Chile / Patagonia
From its rich history dating back over 14,000 years to its stunning natural wonders, Chile tugs at the heartstrings of all adventurers.
Few places on Earth offer more mystery than Easter Island, a remote group of volcanic islands home to over 600 stone moai. The statues’ function, method of creation, and means of transportation continue to puzzle scientists today. (The islanders claim the statues walked to their current locations.) An Easter Island tour presents the possibility of magic, a sparse yet striking landscape and a glimpse into the lives of the few thousand people who inhabit the island today.
Patagonia tours offer the chance to visit the far south of South America, an untouched and uninhabited environment. You’ll be awed by the abundant wildlife in these stark plains—cougar, Patagonian fox, guanaco, hummingbirds, parakeets and more. The breathtaking peaks in Torres del Paine National Park—some of the most striking and rugged in the world—are a photographer’s dream. The area’s natural wonders make tours to Patagonia popular among trekkers, climbers and adventurers from around the globe.
Chilean natives often call their country “loca,” or crazy, because of its extreme variations in climate and geography. In the far north, where the Andes are widest and many peaks reach 20,000 feet, you’ll experience a stark desert landscape—home to Lauca National Park and its flamingos, herds of llama tended by Aymara shepherds, and other natural treasures. The Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on earth, yet it bursts into blossom every few years after heavy rains. At the bottom of the world in the southern portion of Chile, the barren Patagonian plains lie alongside the peaks of Torres del Paine National Park.
Chile’s capital city of Santiago offers you a pause from the country’s extremes. Located in Chile’s central valley region, the agreeable Mediterranean climate of Santiago is ideal for producing wine—enjoy a glass or two at the source! The center of Chile’s economic, political and cultural life, visitors find Santiago warm and welcoming—with interesting museums, a flourishing arts scene, charming cafes and green suburban parks.
Easter Island tours and Patagonia travel awaken the adventurer within. The mystery and wonder of Chile’s human and natural worlds await you on your Patagonia tour.
A long, narrow country, Chile has an average width of just 110 miles and spans the length of South America. Its length results in a wide variety of climates—ranging from Pacific costal deserts in the tropical northern regions, to the chilly land of icebergs at the southern tip. The landscape is dominated by the Andes Mountain Range that runs the length of the country.
The Atacama desert covers more than 600 miles of Chile’s northern landscape and is both the driest place on earth and home to one of nature’s more remarkable events—the flowering desert. Every few years, the area sees unusually heavy amounts of rain, soaking the desert and the seeds lying dormant in the ground. They grow into plants that blossom abundantly from September through November. A surprising range of wildlife has found a habitat here—llamas, vicuñas, alpacas, and guanacos, along with colorful flamingos, ducks, and numerous other birds. Luxury lodges in this region—like Awasi—offer travelers in-depth exposure to this fascinating landscape while providing utmost comfort.
Torres de Paine is perhaps Chile’s most famous national park with its stunning peaks, orchids and glaciers. Although open year round, this park is best visited October through April—spring and summer in the southern hemisphere—which has more sunny days with less rain and more than 16 hours of daylight thanks to the position of the earth.
Human history dates back at least 14,000 years in Chile. The archeological site at Monte Verde is the earliest known inhabited area in the Americas. Europeans first became aware of Chile when the famous Ferdinand Magellan landed at Chiloe Island in 1520 after following the straight that is now named after him.
Dutch Admiral Jacob Roggeveen was the first European to travel to Easter Island, known as Rapa Nui to the native islanders. Roggeveen renamed the island in honor of the day he landed there, which was Easter Sunday in 1722. The islands didn’t become officially part of Chile until 1888. The function of the stone statues, or moai, on Easter Island is still a source of scientific exploration. They are thought to have spiritual significance to the Rapa Nui people who inhabited Easter Island, possibly representing individual ancestors. How they were moved from the island’s rock quarries to their current positions is somewhat of a mystery. Most likely, the Rapa Nui transported them using a system of logs and ropes.
Chile was a Spanish colony until 1810 when it officially declared its independence. It would be another 15 years, however, before intermittent warfare with remaining Spanish troops came to an end.
For the most part Chile has a history of democratic government and little of the political turmoil common to many of its neighbors (with the exception of the military government led by General Augusto Pinochet from 1973 – 1990). It enjoys a stronger economy than most of Latin America as well, due to its manufacturing industries in addition to the agriculture and mining typical in South America. Easter Island’s few thousand locals sustain themselves on banana and sugarcane farming. Easter Island touring, as well as tourism on mainland Chile, is also a significant source of income.
Photos: © WADE STUBBS