chileyour journey to the thin country
One of my favorite travel books, Sara Wheeler’s entertaining “Travels in a Thin Country”, details the author’s efforts to traverse the entire length of Chile – a daunting effort given the lack of roads in certain areas. From north to south, Chile stretches more than 2,600 miles. That’s 1,000 miles longer than the drive from Portland, Maine to Miami. From east to west, Chile is only 110 miles wide, with the Andes mountains forming a spine down the eastern border of the country.
Such a long country logically will encompass many different climates and terrains. In the north, Calama serves as the base for exploring the Atacama Desert. Atacama is the driest desert on earth, receiving typically one millimeter of rain per year. But the region near Calama is more than just salt flats. El Tatio geyser is the most visited site in this region, and is one of the four most active geyser fields in the world (along with Yellowstone USA, Iceland and New Zealand). Nearby Moon and Mars Valley offers dramatic landscapes and amazing stargazing.
In the center of the country, you can visit both of the nation’s capital cities. Santiago is the head of the executive branch and is a vibrant urban city in the shadows of the Andes Mountains. Valparaiso is a cute colonial city around 90 minutes to the northwest, where the Chilean legislature is based. Between the two cities lie the world-famous Maipo and Casablanca wine regions and their astounding wine tours.
Around an hour flight to the south, you will find the often overlooked lakeside town of Puerto Varas with its German-style buildings, it is a romantic respite especially during the Southern Hemisphere summer. Puerto Varas is just a short drive from Puerto Montt, the seafood capital of Chile. Treat yourself to a nice dinner overlooking the Pacific Ocean at sunset.
In Chile’s far south is the hard-to-reach Patagonia region. The highlight is Torres del Paine National Park with amazing hiking trails, gorgeous landscapes and unique wildlife. Getting to the park takes an investment of time and money, but it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
More Journey Softly destinations like this: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Costa Rica, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama
Photos: Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia; Plaza de Armas, Santiago; Osorno Volcano/Puerto Varas