I won't lie and say there are not parts of this amazing city that are crumbling. Like the best of Latin America there is poverty here, but there is a beauty in the dilapidated facades of the churches and cathedrals, and optimism in the graffiti-covered walls that are gently peeling to expose the raw brick underneath.
The brightly coloured houses that sprawl across the hills are connected by the 100-year-old funicular railway lines, connecting the 45 cerros (hills) to the heart of the city. In Valparaiso, the culture of art spills out onto the sidewalks; Pablo Neruda claimed that if you walked all of Valparaiso’s stairs, you could make a trip around the world, so inspiring and eclectic are the murals that light up the walls.
The chaotic beauty of Valparaiso is just the beginning. Onwards, then, to the rest of this land of contrasts.
San Pedro de Atacama is a happy town. The locals are friendly and eager to welcome tourists, but mellow enough to impart a sense of calm to those who have arrived in their town in search of the wilds of the Atacama Desert
Wide open spaces dotted with geysers, colourful sands that sweep across the land creating natural works of art, and mountains reflected in unmoving pools. Welcome to Atacama, the driest non-polar desert anywhere in the world. With salt flats, mountain ranges and intense bursts of blue in glistening lagoons, during the day the heat shimmers like a mist, replaced at night by a cool stillness and clear skies.
A seemingly infinite number of stars light up those skies, so far from light pollution that many come to this magical place to immerse themselves in the constellations. With almost 300 clear nights each year, astrotourism and photography are favourite activities here, but as you lie back and gaze at the maze of twinkling stars, make sure you put down your camera for a while and get lost amongst the shooting stars.
Isla Chiloé reminds me of fairytales I read as a child. With colourful palafitos (houses built on stilts over the water), traditional wooden churches (16 are actually UNESCO World Heritage Sites), and a culture of myth and legend, the rolling hills of Isla Chiloé are worth a few days of anyone's time as you journey through Chile Most feel as though they have left Chile behind completely, so different is the atmosphere and architecture to the rest of the country.
The Chilote people will teach you their traditions if you come prepared with an open mind. You can expect tales of forest gnomes, witchcraft and ghosts, where anything unexplained is put simply down to... magic. The landscape of untamed national parks and windswept hills were built for trekking and exploring on foot. Once you have had your fill of the lush hilltops, let your feet lead you down to the water’s edge where you can explore the calm sea channels by boat or by kayak. Before you leave, make sure to head over to Puñihuil to visit the Humboldt and Magellanic penguins who live here in harmony together on the islets, and watch as they dive through the waves.
And so we head south once more. Patagonia takes your breath away, such is its beauty. It looks like every photo of the place you have ever seen, but to experience it with your own eyes will burn the landscape of Torres del Paine National Park into your memory for a very, very long time.
The jagged granite peaks are imposing at first sight. They dominate the landscape, reflected in the calm of turquoise lakes, and are magnificent enough to keep you entranced for some time. While these towering peaks are certainly the major pull for travellers, there is much more to this national park. Tread the well-worn pathways and break in your hiking boots as you explore this unique part of the world.
Contact one of our Destination Specialists to start planning your journey to Chile. Please note we recommend a budget of from £7,000 / $10,000 USD per person for our style of trip to this destination.