Picture Chile and the iconic ‘moai’ (the stone statues of heads) on Easter Island probably come to mind. Four additional UNESCO World Heritage Sites can also be found in Chile, including the Sewell Mining Town, the Seaport City of Valparaíso’s Historic Quarter, the Churches of Chiloé, and the Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works. Diverse landscapes range from the Atacama Desert, noted as the driest place on the planet, to Chile’s northern coastline – the perfect habitat for Humboldt Penguins.
A continent rich in natural wonders, historic cities and imposing monuments, you've made it to South America. With imposing mountain ranges, ethereal waters and an exotic wildness, it is little surprise this enchanting part of the world is also known as the 'land of poets', its sweeping landscapes having influenced the works of Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral.
Andean peaks, Amazonian rainforests and Incan ruins treat you to a mystical world of natural beauty, vibrant civilizations, other-worldly relics and colonial towns. Savour the mouthwatering delights of local cuisines, including dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Rio de Janeiro and a selection of Peruvian delicacies at the esteemed MAYTA in Lima.
Why not begin your South American adventure with a journey to the Galapagos Islands?
Being a land of both ‘fire’ and ‘ice’, several enchanting myths and legends have been passed down through the ages, telling the story of how Chile came to exist. The oldest mummy that has ever been found in the world was discovered in Chile and is believed to date back to 5050 BC. This country also breaks the record for the largest swimming pool in the world, located in the Pacific Coast’s Algarrobo city, where it spans an area of 20 acres and measures over 900 metres in length. Football is one of the Chilean nation’s dearest loves, with Elias Figueroa, Marcelo Salas, and Ivan Zamorano being just some of professional footballers in Chile’s hall of fame. Although the most popular sport here, tennis is the sport Chileans have been the most successful in, while rodeo is the national sport.
As the capital, Santiago is a bustling city with so many sights to enjoy. Founded in 1541, the Plaza de Armas has a multitude of beautiful architecture, with the San Francisco Church being one of them. Established in 1554, it is the oldest church in Chile and has had to be reconstructed and restored, following severe earthquake and storm damage. Existing for over 400 years, this landmark is home to a significant collection of colonial artwork and serves as a reminder of Chile’s cultural heritage.
In contrast, the modern-day La Vega Central Market is a hive of activity, with hundreds of stalls and vendors, and every grocery item imaginable, together with more unusual wares like chicken feet and pig heads. Owing to its size and sheer volume of people frequenting this shopping area, entering La Vega is sure to be a fast-paced adventure! For a more leisurely experience, the colourful, UNESCO-listed port of Valparaiso is a great place to take a wine excursion, amid the luscious green Casablanca Valley.
Chile’s varying landscapes bring with them a variety of cuisine. Seafood is king, where almejas con limón (raw clams in lemon juice), conger eel soup, conger eel fritters, machas a la parmesana (razor clams with parmesan cheese), buttered scallops with grilled cheese, ceviche (raw, minced sea bass and lemon juice), and crab pie all feature on the menu. Another significant food is surprisingly the sandwich, with a plethora of popular fillings, including: diced meat and avocado; salmon, cream cheese and rocket; and green beans, tomatoes, chili and sliced meat. Other well-loved dishes are soups, stews, dried horsemeat, humityas (steamed cornhusks wrapped around mashed corn), milcaos (potato bread), and costillar de chancho (baked pork ribs). Traditional desserts to try include: brazo de reina (like a Swiss roll), alfajores (two biscuits held together with a layer of chocolate mousse), cuchufli (tubes of crunchy pastry dough, drizzled with chocolate) and leche asada (a type of baked custard dessert).
Mote con huesillo is the perfect beverage to sip on a hot day. Served with a spoon, this dessert-like, non-alcoholic drink contains dried peach, husked wheat and caramelised peach juice. Sweet carbonated drinks, mineral water and fruit juices are also readily available. Borgoña (a mix of red wine, strawberries, and sometimes sugar), melón con vino (wine and honeydew melon) and terremoto (meaning ‘earthquake’, combining wine and pineapple ice-cream), all rank as some of the most popular drinks here. Craft beers are brewed locally, with those made by Cervecería Kunstmann, Szot Brewery, and Desértica Cerveza Artesanal among some of the most highly recommended. Pisco – a distilled grape wine brandy – is also well-received by visitors and locals alike.
Landscape and wildlife
Glaciers, snow-capped volcanoes, hot springs, desert, grasslands, mountains and coastal habitats all contribute to Chile’s numerous climates, landscapes and wildlife. The country’s geography is so unusual that more than 30% of all the mammals inhabiting Chile are unique to this destination and do not exist anywhere else in the world. Llamas, alpacas, emus, armadillos, porcupines, opossums, bats, foxes, boars, deer and monkeys are a few of the mammals residing in Chile. Wildlife enthusiasts venturing to the coast will be pleased to learn that there are regular sightings of dolphins, whales, sea lions and otters here. The Andean Condor is the national bird, sharing the Chilean sky with buzzards, hawks, parrots, woodpeckers, finches, and mocking birds, among other species. Chile has 36 National Parks in total, all aiming to preserve and protect the distinct, diverse and unusual ecosystems.