Chile is a long, narrow country along the west coast of South America and is filled with a diversity of landscapes and cities. Situated between the Andes and the ocean, Chile has over 3,100 miles of coast on the South Pacific Ocean. From the Atacama Desert stretching to the southern tip of Patagonia and filled with both sprawling metropolitan and small coastal cities, Chile has it all. Here are a few of the must-see spots around this South American gem:
-Patagonia- The legendary beauty of Patagonia paired with the stunning photos of Torres Del Paine on National Geographic’s website, firmly placed hiking Patagonia on my bucket list and subsequently made it one of my first trips to South America. The scenery in Patagonia is consistently spectacular and hiking the W offered some of the most incredible scenery that I have ever seen. The mountain ranges are simply stunning and the panoramas around every corner are well worth the long hike! Read more about hiking the W in: Patagonia.
-Santiago- the bustling capital of Chile has plenty to explore and each of the barrios or districts have distinctly different vibes. I stayed in the bohemian Barrio Bellavista which was filled with colorful graffiti artwork and vibrant nightlife that lasted into the early hours of the morning. Just off the main street Pío Nono, was the Patio Bellavista, a large but cozy cluster of stores and restaurants around a large open square which filled up quickly in the evenings. There were numerous local marketplaces and several historical areas throughout Santiago that are also well worth visiting such as the Plaza de Armas with the surrounding cathedrals and museums. Another excellent stop is the Castillo Hidalgo located on the small Santa Lucia Hill in the center, which provides a beautiful view of the surrounding skyscrapers and the distant Andes mountain ranges. Directly adjacent to the Castillo at the bottom of Santa Lucia Hill is Fuente Neptuno, an ornate and bright fountain. Yet the best panorama in the city is from the top of Cerro San Cristobal. This 860 meter hill is located at the northern edge of the city. There is a gondola to the top or trails throughout the park which both lead to the massive Virgin Mary statue that overlooks Santiago.
-Easter Island- a remote island that is a Chilean territory, Easter Island is a volcanic island in Polynesia which is famous for its archaeological sites, especially the moai statues. Created by the inhabitants from the 13th–16th centuries, the moai are carved human figures with oversize heads designed to represent deceased ancestors that guarded over the local inhabitants. At many of the numerous sights around island, the moai were often resting on massive stone pedestals called ahus. Due to how small the island is, there is limited accommodations for visitors, but it is easy to get around and visit the most important locations of moai and the historically significant areas on island.
-Chilean Wine- within an hour drive from the capital, you can visit some of Chile's best vineyards that have been gaining a reputation as some of the finest winemakers in the world. Located in an ideal spot that offers nutrient rich soil from the volcanic activity along the Pacific Ring of Fire, while also being protected from most elements by the surrounding Andes mountain, Chile has become a growing wine exporter. They now have several notorious vineyards and wine varieties from the region. The Malbec wines from this area are a personal favorite that tend to be full bodied with generally sweet tannins and I found it rather easy to polish off a bottle. However, they also make world renown Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Bordeaux Blends. There are numerous wine tastings that are available for day trips out of Santiago so I went to close-by Undurraga Vineyards. On the bus ride out I ended up sitting beside another solo American traveler and as the only English speakers, we got paired up together for our own private tour of the grounds. A very pleasant surprise at the end of the tasting and tour was how cheap everything was! I was rather disappointed that it was my last day in Chile and there was no way for me to take bottles while backpacking through South America, but I did get to share a bottle of their delicious sweet white Maipo Valley Reserve Blend out in the beautiful gardens with my new friend before we joined the others and headed back into the city.
-San Alfonso Del Mar- claiming the title of the world's largest swimming pool, this Chilean pool stretches over a mile long and holds more than 66 million gallons of water. Located just an hour northwest of Santiago, the San Alfonso Del Mar apartment complex includes their Crystal Lagoon which feels more like a small lake than a swimming pool. The major downside to this pool is that no one is allowed to swim in it because it is reserved for small crafts ranging from kayaks to small sail boats. The apartment I rented for two nights in one of the five buildings in the complex came with a kayak, which I took out immediately after dropping my bags in the room. It was August when I visited which is Chilean winter and meant that both the air and water were quite cold. The upside was that I literally had the entire pool to myself! Even though the main pool is reserved for small crafts, there are several small pools and hot tubs surrounding it which are available for swimmers to use for a fee throughout the year.
Currency: Chilean peso
Drink: Fresh squeezed fruit juice from any street vendor. For less than a US dollar, it is possible to buy a glass of fresh squeezed fresh fruit juice while wandering about the city.
Food: Choripan, again street food for the win with these cheap and delicious street meat sandwiches.
Electric Outlet: Mostly Type C (European) and some Type L (Italian).
Visa: Not Required.