Due to its diverse climate range, Chile has a versatile range of activities to offer. The Atacama Desert in the north is the driest desert in the world, with one weather station reportedly recording no rain for 40 years – perfect for activities such as sand boarding. Running down the length of the country is the Andes mountain range, with over 1300 volcanoes, some still active, some snow topped – just the place for skiing. At the southern tip is the Patagonia region: with it’s wild ever-changing climate and rugged terrain it is perfect for hiking, trekking and exploring.
The dramatically named ‘Death Valley’ is a stretch of the land in the north Atacama Desert, and a popular destination for sandboarding. You’ll be pleased to know that the name Death Valley has little significance; a Belgian priest who discovered the area explained to Spanish speakers that it looked like Marte (Mars) but was misunderstood to be saying Muerte (death). It’s clear to see why the moon-like landscape was likened to another planet – the enormous dunes and otherworldly rock formations rising up from the ground make for a stunning vista, not to mention the views of ancient ruins of old Chilean salt mines and the perfect cone of the Ubehebe Crater that looms in the distance.
You can unleash your adventurous side by turning your hand to sandboarding – essentially sliding down a dune with a plank of wood strapped to your feet. The activity is likened to surfing, the only difference is you’re on the sand not the waves and if you get really good you can do as the pros do and try it barefoot. A tour of the nearby Chulacao Caves, which are covered in edible salt, and an uphill trek in Moon Valley to view the sunset, make for a truly unique venture in the desert.Read more
Wine tasting in Colchagua Valley
The fertile valleys around Santiago are scattered with wineries producing the wine that Chile is so famous for. One of the best is Colchagua valley, set between the snow-capped Andes and the coast. Renowned for its exclusivity, the wine estate at Colchagua is also one of the oldest and most beautiful, matched by the warm welcome and great hospitality you’ll experience there.
You can choose to stay at a traditional colonial hacienda or for a more contemporary pad try one of their boutique lodges, both of which are situated within stumbling distance of the vineyard (perfect for when you’ve had one too many Pinot Grigio’s). The organized tours available take you around the beautiful town of Santa Cruz as well as the vineyards, and you can get a culture hit with a stop off at the Colchagua Museum, packed full of pre-Columbian artefacts. Not to mention a glass or several of the best Cabernet Sauvignon you will ever taste.
Skiing Valle Navado
Valle Navado really is a skier’s paradise. Set in the heart of the Andes Mountains it gives you access to the largest skiable realm in South America, taking up almost 7,000 acres. With such a vast amount of terrain the resort really does have something for everyone, whether you’re a novice or championship snowboarder. The ski season starts in June and ends in October, but the best thing about Valle Navado is that the snow remains in top condition for most of the year and the weather stays balmy and clear.
Its unwavering popularity is due in part to its location (only 46km from the capital, Santagio) and also due to the range of activities on offer, including 35 different slopes, a snow park and the infamous half pipe. Plus it’s swamped in history – the famous Boy of El Plomo mummy was found there and there are ruins of Chilean sacred sites. Soaking up the sun on the slopes allows you take in the breathtaking scenery as you stand in the shadow of the highest peak of the Andes.
Trekking and hiking in Torres Del Paine
The trekking mecca of the Torres del Paine National Park is an absolute must for any adventure-goer. Rising up from the flat Patagonian steps into sharp, craggy mountains, one glance at this vast mountain range and you can see why it is the prized gem of Chile.
A growing number of visitors from around the world are drawn to this haunting landscape for its sheer beauty, dramatic granite spires and spectacular glaciers. But the main attraction of trekking remains strong. The majority of hikers start from Laguna Amarga. Visitors have a choice of two routes for trekking – the cryptically named ‘W’ circuit or the more obvious ‘whole’ circuit. Which route you choose depends largely on how much time you have and how much trekking experience you have. For those who are new to trekking, the ‘W’ circuit is your best bet, it takes three to four days (the ‘whole’ circuit takes five to eight) and neatly packages the park’s ‘highlights’ into a short period of time. These include ancient beech forests, stunning blue lakes and 50,000 year old glaciers. Those who attempt the whole circuit will see all the best views plus more, get away from the crowds and may even spot a condor or two.
Your trekking efforts will be rewarded with a relaxing stay at a lodge where you can regain your strength with traditional Patagonian dishes, washed down with a glass of delicious ‘Calafate Sour’, a drink made with the purplish fruit of the same name.
Surfing in Pichilemu
Pichilemu is Chile’s prime surf spot. Miles and miles of expansive dark sand beaches provide plenty of opportunity for riding the waves. Not only are the beaches recognised for their beauty and tranquillity, they also have all the ingredients for amazing surf, so much so that people come from around the world to test their skills. The three most popular beaches include La Puntilla, Infiernillo and Punta Lobos and they all have their individual plus-points.
Punta la Puntilla has spectacular cliffs (ideal for watching the sunset) and is perfect for water sports other than surfing. Recommended for more experienced surfers, El Infiernillo or Little Hell Beach as it’s known locally is a rocky point with very intense waves of up to four meters: approach with caution. For an option that suits all experience levels, Punta Lobos is considered one of the best beaches in the world for surfing. There are several surf schools nearby, such as La Ola Perfecta and Lobos del Pacífico so you can make the most of the cool year-round water and large swells.