Renowned for spectacular salt pans, broad valleys and ancient history, Chile’s world-famous Atacama Desert is also one of the best places in the southern hemisphere to star-gaze, due to its dry air, clear skies and three-hundred cloudless nights per year. This stark terrain is an internationally important location for the mining industry and for scientific study, home to hi-tech observatories and a third of the world’s telescopes. The colourful village of San Pedro de Atacama is the archaeological capital of Chile, where visitors can marvel at soaring volcanoes, lava fields and rolling dunes, set against a backdrop of endless sky.
Puerto Varas sits on the shore of Lake Llanquihue, majestically overlooked by snow-capped volcanoes. Known as the City of Roses, its flower-lined streets are ideal for exploring on foot, stopping off to refuel with a local beer and perhaps a Lomito, a traditional sliced pork sandwich popular among the Chilean people. It’s also a great place to shop for handicrafts, handmade chocolates and woven items, as well as for discovering the local history, including the 19th century homesteads of German settlers, antique churches and museums.
The bustling port city of Puerto Montt has a German colonial heritage, with notable architecture including the Llanquihue Bank building, Inmaculada Cocepcion School and numerous ornate local residences. For further cultural discovery, there is an art gallery and museum, while culinary enthusiasts will enjoy the fantastic, abundant seafood under the shadow of the Calbuco Volcano. Widely available, cancato (a seafood stew) and Erizo sea urchins are two delicious and popular local dishes on offer.
Torres del Paine National Park
The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Torres del Paine National Park, near Punta Arenas, is a peaceful, rural wonderland of colossal granite peaks, snow-clad mountains and glacier-fed lakes. Formed at least twelve-million years ago, this unique landscape offers seventeen hours of sunlight per day in the summer months. The park is ideal for exploring by car and on foot, with 97 kilometres of roads winding through the dramatic scenery and a number of hiking trails. The park is home to multiple species of mammals and birdlife, including the puma, rhea, Andean Condor, flamingo and guanaco, Chile's version of the llama.
Otherwise known as Rapa Nui, Easter Island is the world's most remote inhabited island. Its strong Polynesian colonial heritage is celebrated annually during the February Tapati Festival. With gorgeous pink sand beaches, volcanoes and deserted caves, the island enjoys a warm, sub-tropical climate year-round. Easter Island's mysterious statues, carved out of volcanic rock some time between 1250 and 1500AD, are believed to symbolise the sacred ancestors of its Polynesian inhabitants. Each of the nine-hundred sculptures is unique and ranges in size from two to twenty metres. Today, just 2,000 residents inhabit this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Nestled in the foothills of the Andes, Chile's fabulous cosmopolitan capital, Santiago, is one of South America’s most enticing cities. French-Colonial and Spanish Baroque architecture serve as a backdrop to jazz clubs, theatres, a cathedral, Bellas Art Museum and the Lastarria neighbourhood, with its galleries, restaurants and coffee shops. Santiago is surrounded by the fertile valleys that produce the region's most famous bounty – wine! Local wine-making traditions stretch back to conquistador times and there are several wine routes to explore in the world-renowned Maipo Valley, with vineyard tours and tastings for true connoisseurs.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002, Valparaiso is Chile's largest and oldest port, dating back to 1536. Prettily surrounded by a collection of verdant hills that wind their way down to the coastline, the town comprises a jumble of multi-coloured houses in a tangle of narrow cobblestoned streets. The best views are at Mirador Diego Portales, to the east of the city, which is as popular with today's travellers as it was historically, when artists, poets and philosophers were drawn to the city by its imperfect beauty.
Patagonia, in remote southern Chile, is a spectacular area with endless attractions to discover. Tierra del Fuego is perfect for fly-fishing and is arguably the world’s best destination for trout fishing in rivers and lakes. From October to March, the Straight of Magellan has a thriving colony of Magellanic Penguins and it’s also a great place to whale-watch. The wilderness area northwest of Punta Arenas offers mountain-climbing, horse-riding, rafting and the chance to explore spectacular ice fields and the mountainous terrain around Torres del Paine National Park.
Explora Patagonia, in Punta Arenas, offers varied horse-riding excursions. The property has its own stable of 26 horses and, along with exploring the nearby lagoons, waterfalls and ancient forests, it is possible to ride alongside gauchos - Chilean cowboys - assisting with shearing sheep, driving livestock and even breaking in horses.
Explora Rapa Nui
A collection of half or full-day explorations can be enjoyed on magical Easter Island, accompanied by English-speaking guides. This may include a half-day exploring the famous Moai statues or incorporate longer mountain-biking trips, trekking or half-day boat trips with fishing, using traditional techniques.
Vicente Perez National Park
Lovers of rural scenery and the outdoors gravitate to Puerto Varas. The nearby Osorno Volcano - in Vicente Perez National Park, 60 kilometres from Puerto Varas - provides diverse leisure pursuits from trekking and hiking, to mountain-biking and bird-watching.
The Altiplano is home to the world's highest navigable lake, Titicaca – the birthplace of the sun in Andean legend. Ornithologists are attracted by the approximately 160 species of birds in this epic, remote landscape, while the wide-open spaces are perfect for a dreamy nocturnal star-gazing tour with a local guide.
Polo and Wine
Chile has a long equine history, which visitors can sample during a thrilling polo game or horse race at Mandarin Oriental, Santiago. For hotel guests, a private vineyard tour with wine-tasting can be arranged to sample top-class local wines in one of the most upwardly mobile South American wine regions.
British Airways direct from London Heathrow to Sao Paulo.
Via Madrid with Iberia Airlines from London Heathrow to Santiago.
Via Paris with Air France from London Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh to Santiago.*
Onward connecting flights with LAN and TAM Linhas Aereas from Sao Paulo to Santiago.
From London Heathrow to Sao Paulo: 11 hours, 40 minutes.
Onward connecting flight from Sao Paulo to Santiago: 5 hours, 30 minutes.
From London Heathrow to Madrid: 2 hours, 25 minutes. London Heathrow to Paris: 1 hour, 20 minutes.
Onward long-haul connecting flights from Madrid to Santiago: 14 hours, 30 minutes.
From Paris to Santiago: 15 hours, 10 minutes.
Travelling With Children or Without an Adult
Children travelling without both parents should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country (for example, South Africa) or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. Please contact the relevant Embassy for the county you are travelling to for further information.
Visa and Advance Passenger Information
All passengers must ensure they have a valid, acceptable passport, any required visa and any other documentation for both the final destination and any stop-off points en route. Please make sure that Advance Passenger Information is submitted in advance to travel for all destinations. Failure to hold correct documentation or submitting incorrect details with Advance Passenger Information or Visa applications may result in refusal of carriage or entry into a country. Please check with the relevant Embassy regarding visa requirements well in advance of your travel date. Charges may apply for some visas.
Passengers not travelling on a British Passport are advised to contact their relevant Foreign & Commonwealth office for individual Visa requirements.
For up-to-date resort information, visit www.fco.gov.uk
Health facilities, hygiene and disease risks vary worldwide and you should take health advice about your specific needs from your general practitioner or a specialist clinic as early as possible before travel. Those planning to become pregnant should discuss their travel plans with their healthcare provider to assess their risk of infection with Zika. For information about Zika, other mosquito-borne diseases (such as Dengue fever and Chikungunya), Lyme Disease (caused by tick bites), and to receive advice on mosquito bite avoidance measures, please visit http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/insect-tick-bite-avoidance/
In addition, we highly recommend that you seek specialist advice from your doctor and, where recommended, obtain vaccinations or tablets for protection against, for example: Malaria, Hepatitis A, Polio and Typhoid. In some cases, treatments for Malaria should begin well in advance of travel. Travellers may also be required to show Yellow Fever Certificates on arrival in certain destinations ie, some African countries. Please note that you are strongly advised against scuba-diving for 24 hours before travelling by air. We would also like to draw your attention to the risk of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and recommend that you consult with your doctor before travelling.
Visit the FCO website and select your destination country for the very latest travel advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Additional sources of information include: www.hpa.org.uk, http://nathnac.net,
www.fco.gov.uk, www.hpa.org.uk and www.nathnac.org, your General Practitioner or a specialised clinic.