Fondly nicknamed “a long petal of the sea” by poet Pablo Neruda, Chile is the kind of place people can’t help but fall in love with – and with good reason.
From stargazing in the Atacama Desert, to hiking in Torres del Paine, to watching the sun set behind ancient Maoi statues on Easter Island, and beyond. Check out our top reasons to take a Chile vacation as soon as you possibly can…
1) Experience life on Mars in the Atacama Desert
Clocking in at a mindblowing 15 million years old, the Atacama Desert has a similar soil constitution to Mars and has been used as an experimentation site for Mars expedition simulations – so you can get a taste of life on the red planet, without ever leaving Earth’s atmosphere. As if that isn’t cool enough, NASA confirmed it’s the driest nonpolar desert in the world, sometimes not seeing rain for years at a time.
Thanks to its high altitude, non-existent cloud cover, dry air and lack of light pollution, the Atacama Desert is one of the best places in the world for stargazing, with astronomers from around the globe clambering to get a view. Here at Jacada, we’ve never seen such a magnificent sky – it looks heavy with the weight of the stars, which feel so close you could almost touch them…
2) Stretch your legs in Torres del Paine
Call us biased, but we think there’s nowhere in the world quite like Torres del Paine. From the vast carpets of colourful grasslands up to the three epic, imposing towers of the Paine massif, everywhere you turn the views are totally knock-out. It’s no surprise, then, that this utterly magical, unspoilt wilderness has been named a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
Take in the sprawling Patagonian forests and icy white glaciers. Rest by a twinkling lake or feel the refreshing spray of a thundering waterfall. Feel the crunch of your boots on the crisp, frozen paths. There’s plenty of opportunity to spot wildlife, too, with pumas, huemules, rheas, guanacos, grey foxes and a plethora of birdlife calling the region home.
Even better news is that Torres del Paine is known for its amazing luxury lodges. Is there any greater satisfaction than resting your weary legs and getting warm by an open fire after a day of hiking, with the promise of a hearty dinner and flowing, homegrown wine to come? We think not.
3) Step back in time on Easter Island
Easter Island is most famously known for being populated by almost 1,000 enormous statues of heads, or moai, painstakingly chiseled out of volcanic stone by the Rapa Nui people to honour their ancestors. But behind the oft-seen photographs lies a sense of mystery that can only be truly appreciated in person: with each one on average 13 feet tall and weighing 14 tons, the effort it must have taken to create and place them at different ceremonial spots around the island is nothing short of mind-boggling. There are few sights as spellbinding as the sun rising or setting behind the silhouettes of those legendary forms.
Just being on there is to experience the history of one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. From the unlikely arrival of its early Polynesian settlers, who came upon its shores using only the stars and ocean swell to navigate, to the Dutch explorer who gave its most recent name, the island bears the stories of many peoples over hundreds, if not thousands of years.
Plus, there’s a whole plethora of other things to do on the island that really make it worth the trip. Whether you’re into snorkelling, scuba diving and surfing, or hiking, mountain biking and horse riding, or you’re just looking for the delicious isolation of being on a tiny piece of land in a vast expanse of sea, we guarantee it’ll deliver.
4) Breathe in the great outdoors in the Lake District
Once inhabited by the Mapuche (meaning “people of the land”), who fought off the Inca and resisted Spanish attempts at colonisation for over 350, the Lake District was eventually taken by the Chilean army in the 1880s. Since then, German, Swiss and Scandidavian settlers have brought with them their architecture, cuisine, music and folklore, transforming the area into a fascinating cultural melting pot that’s the dream destination for outdoor adventurers and foodies alike.
With sprawling larch forests, iridescent cobalt-blue lakes, snow-capped peaks and traditional towns that look like they’re straight off a Swiss postcard, you might be forgiven for thinking you’re in Europe. Except, that is, for the odd smouldering volcano and the unmistakably welcoming, slow-paced Chilean culture that radiates from even the briefest of passers-by.
Depending on the time of year you can ski or dog-sled, soak in a thermal spring or climb a volcano (if you’re brave enough!), explore the coastline in a kayak or fish in one of the many impressive lakes. When it comes to family travel in Chile, the immensely beautiful Lake District has something for everyone.
5) Enter the land of the giants in the Aisen Region
Way back in the day, reports came from European explorers of enormous humans up to double the normal height living in the rugged, windswept landscape of the Aisen Region. Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan is reported to have named them “Patagons” (though no one really knows why) – it’s not hard to imagine such a sight in modern-day Patagonia, where everything looks somehow supersized.
Amongst the contorted, dramatic shapes are the famous marble caves, where thousands of years of erosion have created colourful, sculpture-like rock formations as intricate and awe-inspiring as any work of art. But there’s much more to the Aisen Region, too. Stunning glassy fjords give way to evergreen forests and glaciers that tumble off mountain tops. A hike through desert landscape is rewarded with the rare sight of ancient cave paintings. The chill of an icy dip is soon forgotten in the steamy warmth of a hot spring.
From fly fishers to photographers, hikers to sit-back-and-relaxers, outdoor enthusiasts alike will be rewarded for your journey with some of the most unique scenery you’ve ever laid eyes on.