Chile is red hot right now travel-wise. It’s safe, which is appealing to many American tourists looking for ease alongside a slice of exoticism, surrounded by surreal landscapes. Tour operators and accommodations are top notch, offering several levels of travel.
Santiago is typically a point of entrance into Chile. It is well worth taking a day or two to soak in Santiago’s urban appeal before jetting off to Pucon, Patagonia, Easter Island or Atacama. Similar to Buenos Aires, Santiago has European influences in its architecture and in its people. According to my driver, at the turn of the 20th-century, many wealthy Chileans spent half of their year in Paris.
Check in to The Aubrey Hotel (www.theaubrey.com) in the boho chic Bellavista neighborhood, once home to Pablo Neruda. It is the perfect start to Santiago. The once private mansion of an influential Chilean businessman now houses fifteen rooms and suites, all varied in size and style. Santiago is a cosmopolitan city with an abundance of bars, restaurants, cafes, colonial architecture, museums, old graveyards, floral shops, food markets, flea markets and large parks. There are several bohemian enclaves and a great mix of neighborhoods, from upmarket to artsy. See it all on a biking tour with Paseos En Bicicleta (www.biketours.cl).
For local vines, head 30 minutes outside of Santiago to Casablanca and Matetic Winery (www.matetic.com), a fully organic and biodynamic winery. Bike through the vineyards before a tasting and an abundant lunch. If you want to dive deeper into the wines, leave your cycling behind, and make a night of it at their onsite property.
Pucon is a ski town that is a bit off the radar, which is part of its appeal. Adventure options include rafting down Rio Trancura’s class 4 rapids or treks at Huerquehue National Park. The big draw to the area is the snowcapped Villarrica Volcano. All-day climbs include crampons, ice pick, and a guide.
Check into Antumalal (www.antumalal.com), Chile’s first boutique hotel, and a favorite of the Rockefellers for years. Today you can kick back above the lake with a bowl of homemade potato chips and a fresh pisco sour in hand.
Ice Ice Baby
Start easy by checking into Remota (www.remotahotel.com), just two hours outside of Chile’s National Park, Torres Del Paine. Similar to Atacama and other Patagonia properties, there are several adventure activities managed by the property. After the luxe laid back ambiance, head over Lago Grey Hotel (www.lago
grey.com), one of the few hotels situated within Torres Del Paine. At sunrise, hop on Grey II for a 90-minute boat ride and pass a glacial gallery of natural art. At BigFoot Adventures (www.bigfootpatagonia.com) you can kayak or climb to the glaciers.
Easter Island is a Polynesian island located halfway to Tahiti, with direct flights available from Santiago. This World Heritage site is the most isolated inhabited island on earth. The biggest attraction here are the Moai, standing upon ceremonial platforms called Ahu. Plan for at least two days on the island to capture the Moais at sunrise and sunset.
There’s also trekking, horseback riding and diving on the island. For luxe accommodations and top notch tours, check into explora (www.explora.com).
Desert High - Atacama
As surreal and as bountiful as the beauty in this country may be, it’s not until Atacama that you truly feel like you have left the planet. As the driest desert on earth, it is a world unto its own.
Tierra Atacama (www.tierrahotels.com) is a high end property in Sierra De Atacama. They offer a number of ways to take in the landscape, from trekking to biking and horseback riding, or sandboarding in Death Valley or Moon Valley. There are Chilean flamingos, a salt bed and a dead sea like spot, perfect for a float with a chilled Pisco in hand. The early morning excursion to El Tatio, a geyser field located several hours away within the Andes Mountains, at an altitude of 14,190 ft. was a definite highlight.
On your final night, head out for a stargazing excursion. The area draws gazers from across the globe. You can see all, including the Southern Cross, as well as the different Atacama constellations, such as the Andean Llama. It’s a good time to count your lucky stars before leaving.
For flights to Chile, visit www.lan.com, and for information about this amazing country, go to www.chile.travel