Arica: Known as Chile's city of eternal spring, Arica has excellent beaches and a unique, iron cathedral designed by France's famed architect Gustave Eiffel. Day-long excursions from Arica can be taken to Lauca National Park to see wild vicuna amid a spectacular background of snow-capped volcanoes and altiplano lakes. What have been proven the world's oldest mummies are also on display here, and in outlying museums. Mysterious mountain geoglyphs, and large ground drawings are an easy half-day excursion from Arica in the Lluta and Azapa Valleys.
Antofagasta: Chile's largest northern city is gateway to two exciting travel experiences: Chuquicamata, the world's largest open pit copper mine, and farther on in the desert the astonishing archaeological museum at the oasis of San Pedro de Atacama (see below). Antofagasta boasts excellent beaches, and fine seafood. San Pedro de Atacama: Easily reached by road from Antofagasta, the San Pedro de Atacama region was the center of a paleolithic civilization which built impressive rock fortresses upon steep mountains that encircle the green oasis. Thousands of ancient graves have produced artifacts more than 1,500 years old. An extraordinary archaeological museum has vault-like rooms filled with mummies, skulls, stone-age tools, ceramics, jewelry, weapons and ancient textiles. From the oasis several intriguing excursions are available: Toconao, home of famed artisans who carve in volcanic rock; Tatio for volcanic geysers which erupt daily at dawn; and to Chiu Chiu to see an ancient fortress and rock carvings. At least one night is required to visit each major site.
The Central Valleys:
Here, in the heart of Chile, one discovers capital city Santiago plus many major ski resorts, leading vineyards, the beach resort of Viña del Mar, and the country's most important seaport Valparaíso.
Santiago: At 1555 feet altitude, fronting the often snowcapped Andes, the Chilean capital is a blend of colonial and modern. The city was founded in 1541 by the conquistador Pedro de Valdivia. Historic buildings share Santiago's wide boulevards with new high-rise skyscrapers. Major points of interest include the hills of San Cristobal and Santa Lucia (for excellent panoramic views). There are several fascinating museums. Additional city tour stops include San Francisco Church, Plaza de Armas (including the National Cathedral), City Hall, and shopping arcades. There is spirited nightlife and superb dining featuring Chile's outstanding seafood. City tours are available that also include excursions to nearby vineyards. Santiago has many excellent hotels, from tourist to five star.
Excursions from Santiago
Santiago is gateway to Chile's Central Valley. Half-day excursions to nearby vineyards are popular. The ski resorts of Valle Nevado, Portillo, La Parva, and Farellones are a one to three hour drive over modern highways. The seaside cities of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso are close (85 mi.) and make an enjoyable full-day excursion. Viña del Mar: Besides being a popular one day excursion Viña is also Chile's leading summer seaside resort with several excellent hotels and outstanding restaurants. During the warm summer months (November-March) Viña and neighboring beaches are in full swing. Despite the cold ocean water, daytime activities center around the shore. After hours features casino and disco action.
Valparaíso: Chile's main international seaport, Valparaiso is rich in history, and best seen from a cable car ride up the port's steep hills. Excellent seafood.
Easter Island: Located 2,355 miles due west of the Chilean coast, Easter Island is the singularly most isolated island on earth lying amid a million square miles of empty ocean. Roughly a 45 square mile triangle, Easter Island (Rapa Nui in the island's curious language) is a vast outdoor museum dotted with more than 600 giant statues called "moais." Carved from volcanic rock, the tallest moai standing is 32 ft. high, weighs 90 tons and is topped with an 11-ton stone hat! Easter Island is connected to the mainland by Lan-Chile Airlines jet service. Accommodations are provided at the island's main hotel, the Hanga Roa, or in islander's homes usually referred to as "guest houses." Sightseeing tours encompass all major sites, including the Rano Raraku volcano whose slopes are strewn with unfinished stone giants. Easter Island is one of the world's most mysterious, intriguing sightseeing experiences.
Southern Chile is often referred to as "the end of the world." The area contains three regions; Lake District, far south, and the White Continent - Antarctica.
Puerto Montt: Gateway to the scenic Lake District, Puerto Montt is a rustic fishing village and home of popular Chilean glacier cruises to nearby Lago San Rafael. Puerto Montt has superior hotels. Many small resorts line the area's lakes that offer excellent sportfishing. Nearby Petrohue Falls offers fantastic views of onrushing water framed by the perfect cone of Osorno volcano. Across the straits from Puerto Montt lies storied Chiloe Island where a community of friendly, indigenous folk keep many of Chile's native dances, handicrafts, and legends alive.
Punta Arenas: Located 1,432 mi. south of Santiago, Punta Arenas is connected to the outside world primarily by air and sea. Situated on the northern banks of the Magellan Straits with a splendid view of Tierra del Fuego across the water, Punta Arenas is gateway to storied Patagonia and Torres del Paine National Park. From here summer glacier cruises aboard the M/V Terra Australis sail to Argentina. Several day excursions are available to visit Port Famine, Fort Bulnes, and nearby penguin rookeries.
Antarctica: Here is the world's last great travel frontier! The continent of Antarctica is larger than Europe and the USA combined. Cruises are operated during the austral summer months (December - March) by several adventure cruise lines. Most ships depart from Punta Arenas. All Antarctic space is strictly limited and advance reservations are strongly recommended.