Discovering the diversity of the Chilean landscape and its cultural offering. Charlotte Flach delves in
Chile is a country of varied terrain, with the world’s driest desert in the north and about 80% of Latin America’s glaciers in the south. More than 40 wine growing valleys are dotted throughout the centre of Chile, while the Andes mountain range and a plethora of lakes and volcanoes add to the wilderness.
This diversity has made the destination popular with active travellers and its hiking credentials were heightened with the opening of the first phase of Chile’s new Ruta de los Parques – or Route of Parks – last year. It will be 1,500 miles long and travel through a new network of 17 national parks, stretching from Hornopiren to the Beagle Channel.
UK visitor numbers are increasing according to Andrea Wolleter, national director of Sernatur, the National Tourist Board of Chile. “In 2018, 58,000 UK travellers visited and 2019 has already seen growth from the UK market, with a 5% year-on-year increase compared with the same period last year,” she explained.
Chile’s clear, dark skies make it one of the best astrotourism destinations too. The Araucania and Los Rios regions will be perfect spots to view the total solar eclipse in December 2020.
“The evening before the eclipse aligns with the peak period of activity of the Geminid meteor shower, where observers have the chance to see a stunning 120 meteors per hour in the north-western sky,” added Wolleter. “This is a once-in-a lifetime experience that’s totally unique to Chile.”
There are also exciting annual events, including The Festival of the Virgin of La Tirana, which takes place on 16 July, when 250,000 people flock to Tirana for a celebration lasting just over a week. A highlight is the diablada, a typical Andean masked dance that’s believed to ward off evil.
For clients who don’t fancy the crowds, Wolleter suggests the Aysen region. “It’s an often overlooked corner of Patagonia but the area’s rugged, untouched beauty makes it well worth the visit. It is the least populated part of Chile and great for trekking, wildlife watching and discovering the local culture and traditions.”
Visa: British citizens don’t require a visa for travel to Chile if they stay less than 90 days.
Flights: British Airways flies direct from Heathrow to Santiago five times a week.
Climate: Summer runs from December to February, with winter lasting from June to August.
Currency: The Chilean peso.