You will find the world’s driest desert here, as well as glaciers, fjords and volcanoes that are located along the Pacific in the “Ring of Fire.”
Visitors will first want to get acclimated in Santiago. While in this bustling city make it a point to head north and get to Cerro San Cristóbal, with views that might even include the Andes on a clear day. At the top you will find a church with a 72-foot statue of the Virgin Mary. You can ride leisurely to the top via cable car or if you are adventurous, you can hike it. Also at the top you will find Parque Metropolitano, which is Santiago’s largest public park and home to several swimming pools as well as a zoo and botanical garden.
Near Santiago, see Viña del Mar with a busy day time and night time beach scene during the summer. A quieter and more family-friendly beach option is Zapallar. For surfing junkies, the beaches of Pichilemu and Maitencillo are good options, or further afoot there is Matanzas where water sports meet relaxation.
On the Pacific coast in the central part of the country, Valparaíso is another city that is well-known. Valparaíso is brightly colored and popular because the houses there are bright and happy looking. There is a strong sense of a bohemian way of life along the seaside in this city. Valparaiso is built climbing up a hillside, making it a good way to remember this cultural gem. The higher you get, the more stunning the views of the Pacific Ocean. The city also still has cobblestone streets and an architectural smorgasbord in regard to cultural finds.
Winebox Valparaiso (www.facebook.com/pg/wineboxvalparaiso) is currently being constructed on an abandoned lot on Cerro Mariposas in the port city of Valparaíso. It’s worth a look-see since this hotel project is all about urban rejuvenation. It represents the first tourism project in the historic Mariposas neighborhood. The hotel is made from 25 recycled 40-foot high cube shipping containers. The containers are insulated with recycled materials and all the furniture and decorations at the hotel are made from recycled materials recovered from Chile’s wine industry.
The first part of the project opened in December including 21 rooms in a variety of shapes and sizes. Other features current or in the works include a wine bar, wine store, restaurant and rooftop terrace and bar. The folks at Winebox also hope to make everything fully functional as an urban winery with a maximum production of 21,000 bottles of small batch and artisanal wines. This process is planned to begin with the 2017 harvest.
While the wines of Chile are already notorious, the gastronomy is also a pleasant surprise. It is noted that the ingredients found in the local flavors offer hundreds of miles of coast and the life of 17 climates. Many local dishes are served in Chile such as the pastel de choclo (corn-based dish), beef empanadas and seafood and meat curanto from Chiloé. In the latter, the food is steamed in a hole and covered on actual hot stones.
For adventure seekers, you will want to head to Patagonia. Torres del Paine is the most popular national park in this part of Chile located in the far southern region and complemented by mountains, lakes and glaciers. The park is also home to the popular three Towers of Paine. These granite peaks were shaped by glacial ice, with one reaching 8,200 feet high.
What you need to know
To enter Chile, Americans will need their passport, but not a visa. In some cases residents from certain countries are also required to pay a tax in cash when they arrive at the airport.
The diverse climate in Chile will leave you wondering what to wear. Some areas have not seen rain in years and there are four distinct seasons. The warmest months are between October and April and the wettest from May to September. The temperature is colder in the southern part of the country. In the north it is hot during the day but it can be cold in the evenings. The central part of Chile boasts a Mediterranean climate, so depending on when and where you go in Chile you will find different weather patterns dictating the need to pack a very diverse suitcase.