Chile is a country that grows on you as you travel the length of the country. And, traveling its length is a mean feat. It stretches over¬ 4,300 km¬†(2,670 mi) north to south. And, not a mile of it is boring or monotonous. Chile travel¬†is full of excitement and exploration.
In the north lies Atacama desert, the driest desert in the world. As you move to the center of Chile, you find yourself in prime wine country sitting next to the metropolis of Santiago de Chile¬ and the artsy port city of¬ Valparaiso.¬ You must not stop here, you have to go as south as south goes to see the active volcanoes Cerro Arul, Cerro Hudson, and Villarica.
From here on the roads south pass through some idyllic countryside or at times abruptly end up into the ocean. The Grand Island of Chiloe houses UNESCO World Heritage listed¬ Churches of Chiloe.¬ Carretera Austral¬ is a 1200 kilometer long utopian road that takes you on a road trip beyond your dreams. The southernmost fragment of Chile is Patagonia at its wildest best with fjords, granite peaks, penguins, isolated islands, glacial lakes, villages lost in time, and other mysterious places waiting to be discovered. It’s time to get into the depths of Chile travel.
Where is it?
|LANGUAGE||SPANISH, AYMARA, QUECHUA|
|INT'L AIRPORT(S)||Santiago, Iquique, Antofagasta, Punta Arenas|
Chile Travel (Tourist) Visa Requirements
|Valid Passport||A valid passport with blank page(s) for the visa stamp|
|Passport Size Photos||Confirm the size and the background requirements|
|Proof of onward travel||Confirmed ticket(s) into and out of the country|
|Hotel Bookings||Hotel reservations for the intended length of stay in the country|
|Trip Itinerary||A detailed itinerary of your trip in the country.|
|Proof of financial funds||Proof of significant funds to cover your expenses while in the country|
|Letter to the Embassy Counselor||A letter to the counselor describing the purpose of the visit|
- Cost: US$20 Single Entry. US$30 Multiple Entry. (If you visiting Patagonia, get a multiple entry visa)
- Validity: Varies. Sometimes, depends on the itinerary, hotel reservations or travel tickets. Ask the embassy.
- Visa Processing Time: 10 days
Why go there?
Trekking, glaciers, lakes, fjords, art, pisco brandy, rural villages, driest desert, marble caves, friendly people
- Torres del Paine:¬ The South American mecca for mountain lovers. The towers of Paine acquire a religious status among men who preach the mountains. Treks in the Torres del Paine national park can be from 1 day to 10 days.¬†The national park has efflorescence glaciers,¬†lakes with electric blue elixir, lissome river, pleasant waterfalls and the cynosure – the granite towers of Paine
- Chilean Patagonia:¬ Stretching from Puerto Williams in the south to Puerto Montt in the north, 3000 kilometers of Chilean Patagonia has granite peaks, glaciers, glacial lakes, marble caves, fjords, waterfalls, pristine nature trekking and bucolic villages with super-friendly locals. Your Chile travel experience will be incomplete without a scenic dose of Chilean Patagonia
- Valparaiso:¬ The bygone port city of Valparaiso is the ideal demonstration of the synergism between art and mankind. The city is an open air art studio. The graffiti art is everywhere to be seen and admired. Also, the colorful houses of Valpo¬ house artists, green revolutionaries, theater artists, alternate musicians, dancers and many other forms of art and artists. Let yourself free and roam the streets to make your own discovery
Off The Beaten Path
- Carretera Austral:¬ The road that defines surrealism. Passing by abstract works of nature’s art, Carretera Austral is a dream happy realizing itself. Many major attractions lie on this road. But, the true beauty lies in its villages. The villages have an air of romanticism. Wooden cottages, aroma of firewood, sheep grazing, rivers in the backyard, manicured farms, stars shining sempiternally and the hospitality and grace of the locals. Carretera Austral is a journey of serendipity
- Puerto Williams and Isla Navarino:¬ A bit south of the self-proclaimed southernmost city of Ushuaia, Isla Navarino and the main town of Puerto Williams is your chance to be Colombus, Cook, and Da Gama. The information, soft and hard, is limited. Chile travel at its explorer best
Food and Beverage
Vegetarian food is easy to find at tourist locations, but a bit difficult at off the beaten path places like the villages of Carretera Austral. But, it is easy to find vegetarian sandwiches, pasta, and pizza. Unfortunately, no rice and beans here.
- Pisco:¬ Grape brandy, distilled in Chile and Peru, is called Pisco. I would definitely put it among the top tier of brandies, that is if you buy the right brand. Recommendations –¬ Gobernador, Alto del Carmen, and La Artesanos de Cochiguaz
- Terremoto:¬ Means earthquake in Spanish. Pineapple ice-cream served in one liter of Pipe√Īo (local sweet fermented white wine). An earthquake experience for those who have never experienced it before. A slow disturbance in your head, followed by increased rumble and then . . . .
- Chilean Wines:¬ The reds from Chile are gaining popularity world around. The Chilean wine region is about an hour away from Santiago and Valparaiso. You can visit the vineyards to learn about viticulture, winemaking and you even get to sample different wines
Destinations in Detail
“The city with a sailor’s heart, and a love affair at every port”
Valpo is an elixir of color, culture, art, energy, graffiti, and the ocean. World-famous for its graffiti. Walk around or even better get lost in the streets of Valpo. You won’t find a dull corner.
Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepci√≥n¬ are the go-to neighborhoods. But, make sure to keep your travel senses on high alert wherever you are, since there is always a lot happening in the cafes, terraces, and verandahs of Valpo houses. You can enter someone’s cute little house to enjoy a vegetarian buffet while listening to people discuss the rights of the animals on the terrace. Or, inviting guitar melodies will escape the cafe and dance it’s way to your ears. The beauty of Valpo is its versatility – it can be what you want it to be.
Art studios, dance saloons, musical spaces, experimenting pisco bars, innovative food scene, microbreweries, places and events where you can hear and participate in intellectual conversations on world peace, local produce, organic farming etc. Do spend a few days here to unlock the curious little child in you.
Torres del Paine
Four halyconic granite peaks rise from the earth, the cynosure Torres del Paine (Towers of Paine), in the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. Even the rising sun throws its first rays on the towers to get a good view of the work of the Almighty. The towers at sunrise is a sight one must not miss.
Without a doubt, the towers are the highlight, but the entire national park is a dulcet work of nature. Plain grasslands, an elision among the mountains surrounding them. The glacial lakes, an epiphany, still and tranquil but leaving you moved. The trees standing tall in admiration of the work of their birth-giver. A mellifluous river – a lilt among the still. Glacier Grey – a giant sheet of ice, that leaves you mesmerized.
The ashed remains of vegetation burned down by a tourist fire, waiting to be reignited into a Phoenix. And your presence, almost ethereal, in the midst of one of nature’s finest works of art.
There are multiple ways to visit Torres del Paine from day trips to 10-day hikes around the park.
The Guide to Torres del Paine (Coming Soon!)
A 1240 km stretch of road that can only be imagined in the most meditative of dreams. It starts at Puerto Montt in the north and winds its way to Villa O’Higgins in the south. It is, all hands down, the most beautiful drive in all of South America.
In the north lie fjords and in the south are stunning caves of marble in the midst of a glacial lake. In between, is a treat for the soul – lush green mountains, rivers with gossamer blue water, glaciers, waterfalls, hiking trails, bucolic villages, sheep grazing on pastures, the aroma of burning wood from the chimneys of the wooden cottages, and the serendipitous hospitality of the locals.
However brief or long your love affair with Carretera Austral, it will surely leave occupy a spot in your heart for the rest of your life.
Carretera Austral Guide (Coming Soon!)
Santiago de Chile
Bellavista is the bohemian neighborhood with cafes, art galleries, cocktail bars, street-side restaurants and an open artisanal market. Best time to visit is in the evenings as the whole area comes to life.
Plaza de Armas gives you a feeling that you are standing in the vacuum of power and religion with the Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral) on one end and the former Palace at the other end. A mere 10 minutes walk will get you to Mercado Central (Central Market). This is an authentic no-frills look at the Chilean culture. On the ground floor, you will find green-grocers, fruit sellers, olive oil traders, florists, butchers, and cheesemongers. On the first floor, you will find restaurants selling authentic Chilean food that most Chileans eat in their day to day life. I highly recommend that you try (and buy) different types of local cheese and salsa that is sold on the ground floor. Both have a unique flavor and you can use them to prepare sandwiches, salads or even add zest to any dull dish