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Chile: Choose an adventure

Read our South America specialists' top tips on choosing an adventure in Chile, from Atacama exploration to Lake District admiration – with luxury at every step, of course

Chile is the ideal holiday choice for almost any itinerary you might dream of. From desert to mountain, or glacier to geyser, the corners of this remarkable country deliver on promises of adventure, beauty and culture.

To the north 

Take a flight north of Santiago for about 90 minutes and prepare yourself for a whole new world. This is Atacama Desert country, one of the must-see additions to any holiday in Chile. Here you will find empty spaces, moon-like vistas and the salt basins for which the country is famed. Prepare to camp out at least one night in this red rock landscape. The stargazing is spectacular – try to plan a visit when there is no moon because you will see unforgettable sights and experience memorable moments in the true wild of the country. Some compare this area to the Mars landscape albeit with coloured lagoons and rainbow mountains – quite simply a geologist’s dream. This area is also heaven for hikers, with a nice climate –sometimes on the cold side but generally very little rain. The altitude is slightly higher, around 2,000 metres and the opportunity to scale heights of up to 5,000 metres on some treks. You may also spot some rock drawings as you walk, made hundreds of years ago and adding to the rich history of this cultural country.

Plan on at least three nights in this area but with plenty of opportunity to stay longer and see more, should the desire so take you. 


To the south

Be prepared to travel, southern Chile is a land of vast distances and various distinct areas. While there are two airports covering the region, hotels can be up to a five-hour drive apart so planning and local knowledge is important. Locations can be remote with nothing in their vicinity and you are around a three-hour flight from Santiago – so bring all your essentials with you. 

With that said, here you will see many types of vegetation. From colourful trees in autumn, to tundra and empty plains as far as the eye can see. There are forests, rivers, lakes, glaciers, mountains. Some compare it to the Peak District but on a far, far grander scale. This area is perhaps more the geographer’s dream, taking into account the dramatic scenery and hikes around Torres del Paine, as well as the thermal hot springs of the Lake District.

The vibrant flora here brings fauna. Birds and wildlife such as caracaru, condor, puma, huaycacho, foxes, armadillo and rhea are never too far away from a watchful eye. Again, plan any trips to this area well. It can be very windy and much of the area is closed between May and September due to the snow. It’s not impossible to experience four seasons of weather in one day – but this is a story to tell back home all in itself.

Holidays here will take at least three nights – but to truly see the south at its best, take your time.

Whichever compass point you choose, Chile won’t disappoint. There are stunning landscapes, dramatic scenery, amazing views and lots of different outdoor activities to experience them by. While your first location might be hard to decide on, take comfort in the fact you’ll soon be able to return and visit the other.