What to see
The scenery and landscapes of Chile are all so varied that there are so many things to see. The Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world, has some incredible sights: watching the flamingos at the salt flat as the sun sets behind the mountains getting up before dawn to see the El Tatio Geysers at their most active star-gazing in some of the world’s clearest and highest skies with no pollution and thin air and walking among rock formations that resemble other planets.
Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, the far south of the country, is a walker’s and photographer’s natural paradise. It is a beautiful area of stunning mountains and crystal clear lakes. Boat rides can be taken to the glaciers and walks can be made to the base of the towers - the Torres. Whether you stay inside the park, or just past the borders, the scenery is breathtaking. A five-hour drive from the nearest airport at Punta Arenas into Torres del Paine National Park, it is definitely remote. Interestingly, Torres del Paine sits on the same latitude south of the equator, as London is north but there can’t be many places in the UK that feel quite so isolated and secluded. A cruise around Cape Horn is a popular way to see the stunning wildlife and landscapes of the area.
Because of the length of the country, it is impossible to avoid taking domestic flights. This means it is inevitable that nights are needed in Santiago when flights don’t connect. For a capital city in South America, there isn’t a great deal to see or do, so excellent alternatives are the wine lands in the Casablanca Valley and the quirky port city of Valparaiso, both easily accessible from Santiago airport. Until being declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003, the city was much overlooked as a place to visit but it has now undergone a lot of restoration and the narrow hillside streets provide an interesting place to explore for a day.
Easter Island, owned by Chile but lying almost half way across the Pacific Ocean and more Polynesian than Chilean, is another unique destination, shrouded in mystery and intrigue that few people ever experience. The history of the Moai is not known and no one really understands the origins of neither the stelae nor how they came to be on the islands.