Whether you’re a foodie or not, the food you eat on vacation can become some of your favourite memories. It’s a way of experiencing different cultures, relaxing at the end of the day, and finding new flavours. In the Chilean capital, you can find some of the best restaurant in the country, region, and even the world. From experimental to traditional cuisine, from indigenous flavours to fusions, there’s so much for your tastebuds to discover. During your stay in Santiago, you’ll be overwhelmed with choice, but here are our top ten restaurant recommendations for places to eat.
1. Boragó Restaurant
Boragó has twice been included in the world’s top 50 restaurants in recent years and in 2018 the restaurant won the Sustainable Restaurant award. Its chef and owner, Rodolfo Guzman, is at the vanguard of the molecular endemic cuisine in Chile. The food menu varies as much as the wine; everything served in this restaurant is delicately chosen to match the season and the finest produce Chile has to offer. Booking is required and there is often a waiting list, so book well in advance if this restaurant is on your list!
Address: Av. San José María Escrivá de Balaguer 5970, Vitacura, Santiago
Monday to Saturday from 6:30 p.m. (last reservation at 10:30 p.m)
Regularly on the list of Latin America’s 50 best restaurants, Ambrosia offers a homely atmosphere with Chilean cuisine and international flair. Its food is creative, original, and a treat for the senses.
Address: Pamplona 78, Vitacura, Santiago
Monday to Saturday: 12:30 pm to 4 pm & 7:30 pm to 10:30 pm
Sunday & Holidays: Closed
3. Peumayen Restaurant
Peumayen is a celebration of the cuisines of Chile’s indigenous communities. From the Aymaras in the northern desert, to the Mapuches in the southern forests, to Rapa Nui in a Pacific island paradise, this food is as diverse as Chile. You can order a-la-cartè or you can also try a tasting menu called “Orígenes” with four different menus that contain nibbles inspired by the different cultures of the country, accompanied by a variety of wines, pisco or creative cocktails.
Address: Constitución 136, Barrio Bellavista, Santiago
Tuesday to Saturday: 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm & 7:00 pm to 10:45 pm
Sunday: 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm
A journey to the senses, this wine bar & restaurant offers pairing with all their meals giving its name, “Mouth-nose”. The menu is designed as a map of flavors with each dish perfectly created to bring out the best of its wine pairing. The magazine Wine Spectator has nominated Bocanariz’s wine menu as one of the best in the world for six years running. If you’re a wine lover, this one is a must.
Address: José Victorino Lastarria 276, Barrio Lastarria, Santiago
Monday to Wednesday: 12:30 pm to 12:00 am
Thursday to Saturday: 12:30 pm to 12:30 am
Sunday: 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm
Reservations: http://bocanariz.cl/index.php/reserva/ or firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Salvador Cocina y Cafe
Located in downtown Santiago, this small restaurant offers a menu based on cuisine from the countryside of Chile at moderate prices. The cuisine specializes in celebrating cuts of meat that usually go to waste and offers ‘menu del día’ (set lunch menu) and lighter options too. This is one of the more humble options on our list, but the same care and attention are paid to the dishes served. If you find yourself in the Lastarria district, visit Salvador’s sister branch, La Salvación.
Address: Bombero Ossa 1059, Santiago Centro, Santiago
Monday, Wednesday & Thursday: 8:00 am to 7:00 pm
Tuesday & Friday: 8:00 am to 8:30 pm
Saturday & Sunday: Closed
Reservations: Not necessary
6. Liguria Restaurant & Bar
This is the most typical restaurant on our list, offering typical Chilean food like ‘plateada’ (boneless short rib), ‘mechada’ (brisket), ‘pescado frito’ (fried fish), and traditional accompaniments. Wherever you are in Santiago, you won’t be far from Liguria with four restaurants in the most iconic neighborhoods of Santiago.
Address Lastarria: Merced 298, Lastarria Neighborhood, Santiago
Address Manuel Montt: Av. Providencia 1353, Providencia, Santiago
Address Luis Thayer Ojeda: Av. Luis Thayer Ojeda 019, Providencia, Santiago
Address Pedro de Valdivia: Av. Pedro de Valdivia 047, Providencia, Santiago
Monday to Saturday: 12:00 pm to 1:00 am
7. Bidasoa Restaurante
The Bidasoa Hotel hosts an excellent restaurant with a great variety of inspired and creative plates. This restaurant is our favourite for vegans and vegetarians with an entirely separate menu offering plant-based dishes. For those who can’t resist seafood or meat, enjoy the Chilean-European fusion menu, including ceviche, paella, and steaks.
Address: Av. Vitacura, 4873, Vitacura, Santiago
Breakfast: Monday to Sunday: 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. (Sunday until 11:00 a.m.)
Lunch & Dinner: Monday to Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Don’t let Silvestre’s humble entrance deceive you. This bistro is full of colourful, fresh dishes with a menu that changes daily to use only the freshest produce. From grilled octopus to hummus and veggies to the Chilean classic, cazuela, this is a must-visit if you find yourself in Barrio Italia.
Address: Tegualda 1509, Ñuñoa, Región Metropolitana, Chile
Tuesday to Saturday: 12:30-23:00
9. Lorenza Bistró
This lively bar offers a variety of dishes based on contemporary cuisine and cocktails that look like works of art. We recommend the cocktail called “Merecido Descanso” – you will be surprised!
Address: Alonso de Córdova 3854, Vitacura, Santiago
Founded by jazz musicians who fell in love with the restaurant industry in New York, Lolita Jones is a multicultural hub. It offers Mexican street food with original touches and a drink menu that ranges from eccentric liquors to signature creations. Fun, fashionable, and delicious, add this one to your list for something different.
Address: Alonso de Córdova 4355, Vitacura, Región Metropolitana
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, and 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 from 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.
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, complemented by fruits and vegetables like bananas, pineapples, pumpkin, sweet potato, taro, and coconut.
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, where meat, chicken, vegetables, seafood, and other ingredients are 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, although elements of traditional Chilean and European cooking have integrated themselves into the island’s gastronomic history, many of the restaurants around Easter Island and in the town of Hanga Roa still offer Rapa Nui dishes just as they’ve been prepared for centuries: the classic tastes of the land and sea. When visiting the island, you’ll want to make sure you get to taste the real Rapa Nui, so 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, and 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. Standard 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, but 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, and credit cards are accepted.
3. Tia Berta
If you’re craving a taste of mainland Chile while on the island, pay a visit to Tia Berta’s 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, and 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, and the proof is in the pudding (or rather, the ceviche). Ever since, especially during the summer season, this place is always packed for lunch and dinner, and not just because of the food: 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 and 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 fish 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 TunuAhi&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. Fresh meat, fish, and other seafood are prepared on their special barbecue, but they also have good raw options 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 takes traditional island and Polynesian dishes and ingredients and gives them its own unique twist with elegant platings and inventive combinations. Ceviche, filet of fish, shrimp curry, and other dishes are some of the house specialties, with a nicely paired wine menu to match. 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 card.
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. The leaves are then covered with meat, chicken, fish, sausage, etc., which is topped with another layer of leaves and ingredients like fruits and veggies. Everything is then covered up one final time with more leaves and then 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.
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 (which can be an exciting or stressful part of traveling, depending on how you look at it).
Having done 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, so it 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!
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
I get it; 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 taxi to take you to certain sites (sorry, no Uber).
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, like bringing 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.
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, which consists of the main island and many smaller ones scattered into the surrounding ocean, is only accessible 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; there are nearly 300 kinds of potatoes; and 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 and as such 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, a tidal river and wetlands area 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, as 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, which were 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 to God, 16 of which 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 are perched over the water on stilts and 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 site around the island, but many of the coastal ones were destroyed in the 1960 earthquake and tsunami. Many 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, where colonies of Humboldt and Magellanic penguins can be seen. This nationally protected area, Puñihuil National Monument, is also significant as being 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; the ride can sometimes be a little bumpy because of the waves 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, and 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. Try 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. Here is also where you’ll 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. While there is an alternate route that takes the road all the way down to Ushuaia, the Pacific-side route ends at the far end of the main island of Chiloe in the town of Quellón. You can take your picture with the official marker, and it’s also a great spot to visit because 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, which is evident in their amazing artistic handicrafts made by local artisans. Some of the best examples to be found are the woolen goods like 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 several of the best place.
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 seeming to disappear 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.
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!
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!
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:
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
“Once” and 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
With its museums, parks, restaurants, and shopping, Santiago has plenty to keep visitors occupied during their stay. But everyone likes to get out of the city once in a while, and Santiago’s prime location close to the Andes mountains, Chilean wine country, and the ocean, makes it easy to escape for a day. Whether your pleasure is hiking, spending a day at the beach, going wine-tasting, or exploring abandoned mining towns (a niche interest, to be sure, but a worthwhile one!), these six easy day trips from Santiago are great ways to get to know the landscapes, culture, gastronomy, and history of central Chile.
1. Valparaiso and Vina del Mar – The Pacific Ocean is a convenient hour and a half from the capital, so if you’re looking for fresh seafood, beautiful harbor views, and a chance to mix beach fun with learning about Chile’s history, check out these two seaside towns. In Vina, one of central Chile’s most famous resort towns, it’s all about the party: spend the day sunning at the beach, visiting the famous Flower Clock, exploring museums like Castillo Wulff and the Fonck Museum, or trying your luck at the casino. Then, grab a colectivo (local taxi) to go ten minutes away to Valparaiso, the jewel of the Pacific and Vina’s gritty, bohemian counterpart. Here, historic funicular elevators carry you up the hills to see the city’s famous houses, which are painted vibrant colors and splashed with some of South America’s best street art. A great city for meandering, explore Cerro Alegre and Concepcion for the best examples of classic Valpo architecture and street art, as well as cafes and shops, and then head to La Sebastiana, Pablo Neruda’s quirky home on Cerro Florida. Then finish the day with a meal at one of the city’s many excellent seafood restaurants; the paila marina (seafood stew), chupe de jaiba (crab pie), or the fresh catch of the day (fish or otherwise) are always great picks.
2. Chilean wine country – If you’re a wine lover, lucky you: Santiago is just a quick drive from several of Chile’s finest wine valleys, namely Casablanca and Colchagua. Here, surrounded by undulating mountains and valley floors covered in row upon row of bounteous grapevines, some of the country’s finest wines are grown and made, such as Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. Spend a leisurely day visiting local wineries like Clos de Apalta in Colchagua or Bodegas RE in Casablanca, where you’ll learn about the history of winemaking in Chile, as well as each vineyard’s unique wine-making processes, explained on behind-the-scenes tours led by expert vintners. Each tour is then followed by tastings of some of the vineyard’s most exemplary vinos. Salud!
3. Skiing in the Andes – With epic pistes and stunning views across the rooftop of South America, some of the world’s best downhill skiing is found right outside Santiago in the Andes Mountains at Valle Nevado and Portillo ski resorts. Although both resorts have great onsite accommodations and amenities like restaurants and ski in/ski out service, their proximity to Santiago (Portillo is located about 2 hours away, Valle Nevado roughly 90 minutes) makes it super easy for you to stay in the city but spend your days hitting the slopes. Both resorts annually get around 24 inches of snow and have a combined total of 79 runs (groomed and off-piste), as well as lifts, a variety of slopes suited to everyone from beginners to advanced, rental stores, and sites for heli-skiing, snowboarding, and freestyle.
4. Cajon de Maipo – Where can you go hiking, rafting, fly-fishing, rock climbing, horseback riding, or just enjoy pure nature within an hour’s drive of Santiago? The answer is Cajon de Maipo. This mountainous valley to the southeast of the city is a paradise of peaks, rivers, lakes, forests, volcanoes, and glaciers, making it the ultimate outdoor adventure playground. Popular activities include treks to the El Morado and San Franciso glaciers, visiting the El Yeso reservoir, relaxing at the Plomo or Morales natural hot springs, rafting on the Maipo river, hiking to the Yeso waterfall, and exploring small towns like Pirque, where some of Chile’s best Cabernet Sauvignon is grown and produced. The area is also famous for its homemade goods, like chocolates, pastries, and empanadas, and is a great place for souvenir shopping thanks to its fine artisan shops.
5. La Campana National Park – For an easy day trek near Santiago that isn’t in the Cordillera, La Campana is the best option for its epic views and wealth of flora and fauna, like the Chilean Wine Palm, an endangered species of palm tree that used to grown all over the country but now only exists in small pockets. Famous for being the site of Cerro La Campana (Bell Mountain) which was scaled by Charles Darwin in 1834, this national park and UNESCO Biosphere is flush with local wildlife including foxes, pumas, birds, chingues (skunks), and butterflies. The hike up features beautiful views of the countryside, plus a chance to visit a nearly hundred-foot tall waterfall and a plaque dedicated to Darwin’s hike. If you want to make it to the summit at more than 6,000 feet above sea level, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys and mountains, and on clear days, you can see as far as the Pacific Ocean in one direction and Aconcagua Mountain in Argentina in the other.
6. Sewell Mining Town – Known as the City of Stairs, this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a fascinating glimpse into Chile’s long-standing tradition of copper mining. Founded in 1905 by the Braden Copper Company which owned and operated the El Teniente Copper Mine (the largest in the world), this city, which at its peak housed 15,000 mine workers and their families, was built into the steep slopes of the Andes at more than 7,000 feet above sea level. This made it inaccessible by vehicles, and so the brightly painted buildings of the town, terraced up and down the rugged slope, are all connected via stairways. Closed in the 1970s, it was saved from demolition by the Chilean government and then UNESCO, and now can only be visited on private tours. Located about two and a half hours from Santiago, it’s a bit more of a hike than most other day trips, but is well worth it for the fascinating glimpse it offers into historic Chilean mining towns.
Everyone knows that Chile is one of the best destinations in the world for downhill skiing, home to first-rate resorts like Portillo or Valle Nevado, but there’s much more to winter in Chile than just hitting the slopes. Summer in the southern hemisphere, which falls during the months of June, July, and August, offers the perfect escape for the heat of summer in the northern hemisphere, as well as the chance to see Chile’s captivating landscapes in all their wintry glory. From trekking in Patagonia, to stargazing in Chile’s northern deserts, to enjoying uniquely Chilean winter drinks and food, winter is fast becoming the new best time to visit Chile.
1.Epic winter sports – Chile’s many diverse regions make the country perfectly suited to a huge range of winter sports, making it the perfect winter getaway from the summer heat in the northern hemisphere. If downhill skiing isn’t your forte, the Lakes District is prime territory for excellent cross-country skiing, as well as the chance to ski down volcanoes, and snowboarding and extreme sports like heli-skiing are also very popular. If you’d prefer not to shred the slopes, winter trekking is on the rise, like the W trek in Torres del Paine, or day treks in the area like Cerro Dorotea, or live your Iditarod dreams and go dog sledding with a team of huskies through Chile’s southern forests.
2.Beautiful snowy landscapes – Torres del Paine. The Atacama Desert. The Andes. The Lakes District. All these beautiful landscapes are one of the main reasons people want to visit Chile. Now imagine them in the wintertime. The granite peaks and pampas of Patagonia, covered in snow and ice under a cold winter sun. The Lakes District – land of luscious forests and towering volcanoes – becomes the ultimate winter wonderland. The dramatic backdrop of the Andes behind Santiago, capped with a layer of snow. If you go crazy for a fresh snowfall, winter in Chile is the best time to go.
3.The coziest winter food and drink – To get through those long, cold winter nights, Chileans have created some of the tastiest, most filling winter fare in South America. For lunch or dinner, tuck into a warm bowl of cazuela, Chile’s version of chicken noodle soup, chicken-and-dumplings-like pantrucas, or porotos con riendas, a hearty stew of beans, spaghetti, squash, and sausage. Then, for apres-ski drinks, try a cup of navegado, Chilean mulled wine, accompanied by a plate of sopaipillas pasadas, which are disks of fried Andean squash that have been soaked in a sugary sauce called chancaca.
4.The best time to go stargazing – Winter is when the skies in the southern hemisphere are at their clearest, making prime stargazing spots like San Pedro de Atacama and the Valle de Elqui even more spectacular. You can visit world-class observatories like ALMA (unfortunately not at night, though, as it’s a working observatory) where you can learn more about the important scientific discoveries that have been made at Chilean observatories. Then, bundle up at night for stargazing tours with local expert astronomers, where you can use a range of telescopes to see nighttime marvels like nebulas and planets and learn all about the constellations and southern skies.
5.Low season crowds – Aside from the top ski resorts outside Santiago, winter is low season for tourism in Chile, which is good news for you! There will be even fewer crowds at the top destinations like San Pedro or Torres del Paine (which is now open for winter trekking, either with the full W or day treks), there is more availability at the top restaurants and hotels all over the country, and, best of all, you get to take advantage of great low season rates!
Visiting the driest desert on Earth – San Pedro de Atacama
San Pedro lies in the north of Chile, acting as a gateway to the driest desert in the world, the infamous Atacama. In San Pedro and its surrounding there are a lot of activities related with adventures, gastronomy, amazing landscapes and local culture, you simply must go if you’re ever in Chile.
Using San Pedro as a base, you can easily explore the otherworldly valleys, high-altitude lagoons, and ancient hillside ruins. You can also gawp at the night sky – possibly the clearest in the world – by taking an astronomy tour, or simply walking a little away from the light of the town. A starry night here is something you will never forget.
Ideally, you will need 4 days to make the most of your time here. The town is small and easily walkable. There are tour agencies and empanada shops (the best kind). More time will allow you some relaxation and wiggle room, less means you will need to select your activities wisely. Without further ado, here are the best things to see and do around San Pedro de Atacama.
Where to Visit
1. Valle de la Luna
Valle de la Luna, or Valley of the Moon, is a spectacular valley located just 13km from San Pedro.
The information desk at the entrance provides maps of the valley, taking you all the way to Las Tres Marias, three unusual rocky formations that jut out of the desert floor.
The first stop, around 3km from the entrance, is the salt caverns. They’re a winding and narrow cave system, containing unearthly geological structures. You can walk the snaking trail in around 20 minutes and either carry on along the main road, or take a right as you exit the caves and explore a less visited part of the valley.
There are more surreal cliffs and caves, but the further you head in this direction, the less people you will encounter, and the more it begins to feel like you are truly isolated in the desert. The midday sun beats down on your face and neck, no matter which way you look.
The main view that everybody comes to see in the Valley of the Moon is the sunset, particularly from the top of the giant sand dune. The path is sandy but well worn; it shouldn’t pose a problem to anybody. The view from the top makes you understand the logic behind the valley’s name. It was also here where NASA tested the prototype for the Mars rover, due to its strikingly similar terrain.
Watching the sun drop behind the ridge is beautiful on its own, but it doesn’t compete with the red-gold afterglow that engulfs the desert. At the top of the dune, you can walk along the ridge in either direction. The right allows you a view of the sun setting behind the sand dune, and if you turn around, you have the full chain of the Andes mountains, complete with several large volcanoes in the distance. The left has a view of the craggy hills and the interminable desert. The path goes on further, too, meaning there is more space to find your own spot, away from the crowds. This is the busiest time on the sand dune, but the view is remarkable all-day long. A sunset here is one you will remember for the rest of your life.
How to get there Getting to Valle de la Luna can be done in a several ways, depending on your preferences. The best option is to take a tour, which will pick you up from your hotel or hostel and transport you to the entrance, visiting each of the locations with a knowledgeable guide, before dropping you back off at your accommodation. They usually start at 2 or 3 pm so that you can catch the sunset, but an earlier one is possible.
Cycling is easy as well. In your free time you can rent a bike in town and start your trip. The ride from the centre of town to the entrance takes about 25 minutes. However, upon entry into the actual valley, the road becomes rickety and there are steep sections, too. A helmet and visibility jacket are essential for you to take the bike into the valley. I made the mistake of cycling there without either, and was told upon arrival that they would not let me take the bike inside without them.
2. Valle de la Muerte / Valle de la Marte
The Valley of the dead, also known as the Valley of Mars, is closer to San Pedro than the Valley of the Moon. Its surreal landscapes are just as astonishing, but they have the bonus of being less crowded than their bigger and more popular neighbour. That’s not to say that nobody visits the Valley of the Dead, but it doesn’t get as many as the Valley of the Moon.
The entrance is on the right-hand side of the road to Calama, approx 2km from the centre of town.
This valley is the perfect place to sandboard. The Valley of the Moon also has a huge sand dune but you are not allowed to sandboard on it. As well as climbing the dune to ride back down, it is also worth going up for the view alone. The desert rolls out before your eyes, stretching all the way to the jagged Andes mountains, cowboys ride through the rugged valleys, kicking up dust in their wake, and bizarre outcrops defy logic at every turn.
I made the mistake of climbing the dune in a straight line, from the base to the highest point. Don’t make the same mistake as me. I had to use both my hands and my feet, as the surface was almost vertical. My feet sunk into the sand a good 30cm with each step, making the whole ordeal unnecessarily demanding. I had half the desert in my shoes by the time I made it to the top. Luckily, I had enough water to make sure I didn’t pass out from the midday heat. Despite taking the most difficult route (there is a well-trodden track for sandboarders, which takes you up diagonally), it was well worth the effort.
You can also continue on the path further into the valley, which winds its way up to the opposite side of the sand dune, giving you a view of what lies beyond the towering ridge. It looks like an extreme Motocross track, built for giants. I still struggle to get my head around how these valleys were formed.
How to get there
You can travel here using the same methods stated for the Valley of the Moon.
A way to get to the Valley of the Dead is with a tour departing from your hotel. Your van will stick to the main road towards Calama. The sandy hill, directly in front of you as you leave the town, is the entrance. It should not take longer than a few minutes to get there. If you have enough time it is possible to reach very good viewpoints. Take plenty of water and some snacks.
There are tours combined with the Valley of the Moon, if you prefer to visit both at once.
Finally, you can cycle. It’s easy to get here, despite a little up-hill section. Cycling in the actual valley can be quite difficult however, as the sand can be thick. I walked to the top with my bike, then rode down (without peddling), but my wheels jammed in the sand and I flew over my handle bars, almost rolling off the steep road and into the Valley of the Dead below. It would have been a fitting place to die, but it was not to be. You can also cycle from here to Pukara de Quitor in a relatively fast time, as there is a path directly from entrance to entrance.
3. Pukara de Quitor
This fascinating hill-side ruin was once a mighty fortress, perched in a great defensive location, destroying the element of surprise for invaders. You can find it 3km north-west of San Pedro. Like most of the attractions here, there is an entrance fee of a few thousand Pesos. If you have a bike, there is a place to lock it at the entrance.
You can choose between climbing the ridge that runs along the 700-year-old ruins, or the hills in the distance. The hills contain several view points and shelters to rest, as well as a few interesting structures at the top. From the peak, you can look down on the Valley of the Dead to see it from a different perspective. You can also gaze into the valley that leads to Catarpe – an interesting and adventurous bike ride away.
The view from the top of the hills is worth seeing. You see everything from an inferior angle, and whilst you can get a lot closer to the ruins, you can’t go inside them. Having said that, the path is short and is probably worth the 15 minutes it will take to walk.
Near to the entrance of Pukara de Quitor, is another path. Instead of taking the ramp up to the bike storage and ticket office, go the opposite way, sticking to the wall of the rock, and follow the path up to a cave and some amazing archaeological carvings. The cave is pitch black at certain points, so make sure you have a torch handy. Be careful with your head, too, especially for tall people like me. You’ll be bending a lot. On the other side of the cave is a small open area, where you can witness the unusual rock formations up close, and add your own cairn to the masses already there, before heading back the way you came. It might be a good idea to take something to cover your nose and mouth, as you will inhale a lot of dust. Outside, you can marvel at the two giant heads, that have been carved from the cliff face.
How to get there
All the above options apply for here. You can take a tour, walk or cycle.
Arguably the best activity to do here, based on the area’s pristine skies, is look upwards. Within the next year, over 70% of the world’s astronomical observatories will be based here. From this desert, you can see the Large Magellanic Cloud with the naked eye, a foreign galaxy that orbits the Milky Way, over 150,000 light years away. You can also see the Small Magellanic Cloud, fainter and even further away. It’s the farthest visible object in the southern hemisphere, without the aid of telescopes. You can also stare into the heart of our own galaxy. Do you know that strip of cloud-like substance you see in films and the best astrophotography? You can see it with your own eyes.
It takes a brilliant camera to be able to pick any of it up, but luckily for us, almost all astronomy tours will take a group photo on their own cameras. You can ask for one on your own, too.
I went on a tour and couldn’t recommend it enough. They took me on a 2-hour tour, pointing out all the visible constellations of the zodiac and explaining the reasons behind them. They also showed us a short documentary and allowed us to feast on little sausages and snacks.
It obviously helps if you have an experienced guide who can point to Saturn as soon as you ask him and tells you everything about all the stars you see.
I visited in August, the tail-end of their winter, and Saturn was the easiest to see. Early at night, it is possible to spot Mars and Jupiter, too. At different times throughout the year, it’s possible to see all the first six planets with the naked eye.
5. High Plain Lagoons and the Atacama Salt Flats
The high-altitude lakes are definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area. You have the opportunity to watch pink Flamingos in Chaxa National Reserve, walk on a frozen lake at Red Stone, and see Vicuñas (a relative of llamas and alpacas) in their natural habitat – the hills above 3,000m.
It’s best to start early for these places, as they’re a bit further away than the majority of the attractions. I drifted in and out of sleep on the ride there, catching dreamlike glimpses of snowy peaks, sprawling desert and grazing vicuñas, half-listening to the guide talk about how vicuñas are still hunted for their fur, despite it being illegal.
I woke up when the smooth road swiftly changed to a jolting sandy track. I bounced up and down, bashing flailing limbs off parts of the jeep that I didn’t even know existed. Then I was hit by the cold. Mornings at high altitude aren’t pleasant for the half-dressed. Luckily, I was prepared.
How to get there The best way to go to these places is by taking a tour. It’s worth it. We visited all the aforementioned places, as well as Toconao, a traditional village. The main square has large cacti that grow 1cm per year. These cacti were over 2 metres tall, meaning they were planted in the early 1800s! You can explore the handcraft shops and go souvenir hunting, check out the old church, or taste local homemade ice cream. They have Rica Rica flavour, which is a mint-like herb that grows in the shrubby area of the desert. The driver makes a short stop here, too, for you to harvest your own supply.
Other things to do in the area include:
Tatio Geysers – Expect an early start if you visit these. They’re most active around 4.30 am.
Hot Springs / Aguas Calientes – There are lots of hot springs near San Pedro de Atacama. I visited hot springs in Peru and Bolivia – there is nothing quite like bathing in hotter-than-bath water in the middle of the freezing cold Andes. (As Termas Puritama and Tatio Geysers.)
Hot Air Balloon over the Atacama – Ballooning over the Atacama Desert is a breathtaking and unique experience. You will start the tour right before sunrise to see all the colors and rocks of the desert in the morning light. Every tour is different because you don’t know where the wind will take you but you can be sure that you will have an impressive view over the stunning landscape of the Atacama Desert. This is definitely a memory you will never forget!
The Flowering Desert – A lot further south from San Pedro, but still in the Atacama, near to La Serena, there is a natural phenomenon taking place in the desert, causing flowers to blossom everywhere. It only happens once per year and this year is supposed to be the largest ever.
How to Budget Generally, San Pedro is slightly more expensive than other towns of similar size in Chile. The customers are predominantly tourists, which means the prices are inflated. It’s possible to find all type of vegetables, meat, fish and local food. There are many options of restaurants, accommodation and activities for your stay in San Pedro de Atacama.
When to Go The Atacama is dry, with clear skies all year round. You can count the number of clouds you see in your time here on one hand – most likely, you won’t need any hands. On the astronomy tour, the guide said that only 30 nights of the year are cloudy, and even then, they’re not terribly intrusive.
Chilean summer runs from December to February, and their winter, from June to August. However, the climate here doesn’t change that much. Due to the altitude (2,408 metres above sea level), San Pedro experiences cold nights all year round, with the lowest being in July and August, at -1° C, and the highest, around 5-6° C, in January. In the day, the winters can reach 20° C, and the summer, 25° C. The altitude makes the days seem hotter though, because the sun’s rays have less of an atmosphere to cut through before reaching you. Combine this with the unusual clarity of the sky, and basically, you will frazzle.
If you want to avoid the crowds, then the best time to visit is just before winter (northern summer holidays), but after southern summer. April – June is classed as low season here. There will be less people, but never expect it to be empty. San Pedro is a tourist hot spot.
What to Bring
Altitude Sickness Tablets – Depending on your attitude toward altitude, you may wish to bring some medicine. Some people simply don’t agree with being at higher elevations. While 2,408 metres isn’t ridiculously high, some of the activities can go well over 4,000m. You can also buy local remedies for altitude sickness all over town. Coca leaves are helpful for long uphill hikes. Just don’t swallow them.
Vaseline or Lip Balm – This one is fairly self-explanatory. You’re in the driest desert in the world. Without it, your lips will crack, bleed and split. I speak from experience.
Sun Lotion – The altitude makes you burn a lot faster than if you were at sea level.
Map App – While there’s nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned paper map, it won’t help you if you don’t know where you are in the first place. MAPS.ME is a good choice as it allows you to download the maps for offline use (like most apps), but it also shows walking trails and footpaths that are mostly invisible on Google Maps, for instance.
Water and Snacks – Again, it’s self-explanatory. You need lots of water in the driest desert on Earth. If you’re stranded, don’t count on rain to save you. Certain areas here receive less than half an inch per year. Some native people have never seen rain in their entire life, particularly closer to Antofagasta. A little snack is helpful, too, as there aren’t any shops outside of the towns.
Camera – This is an unforgettable place, but it doesn’t hurt to keep photos.
We started our tour by picking up an American couple and headed towards Valparaiso. Javiera, our guide, told us the rough plan for the day and warned us it would probably rain at some point.
We entered Valparaiso city centre after 1 hour and a half, driving past the congress of Chile, as well as South America’s first ever public library. We parked in one of the large squares, next to South America’s first fire station. Valparaiso is a city with a rich history. It was once the biggest port in South America, and was one of the most important cities when the Spanish first colonised the area. It was actually founded before Santiago, in 1536. Today, it is home to 300,000 people, but the port is no longer the most important in the region, let alone the continent. It’s a source of constant inspiration, being the city with the most graffiti in South America.
It’s one of the most colourful cities I’ve ever been to. Everywhere you turn there is a row of coloured houses, or a majestic mural on the side of an otherwise unimportant half-crumbled building. It’s also made more beautiful by the 44 hills that are found there.
Many of these have lifts, known as funiculars, to the top. Most of them are over 100 years old, and like the majority of the buildings in the city, you can tell. Only 8 of these funiculars actually function, but there is a movement to re-open all the closed ones (more than 20) and return Valparaiso to its former glory.
In Plaza Sotomayor, where we stopped, there is a huge monument in the centre.
This monument is to commemorate the war heroes from the Pacific War, where Chile fought against Peru and Bolivia in the north, in 1879-1883. They won, and managed to sever Bolivia’s access to the sea, taking the Atacama region for Chile. However, during the war, with all of Chile’s forces in the north, Argentina took the opportunity to invade and take control of eastern Patagonia. This is what gives Chile its long snake-like shape.
In 1906, a giant earthquake hit Valparaiso and only 2 buildings were left standing on this square. The architecture here is noticably unique, there are modern office buildings, right next to 18th century buildings in their original decor.
As we walked out of Plaza Sotomayor, Javiera told us how the Starbucks in the square is failing, just as McDonalds did. Valparaiso is one of the only cities in the world where McDonalds failed to make profit and had to be shut down. Yet a 10 minute drive to Viña del Mar and you can find 3 different branches.
As we started to walk further into the colourful city, Javiera explained that sailors painted their houses brightly so that they could find them easily after returning to the port. In the early days, the town would be made from wood and clay and pirates such as Francis Drake would come and burn it to the ground, pillaging it like vikings.
We walked for around two hours from here, around all the graffiti-laden streets. It’s almost as if the entire city is one giant art museum. Everywhere you turn, there is some kind of street art. One of my favourite places is atop the Reina Victoria funicular. There is a hill with painted steps, the ones at the top read “We are not Hippies. We are Happies”.
Towards the end of our walk in the narrow, steep streets, it began to rain. We headed back to the bus and drove up Artillery Hill to have lunch with a view over the docks. It was a bit cloudy, but you could still see the entire bay of Valparaiso.
Having tried Reineta last time I was in Valparaiso, I ordered a good old Salmon with Hungarian sauce. I’m not entirely sure why the sauce was called Hungarian, it was mushroom and prawn, but tasted absolutely amazing. The food was brilliant and the view overlooked the bay.
After we finished, we said goodbye to Valparaiso, and drove to the Emiliana Vineyard, the largest organic vineyard in the world.
By this point, it was raining heavily. Christian, our guide for the vineyard, was very passionate about his job, which made the tour really enjoyable.
He showed us the different things they use to make the compost, including dandelions, Alpaca manure, and other weeds and plants.
We would have seen more but the rain became too strong and the others asked to go back. Inside, we had a wine tasting. I don’t like wine in general, so they gave me a smaller glass of the 4 testers but the Americans really liked it. They bought a bottle afterwards.
For me the cheese was better than the wine. The final cheese – I forgot the name – was like heaven.
After we’d finished we drove back to Santiago. Javiera told us of many places to see in the city and offered to send us more via whatsapp. She also told interesting tales of her adventures around the world. She’s been all around Latin America, Africa and Europe and is full of crazy stories.
We arrived back in Santiago for around 6 and were dropped off. I couldn’t recommend this tour more. It’s made me want to visit Valparaiso again before I leave. The tour was amazing and the city is one of a kind.
The city of Valdivia is one of the oldest cities in Chile (founded in 1552) and it is sometimes known as “the pearl of the south”. But what makes of Valdivia a unique place like a “pearl”? Is the charm of Valdivia something that we could put in word? Probably not, but if you go to these places, you can figure out why they call it like that.
Valdivia is a river city, so, to understand the magic of the place, you should visit its rivers. You can walk along the river bank by “Costanera Arturo Prat” and see there are a lot of gardens and benches just to contemplate it… because it is not just a river! it is the place where the city takes its life (for example, where people practice rowing and the sea lions take a nap).
Teja Island and botanical garden:
One of the most amazing things in Valdivia is its connection with a little island called “Isla Teja”. This place (formerly belonged to a single person) is the home of one of the most important universities in Chile (Universidad Austral), some museums and a beautiful botanical garden with around 950 different plant species. You can spend an entire day exploring the gardens!
One of the characteristic attributes of the city of Valdivia is its river market, which is in the river bank near the “Pedro de Valdivia Bridge” that connects Valdivia with Teja Island. In this market (opened early in the morning) you could buy different types of foods, like vegetables, cheese, fish or seafood in general. Also, you can find typical crafts. However, is the smoked fish, especially smoked salmon, the main attraction for the tourist.
Valdivian Fort System:
Valdivia, as I said, is an old city. Long time ago, it was a strategical place for Spanish colonization as you can see for its fortresses located in Cruces River, Corral Bay and Valdivia itself. If you want to explore this side of the history of the city, you will have a lot of fun because there are at least 10 different locations related to Spanish fortifications.
And finally, food and drink:
(This is not a specific place, but it is directly related with the charm of Valdivia!) This city is a rich gastronomical place with some roots in German cuisine and Spanish cuisine, but most important, it has a strong influence from the river and the sea (you can eat different types of fish, but Salmon it is one of the best options here). Also, you can delight your taste drinking different types of craft beers. All you must do is to come and enjoy the charm of Valdivia!
Traditional culinary preparations are always an invitation to explore and understand a little more about a region’s cultural identity.
If you are one of those travelers who enjoys trying new things, and is always on the lookout for locally prepared dishes, here are some recommendations for you to consider when you are in the following places:
1) San Pedro de Atacama: Rica rica ice cream
In the world’s driest desert, the land of San Pedro de Atacama and its neighboring areas are home to millenia-old crops such as rica rica. This is a wild shrub, coarsely textured and ubiquitous, whose green and aromatic leaves are used in a variety of dishes including desserts, teas, savory dishes and even alcoholic drinks, like rica rica pisco sour.
In the Babalu Ice Cream Parlor, in the middle of San Pedro town, you can enjoy a refreshing rica rica ice cream to invigorate you, as well as ice creams made of other local plant species such as chañar, coca leaf and ayrampo.
Address: Calle Caracoles 160 – caracoles419.
2) Santiago: Mote con huesillo
One of the most typical Chilean drinks from the central zone, it crops up every year when temperatures begin to rise, signaling the arrival of summer.
This preparation made of wheat, water, rehydrated dried peaches and chancaca (a sugary confection for dissolving), it is served chilled and has been drunk since colonial times. Today, we Chileans know what to do to cool down in the heat and satiate our thirst and hunger: drink mote con huesillo!
There are many options for this in Santiago – I recommend the place that quickly became my favorite. At the top of the Cerro San Cristobal, near the statue of the Virgin Mary, you will find two kiosks selling the drink. Both are good-quality preparations.
Address: Pio Nono 450, Parque Metropolitano.
3) Pucón and the pine nuts of Currarehue, mapuche flavors
38km away, to the east of Pucón, lives Anita Epulef – a Pehuenche Mapuche woman who owns an eatery in the outskirts of the locality of Curarrehue.
Since time immemorial, the Pehuenche people have scoured the millenia-old pehuen or araucaria forests for their seeds, one of the most important components of their traditional diet: the pine nut.
Here, there is Mapuche cooking, vegetarian and nutritious.
Carretera, 39 – Km.38, Curarrehue , Región Araucania
4) Chiloé: Dalcahue Market, food court of the archipelago
The territorial chunk that is Chiloé provides a unique sample of Chilean gastronomy. Dalcahue market offers most of the archipelago’s traditional dishes.
The eateries, constructed on stilts and with a nautical theme both inside and out, invite you to explore its traditional flavors. For example, the classic Chiloé empanada made of razor clams, and a Chiloé stew made of luche (reddish seaweed found in abundance on the coasts of Chile), chapalele, milcao,chuañe; these last three made with potato. Chiloé’s terrain is ideal for potato cultivation – they grow more than 287 varieties.