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9 things I wish I knew before visiting Easter Island

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

© RANDY OLSON

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 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.

 

 

What to pack for a trip to Atacama desert

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

 

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

There are several important things to remember when packing:

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

Clothing:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Underwear

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

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

Sunhat – Protect your head from those high desert rays!

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

Shorts/ capri pants

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

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

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

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

 

 

Gear:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Miscellaneous:

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

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

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

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

Lip balm (with SPF protection)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spending a day on a traditional Patagonian estancia

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

*          *          *

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Estancia la Peninsula

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

What is it?

 

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

Where is it?

 

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

 

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

How long does it take?

 

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

 

What level of difficulty is it?

 

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

When is the best time of year to go?

 

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

 

How would I get there?

 

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

What kinds of things will I see on this trek?

 

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

 

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

 

 

What would I need to bring?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Why should I do this trek?

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

 

 

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

 

 

Cerro and laguna Torre Trail

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

 

 

The trail

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

After the hike:

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

What to bring:

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

Best time of year to go: November to March

Grade of difficulty: Easy to moderate

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

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

 

 

Everything you need to know about whale-watching in Chile

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

 

 

What kind of whales can you see in Chile?

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

 

Photography: @cristinaharboephotography

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

Photography: ©Alberto García

 

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

 

Photography: @franciscoespildora

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Photography: @grafixart_photo

 

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

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

 

Photography: flickr @TerryAllen

 

Spring

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

 

Photography: @TurismoChile

 

Summer

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

 

Photography: @danielkordan

 

Fall

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

 

Photography: @hotellastorres

 

Winter

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

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

 

Photography: flickr @nicolasques

 

So what do we recommend?

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

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

 

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

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

 

Photography: @estancia.lapeninsula

 

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

 

Photography: @YanniRindler

 

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

 

Photography @adrianmoltedon

 

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

 

Photography: @PaulBarnovin

 

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

 

Photography: @estancia.lapeninsula

 

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

Laguna de los Tres Hike in the Argentinian Patagonia

Fitz Roy: Laguna de Los Tres

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

 

Getting there:

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

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

 

The trail:

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

After the hike:

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

What to bring:

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

Best time of year to go:

November to March

Grade of difficulty:

Moderate to challenging

Stats:

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Photography: @justinhofman

 

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

 

Photography: @alvarosotov

 

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

 

Photography: @dagpeak

 

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

 

Photography: @justinhofman

 

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

 

Photography: @cristinaharboephotography

 

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

 

Photography: Antonia Cornejo

 

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

 

Photography: ©Ian&KateBruce

 

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

 

Photography: Oxana Protchenko

 

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

 

Photography: @valentina_neupert

 

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

 

Photography: @emintehess

 

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

 

Photography: @pablo_martinez_morales

 

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

 

Potography: avesdelnea

 

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

How to eat like a Chilean

 

Source: upsocl

 

It’s a regular Sunday afternoon in Chile.

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

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

 

Source: conbotasdeagua

 

Picoteo

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

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

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

 

Source: animalgourmet

 

The Main Course

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

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

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

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

 

Source: bettycrocker

 

Dessert

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

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

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

 

Source: 800.cl

 

Onceand Repeat

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

 

Source: whatdoctorsknow

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

6 reasons to visit Chile in spring

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

Source: Outdoors – Photography: Luis Arnaboldi, Teresita Cox

 

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

 

Source: Bioenciclopedia

 

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

 

Source: adondevamos

 

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

Top 5 places to find street art in Chile

 

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

 

1. Cerro Concepcion and Cerro Alegre, Valparaiso

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

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

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

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

 

Source: Disfruta Santiago

 

2. Museo a Cielo Abierto, Santiago

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

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

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

 

Source: Voyhoy

 

3. Bellavista, Santiago

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

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

 

Photography: Rodrigo Fernández

 

 4. Cerro Bellavista and Florida, Valparaiso

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

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

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

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

 

Source: Radio Zero

 

5. Barrio Yungay, Santiago

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

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

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

 

Why Fiestas Patrias is the best time to experience Chile?

 

Source: Corazón 101.3

 

What is Fiestas Patrias to Chile?

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

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

 

Source: diabelife

 

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

 

Source: Pasaje Bus

 

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

 

Source: tvn

 

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

 

Source: 24horas

 

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

 

Source: tvn

 

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

 

 

 

Why Chile should be the next place you go for vacation?

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

Source: disfrutasantiago

 

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

 

Source: cocinayvino

 

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

 

Source: natursan.net

 

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

 

Source: reusser

 

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

 

Guide to the Best Beach Treats in Chile

Fotografía: Turismo Chile

 

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

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

 

Source: saboresdechile

 

Fresh Seafood

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

 

Source: cherrytomate

 

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

 

Source: frostchile

 

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

 

Source: amipintacocino.blogspot

 

Fried Eats

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

 

Source: picadas.tipicochileno

 

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

 

Photography: Alexander Prokopenko 

 

Sweet Snacks

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

 

Source: enmicocinahoy

 

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

 

Source: cherrytomate

 

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

 

 

 

10 ways to experience Chile’s Lakes District

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

 

Photography: Turismo Chile

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

Photography: Turismo Chile

 

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

 

Source: thisischile

 

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

 

Photography: Turismo Chile

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

Photography: Turismo Chile

 

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

 

Photography: Marco Sepulveda

 

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

 

Photography: Antoine Millet

 

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

 

Why Torres del Paine is a photographer’s paradise

Photography: Turismo Chile

 

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

 

Photography: Turismo Chile

 

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

 

 

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

 

Photography: Justin Hofman

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

Ten food and drink items you can only try in Chile

Photography: Turismo Chile

 

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

 

Sourche: www.expressdelider.cl

 

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

 

Source: www.enmicocinahoy.cl

 

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

 

Source: www.chakula.cl

 

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

 

Photography: Urban Adventure

 

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

 

Source: www.mundodedulcinea.cl

 

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

 

Source: www.seriouseats.com

 

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

 

Source: www.viax.cl

 

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

 

Source: www.patagoniapordescubrir.com

 

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

 

Source: www.nuevamujer.com

 

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

 

Source: www.enmicocinahoy.cl

 

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

 

How to experience the best of central Chile in just one week

When it comes to visiting Chile, it’s hard to know where to start. With so many different things to do and places to see, it can be hard to plan a trip that fits in all the highlights of a specific region or area, like the central valleys. Home to the capital city of Santiago, the Andean Cordillera mountains, vineyards, and miles of scenic oceanfront and port towns, just trying to pack all that into a short trip can be difficult. But there is an easy way to see and experience all the best activities and sights in just one week!. Our 7 Day Ski Portillo, Santiago, and Valparaiso tour hits all the highlights without feeling overwhelming or rushed, giving you a chance to truly get to know central Chile. Here’s how we do it!

 

Start by exploring the historic barrios and modern marvels of Santiago – Founded in 1541 by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia, Santiago is one of the most historic cities in South America, and in recent years has turned into a booming center for IT and technology innovation, art, gastronomy, culture, nightlife, and shopping. To really get to know Santiago, start by exploring the center of the city, where the La Moneda Presidential Palace, Plaza de Armas, and National Cathedrals are located and where you can see classic examples of Santiago architecture and learn about the foundations of the city. Santiago is a great city for walking, so after spending time in the city center, branch outward to other neighborhoods like the bohemian Bellavista, home to street art, quirky cafes, and Pablo Neruda’s Santiago home; or Lastarria, with its European-inspired buildings, art galleries, and fine dining. Every neighborhood reveals something different about the city’s character, from the business district Las Condes (also known as “Sanhattan”) to the artsy vibes of Bellavista or Barrio Italia. Then, stop for a bite of lunch at the Central and La Vega markets with their wealth of fresh seafood and produce, and afterward take a funicular up San Cristobal Hill to see the city from above, as well as get a better view of the Andean Cordillera. If you want to go even higher, head to the Gran Torre, the tallest building in South America, and take the elevator to the top floors for jaw dropping views.

 

Then head out of town to go wine tasting at one of central Chile’s top organic vineyards – Now that you’ve gotten to know the capital of Chile, it’s time to see what else the central valleys have to offer. Santiago is located roughly an hour and a half from the coast, and en route to the Pacific Ocean, the road passes through the beautiful Casablanca Valley, home to some of Chile’s most prestigious and high-end wineries. Chile is famous for its dark reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, crisp whites like Sauvignon Blancs, and blends, and most vineyards allow you to drop by for tours to see the grounds, learn about the process, and taste their different varietals. One must-visit vineyard in the Casablanca Valley is Emiliana, an organic vineyard that foregoes the use of pesticides, plants, and harvests by the biodynamic calendar, and uses animals like chickens to get rid of pests and provide manure for fertilizer. After touring the vineyard and learning all about the amazing ways the vineyard operates sustainably and in harmony with nature, you’ll be able to have tastings of the vineyard’s best wines.

 

Spend a day getting to know the quirky port city of Valparaiso – Then, after the wine tour and tasting, drive just a bit further to reach the Pacific Ocean and the city of Valparaiso. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Valparaiso is affectionately known as the San Francisco of South America or the Jewel of the Pacific because of its vibrant street art, colorfully painted houses, rolling coastal hills, steep stairways, and fascinating history as one of South America’s most important ports. Hop on a trolleybus streetcar to see the historic port neighborhood and other landmarks like the Turri Clock and Plaza Victoria before getting on a funicular to see what Valpo’s famous hills look like. The most popular ones to visit are Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion, as they feature the best street art and murals, some of the best-preserved examples of classic Valparaiso houses, which are covered with corrugated iron that’s been painted bright colors, stunning views of the ocean and the other hills of the city, and endless stairways and alleys down which you can find stores, art galleries, cafes, restaurants, and so much more. Then, be sure to finish the day with a meal of fresh seafood at a local restaurant!

 

Finish with a few days skiing in the Andes mountains – Now that you’ve gotten to know the cultural and culinary treasures of the central valleys, it’s time to experience some of the adrenaline-pumping action to be found in the Andes mountains just outside of Santiago. There are several top ski resorts that can be reached within an hour or so from the capital, but one of the best is Ski Portillo. Perched on the edge of a high-altitude lake and surrounded by towering peaks, Portillo is world-renowned for its downhill skiing, with 35 runs, 14 lifts, off-and-groomed pistes, hills ranging in difficulty from beginner to advanced, ski-in-ski-out, and plenty of other activities and services to keep you occupied when you’re not hitting the slopes like spa packages, heated outdoor pool, jacuzzis, saunas, yoga, gym, entertainment center, restaurant, and more. You can even go heli-skiing! With ski rental options and classes available, Portillo has everything you need to spend a few days enjoying the fresh powder and spending hours skiing down the Andes, before retiring for apres-ski drinks and food in the cozy lodge.

Photography of Portillo ski Resort

 

So with exploring Santiago, going wine tasting, visiting Valparaiso, and then skiing in the Andes, you’ve now seen and experienced the best of central Chile in just a week! Learn more about our 7 Day Ski Portillo, Santiago, and Valparaiso tour here!

 

 

The top 6 things to do while spending a day in Valparaiso

Sprawled over coastal hills just an hour and a half from Santiago, the city of Valparaiso is known as the San Francisco of South America thanks to its colorful houses, bohemian lifestyle, world-class street art, and steep, winding roads and stairways that lead up into the hills. Its past as an important port city, unique culture, and architecture, and reputation as a haven for visual and performing artists earned it the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, and it’s one of the top places to visit in Chile. Although it’s recommended to stay for a few days to allow you plenty of time to explore the city at your leisure, with our Valparaiso and Wines Day Tour it’s easy to see the best of this Jewel of the Pacific in just a day!

 

1. Go for a ride on a trolley bus – While wandering the streets of the city, you’re bound to see these low-slung, cream and green electric cable cars lumbering along as their connector cables crackle and twang with electricity, the interior of the cars lined with worn leather seats and lit by warm, amber lights. They look like something straight out of the 1950s, a relic of a bygone time. They’re Valparaiso’s famous troles (trolleybuses). The second oldest streetcar system in South America, the majority of the streetcars were made by the Pullman-Standard Company and their historical significance helped gain the city its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. Hop on board at the bus depot on Avenida Alemania, pay 270 pesos (about 50 cents USD), and then enjoy the ride through the streets, passing by city landmarks like the Turri Clock, Plaza Victoria, and Plaza Sotomayor with the Naval Building.

 

2. Walk around to see the street art – Valparaiso is the capital of Chilean street art, and the best examples can be found covering the walls of Cerros Alegre and Concepcion. Wander along the cobblestone streets for an afternoon and you’ll see everything from giant hummingbirds, to a staircase, painted like piano keys, to the famous “We are not hippies, we are happies” mural, to a stylistic tribute to Vincent Van Gogh. Artists come from all over Chile and the world to contribute murals in a wide variety of styles done with bright, exuberant colors, and there are always new pieces to discover. You can also go explore the Open Air Museum of Cerro Bellavista, just down the hill from Pablo Neruda’s house, where you can see 20 outsize and vibrant murals created by artists from Chile and other countries in South America.

 

3. Explore Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion – These two hills are the most popular to visit in Valparaiso because they’re home to some of the best examples of Valparaiso architecture. The houses – which are covered in corrugated iron that’s been painted in bright colors – are built in a German/European style that becomes popular in the city after the huge influx of immigrants from Europe in the 1800s. All the houses are intersected by hidden alleyways and staircases full of cafes, galleries, shops, and street art, and you can wander the hills for hours and still not see every part of them. From the lookouts at Paseo Gervasoni and Paseo Atkinson, you can also see stunning views of the ocean and the surrounding hills. If you are looking for a place to experience every part of Valparaiso – the art, the bohemian culture, the colorful houses – this is the place to explore.

 

4. Ride up and down the hills on a funicular – One of the icons of Valparaiso are its funicular elevators. The cars, which are pulled up and down the hills on their tracks by pulleys, are often painted in flashy colors to match the houses of the city, or done up with street art instead. For about 100 pesos (16 cents USD), you can take the short ride up or down one of the hills, with the elevation opening up beautiful views of the surroundings. In the past, the city has had as many as 26 working funiculars operating throughout the city, but nowadays, only the ones on the most popular hills are maintained. Two of the most popular, La Reina and La Peral, can be found on Cerro Alegre.

 

5. Visit Pablo Neruda’s house – “Valparaiso, what nonsense you are, what a crazy, insane port.” Thus starts Pablo Neruda’s ode to his beloved port city, where he chose to keep one of his three homes. Known as La Sebastiana, the multi-story house teeters on Cerro Florida overlooking the bay, its many floors chock-full of whimsical items Neruda acquired during his travels, like a wooden horse taken from a carousel in Paris and an ancient map of the world. You can wander from floor to floor learning about the different artifacts and how Neruda lived, seeing his bedroom, living room, and writing study, all of which offer expansive views of the ocean and city. Each room and item offers insight into the unique life of one of Chile’s foremost writers, who, in addition to his poetry, had an impressive career as a diplomat.

 

6. Enjoy some fresh Chilean seafood in the port district – With more than 4,300 kilometers of coastline, Chileans know how to do seafood especially well. As a famous historic port city, Valparaiso is chock-full of restaurants and diners – many dating back to the city’s heyday in the late 1800s and early 1900s like Bar Cizano – that serve up fresh, delicious Chilean classics year-round: machas con parmesan (clams with parmesan); chupe con centolla (savory crab pie, made with crab, cheese, cream, and bread); paila marina (Chilean seafood stew); sea urchins, and catch of the day fish prepared every which way. Just into any restaurant in the port neighborhood and pair your meal with a glass of white wine: you won’t be disappointed.

Valparaíso and Wines Tour

6 Days trips you can do from Santiago

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!

Photography Ski Portillo Center

 

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.

Photography Gabriel Britto

 

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.

 

 

 

4 Trails you can do in Patagonia that aren’t the W

If you love trekking and want to visit Patagonia someday, chances are that high on your list of to-do hikes is the W Trek in Torres del Paine. But in recent years, as more and more people come to Chile and Patagonia for its world-class trails and trekking opportunities, the W trek has become overcrowded and far too busy during the high season months of December through February. For people traveling to Patagonia looking to escape into nature and get away from the crowds, that experience of being secluded and alone in the wilderness can be ruined. Luckily, there are plenty of other trails all over Patagonia, ranging from the northern area in the Lakes District to the far reaches of Tierra del Fuego, that can satisfy your appetite for adventure.

 

1.Dientes de Navarino – The Dientes Circuit, located on far-flung Navarino Island in Tierra del Fuego and so-named for the jagged, tooth-like appearance of the island’s mountain chain, is about as different from the W as you can get. With virtually no trail infrastructure save for markers, hikers need to bring all their own camping and hiking equipment, making it the perfect multi-day trek for true outdoor aficionados. Lasting four days and covering 53 kilometers of rugged, isolated backcountry, the trail passes through valleys, Magellanic subpolar forests, peat bogs, lakes and rivers, and finally peaks at the Virginia Step with otherworldly views of the Beagle Channel and the mountains and fjords of Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn. For hikers who enjoy escaping into pure, untrammelled nature and tackling treks that few people have done before, the Dientes Trek is a welcome challenge.

The Facts

Where: Navarino Island, Chilean Tierra del Fuego

How long: Roughly 53 kilometers (roughly 4 days)

When to go: November through March

Difficulty Level: Advanced

Why make the trip: Beautiful vistas of fjords and mountains, untouched nature, isolated and unknown to most Patagonia visitors

 

2.Cerro Castillo – Fans of the Dientes Trek and undeveloped hiking trails will love this lesser-known but spectacular four-day trek in the Aysen region. Cerro Castillo, named for the battlement-like pinnacles of the rock formation that marks the highest peak in the Central Andean range (2,320 meters)  this newly-appointed national park has all the attractions of Torres del Paine — towering peaks, sprawling glaciers, and beautiful views over lakes and mountainous passes — but without the crowds. The trail can be accessed from different trailheads, allowing for day hikes, but the standard multi-day hiking route is roughly 62 kilometers (38.5 miles) long, with the highlight of the trail being the view of the mountain over the brilliant turquoise waters of Laguna Cerro Castillo. Isolated and with very basic infrastructure at the campsites and along the trail, the hike is definitely recommended for expert hikers who are comfortable spending many days alone in remote territory. But the views, peaceful atmosphere, and chance to see elusive wildlife like huemul deer and pumas make this hike well worth the effort.

The Facts

Where: Aysen Region, Chile

How long: 62 kilometers (roughly 4 days)

When to go: November through February for summer (high season)

Difficulty Level: Intermediate to advanced

Why make the trip: Beautiful views of jagged mountains and lakes, great opportunities for wildlife viewing, uncrowded.

Photography @chile_magico

 

3.Darwin’s Trail – This trail, which spans both land and sea, retraces the route of famed naturalist Charles Darwin through the Fuegian Archipelago when he first sailed here in 1832 aboard the Beagle on its second voyage and came into contact with the Yaghan tribe. Enamored of the region’s wealth of biodiversity — which you can observe for yourself thanks to the abundance of marine wildlife, seabirds, and the miniature forests of mosses and lichens — the observations Darwin made on his voyage through Tierra del Fuego helped shape his ideas on evolution, making this route a great destination for hikers with an interest in botany, biology, and history. The path, which passes through various waterways like the Beagle and Murray channels, also includes short and relatively easy hikes to inland lookouts from which Darwin could observe the landscapes, such as the trail leading to a lookout over the historic and beautiful Wulaia Bay, landing site of the Beagle and of bloody conflicts between the Europeans and the native Yaghan.

The Facts

Where: Tierra del Fuego, Chile, and Navarino Island

How long: 2-3 days

When to go: November through March

Difficulty Level: Easy to intermediate

Why make the trip: Remote islands, marine wildlife, stunning flora

Photography Daniel Osorio

 

4.Cochamo Valley – When most people think of hiking in Chile’s beautiful Lakes District, they think of Huilo Huilo. But this valley, located roughly two hours from Puerto Montt, is home of the region’s most thrilling and beautiful trails. Cochamo Valley, known as the ‘Yosemite of Chile’, is only accessible via a 4-to-6 hour hike that leads you into the heart of this granite-domed paradise, filled with old-growth forests, pristine rivers, and grassy pampas. The valley’s shape doesn’t lend itself to circuitous trails; rather, people hike into the valley, stay at a number of campsites and go on day hikes to different areas and lookouts, like the Arcoiris trail, a five hour to summit push that rewards those who tackle it with astonishing views. Due to the remote location of the valley, the trails and campsites are very rudimentary, making it a great destination for people who love roughing it outdoors and taking on more challenging trails. The sheer granite cliffs, which can rise up to 1,000 meters high, have also turned the valley into an international destination for rock climbers.

The Facts

Where: Los Lagos Region, Chile

How long: 4-6 hours (10 kilometers) to La Junta campground in the valley

When to go: November to mid-April

Difficulty Level: Intermediate to advanced

Why make the trip: Remote, pristine trails, great rock climbing, secluded wilderness, granite dome mountains.

 

 

The Charm of Valvidia, the pearl of the river

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 kayaking

Rivers:

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).

valdivia city

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!

valdivia market

River Market:

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.

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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.

Valdivia_Cecinas Artesanales

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!