep and a handful of baqueanos  — Chilean cowboys — that, once a year, will travel on horseback over those thousands of miles to round up the sheep. The sheep are herded back to the main ranch (the casco central) where they’re sheared, harvesting their high-quality wool that in the past was shipped to Europe to clothe the wealthy, and then they’re released again for another year under the never-ending Patagonian skies.

 

Estancia culture began in the region in the late 1800s when immigrants from Europe and the north of Patagonia (namely Chiloe) came to the far south. At first, the money was in the exportation of wool, particularly of the silky-smooth, luxurious Merino variety, but then shifted to selling meat when refrigeration systems were invented. The introduction of sheep to the wide-open fields of Patagonia and the establishment of the estancia system profoundly changed the natural, cultural, and economic landscape of the territory: altering habitats, uprooting native species, and bringing wealth to the region.

 

Today, many estancias are still operational but many have also downsized or adapted to the times to make ends meet and to make amends of the environmental damage done in the past. One of these estancias — which has given the majority of its 19,000 acres back the native wildlife (only 2,600 acres are used for livestock), significantly diminished its herd size from the traditional tens of thousands to a mere 1,300, and created opportunities for tourists to visit and learn more about the estancia lifestyle — is Estancia La Peninsula, located on the wind-battered shores of Last Hope Sound in Chilean Patagonia.

 

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The winds in this part of the world are notorious and brutal foes, and everything here has to work around them, including my schedule. My day trip to the estancia, which is only accessible by boat, had been canceled earlier in the week because the winds were too strong to head up into the sound by boat. The winds (“westerlies”) blow so hard, so strong, and for so long here that if the boat captain doesn’t feel it’s safe, then it’s a no go. So when there is bad weather, Estancia La Peninsula, on its rocky shore further up the fjord, is completely isolated and cut off from the outside world. There’s a certain romanticism and appeal in that. The winds I can live without: go outside for a minute and my face is blasted raw and chilled to the bone.

 

But no matter: my trip had been rescheduled for later in the week and the day has finally arrived. It dawns crisp and clear: about as perfect a day as it’s possible to have in Puerto Natales. The water of the channel is a mirror-like cerulean blue, gently lapping at the shores. The sun shines down, warming the dock that I stand on as I wait to board the boat that will take me to the estancia. On the horizon I can see snow-capped mountains. The day is gorgeous; utter perfection.

 

 

Our group — a family on holiday, a couple, a volunteer who would be living at the estancia for the next week, and me, the perennial solo traveler — board the boat and we set off. On the way our guide points out different landmarks, like an island where guanacos could once been spotted, which served as a marker for sailors back in the day. As we motor further into the fjords, the landscape on shore starts changing from undulating Patagonia grassland to large, rocky hills, and in front of the boat we can see the snowy mountains we’d seen from town getting closer and bigger. A pair of curious dolphins briefly swims alongside the boat. And finally, on the far shore, we glimpse a small cluster of red buildings with the dock sticking out into the water: Estancia La Peninsula.

 

Estancia La Peninsula was founded in the late 1800s by the prominent MacLean family, but they’ve changed their model by incorporating tourism into their activities; to do so, they allocated the majority of their land for conservation purposes and created hiking and horseback riding trails for visitors to explore the estancia’s lands. Their herd now only consists of Merino sheep, which produces an extremely high-quality wool. This subspecies of sheep were originally from Spain but the modern variety as we know it today was domesticated in Australia and New Zealand. But while some things have changed, many aspects of life on the estancia are just as they were in the past: the training and use of Magellanic sheepdogs, riding and using Criollo white horses, hiring local baqueanos (or gauchos as they are also sometimes called), and using traditional gear.

 

*          *          *

 

After disembarking, our group is lead to the main estancia house: a modern building decked out in traditional ranch decor, with large windows that look out on the water and mountains. We’re served fresh coffee and warm Mapuche sopaipillas while the group gets to know each other a bit better: we all come from all over and it’s so nice to meet new people and hear their stories while on the road. After depositing our things, we’re led to the tack building a short walk away to meet our horses and gear up. On the walk there, we encounter an adorable calf being fed from a bottle by a ranch hand; we’re told that the calf lost its mother and now it’s being taken care of here on the estancia itself.

 

 

But my attention is drawn to the white, stately horses that await us. The horses used here on the estancia are all older, having been bought from different estancias and brought here for an easy retirement of leisurely rides with tourists and galloping over wide, open fields.

 

After getting into our gear, we’re each helped onto our respective horse. Since I have some background in horseback riding, I’m given one of the more headstrong horses, and boy does he let me know it. Immediately he’s trying to see what he can get away with: dipping his head to eat grass, not responding to my slight kicks and signals to turn or stop. The gauchos tell us that right away the horses will be testing us to determine whether they respect us or not, so it’s important to be firm and strong with the horse to show them who’s the boss, who is the one in charge. So I keep a steady grip on the reins and endeavor to be forceful with this stubborn horse who does not want to cooperate.

 

After everyone is saddled up and has gotten more comfortable with their horses in the paddock, we’re led out along a trail, with the mountains to our left and the water to our right. My horse still strains at the reins and is constantly trying to break into a trot or gallop but I keep him walking slow so I can appreciate the stunning landscapes, the fresh air and sunshine, and chat with my other riders.

 

The path passes through a part of the ranch where there are many different kinds of sea and land birds, as well as hares. After walking along the shore for a while, we start to walk up into the hills and enter a forest of stunted trees that have been shaped by the wind. The horse deftly navigate a muddy track along steep hillsides but never falter. Finally, the track evens out and then tops a final crest to a windy hilltop overlooking the ranch, the channels, and the mountains. It’s one of the best views I’ve ever seen in my life.

 

 

After stopping a few minutes to take in the view and take pictures, we go down the other side of  the hills to the shore, where we stop by an exposed bank. Here, we’re told, archeologists found evidence of native tribes having lived, fished, and gathered food; there are also several caves further inland, which can be reached on a two-day trek, where other artifacts from tribes were found. Then we turn around and return along the shore, crossing small streams, watching birds take off, and soaking up the sunshine. At a few wide stretches along the way, I let my horse break into a trot to blow off some steam and enjoy the ride. It seems that now, finally, as our time together is drawing to a close, me and my horse have reached an agreement of respect. He is better responding to my signals and instructions and in so doing I feel that he has deemed me worthy. It’s a good feeling, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being challenged and put to the test.

 

After getting off our horses and turning them over to the gauchos so they can go enjoy the rest of their afternoon free of work, we go back to the main house to get cleaned up and wait for what’s coming next: an authentic Patagonian asado (barbecue). A traditional asado in Patagonia uses lamb, which, after being killed and skinned, is butterflied over hot coals and cooked in the simmering heat until the meat is lusciously tender. We’d seen our lunch roasting earlier and now the lamb had been moved to the barbecue pit in front of the main house so we could watch it being taken off and cut up. But while we wait, we’re given cold local beers and sit out on the deck in the sunshine. The wind rustles the grass. People talk and laugh all around me. I listen to the waters of the channel gently crashing on the shores nearby. The cold beer in my hand tastes like heaven. This is what pure happiness feels like.

 

 

The lamb is then taken down and cut up, and we go inside for a Patagonian feast: lamb, baked potatoes, salad, and red wine. Everything tastes delicious and out the windows we watch the horses going back out to pasture. I stuff myself and liberally enjoy the wine, ending the meal in a content daze. But there’s no time for relaxation: there’s still more to come.

 

Outside, a small herd of sheep is directed by a pair of sheepdogs to demonstrate their skill and agility to us. It’s truly amazing how smart and well-trained they are: the dogs respond to a wide variety of commands quickly and easily, making the sheep go in circles or break into smaller groups. Although one, the estancia workers laugh and tell us, is a little slow and awkward but his heart is in the right place! We all laugh and agree that he’s a very good boy, indeed.

 

Then we walk to a nearby barn where our guide tells us about sheep shearing on the estancia. Large piles of Merino wool are stacked in the corners and we run our fingers through the earthy-smelling, soft ringlets. Then we’re shown the different cutting tools used for shearing and how the barn is set up: sheep waiting to be sheared are kept in an enclosed area out back before being led through a wooden, enclosed walkway to the shearing station. When done, they go through another door and are released into a fenced-in field behind the barn to be monitored and adjust to the feeling of not having their full coat.

 

We’re told that master shearers can get through a sheep in a matter of minutes, and that, while some estancia staff know how to shear the sheep, the true experts are nomad shearers, who, during shearing season, spend months at a time on the road going from estancia to estancia shearing their herds.

 

To demonstrate, a sheep is brought in and the shearer shows us the correct pattern and method for shearing. The sheep struggles and kicks, so it shows true skill that a good shearer can go through perhaps hundreds of frightened sheep in a day and not cut them or damage the wool.

Estancia la Peninsula

 

The day is almost at an end; we’ll need to get back on the boat soon to go back to the mainland. But there’s one last surprise first: a cute and fluffy surprise. We follow the staff up a short hill, and as the top comes into view, so does a small group of adorable sheepdog puppies and a young lamb, running toward us. Everyone in our group instantly collapses into squeals of delight and “awwww’s!” and drops to the ground to cuddle and pet them. The next half an hour goes by in a blur of puppy kisses, little lamb bleats, and pure joy.

 

But then it’s time to go. After a final coffee and saying goodbye to those that are staying on the estancia for the night, we board the boat and start back. What a wonderful day: I learned all about life on an estancia in Patagonia, got to see some absolutely stunning landscapes, earned the respect of a steadfast horse, had scrumptious food and drink, and got to play with puppies and lambs. Already I find myself looking forward to a future visit to Estancia La Peninsula, and once again getting swept up in the estancia life.

What is the Dientes de Navarinos Trek and why you should do it?

When it comes to hiking, there are few places better than Patagonia. There are tons of easily accessible day-trip or multi-day hikes, like the W Trek in Torres del Paine, that are relatively easy for most people and feature some absolutely stunning vistas. And for trekkers who want more of a challenge, there is plenty to choose from, like the O Trek (which connects the two ends of the W Trek going around the entirety of the Paine Massif) or the Huemul Circuit that is not for the faint of heart but the views and thrill of remote trekking are well worth the challenges.

But with so many well-known treks, there come problems: namely, overcrowding. Everyone wants to hike the same trails during the same time of the year when the weather is best, so hiking paths and photo-op spots in popular national parks during high season become less of an “escape into nature” experience and more of a “standing in line at a theme park” experience.

 

But as more people are going to Patagonia to discover its natural treasures, more of its lesser-known but equally spectacular treks are starting to come to light and get more attention, offering respite from the crowds, little-to-no tourism infrastructure, and views that will knock those sweaty, grimy hiking socks off. And no trek exemplifies this better than the Dientes de Navarino trek.

What is it?

 

The Dientes de Navarino Trek is a multi-day trek that takes hikers deep into the heart of the Dientes mountain range of Navarino Island, traversing valleys, marshes, rivers and lakes, peat bogs, forests, and windy high mountain passes. The isolation and lack of shelter or basic infrastructure like bathrooms or campsites makes it a truly rugged, outdoorsy experience, perfect for people who love roughing it in the wilderness for days at a time. The trek is also famous for being the “southernmost trek in the world”.

Where is it?

 

The Dientes de Navarino trek is located on Navarino Island in Chilean Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost part of the country that is primarily made up of islands, channels, and fjords. It’s separated from mainland Argentina by the Beagle Channel, and from the topmost peaks on the island you can see all the way to the waters and islands around the notoriously treacherous Cape Horn. The island is also home to Puerto Williams, the most southerly town in the world.

 

Aside from the opportunities for hiking and outdoor activities (like the Magnifying Glass Tourism Initiative at OMORA Ethnobotanical Park, where visitors use magnifying glasses to discover the island’s world-class varieties of mosses, lichens, and liverworts), many visitors also come to Navarino Island to learn more about the Yaghan tribe. This indigenous group were hunter-gatherers and mainly traveled by canoe; their spoken language was incredibly complex, and missionary Thomas Bridges compiled a 30,000 word dictionary of the Yaghan language. Artifacts, photos, and more information about the Yaghans (many of who were wiped out by disease and contact with European colonizers) can be found at a museum in Puerto Williams, and on the far side of the island there is a bay where a particularly bloody encounter with British colonizers took place. There is still a small population of Yaghan that live on the island, including the last known speaker of their language, Cristina Calderon.

How long does it take?

 

The trek itself is 53.3 km (33 miles) and most people do it in around 4 days/3 nights, although some hikers prefer to do 5 days/ 6 nights, allowing them more time to enjoy the landscape and go at a leisurely pace. Scheduling for a longer trek also allows for variation in the weather, in case there is a bad weather day and the day’s hike needs to be delayed for another day until the weather improves.

 

What level of difficulty is it?

 

Due to the extreme terrain, the unpredictable weather, the long days on hilly and uneven ground, and the not-easily-identifiable path (there are markers but they are few and far between), this trek is considered very difficult and only experienced trekkers are encouraged to try it. But one can prepare and train in advance to do this trek by building up your stamina, because the experience of hiking through a virtually untouched mountain range and seeing landscapes that few people have seen is worth the effort.

When is the best time of year to go?

 

The best time of year to go is during the Patagonian summer season, which falls between the months of December to March. But even in summer the weather can be unpredictable, with high and chilly winds, quick changes from rain to sunshine, and very cold nights.

 

How would I get there?

 

The fastest way to Navarino Island is by plane from Punta Arenas on the Chilean mainland. But if you really want to appreciate the beauty and sheer scale of these meandering channels and verdant islands at the bottom of the world, you can also charter a boat. If you’re coming from Argentina, there are zodiac and boat rides from Ushuaia, which is right across the Beagle Channel from Navarino Island.

What kinds of things will I see on this trek?

 

Naturally, you’ll see some unbelievable landscapes. The Dientes Mountains are so named because their jagged peaks resemble teeth (and “dientes” in Spanish means teeth), so you’ll see these amazing spires themselves, as well as Mount Codrington and Mount Lindenmayer, named after Clem Lindenmayer, a climber and writer for Lonely Planet who was the first to do this trek in the 1990s. From the highest points along the trek, like the summit just past the Virginia Pass, you’ll be able to see the Beagle Channel, Nassau Bay, Ushuaia on the mainland, and the channels, islands, and ocean of Tierra del Fuego.

 

In addition to these toothy peaks, indented skyline, and top of the world views, you’ll also be seeing deep valleys, Magellanic forests, peat bogs and marshes, and pristine high mountain lakes and rivers. In the forests, it’s a great place to examine the island’s “miniature forests” of lichens, mosses, and liverworts, some species of which are wholly unique to the region and can’t be found anywhere else in the world. As far as wildlife, you’re likely to see seabirds and maybe, if you’re lucky, one of the island’s less-popular inhabitants, beavers (who were brought to the region in the 1940s and have decimated the landscapes through their logging and damming). The channels and nearby Drake Passage are also great places to see marine life like dolphins and migrating whales.

 

 

What would I need to bring?

 

You’ll need to bring standard hiking gear like good, sturdy hiking boots, layers of warm and waterproof clothing, warm hat, sunglasses, sunblock, backpack, etc. A good camera to capture those amazing views is also recommended. All camping gear — like tents, sleeping bags, camping stoves, and food — will be provided by EcoChile Travel.

 

Why do I need to book a tour to do this trek?

 

Due to its isolation, lack of signage and standard hiking accommodations like well-marked campsites or bathrooms, and the extreme and unpredictable weather, it’s recommended that only the most advanced hikers go this trek alone. By doing the trek as a tour booked with EcoChile, you’ll be traveling with an experienced guide who knows the terrain, and all the travel arrangements, which can be difficult to get organized due to the remoteness of the area, are taken care of for you, so all you have to worry about is looking forward to an amazing trek!

 

Why should I do this trek?

While this trek is a challenge, the views you’ll see, the diversity of landscapes you’ll encounter, and the sense of achievement from taking on such a difficult trek in such an extreme part of the world are unparalleled. Plus, by traveling with an agency like EcoChile Travel that takes care of all the logistics for you, you can just focus on enjoying the trek and making memories of scaling mountains and traversing pristine landscapes at the bottom of South America.

 

 

Want to learn more about EcoChile’s Dientes Trek program? Click here!

 

 

Cerro and Laguna Torre Trail

The hike to Cerro Torre is a more tranquil version of its neighboring counterpart to Fitz Roy on the Laguna de Los Tres trail. Both hikes are a must do for anyone visiting Los Glaciares National Park.

 

 

The trail

The trail is approximately 1km from the heart of the charming recreational town of El Chalten. This 18km (11miles) hike takes an average of 7-8 hours to complete over an easy to moderate terrain. The hiking itself takes up about 5 hours, leaving the rest of the time to spend enjoying the scenery at Laguna Torre.

On the way to the lake, you’ll pass by many picturesque spots. A few noteworthy pit stops include Mirador Margarita, Mirador del Torre, and Mirador Maestri.

Mirador Margarita is just under a kilometer in on the trail and offers panoramic views of both Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy.

 

 

A little further along on the trail (approximately 2.5km/1.55miles) you’ll find the Mirador del Torre. This scenic viewpoint provides you with incredible views of everything from Cerro Solo to Cerro Torre and it’s neighboring towers — Egger and Standhart.

 

 

The next stop is Laguna Torre, you’ve made it! This is a great spot to have some lunch as you take in breathtaking views of Cerro Torre, Glacier Torre, and the pristine glacial lake, Laguna Torre.

 

 

The final viewpoint, Mirador Maestri, is located further along the trail passed the lake. This sightseeing is optional as the main endpoint is Laguna Torre. However, if you desire more sightseeing, then continue along the trail to the northwest about 2.2km (1.4miles). Here you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Glacier Torre, Glacier Grande, and, of course, Cerro Torre.

 

 

After the hike:

Theres no shortage of great eateries in El Chalten. This small town boasts an array of food choices as well as craft beer. Once you’re off the trail, head into town for a hearty meal and a local beer or famous Argentinian wine.

What to bring:

  • Daybag
  • Water
  • Snacks + Lunch
  • Sunblock + sunglasses
  • Bring warm layers! These will be nice to have to keep you warm when you’re having lunch at the lake.

Best time of year to go: November to March

Grade of difficulty: Easy to moderate

The park is filled with native flora and fauna that are unique to the Patagonia region. If you’re looking to gain more insight about the park’s wildlife, then we recommend hiring a guide as much of the wildlife is difficult to spot on your own. Another reason why you might want a guide is if you’re planning on visiting the park outside of the summer months. The weather can make the terrain rather difficult and caution is advised.

Ready to start planning your trip? Visit us here to find an expert local guide to show you the area!

 

 

Everything you need to know about whale-watching in Chile

If you’re planning a trip to Chile during the summer months of December through March, you’re in luck because that is high season for whale watching! During summer, migrating whales can be seen off Chile’s more than 2,485 (4,000 km) mile-long coast, heading down from the warmer waters of the north where they’ve had their young to the chilly waters of the southern oceans around the tip of South America. These waters are rich with krill and other nutrients, which help the young calves grow and gain strength, and allows the adults to store up fat reserves in their blubber to sustain them during the rest of the year when they’re traveling and breeding in less nutritionally-abundant waters. Thanks to the unique geography of Chile’s coastline, whales are able to swim very close to the shore, making Chile a great country for sightings! Here’s everything you need to know about whale-watching in Chile.

 

 

What kind of whales can you see in Chile?

From the shores of Chile you’ll be able to see migrating populations of blue, gray, and humpback whales. The blue whale is the largest creature on Earth, growing up to 30 meters (nearly a hundred feet) long. One of the main reasons people want to go whale-watching in Chile is to try and see the humpback whales doing their awe-inspiring breaching jumps, leaping from the water into the air and then splashing back into the ocean with great drama. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime sight to see a breaching whale, and many viewers have reported seeing it especially in the far south. The gray whales have also been known to breach as well.

 

Photography: @cristinaharboephotography

 

When is the best time of year to see whales in Chile?

December through March is definitely the prime time to try and go whale-watching but seeing a whale is never a guarantee. Even though tour operators work with guides and locals who know the area and can try their best to visit areas where they know there have been whales in the past (and some tour operators even collaborate with scientists and researchers to report whale activity and so can track migrations and predict where the whales will be based on recent data), there is never a guarantee that these elusive and gentle giants will make an appearance. But the sheer wonder of seeing a whale in its natural habitat is worth the patience it takes to make a sighting. Plus, there is plenty of other interesting stuff to look at in the meantime, like dolphins and seals, as well as amazing landscapes and ocean views.

 

 

Where are the best spots to go whale-watching in Chile?

-La Serena: This answer surprises a lot of people not familiar with Chile’s topography, geography, and unique wildlife, but yes, all the way in the Atacama Desert in the far north of the country you can indeed see spectacular marine life like whales and even penguins! The Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, which is about 70 miles (114 km) from the city of La Serena is mainly known as being a nesting site for Humboldt penguins but during the summer you can also do tours to see migrating whales and dolphins. The best way to do so is to take a boat out to Isla Damas, Isla Choros, and Isla Chañaral where there are great vantage points (plus the islands are lovely as well!).

 

Photography: ©Alberto García

 

-Chiloe: The main island of the archipelago of Chiloe is a fantastic place to try and spot migrating whales. The best lookout points are from Tantauco Park at the far southern end of the island and Chiloe National Park about midway down the island. Both these parks have large cliffs and bluffs overlooking the ocean, allowing one to see many miles out to sea and hopefully glimpse some whales spouts. At the far southern end of the main island, the Gulf of Corcovado has also had much success with whale sightings thanks to the width of the gulf, the depth of the water, and how sheltered the area is for migrating whales. It’s also possible (although less likely) to see whales during the ferry crossing from mainland Chile to the northern end of the island; the crossing is located near where the channel widens out into the open ocean and the channel’s depth makes it possible for whales to enter it.

 

Photography: @franciscoespildora

 

-Francisco Coloane Marine Park, Tierra del Fuego, Chile – This vast marine park covers more than 67,000 hectares of ocean, channels, fjords, glaciers, and islands in the Magallanes and Antartica region of Chile, and was a huge step forward for Chilean environmental conservation back when it was first created in 2003. Here you can see Magellanic penguins and sea lion colonies, but the area is primarily known for its humpback whale sightings, as the area is very close to their migration route and is a very popular feeding spot. Most tours leave from Punta Arenas and taking a multi-day trip allows you to fully appreciate the natural splendor of the area and increases your chances of a whale-sighting. It is generally in this area that visitors are most likely to see whales.

 

 

Is it ethical/safe for the whales to go whale watching?

In general, yes. Most reputable tour agencies always comply with the laws and regulations put in place to protect these creatures from harm or interference by humans, and tour boats keep a safe distance for marine life so they’re not disturbed or frightened. Still, it’s always a good idea to do a bit of research in advance to choose a whale-watching service that has a stellar track record for being respectful of the whales and other marine wildlife. But overall, yes, you can rest assured that the safety of the whales is paramount to all else.

Want to go whale-watching during your trip to Chile? Contact our expert trip designers here to help you plan the best vacation possible so you can have a “whale” of a good time!

When is the best time of year to visit Torres del Paine?

Photography: @grafixart_photo

 

So you want to visit the crown jewel of Chile’s national parks, Torres del Paine! Located in the farthest of Chile’s regions, the Region of Magallanes and Antartica, Torres del Paine has become renowned for its spectacular natural landmarks like the Paine Massif, home to the iconic Cuernos mountains and the Torres, and the Grey Glacier. Most people come to do the W Trek, which takes hikers to all the park’s highlights including the Grey Glacier, the Frenchman’s Valley, and the base of the Torres, but you can also the full “O” or Paine circuit which connects the two ends of the W by going around behind the back of the Paine Massif or just do day trips.

But now comes the next question: when is the best time of year to visit Torres del Paine? Most people visit during the Patagonian summer months of December through February, but as travel to Chile becomes more popular, visiting Torres del Paine during those high season months might not be the best option for everyone as the park will be overcrowded, which ruins the wilderness experience. In this article, we discuss the pros and cons of each season in Torres del Paine, to help you choose the best time of year to plan your trip!

 

Photography: flickr @TerryAllen

 

Spring

Lasting from mid-September through November, spring  can be a great time to pay a visit to Torres del Paine. Without the crowds of high season, you can enjoy the park in peace and quiet, as well as get to see new baby animals and new plantlife starting to bloom. The main disadvantages are that the nights can still be pretty chilly, snow and ice are still possibilities, there will likely be rain in March and April, and, as always, the weather can be unpredictable and the winds are pretty strong. Also, some campsites, hotels, roads, and parts of the park may not yet be open if you’re traveling during the early part of the season, so depending on what you want to do and see, doing research beforehand about what will be open is recommended.

 

Photography: @TurismoChile

 

Summer

Summer is by far the most popular time of year to visit Torres del Paine, and there are several reasons for that. Lasting from December through February, this season is when the days are the warmest and the nights are the least cold, all parts of the park are accessible, there are longer hours which allows for more hiking and exploring, and since the weather is generally the best in summer, you have a better chance of having good weather to see the landscapes and do hikes. If you’re a very social traveler, it’s also the best time to visit to meet lots of people on the trails and at the campsites. There are some drawbacks, though: as it is high season, rates for things like refugios, hotels, campsites, transportation, etc., is more expensive, the park is at its most crowded, and there are strong winds and unpredictable weather and rain. If you do want to travel to Torres del Paine during summer, it is recommended that you make reservations for your tours and book things like campsites, refugios, etc., well in advance to guarantee a spot. One of the advantages of booking a tour through a company like EcoChile is that we take care of all those reservations for you!

 

Photography: @danielkordan

 

Fall

If you love foliage and crisp fall weather, autumn in Chilean Patagonia is the best time to visit! Torres del Paine is already one of the most visually spectacular natural places on the planet, and its beauty is only enhanced by the addition of gorgeous fall colors covering the landscapes. Lasting from March through May, the days are still warm but nights are starting to get colder, and there are increased possibilities of rain and snow, especially toward the end of the season. In March, there are sometimes still bigger crowds but the numbers gradually decrease going through the season. Some of the hotels, campsites, areas of the park (such as the Gardner pass) etc., close down before the season officially ends in mid-May, so do research beforehand to see what will and won’t be open as the season advances. After summer ends at the end of February, most companies also switch into shoulder/low season pricing, so it’s a more economical time to visit as well. Since there are fewer crowds and many animals have just had their birthing season, it’s also a great time to see wildlife, so nature and wildlife photographers may find that fall is the best time.

 

Photography: @hotellastorres

 

Winter

Winter can be a tricky time to visit Torres del Paine, as officially the park is closed to everyone except expert winter trekkers and select groups, but since interest in visiting the park is growing, officials have started to open up the park for some winter tours and activities, and EcoChile Travel is one of the few Chilean travel companies that offers the W trek during winter! Winter in Torres del Paine lasts from June to August, and the weather is not for the faint of heart: plunging temperatures (low 20s [-3 – 0 degrees Celsius], low 40s [5-8 degrees Celsius]), strong snowstorms, low visibility during storms, unpredictable weather, and strong winds make it a challenging time of the year to visit.

But the winter weather is also why the experience can be so rewarding: you get to see the spectacular mountains, plains, glaciers, lakes, valleys, and rivers of Torres del Paine covered in glorious snow and ice, creating the ultimate wilderness wonderland. Plus, there will be virtually no one else in the park, so it’s a great time to see untouched winter landscapes at their most pure and without any crowds to disturb the peace. At this point in time, except with special permits, you can only enter the park during winter if you are with a tour group like EcoChile Travel, as most of the hotels, campsites, and other amenities are closed, so prior arrangements need to be made via an authorized tour company. In closing, while it is physically a very difficult time of year to visit, the winter views and isolation make it a worthwhile endeavor.

 

Photography: flickr @nicolasques

 

So what do we recommend?

Ultimately, there is no singular best time of year to visit Torres del Paine. There are drawbacks and benefits to each season, and deciding when is the best time to go depends on what you want to do and see. Highly sociable hikers may love going during summer as there are many opportunities to meet and explore with new people, whereas people who want to escape into nature without the distractions of the real world would find fall or spring a better time. Photographers may want to take pictures of the snow and ice during winter, or capture the fall foliage. More budget-conscious travelers would probably prefer to visit during spring and fall when pricing is in shoulder/low season rates. So the best time of year for Torres del Paine is the best time of year for you.

No matter what you choose, Torres del Paine is bound to impress and dazzle travelers year-round. So do some research to figure out when will work for your budget, as well as determining what you want to do and see, and then get ready to book your dream vacation to the eighth wonder of the world! Also, if you have more questions or aren’t sure what time of year is the best for you, our expert trip designers are happy to answer any of your questions and help you figure out how to plan the best vacation for your budget and goals!

 

5 Activities that you can do near Torres del Paine and Puerto Natales

The main reason people go to the farthest region of Chile and the town of Puerto Natales is to visit Torres del Paine National Park, which is famous for its mountains, glaciers, and hiking opportunities. But while Torres del Paine is a must visit, there are plenty of other great places to explore and outdoor or cultural activities to try located just a short distance from Puerto Natales – the gateway to Torres del Paine. This town, which is located at the mouth of Last Hope Sound, is usually just known as the stopping-over point before going to Torres del Paine. But head just outside of town and you can go on fun hikes, horseback rides, kayaking, and much more! Here are 5 activities you can do near Torres del Paine and Puerto Natales!

Photography: @estancia.lapeninsula

 

1. Visit a traditional Patagonian estancia – In the 1800s, the wide open pampas (plains) of Patagonia became prime real estate for sheepherding. A whole ranching and baqueano cowboy culture grew up around the keeping of the thousands of sheep that roamed the region, raised their wool and meat. Some of these estancias are still operational but many around Puerto Natales, while still carrying on the traditional estancia activities and work like sheep shearing, also offer tours and activities so visitors can learn about the estancia lifestyle. One of the most popular to visit, Estancia La Peninsula, requires a boat ride to get to, and they show you a sheep shearing demonstration, take you on a horse ride, and prepare an authentic Patagonian asado (barbeque).

Photography: @YanniRindler

2. Go for a hike at Cerro Dorothea – While Torres del Paine gets all the glory for beautiful landscapes in the region, the surroundings of Puerto Natales on Last Hope Sound are also stunning. One of the best places to take in those views is from the viewpoint at the top of Cerro Dorothea. Located on the outskirts of town, Cerro Dorothea is the tallest point of a short mountain range, with views overlooking Puerto Natales, Last Hope Fjord, and Admiral Montt Gulf. The hike is relatively easy, it’s very accessible from town, and the views are well worth it. Plus, it’s also a great spot to keep an eye out for local birds like the Andean condor, one of the largest flying birds in the world.

 

Photography @adrianmoltedon

3. Visit the Mylodon Cave – Located about 15 kilometers from Puerto Natales, this vast, open-mouthed cave is where the remains of now-extinct mylodon (giant sloths), saber-toothed cats, and dwarf horses were found in 1895. This discovery was the catalyst for travel writer Bruce Chatwin to come to Patagonia and write about it in his famous travelogue “In Patagonia”; he first was inspired to visit Patagonia thanks to his grandmother owning a piece of the mummified skin from the mylodon. Visitors can roam around the cave, see where the remains were found, and also pose with a life-size statue of the mylodon; out of the cave entrance you can see the Patagonian landscape stretching off to the horizon.

 

Photography: @PaulBarnovin

4. See the Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers – Most visitors to the area want to see the Grey Glacier in Torres del Paine national park, but there are two other equally impressive and lesser known glaciers.  The two glaciers are found near Puerto Natales in the southern part of the Bernardo O’Higgins National Park. They descend mountainsides into the waters of Last Hope Sound and are accessible via a boat tour from the pier at Puerto Natales (many tours also include a glass of whisky served with glacial ice). Alternatively, you can go kayaking at Balmaceda, which allows you to get closer to the glacier (while still being safe) and kayak around the lake around the icebergs that have been carved from the glacier. The glaciers have receded a bit in recent years because of global warming, but they are still spectacular to see up close. Plus, as they are not as well know as the Grey Glacier, you have the chance to see something more off-the-beaten-track.

Photography: @estancia.lapeninsula

5. Horseback ride to Laguna Sofia – Thanks to the estancia and baqueano cowboy culture in Patagonia, there are many opportunities to get to know the landscape on horseback. One of the best places near Puerto Natales to go for a ride is at Laguna Sofia, a beautiful lake located an hour from town, surrounded by snow capped mountains, rolling hills, and forests. Here you can go horseback riding in the hills and forests close to the lakeshore or go to lookout points over the lake, which is such a great way to spend the day or just an afternoon. If you’re not big on horseback riding, you can also just go for a hike.

Laguna de los Tres Hike in the Argentinian Patagonia

Fitz Roy: Laguna de Los Tres

The Laguna de Los Tres hike is a 24 km (15 mile) day hike and is an absolute must-do for anybody visiting the area. The trail, like much of Los Glaciers National Park, can be easily accessed from the charming town of El Chaltén in the heart of Argentinian Patagonia. With just over 2,000 inhabitants, this cozy little town is a mecca for all things outdoor. There’s no shortage of rock climbing, trekking, kayaking, and rich adventures to be found here. All easily accessible by foot!

 

Getting there:

Wherever you stay in El Chaltén, it won’t take you more than 1km to get to the trailhead.

Pack light as the last leg of the trail is very steep and you won’t want to be climbing up the mountainside with a heavy backpack weighing you down. If you are planning on camping, you will be able to drop off your bags at the campsite and pitch your tent before reaching the tougher terrain.

 

The trail:

The lagoon is a 12 km (7.5 mile) hike from the trailhead, making the trek a total of 24km (15 miles) there and back. The mileage is broken up nicely with several miradors (scenic lookouts) along the way for you to rest, take photos, and grab a handful of trail mix.

 

 

Rió de Las Vueltas mirador is .7km (.4miles) into the trail and offers vast panoramic views of the valley.

 

 

The Mirador Fitz Roy is located 4km (2.5 miles) in and is well worth a prolonged stop. Here you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Fitz Roy and the surrounding rivers and mountains that shape this breathtaking landscape.

The popular Poincenot campground is found 8km (5 miles) into the trail. If you plan on camping, take the opportunity to ditch your heavy bags and prepare your tent before heading back on the trail. For those of you not camping, this is also a lovely area to have a rest by the river, fill up your waters (this will be your last chance), and get some food in you before embarking on the final leg of the ascent. There are two outhouses on the campground as well as one more about 15 minutes from the campsite along the trail. So make sure to utilize these facilities before it’s too late!

After you’ve had some snacks and filled your waters, you’ll continue on the same trail to Laguna de Los Tres. From here you’re just 4km (2.5miles) shy of the lagoon. It will take approximately 1.15hrs to walk and the last hour is more or less a steep climb on rocky terrain, so walk with caution and use trekking poles if you have them!

 

 

Once you get to the lagoon, make yourself comfortable on one of the many giant rocks, you’ve made it! Enjoy lunch while gazing at one of Argentina’s most prized possessions, Cerro Fitz Roy. If you feel an awe-inspiring sensation while taking in the scenery, you’re certainly not alone. The image made such an impression on Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard, that he decided to use the mountain range as the logo for his company.

When you’re ready to explore some more, walk down to the lagoon (~2 mins) for some up close and personal photos of the ice-capped water and stunning mountain scenery.

After the hike:

As you’re making your way back into town, pop into any one of El Chaltén’s craft cervecerías or local restaurants for a much-deserved beer and a hearty meal.

What to bring:

  • Daybag
  • Trekking poles (not a total necessity, but they will be nice to have for the last leg of the journey)
  • Water
  • Snacks + Lunch
  • Sunblock + sunglasses
  • Have warm layers available so you can spend lots of time at the lagoon comfortably. There’s a very good chance that you won’t want to leave this place!

Best time of year to go:

November to March

Grade of difficulty:

Moderate to challenging

Stats:

  • Distance: 24km (15mile) round trip
  • Elevation gain: 882m (2,894ft)
  • Time: approximately 6 hrs of hiking time

 

 

The park is filled with native wildlife unique to the Patagonia region such as huemuls (deer) and carpinteros (large woodpeckers). These animals are very difficult to spot on your own and require expert eyes and an advanced knowledge of the area. If you’re looking to gain more insight about the region and see wildlife, then we recommend hiring a guide to get the very best of your hike.

Ready to start planning your trip? Visit us here to find an expert local guide to show you the area!

 

How to eat like a Chilean

 

Source: upsocl

 

It’s a regular Sunday afternoon in Chile.

The grill is fired up, salty snacks sit on the table and countless Chileans begin to gather together in one small backyard. Grandparents, uncles, cousins, friends, and friends of friends all file into space, greeting one another with a friendly kiss on the cheek. Sunday lunch has just begun and the next five, six or seven hours will be dedicated to eating, drinking, laughing and enjoying time with loved ones.

Like many Latin cultures, social gatherings in Chile often revolve around food. The main meal is lunch, so mid-afternoon is usually the time for families and friends to get together. There are all sorts of lunch options, but Chileans really love barbecues. They are popular year round, but especially when the weather is nice or during the September independence holidays.

 

Source: conbotasdeagua

 

Picoteo

A Chilean barbecue always begins with something called “picoteo,” which translates to finger food or appetizers. Picoteo consists of generic foods, such as chips, olives or peanuts, as well as specific Chilean food.

A common Chilean picoteo is pebre. Pebre is a tasty dip made up of chopped tomatoes, cilantro, onion and olive oil. You can eat it with many different things, such as bread, sausage or sopaipilla pastries.

Additionally, Chileans serve cream cheese spreads for picoteo. They take a block of standard cream cheese, add different toppings for flavor and then pair it with crackers. Cream cheese toppings can include soy sauce with sesame seeds, chutney or green chili. It is delicious and really transforms regular cream cheese into something special and unique.

 

Source: animalgourmet

 

The Main Course

But don’t fill up on picoteo! The next round is full of delicious meat. Chileans love to serve heavy, juicy meat at a barbecue, often along with various side dishes, such as potatoes and salad.

To start this course, Chileans like to serve something called “choripan,” which is a sausage (chorizo) wrapped in Chilean marraqueta bread (pan).

After everyone has had a sausage or two, you move on to the steak. Chileans know how to cook a steak just right, leaving the meat juicy, tender and perfectly salted. It can be served in one of two ways. The first is when everyone grabs his/her own plate of meat and side dishes. But in a more casual setting, Chileans like to cut the meat into small pieces and serve straight from the cutting board, letting everyone grab pieces with their fingers.

Even though there is always a lot of meat, there are still options for vegetarians at a barbecue. A new, trendy veggie alternative is to grill bell peppers and green chilis. Chileans cut open and fill the peppers and chilis with shredded cheese or egg to add fun and flavor to the food.

 

Source: bettycrocker

 

Dessert

Once the main course has finished, get ready for dessert and hot beverages.

For dessert, cake, fruit, pastries or sweet bread is served. Cakes are typically very sugary and sweet, layered in dulce de leche or white meringue. They are delicious and very popular amongst both Chileans and foreigners.

Additionally, Chileans like sweet bread, known as “queque.” Queque comes in many flavors, such as vanilla or carrot. It goes great with a hot tea!

 

Source: 800.cl

 

Onceand Repeat

By this point in the meal, you are completely stuffed. But give yourself an hour or two to digest and make room for more. Keep in mind — Chilean lunch can last all day and into the night. After dessert, comes “once,” which is Chile’s way of saying, “tea time.” “Once” normally consists of more tea, coffee, and cakes. Additionally, avocado and toast or ham and cheese sandwiches can be served. You will never have an empty stomach at a Chilean barbecue. The food keeps coming and coming until everyone leaves.

 

Source: whatdoctorsknow

 

Attending a traditional Chilean barbecue is really something special. Not only will you indulge in some incredible food, but you will learn to admire and appreciate the culture, as well as the love and openness Chileans have for one another.

 

 

 

 

 

The best things to see and do during a weekend in Santiago

Source: wkndheroes / Santiago

 

Santiago is a big city. Stretching out from the base of the Andes mountains and sprawling across the valley, its many barrios could take weeks to explore properly, full of museums, art galleries, great restaurants, historic sites, and modern innovations. But there are some absolute must-do and see sights when you’re in the capital for even just a few days, so here’s how to do Santiago in just a weekend!

 

San Cristobal Hill

 

Climb up San Cristobal Hill to take in the view – A can’t-miss stop when spending even just a day in Santiago is San Cristobal Hill, a tall cerro rising up from the Bellavista neighborhood and overlooking the city center and surrounding neighborhoods. You can walk up the hill or (the more popular option) take the funicular train up to the top, where viewing platforms and a tall statue of the Virgin Mary offer breathtaking views of the city, which you can enjoy with refreshments like empanadas and a glass of mote con huesillo. You can also visit the Santiago Zoo and a Japanese-style garden, which are located near the base of the hill, and after taking in the views from the top, take the aerial cable car back down.

 

Source: Latercera / Lastarria Neighborhood

 

Wander around Lastarria and Bellavista – These are two of Santiago’s most famous barrios, and for good reason. They’re easily walkable and can make for hours of meandering entertainment. In Lastarria, museums and art galleries vye for space with vinyl stores, vintage clothing boutiques, trendy eateries, and street art sellers. The architecture of Lastarria is one of its highlights: it’s very European and you’ll feel like you’re in a corner of London or Paris as you wander the cobblestone streets. Then, cross over the river to explore Bellavista, the capital’s bohemian neighborhood. Here you can find great street art, hip clubs, hippie hangouts, and La Chascona, Pablo Neruda’s quirky Santiago home. There’s more than enough to see and entertain visitors for hours on end.

 

Plaza de Armas

 

See the historic buildings in El Centro – The city center has some of the capital’s oldest and most refined historic buildings, all located within a few blocks of each other and so easy to explore over the course of a few hours. Start by taking in La Moneda, the stately Presidential Palace, before heading over to the Plaza de Armas where, in between getting your caricature drawn and enjoying snacks from street vendors, you can be awed by both the exterior and interior of the National Cathedral, as well as admiring the classic architecture around the square.

 

Photography: Sky Costanera

 

Visit the observation deck at the top of the Gran Torre – The best view in Santiago can be found from the observation decks on the top two floors of the Gran Torre at the Costanera Center, the tallest skyscraper in South America. Located alongside the Mapocho River between the barrios of Providencia and Las Condes, the decks have expansive, sweeping views of the surrounding mountains; views that are not to be missed.

 

Source: Elpaís / Museum of Memory

 

Learn about Chilean (and South American) history and culture at the capital’s top notch museums – You could easily spend whole days at Santiago’s highly informative and engaging museums, but an afternoon or a few hours will do. The Museum of Pre-Columbian Art is not to be missed, filled with thousands of timeless relics from the great civilizations of Chilean and South American history. The Fine Arts museum showcases Chilean as well as international talent, and the Natural History Museum offers a fascinating look at Chilean flora and fauna. But the Museum of Memory and Human Rights may be the city’s best : a reflective, honest look at the history and atrocities of the Pinochet dictatorship.

 

Source: Planeta Vivo / Borago Restaurant

 

Try authentic Chilean cuisine – Santiago is in the midst of a culinary renaissance, taking advantage of Chile’s incredible wealth of fresh, local fruits, vegetables, and meats to create bold, experimental new dishes, as well as elevate timeless classics. Some of the best places to try include: Liguria, which makes fantastic Chilean sandwiches; Fuente Alemana for German-Chilean fare and hearty beer; BocaNariz for the city’s finest wine bar; Chipe Libre for knock-you-to-your-knees pisco flights and cocktails; and for a very special night, Borago, considered one of the world’s best.

 

Source: Nuevamujer / Quinta Normal Park

 

Take a break from all the crazy with a walk in the park – Running around trying to see all the top sights in just a weekend can be overwhelming, so plan time to take a break and wander through Santiago’s lovely parks. The Parque Forestal stretches along the side of the Mapocho River, and is just minutes away from Bellavista and Lastarria. Quinta Normal is also a great place to meander, with its many paths, leafy trees, and fountains and ponds; it also houses several museums.

 

Photography: Turismo Chile / Colchagua Valley

 

Get out of town for a few hours – If you’re not really a big city person and want to spend your time in Santiago also seeing a bit of the surrounding countryside, you’re in luck: there are many fantastic day or afternoon trips located close by the city. If you want to see the mountains, pay a visit to Cajon de Maipo, a gorge just outside town where people go for outdoor sports like rafting and hiking, as well as to see the El Yeso Dam and Reservoir, soak in high mountain thermal hot springs, and hike to a distant glacier. Or, if you prefer something a bit more relaxing, go for an afternoon of wine tastings at the vineyards in the nearby wine valleys of Casablanca or Colchagua. You can also visit the seaside city of Valparaiso, home to colorful houses, funiculars, and street art. All these destinations can be reached in just an hour or a bit more, and offer a great respite from city life.

 

Source: Wherelunch / Azotea Matilde

 

End the day with a bit of fun – Santiago has a thrilling nightlife scene: plenty of hopping clubs, bars, and even speakeasies where you can drink, dance, and make merry until the wee hours of the morning (Chileans are notorious partiers). So after a long day of exploring, hit the dance floor and have some fun!

6 reasons to visit Chile in spring

 

When is the best time to visit Chile? It depends on what you want to do and see while you’re here, but spring is one of the most beautiful and underappreciated seasons to visit. Full of vibrant spring sunshine, the awakening of all the trees and plants, new baby animals, and much more, it’s a glorious time to get to know this unique country full of life and adventure. Here’s six reasons to visit Chile during spring!

1. Low season rates – Always a good incentive to travel outside of high season: better prices! The summer months of December through March are high season for Chile, especially since that’s when Chile’s schools are out for the summer vacation, so hotels, tour packages, flights, and everything else associated with vacation is at its highest pricing. But during spring, tour operators, hotels, and destinations are eager to kick-start the season and attract off-season visitors, so they offer special reduced rates that you can take advantage of to save money and maybe even have enough to extend your stay and see even more!

 

 

2. Good weather – Spring in Chile is a lovely time: the earth is waking up, everything is in bloom, and the weather is wonderful. Most visitors rave that summer in Chile is the best, but especially if you’re going to Patagonia, off-season during spring is just as good a time to visit as summer or fall, and you may even have better luck avoiding the region’s notoriously bad wind or summer showers. If you’re visiting during September or October, there is also still a good chance that some of Chile’s ski resorts will still be open for skiing and snowboarding, so you can shred the slopes in gorgeous sunny weather.

 

 

3. Fewer crowds – A definite bonus of traveling before high season in summer: there will be far less people at the top attractions! During summer places like San Pedro de Atacama and Torres del Paine can become overrun by tourists so visiting a few months ahead of the crowds is always a good idea if you prefer some peace and quiet during your travels. And, if you’re visiting lesser-known destinations like Valle de Elqui or the Carretera Austral during spring, you’re almost guaranteed to have the place pretty much to yourself!

 

Source: Outdoors – Photography: Luis Arnaboldi, Teresita Cox

 

4. Blooming plant life – As the snows of winter melt away, Chile blooms to life again! The country’s fantastic diversity of exotic flora wakes up after the long sleep of winter and cover the country in green and colorful flowers. If you’re lucky, you may be visiting during a year when the Atacama Desert experiences one of its rare and magical blooms, when this incredibly arid desert – the driest on Earth – has received enough rain that large patches of it erupt in gorgeous flowers as far as the eye can see. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime sight. But even if the desert isn’t blooming this year, watching the rest of Chile’s beautiful landscapes come to life is a real treat, perfect for going on hikes, cycling, or just driving through the scenery.

 

Source: Bioenciclopedia

 

5. Baby animals – Spring is also the time when many of Chile’s native animals enter their birthing season. If you’re planning on visiting any of Chile’s national parks or protected lands during your visit, if you’re lucky you may be able to see adorable new baby animals taking their first steps and getting to know the landscape. A good place to see this in action is at Torres del Paine National Park, where the large guanaco populations usually start giving birth in late spring in October or November.

 

Source: adondevamos

 

6. Celebrate Chilean Independence – Even though the official first day of spring in Chile is September 21st, spring feels like it starts before then in early or mid September because of the Fiestas Patrias holiday. Celebrating Chile’s Independence from Spain, the 18th and 19th of September are national holidays and many Chileans take the whole week off to mark the occasion with barbecues, family parties, traveling, and attending local fondas: fairs where they can enjoy traditional Chilean food and drinks, dance the national dance, the cueca, and celebrate. Because of the festive air that takes over the whole country leading up to these holidays, it’s a wonderful time to come to Chile to experience the culture, food, and season.

Top 5 places to find street art in Chile

 

A trip to Chile is not complete without a little street art and graffiti sighting. Most of the art can be found in cities, Valparaiso and Santiago. Here’s a look at some of the best spots to find it:

 

1. Cerro Concepcion and Cerro Alegre, Valparaiso

Bring your walking shoes to Valparaiso! This city is full of hills and packed with colorful street art. The most popular hills are Cerro Concepcion and Cerro Alegre, which can both be accessed by foot or old-fashioned funicular.  The hills sit side by side, which makes it easy to wander between the two.

Each time you visit, you will find something new and different. Artists, both well-known and undiscovered, frequently come to the hills and create new work.

But even with new art popping up, there are some pieces that never change. The piano stairs, for instance, is a Valparaiso classic. Rightfully so, you can find these steps on Beethoven Street.

Another favorite sighting is the “We are Happies, not Hippies” painting on Templeman and Lautaro Rozas. Art+Believe, an artist team from the United Kingdom, painted this piece and it is now a popular spot for group photos. “It captivates the colour, vibrancy and the philosophy of the Chilean people today, now free of dictatorship,” writes Art+Believe, taking pride in the piece they consider the “mantra of their travels.”

 

Source: Disfruta Santiago

 

2. Museo a Cielo Abierto, Santiago

Nestled in the heart of San Miguel commune is a place called Museo a Cielo Abierto, or in other words, “Open Air Museum.” It’s not a typical museum, but more of a designated area that displays a number of giant murals.

The project started several years ago as an initiative to restore deteriorating buildings in this working-class neighborhood. In order to improve the quality of the neighborhood, the community came together to create a free, public space for people to view large-scale artworks.

The space features more than 4,000 square meters of colorful, creative murals. Museo a Cielo Abierto has been both nationally and internationally recognized for its art and impact in the San Miguel community.

 

Source: Voyhoy

 

3. Bellavista, Santiago

Bellavista is a popular spot for both tourists and locals in Santiago. Besides nightclubs and lively restaurants, the neighborhood has plenty of unique street art. It’s a young area due to its funky atmosphere and the nearby universities. However, the neighborhood can easily be enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. Close to Bellavista is La Vega Market and a popular hiking spot called Cerro San Cristobal. Wander to these touristic hotspots and check out the street art as you go.

You can spot cartoonish characters, abstract shapes and different surreal scenes painted on the colorful buildings. The murals vary in content, but always offer something interesting to look at.

 

Photography: Rodrigo Fernández

 

 4. Cerro Bellavista and Florida, Valparaiso

Don’t limit yourself to just Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion when visiting Valparaiso. There are many other hills and neighborhoods to explore, many which offer a more “off-the-beaten-trail” experience. One spot to visit is Cerro Florida and Bellavista.

Cerro Florida is the hill where a famous Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda’s “La Sebastiana” house is located. Not far from the house is the Valparaiso Museo a Cielo Abierto (Open Air Museum) in Cerro Bellavista.

This project was directed and led by artist and university professor, Francisco Raúl Méndez Labbé in the 1990s. Renowned painters sketched the murals and university students worked together to execute the vision.

There are 20 different murals in the space and the art takes up several blocks, coloring sides buildings and stairways. Each mural has a sign with the name of the artist who envisioned it.

 

Source: Radio Zero

 

5. Barrio Yungay, Santiago

Among Santiago’s many neighborhoods is Barrio Yungay. It’s an old, yet charming community close to Quinta Normal Park. The neighborhood prides itself on being one of the oldest, most historical spots in the city, with some buildings dating back to the eighteenth century.

The neighborhood represents great economic prosperity and cultural development in both Santiago and Chile. Many successful artists, politicians, and intellectuals once resided in this community.

In addition to its historical roots, Barrio Yungay also has a lot of interesting street art. The combination of history, colonial buildings, and modern street art definitely give this neighborhood a unique feel.

 

Why Fiestas Patrias is the best time to experience Chile

 

Source: Corazón 101.3

 

What is Fiestas Patrias to Chile?

Fiestas Patrias – otherwise known as “dieciocho” – is the celebration of Chile’s independence from Spain in 1810, and the 18th and 19th of September – which commemorate the first day that the Chilean government gathered to declare independence from Spain, as well as the Day of the Glories of the Army – are the best holidays in the whole country, eagerly awaited year round. Imagine if Christmas, your birthday, and the fervent pride of your country’s independence day were all rolled into one giddy, ecstatic party: THAT is the level of Fiestas Patrias in Chile.

Although the official holidays are Sept. 18th and 19th, most schools and businesses offer extended vacation days so the country can relax and enjoy the fun, and many people take the whole week off work to travel, be with family, and have a grand old time. As the whole country celebrates, there is a overload of food, music, dance, art, and joy, making it arguably the best time to come and experience the true character and flavors of Chile. As the Chileans say at this joyous time of year, “tiki tiki ti!” Here’s all the things you can do in Chile during Fiestas Patrias that make it the best time to visit and experience Chile.

 

Source: diabelife

 

1. Authentic and delicious food – Chileans go all out when it comes to the food and drink for their independence day celebrations, and everything is delicious and wholly Chilean. At the various parties and celebrations that take place during this time of year you can enjoy empanadas de pino (empanadas made with ground beef, onion, and other veggies), as well as sopaipillas (fried disks of Andean squash and flour) and the sweet version of sopaipillas, known as sopaipillas pasadas, which are served drenched in a sweet sauce. And, of course, there is plenty of meat! Chileans love a good barbecue so for Fiestas Patrias you can find everything from standard cuts of chicken, beef, and pork, to anticuchos (meat skewers) and choripan (chorizo sandwiches).

 

Source: Pasaje Bus

 

2. The best party drinks – But now you need something to wash all that good food down and get you ready for a good party. Famous for its wine and pisco, Chile has plenty of potent and tasty party drinks to go around, many of which are traditional for dieciocho. For wine, try melon con vino, which is chilled white wine and powdered sugar served in a hollowed out melon, or pipeno, a super-sweet wine that is used in terremotos, an insidious drink made with pipeno wine, Fernet, and ice cream. The mix of sugar and alcohol is so strong that when you stand up from drinking, you sway around or end up on the floor: just like an earthquake, which is where the drink gets its name! Yet another popular drink is chicha, a liqueur-type aperitif that’s very sweet and is distilled from grapes or apples.

 

Source: tvn

 

3. Wonderful music and dance – The Fiestas Patrias parties is the best place to get your groove on! Bands play traditional Chilean music and songs, dancers wear traditional garb like large-skirted dresses and huaso (cowboy gear), and it’s one of the best times of the year to see Chileans dancing their national dance, the cueca. The dance is performed by a man and woman circling each other, waving handkerchiefs and tapping their feet in an elaborate sequence, and it’s said that the dance is meant to represent a rooster courting a hen. It’s a fun and energetic dance, and even if you don’t get the steps exactly correct, it’s the thought that counts and Chileans love it when you get in on the fun!

 

Source: 24horas

 

4. Party at different venues to see how the country celebrates – You can celebrate Fiestas Patrias at the home of any Chilean or in restaurants, but the best place to get the true ‘dieciocho’ experience is at a fonda. Fondas are official celebrations put on by towns or cities, where large tents or venues are set up, with areas for eating, dancing, and other fun activities like games. The tents are festively decorated with Chilean flags and red, white, and blue, and the air is full of music, noise, and excitement. Although you can find fondas all over the country, arguably the best can be found in Santiago, where you can also watch the official military and naval parades honoring the occasion.

 

Source: tvn

 

5. Experience the sense of national pride and comradery – The celebration of the start of their fight for independence is something unites the whole country of Chile, and it’s wonderful to watch the whole country getting excited and celebrating together. From the beginning of September, flags start flying and people start gearing up for the big day, and being a part of all that excitement and joy, like the whole country is having one big giant party is a feeling that’s hard to find anywhere else.

 

 

 

6 reasons to escape to Cajon del Maipo for a day

Fotografía: Diego Astorga

 

Full of rivers, high mountain passes, lakes, and forests, the mountain valleys of Cajon del Maipo are some of Chile’s best kept secrets. Located a mere hour from the capital city of Santiago, these beautiful gorges are a popular place for rafting, hiking, mountaineering, or just appreciating the mountain views. But even though Cajon del Maipo is primarily famous as a destination for outdoor sports, there are plenty of other ways to get to know the region, like visiting the towns and trying local flavors. Here are six reasons why you should escape to Cajon del Maipo for a day!

 

 

1. Get away from the city – Santiago is the most cosmopolitan city in Chile, full of museums, parks, nightlife spots, and arts and cultural centers, but even with all that it can still be a good idea to leave the city behind once in a while and go out into nature. Cajon del Maipo is only an hour away from the city, making a great option for a day trip or a weekend getaway!

 

 

2. See the El Yeso reservoir – Located deep within the mountainous gorge of Cajon de Maipo, the El Yeso reservoir – formed by the damming of the Yeso River – is truly a sight to behold. Snowy mountains rise out of a tranquil, turquoise expanse of water, making it the perfect site for a photo opp. It’s also a popular place for fishing, or packing a picnic and taking scenic hikes along the side of the reservoir.

 

 

3. Visit quaint mountain villages – Cajon del Maipo is home to many charming mountain towns full of culture, local cuisine, and beautiful views. San Jose, the capital of the municipality, is a popular place to spend the afternoon, where you can admire the adobe buildings, try some of the specialty empanadas, and even visit nearby high-altitude vineyards or local microbreweries. The nearby town of San Alfonso is also a popular stop, especially because of its chocolate store, a fantastically designed building that looks like it’s come straight from The Shire.

 

 

4. Learn more about the local flora and fauna – The isolated valleys of Cajon del Maipo are home to an astonishing array of unique plants and wildlife, which you can see and learn about during hikes, especially in the El Morado National Monument. Here you can see animals like foxes and vizcachas, and it’s an especially great place to see birds like the Andean condor and eagles.

 

 

5. Relax in high mountain hot springs – After a long hike in the mountains, soaking in the amazing views and fresh air, the only way to finish the day is by soaking in some hot water. A trip to Cajon del Maipo isn’t complete without a visit to the Colina hot springs, a series of mineral, thermal hot springs staggered along the side of the Colina Valley. Here you can lounge for hours in different springs that are reputed to having healing abilities, and during certain seasons you can even visit in the evening so you can see the stars over the mountains.

 

 

6. See a glacier – Bet you didn’t know that you could see a glacier just a short drive and a hike from Santiago! The El Morado Glacier can be found in El Morado National Mountain and is reached via a scenic hike deep into the heart of the valley. You can either hike on your own or go horseback riding, allowing you to take in the spectacular views and flora and fauna before reaching the glacier, which descends out of the mountain pass and ends in a lake studded with tiny icebergs broken off of the glacier. It’s amazing that you can find such beautiful forces of nature right here in Santiago’s backyard!

 

Why Chile should be the next place you go for vacation

 

The time has come: the time to plan your next vacation! You’re excited, it’s finally here, you can go out and discover another part of this great, big world. But where to go? There are so many options! How about Chile? Hmmm….Maybe. You’ve been hearing a lot about Chile these days, it seems like a really popular place to go at the moment. These are just some of the reasons why you should pick Chile as the next place you go for vacation!

 

 

1.Diverse landscapes – One of the hardest parts of deciding where to go on vacation is trying to decide what kind of place you want to visit. Forests? Sandy beaches? High mountains? The desert? In Chile, you don’t have to choose: Chile has practically every kind of landscape and climate imaginable! You can see high desert plateaus, salt flats, and rocky valleys in the Atacama Desert, the driest desert on Earth; visit the pristine beaches near Santiago; go hiking or rafting through the ancient forests and roaring rivers of the Lakes District; or gaze in amazement at towers of granite and glaciers in the far south in Patagonia.

 

 

2. You can do almost any sport here – No matter what kind of outdoor sport you like to do, no matter what your skill level is, and no matter what time of year it is, you can do it in Chile! You can ski down a volcano in the Lakes District or in the mountains outside Santiago; hike through Torres del Paine National Park to see amazing landscapes formed over millennia by wind, water, and glaciers;  tackle some of the world’s best white water rapids in the Lakes District; go cycling down the Carretera Austral in Aysen; go fishing, boating, or kayaking; glide off a sand dune in the north; virtually any kind of sport you want to do, there’s a place to do it. You can even go backcountry dog sledding!

 

 

3. It’s easier than ever to get around – Yes, just getting to Chile takes a long time, to say nothing of having to travel all over the country itself to get to its destinations, but thanks to its new popularity as a tourist destination, getting around Chile has become very easy and surprisingly cheap! You can do it like Chileans do and take long distances buses (which are actually very comfortable and affordable) or if you’re in more of a hurry, many low-cost airline operators are now available to airports all over the country, from the Atacama to Patagonia. And public transportation around towns is efficient and easy to figure out; big cities like Santiago have bus routes and a Metro system, and taxis and colectivos (communal taxies) are plentiful; many towns also have Lyft or Uber as well. So if you don’t want to rent a car, it’s never been easier to travel all over Chile and at very reasonable rates.

 

Source: disfrutasantiago

 

4. Safety and security – Chile are one of (if not the) safest countries in South America, with extremely low violent crime rates. People in Chile are incredibly nice and helpful to tourists, always eager to put their best foot forward to give Chile a good impression to visitors. The only exception is that it’s wise to be wary of pickpockets in big cities like Santiago, especially near popular tourist areas, but as long as you are careful with your valuables and are savvy travelers, there’s nothing to worry about!

 

Source: cocinayvino

 

5. You’ll never go thirsty – It doesn’t matter what your drink of choice is, Chile has something for you! Chile has long been famous for its world-class wines, especially reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and whites like Chardonnay, and the wine valleys near Santiago are great destinations for vineyard visits and to do tastings. But if you’re more of a beer person, not to worry! When waves of German immigrants came to Chile in the 1800s, they brought their love of beer with them and create a deeply rooted craft beer culture. You can find amazing brews all over the country, but many of the best craft breweries are located in the South, especially the Lakes District. And if you enjoy spirits, Chile is renowned for its pisco, which is a liqueur distilled from grape varietals that generally are used to make white wine. Pisco can be drunk straight, but is very popular as a base for cocktails, like the pisco sour. So drink up!

 

Source: natursan.net

 

6.Amazing gastronomy – The cuisine of other South American countries like Peru or Argentina may be better known, but food in Chile is equally interesting and delicious. Chileans love a great barbecue just as much as the next person and so the asado is a popular tradition all over the country, especially in Patagonia where a lamb is butterfly roasted over a smoldering fire on a spit. There is also a strong German influence, so around the country you can find sausage-and-potato-heavy dishes, and German desserts like kuchen. And being a country with a coastline that spans the entire country, seafood is especially popular, like paila marina (a seafood stew), sea urchin, fried fish, and chupe de jaiba (crab pie).

 

Source: reusser

 

7. Interesting mix of cultures – Chile has a fascinating history and cultural identity thanks to the mix of cultures that have come here over the years. Patagonia in southern Chile used to be home to a large group of indigenous tribes, most notably the Mapuche, a fierce warrior tribe who were the only people in South America to drive back the Spanish during colonization, and their beliefs, cuisine, and culture are still prominent throughout the country. Of course, Spanish language and cultural influence are especially strong, and you can also encounter evidence of European culture from the Welsh, English, and German immigrants who moved here for work and land throughout the 1800s. All these melding languages, traditions, and identities have created a unique national culture that varies all over the country, creating some of the most interesting food, music, architecture, art, and dance to be found anywhere in South America.

 

Guide to the Best Beach Treats in Chile

Fotografía: Turismo Chile

 

With roughly 4,270 kilometers of coastline, it is safe to say that Chile has its fair share of beaches. Each summer, locals, and tourists flock to the country’s Pacific waters to take advantage of the sun, surfing and most importantly — food.

The food along the coast is rich and unique in flavor. Without a doubt, tasting some of the country’s best beach treats is a must-do activity when visiting Chile. Here’s a look at some of the most delicious options:

 

Source: saboresdechile

 

Fresh Seafood

Ceviche: Ceviche is a well-known seafood dish in Chile. It’s a tasty combo of fish, lemon juice, onion, garlic, and cilantro. Merkén, a commonly used Chilean spice, can also be put into the dish. It’s popular and serves as a healthier snack option.

 

Source: cherrytomate

 

Machas a La Parmesana: A macha is a type of clam native to Chile. Typically a plate of these clams is served as an appetizer to share. Each clam is baked with cheese and wine, providing a rich and creamy taste.

 

Source: frostchile

 

Chupe de Mariscos: At the beach, Chileans prepare seafood in a thick, creamy stew referred to as “chupe.” The stew is prepared with various ingredients, such as breadcrumbs, cheese, onion, and seafood. You can order a mix of seafood or a specific type, such as crab (Chupe de Jaiba) or shellfish (Chupe de Locos).

 

Source: amipintacocino.blogspot

 

Fried Eats

Empanadas: Empanadas are doughy pastries filled with savory ingredients and flavors, such as meat, vegetables or cheese. They can be found throughout Chile, but are especially delicious when purchased at the beach. Beach empanadas are so tasty because they are often fried, instead of baked. Also, they can be stuffed with unique fillings, like shrimp or crab. El Hoyo in Maitencillo, La Casa De Las Empanadas in Pichilemu and Delicias Express in Valparaiso offer some of the best along the coast.

 

Source: picadas.tipicochileno

 

Chorrillana: If you plan to indulge in chorrillana, make sure you bring friends. This dish is huge and should be shared with others. It consists of fried egg, diced onion, and bits of meat over a hot plate of french fries. Chorrillana is popular throughout Chile, but its origin comes from J. Cruz, a restaurant in Valparaiso. This restaurant is a one-of-a-kind place, packed with strange, unique decorations on every wall and a line running out the door. Here you can try where the first chorrillana was created.

 

Photography: Alexander Prokopenko

 

Sweet Snacks

Churros: Chile puts a unique twist on this classic, Latin pastry. The churro is fried and filled with creamy dulce de leche in the center and powdered sugar on top. Dulce de leche, or commonly known as manjar, is typically used in Chilean desserts. Locals love this spread and it really adds a sweet kick to the churro pastry.

 

Source: enmicocinahoy

 

Palmeras: Along the Chilean beaches, you can easily find this treat at any small food vendor. Palmeras are crispy, crunchy and sweet. They are flat, rounded pastries and often served with sugar on top.

 

Source: cherrytomate

 

Cuchufli: A cuchufli cookie has a texture similar to a chewy ice cream cone. Each one is in the shape of a tube and is made from sugar, butter, egg whites, flour, and vanilla. Inside the cookie is dulce de leche. Cuchufli is popular amongst all ages and often served at birthday parties and celebratory events. It’s easy to find cuchufli at any grocery store, but the best ones always come from the beach. Go to any beach food stand or vendor and you can always find cuchufli, warm and freshly baked.

 

 

 

10 ways to experience Chile’s Lakes District

With its volcanoes, lakes, rivers, mountains, and unique culture, the Lakes District is one of the most enchanting places in Chile, and there are endless ways you can explore and fall in love with this lovely corner of the world. Here are our ten favorite ways to experience Chile’s Lake District!

 

Photography: Turismo Chile

 

1. Go kayaking – With its pristine blue lakes and rivers, the Lakes District is one of the best places in Chile for kayaking! There are more turbulent rivers and streams for more experienced kayakers, as well as plenty of leisurely streams and lakes that are perfect for newbies or kayakers who enjoy going kayaking to look for wildlife or go birding. Pumalin Park, Llanquihue Lake, the Petrohue River, and the Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve are all popular spots, and sea kayaking along the coast is also a wonderful way to know the bays, marshes, and waterways of the Chilean coastline.

 

 

2. Hit the trails – Valleys, mountains, volcanoes…the Lakes District is Ground Zero for great hiking in Chile! You can see amazing vistas and landscapes, as well as challenge yourself and get up close with the unique flora and fauna of the south. The national parks and protected lands of the Lakes District are great places to start for single and multi-day trekking and hiking options: Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, Vincente Peréz Rosales National Park, and Pumalin National Park all have jaw-dropping scenery, and have a wide range of hikes for all ages and levels of experience.

 

 

 

3. Feel the thrill of white water rapids – The white water rafting in southern Chile is considered to be some of the best in the world, full of rapid descents and a wide variety of classes of rapids. The Trancura or Liucura Rivers are the rivers to go to if you want to truly experience white water rapids, either rafting or kayaking. There are options year-round, many of the top rivers are close to popular adventure destinations like Pucon, and the views from the rivers are absolutely mesmerizing. You’ll never forget the thrill of riding those white waters!

 

 

Photography: Turismo Chile

 

4. Learn about the Mapuche people – The Mapuches are one of Chile’s oldest and most culturally significant indigenous groups, and they were the only tribe that was able to beat back the Spanish when they first came to the country. The south has long been the Mapuche’s stronghold so the cultural influence here is still very strong. Many own businesses and restaurants where you can see their handicrafts and eat traditional foods, but a visit to a traditional ruka offers a fascinating glimpse into this ancient and incredible people.

 

Source: thisischile

 

5. Try local craft beers – Thanks to a surge of German immigrants in the 1800s, Southern Chile is a Mecca for craft brewing. The region has been overflowing in hops and foam heads ever since, and you’ll find breweries both big and small everywhere, making everything from IPAs to golden ales to stouts. Valdivia has a great brewing scene as it’s the home of Cerveceria Kunstmann, which is one of the oldest breweries in Chile and has a fantastic beer festival every summer. Keep going south from there and you’ll never be far from a brewery or beer garden; Pucon and Puerto Varas also have great microbrew scenes.

 

Photography: Turismo Chile

 

6. Climb up a volcano! – The Lakes District is home to many striking volcanoes, some of which are still active! But you can do much more than just enjoy their beauty; there are several that you can actually climb up! The most popular is Villarrica Volcano outside Pucon, where you can take a tour walking up to the smoking crater, take in the view (and be careful!) and then, if there’s snow, sled back down! There’s also a ski resort on one of Villarica’s slopes that’s open during the winter months.

 

 

7. Sightsee traditional German houses – The prevalence of German culture and food is part of what makes the Lakes District of Chile so unique, and this also extends to the exquisite German-Chilean houses that were built using native Alerce wood but with classic Gothic Script styling and colorful walls and trim. Although you can see an example of these houses all over the region, the German heritage neighborhood in Puerto Varas has fantastically-maintained examples that you can easily walk around the city and see, like the Kuschel House, Niklitschek House, and the German House, as well as the iconic red-and-white Church of the Sacred Heart that overlooks the city.

 

 

Photography: Turismo Chile

 

8. Taste the culinary mix of the south – The cultural melting pot of German, Spanish, Mapuche, and other European influences has created a culinary scene unlike anywhere else in Chile. German kuchen, a kind of pie which can be made with different kinds of fruit, can be enjoyed for breakfast or afternoon tea. German sausage and hearty potato dishes are also very widely eaten. Dishes like papas bravas, serrano ham, and sheep and cow are evident of the more Spanish and Chilean influences, and Mapuche cuisine heavily features foraged foods like mushrooms and wild fish. At restaurants throughout the region, you’ll be able to try the different flavors and backgrounds of this diverse part of Chile.

 

Photography: Marco Sepulveda

 

9. See world-class music and theater at the Teatro del Lago in Frutillar – Set against the dramatic backdrop of Llanquihue Lake and the Osorno Volcano, this theater has quickly made a name for itself in the world of performing arts and music as one of the top performing arts centers in South America, with its symphony and classical music series, staged plays, and arts education program for local kids. The famous Frutillar Classical Music Festival takes place here, and the theater itself is a dream to look at, the outside walls made with multi-colored wooden slats.

 

Photography: Antoine Millet

 

10. Relax in thermal hot springs – Since the Lakes District is a land of fire and water, it stands to reason that those two elements would occasionally mix in the form of thermal hot springs. There are volcanic-heated hot springs throughout the region, and one of the most popular is the Termas Geometricas near Pucon. Designers created Japanese-inspired wooden red walkways and huts stretching between the heated pools at this site, which is sheltered by a natural canyon, creating an ethereal, mystical feel.

 

Why Torres del Paine is a photographer’s paradise

Photography: Turismo Chile

 

It’s known as the eighth natural wonder of the world, and there’s a reason for that. Torres del Paine National Park, located in the Magallanes region of Chilean Patagonia, is one of the most visually arresting places on Earth, covered in granite peaks, blue glaciers, pristine lakes, and endless grassy plains full of unique local flora and fauna. All these spectacular landscapes mean that it’s one of the best places to go for a photo safari. Whether you’re a seasoned professional hoping to expand your portfolio, an amateur looking for a learning experience, or just wanting to try something new, this is why Torres del Paine is heaven on Earth for photographers!

 

Photography: Turismo Chile

 

1.Diversity of terrains and natural formations – You want mountaintops that look like the Rockies on steroids? You got ‘em. You’re looking to see some glaciers? They’re right there. You want old-growth forests? Not a problem, right this way. Windswept plains? Yep, got that too. Lakes? Rivers? Valleys? Say no more, Torres del Paine has it all. For photographers, going to a site that has a wide range of landscapes to choose from is the golden ticket, as it easily allows you to experiment with texture, light balance, color, and more without long drives in between shooting locations. Although access to some spots in Torres del Paine, like the back of the Paine Massif, can require a day or two of intermediate hiking to get to, many of the most popular places in the park can be gotten to within a few hours.

 

 

2. Variable weather – Weather can either be a photographer’s best friend or worst enemy and while Torres del Paine is notorious for its winds and at times unpredictable weather, where there is bad there is also good. Those high winds that can be setting up a tripod a bit of a chore also produces spectacular lenticular clouds over the mountains, making for amazing cloud and landscape shots. Snow or rain can utterly transform the park’s already jaw-dropping landscapes, allowing for unique images that show the park in different ways. And, of course, if you visit outside of high season in the winter, spring, or fall, you can stunning seasonal photographs (fall is especially great for the foliage up against the mountains). And of course, just as quickly as the weather can turn bad, it can clear up and be a gorgeous day. A little patience and perseverance in the face of weather is what makes a photography session in Torres del Paine one of the books.

 

Photography: Justin Hofman

 

3. Stellar opportunities to see wildlife up close – Torres del Paine isn’t just a hotspot for landscape photographers; it’s also a great place to see native wildlife in its natural habitat and be able to capture the moment! Herds of guanacos roam the pampas of the park throughout the year and can be easily spotted, and sightings of condors, Darwin’s Rhea (a large bird which is similar to an ostrich or emu), and red and grey foxes are also pretty frequent. But then there are the rare sightings, which are really a treat. You might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a huemul, a small deer that appears on the Chilean coat of arms, or, the crown jewel of Patagonian wildlife sightings, a puma! Pumas can relax for hours out in the pampas or be in hiding waiting to attack prey, giving you ample time to snap those pics!

 

 

4.Peace and quiet that allows you to practice your craft – There’s nothing like having no one else around to put you at ease and allow you to spend hours experimenting with angles, lens, and shutter speed. Even though Torres del Paine is one of the most popular trekking destinations in South America right now, there are still plenty of places around the park and on the trails where the crowds and noise go away and it’s just you and your surroundings. So if you love going to remote, peaceful sites for your shoots, this is the place to be.

If you’re interested in trying out photography in Torres del Paine, check out our new Torres del Paine Photo Safari program, led by professional photographer and tour leader Justin Hofman. Find out more here!

 

Ten food and drink items you can only try in Chile

Photography: Turismo Chile

 

Borrowing from its blended culture of indigenous, Hispanic, and European influences, Chilean gastronomy has become one of the most interesting culinary scenes on the continent. Utilizing fresh local produce like avocados and corn, plentiful seafood from its 4,270 km (2,653 mi) coastline, and native flavors like maqui berry or cacho de cabra (goat horn) chiles, Chilean have produced a huge variety of unique dishes that highlight the flavors of each region, but there are some classics that are beloved the whole country over. Here’s just ten examples of the best Chilean food and drink that you need to try when visiting Chile!

 

Sourche: www.expressdelider.cl

 

1. Mote con huesillo – This strange looking but a refreshing drink is summer in a cup for Chileans! Meaning “wheat with peaches”, it’s part liquid, part solid. The liquid part is dehydrated peaches brewed with a sweet, “nectar” type mixture of water, cinnamon, and sugar. Then, when this has cooled, add a ladle of the liquid and one of the peaches to a plastic cup filled with cooked husked wheat kernels. Sugary sweet and a great drink for all ages, a popular place to enjoy this beverage is at the top of Cerro Santa Lucia in Santiago.

 

Source: www.enmicocinahoy.cl

 

2. Marraqueta bread – In Chile, fresh bread is a daily part of life. Either in the morning or before going home from work, Chileans will head to their neighborhood “panaderia” to stock up on bread for the night and next day, and the most popular kind of bread in Chile is the marraqueta. Super easy to make and share due to their shape, marraquetas are great for making sandwiches or enjoying with butter or avocado at Chilean “once” (teatime), an evening tradition where, instead of dinner, Chilean families gather around the table to eat bread and sweets and drink tea while talking about their day.

 

Source: www.chakula.cl

 

3. Sopaipillas – A classic street food throughout Chile, sopaipillas are small disks of Andean pumpkin mixed with flour and fried in hot oil. Just a single one will set you back about 200 Chilean pesos (roughly 30 cents USD) and you can top it off with ketchup, mustard, or pebre, a Chilean version of pico de gallo. During the winter, you can also soak them in a sweet syrup to make “sopaipillas pasadas”, which is a tasty breakfast treat or can be eaten for dessert!

 

Photography: Urban Adventure

 

4. Cazuela – Cazuela is to soup in Chile as chicken noodle soup is to soup in the States: it’s a classic and everyone has their own way of preparing it. Cazuela can be made with several different kinds of meat, such as different kinds of seafood, but beef or chicken are the most common. The meat of your choice, chunks of potatoes, carrots, and other veggies are added to a simmering broth, cooked until done, and then everyone gets to pick and choose what kinds of vegetables and meat they want for their individual serving. Cazuela can be eaten the whole year round but is especially popular in fall and winter.

 

Source: www.mundodedulcinea.cl

 

5. Pastel de jaiba – The waters of southern Chile are literally crawling with gigantic king crab, which is the main ingredient of this gut-busting crab pie. King crab meat is mixed with cheese, bread, and cream before being baked to gooey perfection.

 

Source: www.seriouseats.com

 

6. Chacarero – If there’s one thing Chileans know, it’s how to make a good sandwich and the Chacarero is one of the best. This behemoth was named one of the most amazing sandwiches in the world by TIME Magazine and it’s easy to see why. A huge piece of Chilean bread is cut in half, covered in homemade mayo and any other condiments you desire, and then piled high with thin, sizzling slices of steak or pork, sliced tomatoes, pieces of chile pepper, and then (wait for it) a heap of green beans! The green bean addition is what deters most visitors, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

 

Source: www.viax.cl

 

7. Chorrillana – Chileans love to party, and when the fun is done, you need something to soak up all that alcohol. Chorrillana is the ultimate drunk food: a plate of greasy french fries topped with sliced hot dog, slabs of beef, fried onion, and sunny-side up eggs. Share with a few friends and you have the perfect end to a great night out on the town!

 

Source: www.patagoniapordescubrir.com

 

8. Patagonian asado – If you’re planning on visiting Patagonia or Torres del Paine during your visit to Chile, you need to make time to partake of an authentic Patagonia asado (barbecue). In the past, the wilderness of Patagonia was colonized and presided over by baqueanos, the local version of cowboys. But instead of cattle, they herded sheep, whose wool was prized back in Europe. During the long stretches of time spent at their ranches or while out in the fields, they created the Patagonian asado, which is butterflying a lamb over an open fire, cooking it for about three hours and moistening it with a mixture of warm water, salt, and garlic, until the meat is tender and juicy. Top it off with a glass of Chilean red wine under the Patagonian stars and you have the recipe for an unforgettable barbecue!

 

Source: www.nuevamujer.com

 

9. Curanto – The preparation of this dish, which is native to the Chiloe archipelago in the south of the country, is similar to a traditional clambake. After filling a hole with hot stones that have been heated in a fire, the hole is filled with clams, mussels, sausage, chicken, potatoes, milcao (a type of potato patty), and veggies, which are then covered with large nalca leaves and left to bake for several hours. When the dish is done cooking, the leaves are removed and everyone gets to enjoy this delicious Chilote smorgasbord!

 

Source: www.enmicocinahoy.cl

 

10. Pastel de choclo – Corn is a key part of the Chilean diet, so of course one of their most famous and popular dishes is a corn pie! Similar to the English “corn pudding”, the corn is ground into a paste and mixed with seasoning, before being baked in a clay bowl that’s filled with ground beef, chicken, pieces of hard-boiled egg, onions, and black olives. The result is a cozy, homestyle dish that’s great for cold winter days.

15 fun facts that you didn’t know about Chile

Of the best parts of traveling and going to new places is learning all about what makes each place special and unique, and the same is definitely true of Chile, and there are some interesting things to know about the country that may surprise you. Here’s 15 fun facts that you didn’t know about Chile!

1.Chile has the world’s largest swimming pool! Found in the coastal city of Algarrobo, the pool is the length of 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools and holds 66 million gallons, making it a Guinness World Record Holder.