About Chile & Bolivia Travel
Atacama Desert: The Atacama Desert sidles up to the coast along the Pacific Ocean and reaches up into the Andes Mountains. Even though Atacama gets almost no rainfall, there are some pockets of water in salt lakes, remnants from earlier periods, and it snows at higher elevations. In this rugged and largely untouched wilderness, adventurers come to experience the stark landscape. Some excursions by horseback take in Moon Valley and a 12th-century Indian fortress, while other options include desert hikes, visits to an archaeological site, and travel to El Tatio at 4,267 meters/14,000 feet.
Easter Island: Few places have gripped the world’s imagination more than Easter Island with its giant stone figures. Some 600 mysterious, giant stone moai figures dot the island. This lonely speck of land is about 3,701 kilometers/ 2,300 miles west of Santiago in the Pacific Ocean. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Rapa Nui National Park includes Ahu Vinapu’s Inca-like precise stonework; Rano Raraku quarry where the giant figures were carved; and Rano Kao with it curious ruins of the village of Orongo, a likely center for the ancient birdman cult. Other areas to explore include historic Ana Tepahu caverns; Puna Pao quarry, source of the giant red cylinders crowning many of the statues; Rano Raraku Volcano; and the toppled moai of Akahanga. Easter Island is a truly exceptional adventure.
Isla Negra, Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar: Isla Negra is primarily known as the home of Nobel poet Pablo Neruda, who was awarded the prize in 1971, two years before his death. His eccentrically designed house is now a museum containing works of Chile’s beloved man of letters. For 500 years, Valparaiso has been a port of call for vessels from around the world. This colorful city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From conquistadors and pirates to Charles Darwin and James Whistler, all came in search of some form of treasure. Its hilltop suburbs are reached by funicular railways and stairway footpaths. Vina del Mar is called the Garden City for its many parks and garden. It was first developed in the 1870s as an exclusive residential and summer retreat for the wealthy.
Northern Chile: This fascinating region is well off the tourism beat, yet offers a range of exceptional adventures. Small towns and villages such as Rio Hurtado and Pisco Elqui are set in the Andes amid striking mountain landscapes. The Altiplano is Chile’s link with the great civilizations of the Central Andes. Even now, the traditional, nomadic Aymara people wander the Altiplano with their domesticated llamas and alpacas. Experienced riders venture out on an expedition to “the roof of the Andes,” at heights up to 3,800 meters/12,467 feet. Nature hikes, a visit to an unusual winery and ancient petroglyphs, some dating back 4,000 years, make this an intriguing exploration. Rock carvings in stone depict strange, masked faces, animals and other images. The caves of Pichasca were used as a ceremonial site, and have some of the oldest traces of human settlement in this region. Lauca National Park is located in Chile’s far north, and consists mainly of high plains and mountains with striking, large volcanoes.
Patagonia: Patagonia is a vast region at the southernmost tip of South America, shared by Argentina and Chile. Civilizations with mystical rites, along with sailors and pioneers, have contributed to its fame. In the heart of the region, Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park encompasses 242,002 hectares/598,000 acres with granite peaks, glaciers, lakes and waterfalls. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the striking handsome Torres del Paine is the centerpiece of the park, and links the Magellanic subpolar forests and the Patagonian Steppes. Bernardo O’Higgins National Park borders it to the west, while Los Glaciares National Park is just to the north in Argentina. The scenery is dominated by the Paine massif, an eastern spur of the Andes located on the east side of Grey Glacier. Small valleys separate mighty granite spires and the mountains of the massif. Outdoor pursuits include climbing, fly fishing, sailing, horseback riding, kayaking, trekking and mountaineering.
Patagonia Cruises: Cruises run from four to seven days. They travel through the Southern Patagonia Ice Field. Each cruise navigates through Patagonian channels, past fjords and glaciers that continue their slow work crushing rocks, and plowing out valleys and immense canals. Many legendary explorers have walked these ice fields such as Ladrillero, Darwin and Fitz Roy. The ships sail through Montanas Fjord, past the enormous mountains. Trekkers can walk into the dense forest to the base of the Bernal Glacier, with its bluish ice free from any contamination. This fjord is the furthest point of the Southern Ice Fields.
Pucon and Villarica: Pucon is a small city in the middle of the southern lake region. The Andes here change into a series of spectacular volcanoes, age-old forests and lakes of distinctive beauty. This is a fashionable resort area with abundant outdoor activities such as trekking, horseback riding, glacier treks, boating and mountain biking. Snow-covered Villarica, one of Chile’s most active volcanoes, is one of only four volcanoes worldwide known to have an active lava lake within its crater. The wealth of natural attributes beg to be discovered.
Puerto Varas and Chiloe Island: In southern Chile, Puerto Varas is known for its strong German flavor as seen in its architecture and traditions. The Chilean government encouraged German immigration in the mid-19th century. Nearby, Llanquihue Lake is one of the largest natural lakes in South America; and Osorno Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes of the southern Chilean Andes, with 11 historical eruptions recorded between 1575 and 1869. Osorno sits on a 250,000-year-old eroded stratovolcano, with a caldera that is six kilometers/3.7 miles wide. Mt. Osorno has a year-round chairlift for skiing in winter and sightseeing in summer. Chiloe is the largest island of the Chiloe Archipelago, which is home to the variety of potato most widely grown throughout the world. Having lived for centuries isolated from the mainland, the “Chilotes” developed a strong, self-reliant culture, rich in folklore, mythology and tradition. Chiloe has crafts markets, museum exhibitions, seafood and a unique architectural heritage. Wildlife visiting the island includes blue whales, Chilean dolphins and Peale’s dolphins, sea lions, marine otters, and Magellanic and Humboldt penguins.
Santiago and Winelands: The result of 20 years of uninterrupted economic growth is a capital city that is one of Latin America’s most modern metropolitan areas. With the amenities of a world-class city, it boasts some of Latin America’s most modern transportation infrastructure, including a metro system. Santiago is headquarters to many global companies and is a regional financial center. Set in a valley with a mild Mediterranean climate, the city’s charms are found in its old quarter, European-style districts, Spanish colonial churches, gardens and government palaces. Chile’s famous wine estates are nearby – the region is the center of a thriving wine-growing tradition dating back to the mid-16th century. Many historic wine estates remain family-run. In Maipo Valley, visitors learn about Chile’s rich wine heritage. Several wine estates have accommodations and guest facilities.
Bolivia Antiplano: This remote locale remains one of the most pristine and awe-inspiring places on earth. Remote camps, the Sol de Manana (a geothermal field at 4,700 meters/15,420 feet), salt pans, wetlands and lagoons offer exceptional adventure. At high altitudes, between 4,300 meters/14,107 feet and 3,600 meters/11,811 feet, former mines, dramatic valleys and boundless plains contrast with the likes of Turquiri Lagoon, with its diversity of high plains birds. Old villages, a cactus forest, caves filled with surprising geological formations and a massive plain of salt – the Salar de Uyuni are found here. At an altitude of 3,665 meters/12,024 feet, it is the largest and highest salt pan on the planet. The Tunupa Volcano is clothed in shades of red, orange and yellow from volcanic minerals in the soil. At 5,432 meters/17,821 feet, it makes for a hardy hike through small villages, wetlands and archeological sites.
Best Time to Travel to Chile & Boliva
Festivals and Special Events
Suggested Chile Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Santiago, Chile / Atacama Desert
Atacama is not only the driest desert in the world, it is also the highest and was home to pre-Columbian Andean cultures.
Days 2-3: Atacama Desert
Explorations include learning about the region’s geography, history, fauna, geology and ancient villages; and options include trekking, horseback riding, mountain biking and exploring by vehicle.
Day 4: Atacama Desert / Temuco / Pucon
Pucon along the shores of the Liucura River is the traditional territory of the ancient Mapuche people.
Days 5-6: Pucon
Learn to ride horses – Chilean style; hike in national parks; bike the Lake District; and rafting on the Trancura River.
Day 7: Pucon / Temuco / Torres Del Paine
Patagonia is a vast region in the southernmost tip of South America and Torres del Paine National Park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Days 8-9: Torres Del Paine National Park
The landscapes of Patagonia offer travelers a wide range of nature-based experiences.
Day 10: Torres Del Paine National Park / Punta Arenas / Depart
Custom Travel Options
Atacama Desert (4 days)
This largely untouched wilderness boasts dramatic and ancient scenery, a 12th-century Indian fortress and the Tatio geysers at 4,267 meters/14,000 feet.
Easter Island (5 days)
Easter Island and its giant stone sculptures are among the handful of places in the world that remain shrouded in mystery and myth.
Isla Negra, Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar (1 day)
Isla Negra was home to the Nobel poet, Pablo Neruda; the colorful, 500-year-old port of Valparaiso is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and Vina del Mar is a seaside resort area with excellent beaches.
Northern Chile (4-7 days)
Largely untouched by tourism, this unusual area offers horseback riding adventures “to the roof of the Andes,” ancient rock art and even a winery visit.
Patagonian Cruises (4-7 days)
Cruises travel through the utterly compelling Southern Patagonia Ice Fields.
Pucon and Land of the Mapuche (3 days)
Towering mountains, spectacular volcanoes and age old forests beckon with their distinctive beauty, and Pucon is the traditional territory of the ancient Mapuche.
Puerto Varas and Chiloe Island (3 days)
In southern Chile, Puerto Varas is known for its strong German flavor; and Chiloe Island is known for distinctive folklore, mythology, cuisine and unique architecture.
Bolivia Antiplano (4 days)
This remote locale remains one of the most pristine and awe-inspiring places on earth.
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$500 per person per day