Chile’s five top attractions
• The Atacama desert, the hub of which is San Pedro de Atacama, which is hundreds of miles north of the capital of Santiago.
• The World Heritage port of Valparaiso. This, in turn, is hundreds of miles north of Chile’s premier activity base of. . .
• Pucon and the gorgeous Lake District. Pucon and its rival action centre, Puerto Varas, are hundreds of miles north of incredible mountains and treks in. . .
• Torres del Paine National Park, while all of the above are thousands of miles east of the wildest Chile sights of all on Easter Island.
Hiking to the Grey Glacier in Torres del Paine National Park, southern Chile. Photo by Liam Quinn
How to explore southern South America
One interesting option for independent travellers with lots of time who are exploring not only Chile but southern South America in general is crisscrossing from Argentina to Chile(and/or Bolivia), though the geology of neighbouring landscapes are usually (and naturally) similar.
For example, instead of travelling south down Chile from San Pedro de Atacama to Santiago, one could bus across the border to Argentina‘s Salta, zigging down through Cordoba to Buenos Aires, then zagging back to Mendoza before crossing over to Santiago.
Further south it’s common to cross from Chile’s Lake District into Argentina’s Lake District (or vice versa of course), and then back into Chile from El Calafate to Torres del Paine. These border crossings will involve lots of wiggly, mountainous Andean roads but immigration formalities are no problem and it’s an efficient way to see two long thin countries if you have a tough butt and plenty of time.
Our rental truck in the Valley of Death, Atacama.