How to Travel in Chile

How to Travel in Chile
A long and skinny country in South America, Chile is bursting with a variety of climates and physical features. Traveling the country from end to end can be a great adventure. The north is filled with pristine beaches, stark deserts, remote villages and a few towering volcanoes. The area around Santiago is home to many vineyards, and also some very large mountains, which offer great skiing and climbing. To the south are ancient forests, towering volcanoes of the Lake District and harsh landscapes of Patagonia. Public transportation is good, and there are many friendly hotels and hostels to greet travelers.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Passport Backpack Headlamp 2 or 3 sets of clothing Basic toiletries Warm jacket and hat Rain gear Map Travel guide Spanish dictionary Hiking shoes and sandals
  • Passport
  • Backpack
  • Headlamp
  • 2 or 3 sets of clothing
  • Basic toiletries
  • Warm jacket and hat
  • Rain gear
  • Map
  • Travel guide
  • Spanish dictionary
  • Hiking shoes and sandals
Step 1
Santiago is the best place to enter the country by air. The airport is modern and it is easy to find a bus or taxi to the main city. The bus service in Chile is incredible, and the main bus terminal provides a great base camp. This station has hotel rooms, secure gear storage, deluxe showers, Internet service and a huge shopping mall with numerous restaurants. A very modern subway provides cheap and rapid transportation throughout the city. Santiago is somewhat interesting, but the air is usually bad, and the mountains and beaches are only about an hour away. Vina Del Mar is Chile's equivalent of San Diego, and is a very pleasant place to begin your journey. The large mountains to the west contain four ski areas and quaint villages with basic hotels and restaurants. Reservations are advised for many hotels.
Step 2
Pick a destination, and purchase a bus ticket. Buses vary from good to incredible. A Cama salon-class bus features reclining seats and complimentary wine and food. Many other bus classes also are comfortable, but it is best to look at the bus and decide for yourself. The miles pass quickly by as you enjoy the changing scenery. The Lake District is about a 10-hour ride through lush vineyards and beautiful farms with the majestic peaks of the Andes towering in the background. Pucon is a popular destination and offers hiking through ancient forests, whitewater kayaking and rafting, a large volcano to climb and many restaurants and bars.
Step 3
Take a cruise to Torres del Paine. The southern region of Patagonia is spectacular, but the few roads are bad, so air or boat travel is recommended. Navimag offers a three-day voyage from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales. On your voyage you'll see towering mountains and calving glaciers. Seals, penguins and birds also are common sights, as are whales. A variety of sleeping options are available, and meals are provided. Trek around Torres del Paine and camp next to a refugios. Purchase a few meals and glasses of wine. Hosts are friendly and will let you enjoy the warmth of the shelter. The rooms are bunk style, crowded and expensive, so sleeping in a tent will be much more enjoyable.
Step 4
Fly to Temuco and try the train. Train travel in Chile is limited, but the new train from Temuco to Santiago is comfortable and scenic. Trains can give you the freedom to explore various cars, and enjoy pleasant meals in the cafe cars.
Step 5
Take a Cama salon bus to the northern deserts. This region offers stark landscapes and clean and fresh beaches. The largest active volcano in the world lies northeast of Copiapo and is a stunning sight and somewhat challenging climb.

Tips & Warnings

 
Take some Spanish lessons before you go. Most Chileans do not speak English, so basic tasks like buying bus tickets can be very challenging without some knowledge of the language. The Chilean people are very friendly, and you will miss many opportunities if you can't speak with them. Cama salon tickets to popular areas usually require reservations. Hotel reservations are advised, but you can usually find rooms if you arrive early in the day.
 
Take some Spanish lessons before you go. Most Chileans do not speak English, so basic tasks like buying bus tickets can be very challenging without some knowledge of the language. The Chilean people are very friendly, and you will miss many opportunities if you can't speak with them.
 
Cama salon tickets to popular areas usually require reservations.
 
Hotel reservations are advised, but you can usually find rooms if you arrive early in the day.
 
Chile is a relatively safe country in which to travel, but take precautions against theft.

Resources

Article Written By John Mattson

John Mattson is an architectural engineer, adventure writer, and photographer who has traveled to many remote corners of the earth. He has recently self-published a colorfully photographed book of 26 diverse and extreme adventure stories titled "Dancing on the Edge of an Endangered Planet."

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