The Republic of Chile is a fascinating country that enjoys most of the climate regions of the world and contains some of the best geography. It is narrower than California, and spans a distance of more than 2700 miles, which is roughly the equivalant of Baja to Alaska turned upside down. The western border is the ridge of the Andes mountains which reaches almost 23,000 feet, and provides a full spectrum of mountain adventures.
Traveling Through the Great Atacama Desert
The Atacama is one of the great deserts of the world and spans from Peru through northern Chile. It is a stark region with stunning landscapes and a spectacular coastline. There are many large volcanoes including the gigantic Ojos Del Salado which stands at 22,770 and is the highest volcano in the world. The entire expanse is very sparsely populated, and there are hundreds of remote beaches with cold water and challenging surfing. The public transportation is excellent, and a luxury bus is a great way to experience this empty paradise.
Santiago and the Wine Region
Santiago is an interesting old Spanish City and the entry point for most international flights. There are many tourist amenities and a great metro and bus system, but the air is usually bad, so the surrounding region is much more desirable. The high mountains are less than an hour away and boast three major ski areas, funky village style hostels, and great hiking and climbing. The surrounding valleys are filled with lush orchards, and touring the vineyards is a very popular activity. The great Pacific Ocean is just over an hour away, and the buses to Vina Del Mar are excellent and very frequent.
Exploring the High Andes
The great ridge of the Andes Mountains provides dozens of pristine river valleys and high mountain peaks. The highest peaks lie between 29 and 35 degrees south latitude and include about a dozen 6000 meter summits. Agoncaqua is the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere and lies just across the Argentine border near the famous old ski resort of Portillo. Agoncaqua is famous and very crowded, but the other peaks see very few tourists. The remote valleys are filled with spectacular rivers, lakes and ancient forests and are great destinations for hiking, camping and whitewater paddling. Most of the roads are gravel and the public transportation is a bit meager, so a private vehicle is needed to really explore this region.
Hiking, Climbing and Paddling in the Lake District
The Lake District lies between 35 and 42 degrees south latitude and is a lush region of pristine old growth forests, sparkling rivers and lakes, and towering volcanoes. These volcanoes are large, but at low altitude, and offer great climbing opportunities and awesome ski descents. The national parks provide many excellent trails through the giant stands of ancient trees, and numerous hot springs await the weary hikers.
Pucon has been a whitewater destination for many years, and boasts a thrilling spectrum of rivers and a variety of commercial rafting options. It is also the home of the famous Volcan Villarrica, and has great restaurants and other tourist amenities.
Trekking in Patagonia
This great southern region is famous for spectacular vistas and bad weather. The landscape of southern Chile changes to rocky shores and glacial bays which make land travel impossible. Flights from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas are reasonably priced, but a three day boat ride through the glacial bays is a recommended option.
The weeklong trek around the Towers Del Paine is one of the classic walks in the world, and is filled with stunning views of the great towers. The weather can be quite bad, so hikers are advised to carry warm clothes and prepare for rain and wind.
The many pleasant refugios offer cozy fires and warm meals, but the sleeping arrangements are crowded and require reservations. The nearby campgrounds do not require reservations, and are a better option for sleeping.
The incredible variety of climates and terrain combined with good roads, excellent trails and a stable government make Chile one of the world’s best destinations for adventure travelers. Language is the biggest challenge, and a small Spanish vocabulary is highly recommended.