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CHILE:

 

  

 

Chile is an odd-shaped nation, 100 miles wide and 3,000 miles long.  The nation’s topography is diverse: from the northern sands of Atacama Desert, the world’s driest, to the fertile Central Valley, to bountiful wine district, to coastal beaches, to the majestic Andes’ mountain ranges, and to the legendary icy fjords of Patagonia.  Santiago is a 10.5-hour flight from New York City. 

 

At first glance, Chile appears to be more expensive to visit than its neighbors.  The high prices, however, are offset by a rebate of the 19% VAT on lodging.  Present your passport and entrance stamp to qualify for the rebate. 

 

DOCUMENTATION: Valid, in force passport plus visa.  Have documents with you at all times.  Keep copies of everything you are asked to sign.

 

CUSTOMS:

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: Don’t purchase any more Chilean wine than you consume before flying home.  Stingy U.S. customs allows only one liter of Chilean wine to be brought home duty free. 

 

They see you a-coming!  When you arrive in Chile, you will be required to pay a $130.00 per person entrance fee.  It is kind of a form of “Individual Yankee Foreign Aid.”  It’s good for a future year’s visit so long as your passport doesn’t expire.  To add insult to injury, you need to queue single file in a single line to one desk collector processing the collection, and only then can you line up again to retrieve your luggage.  This laborious ordeal is guaranteed to test your patience.

 

  

 

Flights home are equally frustrating: one line for both bags and check - BUT WAIT, IT GETS WORSE - as a matter of fact, THERE’S ONE (UNO) LINE for ALL DEPARTING FLIGHTS!! 

 

LANGUAGE: Spanish

 

CURRENCY: Chilean Peso  Ch$

 

TIME: same as Eastern Standard Time: 7:00 a.m. in New York City is 7:00 a.m. in Chile. 

 

PINCHING PENNIES: TO TIP OR NOT TO TIP: pesos preferred, but dollars accepted.

 

It’s customary for restaurants to add a 10% - 20% gratuity to restaurant bills - add an additional 5% for good service; always check to make certain it hasn’t already been added, otherwise, tip 10% - 20%.

 

Hotel baggage handlers expect $1.00 per bag. 

Tip hotel doorman for summoning a taxi: $1.00 - $3.00. 

Hotel maid: if room is kept clean, tip $2.00 per day.  On departure day, place gratuity in envelope and hand to maid. 

 

MAJOR HOLIDAYS IN CHILE: 

January 1: New Years Day

March/April: Holy Week

May 1: Labor Day

May 21: Navy Battle of Iquique

May 30: Corpus Christi

June 29: Saint Peter and Saint Paul’s Day

August 15: Assumption

September 11: Military Coup of 1973

 

  

 

September 18: Independence Day

September 19: Armed Forces Day

October 12: Columbus Day

November 1: All Saints Day

December 8: Immaculate Conception

December 25: Christmas Day

 

MAJOR FESTIVALS AND EVENTS IN CHILE: 

January: Feast Day of Saint Sebastian - celebrated in Yumbel

January: Santiago a Mil-theatrical festival in Santiago

February: Ibique Carnival-colorful celebration in Iquique: Playa Beach

February: Festival of the Virgin of 40 Hours; Limache

Mid-April (the Sunday after Easter Sunday): Fiesta de Cuasimodo – throughout Chile.  Religious festival, equestrian events.

May 21: Navy Day: celebrated in Santiago

June: Saint Peter’s and St. Paul’s Feast Day - celebrated in coastal areas

June 29: Fiesta de San Pedro de Atacama religious observance, in the village of San Pedro de Atacama.

July16: Feast Day of the Virgen del Carmen: Santiago

July: Festival of the Virgin of the Song: Five-day festival throughout northern Chile.

September 18: Independence Day: Rancagua

Entire month of September: Plaza de Armas: Independence celebration in Santiago on September 13 - 14.

October 12: Columbus Day - Santiago

November: Antofagasta: music celebration

December: Museums at Midnight-Santiago

December: The Virgen de lo Vasquez Pilgrimage

The Big Festival (La Fiesta Grande) - religious festival celebrated in Andacollo

 

 

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN CHILE:

The best time to visit Chile is during September, October, and November.

 

PRIME SEASON:

November, December, January, February, and March are a favorite travel period for most tourists.  USA’s winter is Chile’s summer.

 

September through November is spring and tends to be less expensive.  June through August is winter. 

 

If you are a skier, the preferred time is June to October. 

 

SHOULDER SEASON:

During October, November, and December, lodging is 30% less.  If you plan on driving in Chile and plan on crossing the border into Argentina, be certain to have proper Chilean documentation with you at all times.

 

BUSINESS HOURS: 8:00 a.m. - noon and 3:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.   Banks maintain only morning hours and close at noon. 

 

CHILEAN CUISINE:

Chilean wine is quite good and is coveted worldwide.  Cabernets and Malbecs are preferred choices.  Concha y Toro is the most popular Chilean wine consumed in America.

 

Whether you find Chilean cuisine tasty or not depends on your palate.  Chilean specialties include Empanada, a flour pastry filled with choice of meat, chicken or fish or a combination thereof, mixed with onion, eggs, raisins and olives.

 

  

 

Pastel de choclo: corn casserole with meat stuffing

Asado: barbecued beef, pork or chicken

Locos: a rare type of mollusk

 

The national drink is the pisco sour, made from fresh lemon juice, pisco, (a grape brandy), sugar and ice.

 

You can’t go wrong with locally caught fresh seafood simply prepared.  Seafood choices include clams: Machas a la Parmesana (baked tiny razor clams in butter and cheese), sole, oysters, and the ever-popular sea bass that hasn’t been shipped to New York or Chicago restaurateurs.

 

If you see Perrillada, meat selections charcoaled over hot coals on the menu, BEWARE!  Sounds tempting, but you would be wise to inquire as to the cut of beef: otherwise, you may find yourself dining on intestines, udders and blood sausages!

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN CHILE:

 

 

 

Chile offers world-class deep sea fishing, birding (850 bird species), a dozen-plus national parks, zip-lining, nature walks, five active volcanoes, mountain biking, a desert, white-water river rafting (class I-V), swimming, ecotourism, and green travel. 

 

 

 

ARICA:

 

   

 

Arica is known as “The City of Eternal Spring.”  Arica, a popular beach resort, is situated on the northern tip of Chile, on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.  Arica is a transportation hub with air connections to Bolivia and Peru. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN ARICA: 

Arica is a jumping off point to visit the Atacama Desert.  Blessed with mild weather, water sports are popular.  The best swimming beaches are south of the city.

 

El Morro Hill, a national monument, is the site of a historic major battle of the Peruvian War.  It is now an open-air museum.

 

  

 

You should visit the Museo Arqueologico San Miguel de Azapa for its collection of well-preserved Incan mummies.

 

 

 

THE ATACAMA DESERT:

 

  

 

The Atacama Desert is located in the far north of Chile - a two hour flight to Calama from Santiago. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN THE ATACAMA DESERT: 

Perhaps a potential graveyard site for airline surplus planes?  The 43,000-square-mile Atacama Desert, on Chile’s Pacific Coast, is the world’s highest-altitude desert (14,400 - 22,589 feet in altitude) and the world’s driest.  In many respects, it resembles Mars. 

 

The sprawling desert presents a dramatic landscape of purple-tinged mountains, volcanic peaks, salt lakes, and surprisingly huge flocks of pink flamingos at the Salar de Atacama salt flats.

 

 

 

Witness El Tatio, the world’s highest (14,000-foot) geyser shoot steam and pillars of water into the atmosphere. 

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN THE ATACAMA DESERT:

The best time to visit the Atacama Desert is during November, December, January, February, March, April and May.

 

The desert flora blooms September through November. 

 

 

 

SAN PEDRO de ATACAMA (Atacama Desert):

 

  

 

San Pedro de Atacama is a charming tourist town with large central square and nice hotel accommodations.  As it is a popular destination, reserve far in advance.  It houses a population of under 6,000. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN THE ATACAM DESERT AND SAN PERDO de ATACAMA: 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: To avoid complications of possible airsickness due to altitude, acclimate to the conditions, and be sure to take emergency oxygen tanks when exploring the area.  Sun block and lip balm will become useful. 

 

Be aware that despite parchment city elsewhere, heavy rains commonly occur during February in San Pedro.  Visit the interesting R.P. Gustavo Le Page Archaeological Museum.

 

The San Pedro Church dates back to the eighteenth century.

 

Wish Upon a Star?  The Atacama Desert presents ideal conditions for star gazing.  This is astronomy paradise.

 

When was the last time that you checked into a hotel and discovered that room amenities included a telescope?

 

 

 

There are even professional stargazing tours from San Pedro!!  Sign up for a professionally-guided stargazing tour or engage in stargazing from the nearby observatory. 

 

Hike one of the largest sand dunes in the world. 

 

Do not miss a visit to the Museo Arqueologico San Pedro de Atacama in San Pedro del Atacama.  This outstanding archaeological museum housed over 380,000 findings from the Atacama Desert.

 

View the flamingoes in the Atacama salt flats of Chaxa Lagoon, as well as the bubbly El Tatio geysers. 

 

While visiting, go horseback riding in the desert, climb the Andes, and bicycle the area. 

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHTS REST IN SAN PEDRO:

San Pedro de Atacamia is the gateway to the desert.  The best area lodging is to stay in the elegant stone cottages of Awasi ($1,000 per person for two nights). 

 

  

 

The Awasi is a five-star boutique hotel, the area’s finest.  Other comparable properties include the Alto Atacama Desert Lodge and Spa, Explora’s Hotel de Larache, Kunza Hotel, and the Tierrea Atacama Hotel and Spa. 

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN SAN PEDRO: 

San Pedro’s streets are lined with low-rise shops, dining, and boutique hotel properties. 

 

 

 

CALAMA:

 

   

 

Calama is gateway to the Atacama Desert (see separate alphabetical listing). 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN CALAMA:

 

  

 

Visit the Museo Gustavo Le Paige, a remarkable collection of 300,000 artifacts, including the world’s oldest mummies. 

 

 

 

FUTALEUFU RIVER:

 

  

 

The Futaleufu River is a world-class white-water rafting locale. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS AT THE FUTALEUFU RIVER: 

To get here one must fly to Santiago, connect to Puerto Montt, and take a charter flight from Puerto Montt to Chaiten.  Once in Chaiten, it’s a long three-hour drive on unpaved roads to the Futaleufu River.  You ply the river in a Cataraft through Class IV and V rapids.  You stay in a series of privately owned river camps, as you progress along on the river.  The camps are short on amenities, so if you seek creature comforts, you probably won’t fare well nor will you enjoy the overall rafting experience.  You’ll also encounter the necessity to scale and repel high walls.

 

 

 

The most challenging rapids are the Class V Terminador, Mas o Menos and Cas de Piedra.  You need to be prepared for a possible flip.  This is not a trip for rafting novices. 

 

 

 

IQUIQUE:

 

  
 

Iquique is a cosmopolitan coastal city in northern Chile.

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN IQUIQUE:

Fall months offer the best time to visit Iquique.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN IQUIQUE:

MAIPO VALLEY is wine region south of Santiago.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN IQUIQUE:

The Iquique Naval Museum displays the remains of the Esmeralda ship that was sunk by the Peruvian enemy ship in the War of the Pacific.

 

 

 

The Museo Regional de Iquique is a regional museum of Chilean culture.

 

Paragliders migrate here from distant points around the world to experience the superb, nearly perfect flying conditions.  The area is located in a desert zone; Iquique is virtually moisture free. 

 

The desert’s windswept dunes and impressive salt flats such as Salar del Huasco bear pre-Columbian geoglyphs - outsized, ancient figures marked with stones that dot the craggy hillsides. 

 

More geoglyphs are found in the nearby mining ghost town of Humberstone, a UNNESO World Heritage Site.

 

TASTY DINING IN IQUIQUE:

 

  

 

Despite its locale, Iquique has inexplicitly become a gourmet culinary destination offering fresh seafood, spicy Asian and Peruvian Indian cuisine.  El Tercer Ojito is one of the best. 

 

 

 

CHILOE ISLAND (CHILE):

 

  

 

Chiloe Island is Chile’s second largest island. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS ON CHILOE ISLAND:

Sixteen of the island’s churches have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

 

 

 

CHILOE NATIONAL PARK:

 

 

 

Try hiking the series of trails through a lush forest in Chiloe National Park. 

 

 

 

THE JUAN FERNANDEZ ARCHIPELAGO (CHILE):

 

  

 

The Juan Fernandez Archipelago consists of three islands, 400 miles off the Chilean mainland: Santa Clara, Robinson Crusoe, and Alejandro Selkirk (World Biosphere Reserve - exceptional diving and snorkeling).  Robinson Crusoe is the only island of the three that is inhabited. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS AT THE JUAN FERNANDEZ ARCHIPELAGO:

 

 

 

LOS ANDES:

 

  

 

Los Andes offers a fresh powder snow ski resort area in the Andes from June through September.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN LOS ANDES:

 

 

 

PORTILLO:

 

  

 

Portillo is an Andes ski resort town. 

 

 

 

PATAGONIA:

 

  

 

THE BEST TIME TO VISIT PATAGONIA:

Most tourists visit during Patagonia’s winter months - the reverse of the U.S. summer season.  While the winds are less and the weather milder, the daylight hours are lessened.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN PATAGONIA:

 

 

 

PUNTA ARENAS:

 

  

 

This southernmost city on earth overlooks the Straights of Magellan.  It is the capital of the Patagonia region.  Most visitors to Patagonia fly into Punta Arenas and connect with a flight to Puerto Natales. 

 

Its strategic shipping importance diminished greatly after the opening of the Panama Canal.  It is an important wool trade center.  Punta Arenas is used as jumping off locale to visit Antarctica.

 

There are short flights to Punta Arenas from Puerto Montt.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN PUNTA ARENAS:

A highlight is visiting the impressive replica of Magellan’s ship. 

 

Take a five-hour motor-coach to Torres del Paine (see separate alphabetical listing under Patagonia-Chilean).

 

Its strategic shipping importance diminished greatly after the opening of the Panama Canal. It is an important wool trade center.  Punta Arenas is used as jumping off locale to visit Antarctica.

 

There are short flights to Punta Arenas from Puerto Montt.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN PUNTA ARENAS:

The city sits on the Fjord of the last Hope, an area inhabited by native Aonikenk and Kawesgar tribes until the late eighteenth century. 

 

A highlight is visiting the impressive replica of Magellan’s ship. 

 

  

 

The Pinguinos, penguin settlements, is an easy day trip from Punta Arenas. 

 

Take a five-hour motor-coach to Torres del Paine (see separate alphabetical listing under Patagonia-Chilean). 

 

After the discovery of the Strait of Magellan, PUERTO NATALES became an important trading outpost of German and British settlers.  The town is the last stop before encountering massive ice-fields and unpredictable extreme weather.  

 

 

 

 

PLAYA HERRADURA:

 

  

 

Playa Herradura is a developing resort area with a choice of several upscale condominiums and hotel properties. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN PLAYA HERRADURA:

 

 

 

PUERTO MONTT:

 

  

 

Puerto Montt is located in southern Chile.  This is a bustling port city gateway to the Chilean fjords.  The city is ringed by towering volcanoes. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN PUERTO MONTT:

 

 

 

The Auto Museum Moncopulli (in Puyehue) is an unexpected encounter 80 miles north of Puerto Monti.  The museum houses some 100 vintage cars, 26 being 1930’s - 1960’s Studebakers.  Others include a Ford Model T and a 1956 Thunderbird.  Museum hours are 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m., and 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. from December 15 - March 16.  The museum is located at Km 25, Ruta International 215, and can be reached by calling 64-210744. 

 

 

 

PATAGONIA (CHILEAN):

 

  

 

Torres del Paine National Park offers two of the world’s best hiking opportunities - definitely the best in South America.  Erratic Rock is a challenge for rock climbers.  Glacier lakes provide for great boating.  Patagonia has spectacular scenery.

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN THE CHILEAN PATAGONIA:

The best time to visit Patagonia is during November, December, January, February, and March.

 

 

 

TORRES del PAINE is a popular destination so be sure to reserve far in advance.

 

 

 

PUERTO NATALES (PATAGONIA):

 

  

 

The attractive seaside town of Puerto Natales is the gateway to Patagonia and Torres del Paine, a 1.5-hour bus ride from Puerto Natales. 

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHTS REST IN PUERTO NATALES (PATAGONIA): 

The Singular Patagonia luxury 37-room resort opened in late 2011.  It’s oversized (500 square feet) rooms enjoy a spectacular location overlooking the Fjord of Last Hope.  The resort’s guides offer over twenty tours, including kayaking and mountain hiking.  Resort amenities include free transfers, a restaurant, and a spa.  It’s not inexpensive: plan on $650.00 - $700.00 nightly room only. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN TORRES del PAINE NATIONAL PARK (PATAGONIA): 

The UNESCO-declared Biosphere Reserve of Torres del Paine National Park is home to endless wildlife viewing: ostrich, Andean condors, guanaco llamas, and flamingoes.  Some experts consider it to be Latin America’s finest nature park. 

 

600,000-acre TORRES del PAINE, a national park and UNESCO world Biosphere Reserve, is a collection of dramatic and jagged 9,000-foot high peaks, glaciers and rolling hills.  The glaciers are easily accessed by paved roads.  The park offers 125 miles of hiking trails, backpacking, boat cruises to view the glaciers, and world-class bird viewing.  Led by the ever-elusive pumas, the area is home to many rare bird species including the condor, as well as foxes, and the tall, llama-camel like guanacos. 

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHT’S REST IN TORRES del PAINE: 

 

 

 

While one can camp in a tent, stay in a budget lodging hosteias, the epitome for you eco-minded tourists that can afford it, is EcoCamp Patagonia - operated by Cascada Expediciones, a collection of environmentally-sensitive wooden, geodesic dome, and igloo-shaped structures.  They blend with the environment - makes you feel good, right?  Greenpeace discount? 

 

 

 

EASTER ISLAND (aka RAPI NUI, aka ISDA de PASCUA), CHILE:

 

 

 

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a remote, treeless, southern 63-square-mile Pacific island, a L-O-N-G jaunt: a five - six-hour-plus jet flight, 2,200 MILES ONE-WAY, from Santiago.  Its singular lure is the mystique and unexplained presence of 900 giant head-shaped statues.  The majority of the statues never made it out of the quarry.  Once observed, there isn’t much reason to linger. 

 

It’s an enigma: culturally Polynesian, politically Chilean, and semi-tropical in climate.  It’s mystique and attractiveness lies in the mysterious stone monoliths.

 

Some say the island once had a population of 10,000 Rapanui - migrators from Tahiti and Polynesnia.  Less than 100 residents remain today.  Easter Island is culturally Polynesian, but is politically Chilean.  The first discovery by the Polynesians occurred around 400 A.D.  Curiously, when later discovered by the British Navy in 1825, very few of the statues remained standing; 50 statues have since been resurrected.  The statues vary in size and weight, some in excess of 30 feet high and weighing up to 80 tons.  Most of the statues are located around the edge of the island, facing inland and standing on raised stone platforms.

 

Ahu Tongariki is the best site for viewing the statues - there are 15 on site.  Anakena is another impressive site. 

 

The world’s most isolated island was originally known under several identities including as Rapa Nui and Isla de Pascua, but was changed to Easter Island when it was discovered by the Dutch East India Co. on Easter Sunday in 1722.  The island was annexed by Chile in 1888. 

 

You really have to work at it to visit Easter Island.  A visitor must really be motivated to get here.  It’s a 16 – 20-hour flight from the U.S. east Coast.  Visiting Easter Island is not for the poor.  Airfare U.S. to Santiago runs $1,400.00 - $2,000.00 roundtrip.

 

  

 

Add the R.T. flight from Santiago to Easter Island, another $800.00.  A 3-day stay on Easter Island is $2,097.00.  This, of course, does not reflect costs for your Chile visit, and already you are close to over $10,000.00 per couple! 

 

BEST TIME TO VISIT EASTER ISLAND:

The best time to visit Easter Island is during mid-December, January, February, March, and April (local summer).  These times are also considered peak season for lodging rates.

 

Shoulder Season is mid-April, May, and June - it can become quite warm.

 

Least desirable months to visit are October, November, and December, as the days are short and chilly.

 

A visit is a once in a lifetime experience, an item on many travelers’ bucket lists of coveted things to see and do.  The fascinating ancient volcanic cone statues (moai) of abstract human figures appearing to be standing guard, for which the island is famous, are thought to be have been abandoned by Polynesian settlers around 1800 A.D.  The large (average 13 feet high - some are as tall as 65 feet and weighing 14 tons) thousand-some monolithic statues are the subject of uncounted photo essays and persistent academic speculation as to how the residents were able to transport the statues to the various locations throughout the island.  Easter Island is presently engaged in developing tourism trade.  Much of the island is protected by a national park and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Chile annexed the island in 1888.

 

CURRENCY: the U.S. Dollar is widely accepted.  ATM’s accept only MasterCard.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS ON EASTER ISLAND:

While you may be warmly greeted and a flower lei draped around your neck, make no mistake, Easter Island is not a Hawaii or Polynesian paradise clone. 

 

  

 

Having endured the long flight, most visitors stay three nights and leisurely explore the island before returning to Chile.  Hard to believe, but some visitors remain 7 - 10 days.  Most, however, become bored after two days and are ready to leave.  Like most visitors, you’ll depart with more unanswered questions than answers. 

 

Only one town exists, Hanga Roa, and it ain’t much!  To explore the town and environs, you have the option of hoofing it, hiring a driver-guide, or bicycling. 

 

Several of the iconic Moai stone statues stand guard over Anakena Beach.  The statues are located at Moai Quarry at Rano Raraku.  Fewer than fifty moais have been re-erected.  Most remain in quarries and caves that can be visited with a guide. 

 

Little, except conjecture, is known of the whys and wherefores of the statues, their construction, or the island people.  Theory is that the deforestation to accommodate the burgeoning population and subsequent food shortages by overfishing the waters contributed to the demise of the populace.  The “newer” statues grew in size and weight, perhaps motivated by “keeping up or bettering the Jones.”

 

Conjecture is that the statues were erected not for worship but rather more likely as veneration of deceased ancestors or leaders.

 

An estimated 1,000 residents at one time toiled the quarry chipping away and sculpting the statues, while others cultivated the slopes in preparation for the eventual placement of the finished statues. 

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: 

It would be absolutely foolish to incur the considerable cost of visiting Easter Island and then skimp on the expense of hiring a top-notch expert guide to add meaning to the historical significance of what you are here to see and do.  Your hotel should be able to offer you recommendations. 

 

 

 

There are 15 moai statues, including the fully-restored Tongariki, the largest on the island’s southeast coast.

 

The island’s northwest coast is home to Ahu Akivi.  It inexplicably is the only ahu whose heads face out to sea.  At the spring and autumn equinoxes, seven heads face the setting sun. 

 

You’ll have lots of time on your hands: once you’ve seen the inexplicable statues, it’s time to leave, as there isn’t much else to see or do.  The topography is stark, windblown and barren.  The island’s few palm trees are not native. 

 

You’ll definitely want to also visit the Rano Raraku Quarry (it is part of the Rpa Nui National Park).  The Rano Raraku Quarry is a separate admission fee.  The quarry is where the heads were sculpted. 

 

Oh, there’s hiking, horseback riding, surfing, and harbor snorkeling and diving, if you’re so inclined and have the energy. 

 

One does not exactly travel to Easter Island to sun on the beaches.  If you insist, the best is Anakena Beach - white sands and beach stands selling food.  Eight of the eerie moai statues on the hillside peer down on you! 

 

 

 

The island’s main town of Hanga Roa is tiny with a population slightly under 6,000.  At times it seems that packs of dogs seeking handouts outnumber the residents.  Taxis are available along with private car guides in Hanga Roa.  Rental vehicles are an alternative.

 

There are several small hotels, guest houses, and restaurants.  Seafood is your best bet. 

The local ice cream is also excellent: pineapple or mango flavors. 

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHTS REST ON EASTER ISLAND:

With two recent exceptions, only basic no frills lodging exists; do not expect a choice of multiple luxurious accommodations or recognizable hotel names.  Due to its remoteness, EVERYTHING is EXPENSIVE!  Bring lots of cash as you’ll need it. 

 

After a long flight and touring the island, you’ll welcome some shut-eye.  Luckily for you, decent lodging recently became available.  Not cheap!  Three nights including meals and tours is $2,097.00 and up per person!!  The 30-room Explora En Rapa Nui’s Posada de Mike Rapu is considered ultra-deluxe.

 

The resort offers a series of outstanding guided explorations of the island’s sights - plan, however, on considerable walking.

 

  

 

The Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa is another upscale resort with self-contained bungalows and nice dining room. 

 

If you are counting your pennies, the budget choice is the in-town Hotel O’Tai with simple accommodations, but nice and quiet, as it’s next to a cemetery! 

 

TASTY DINING ON EASTER ISLAND:

Altiplanico is numero uno, offering nice décor with ocean views and a combo of local/Chilean cuisine.  With all the local restaurants, choices are limited as fresh provisions aren’t exactly flown in daily. 

 

A NIGHT ON THE TOWN ON EASTER ISLAND:

One does not come to Easter Island for its nightlife.  Come evening, after a day of hiking, most visitors are exhausted.

 

The Te Mihi show in “downtown” Hanga Roa is an entertaining folklore performance that many visitors find worthwhile. 

 

 

 

THE CHILEAN ANDES:

 

  

 

The Chilean Andes is home to some of the world’s finest snow skiing slopes.  Aconcagua is the world’s second-highest mountain range outside Asia.

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN THE ANDES:

Prime snow ski season is mid-June to early September.

 

AVOID: October through May is the rainy season.  Rains tend to be predictable, occurring mid-afternoon.  Mornings are typically dry.

 

 

 

PORTILLO:

 

  

 

Portillo is the Andes’ oldest and reigning premier ski resort area, known for its world-class skiing.  It is a convenient two-hour drive from Santiago. 

 

 

 

LAKE TITICACA:

 

  

 

With its dramatic snow-peaked Cordillera Real mountain backdrop, Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable body of water.  The lake straddles the Peru-Bolivia border. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN LAKE TITICACA:

Lake Titicaca provides endless boating, sailing, and fishing opportunities.

 

 

 

CHILEAN LAKE DISTRICT:

 

  

 

The Chilean Lake District enjoys nice weather year-round.  TEMULCO is the Lake Districts’ core city providing excellent fly fishing.  The Lake District is a region of rolling hills and forests.  It is a long 400-mile-drive from Santiago.  The preferable choice is to fly into Temulco.

 

Puerto Varas is the Lake District’s prime resort town, very scenic.  It is located in southern Chile. 

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN LAKE DISTRICT:

The best time to visit Lake District is during November and December.

 

PUERTO VARAS and FRUTILLAR, both originally settled by German immigrants, are situated on Lake Llanquihue.  The towns overlook the Osorno volcano.

 

Puerto Varas attracts tourists as a gateway to remote parts of Patagonia.  Its neighbor, Frutillar, also gets its share of tourists for its cultural offerings including the Teatro del Lago arts center. 

 

A two-hour boat cruise to view the Chilean fjords is the highlight of many a Lake District visit.  Boats leave from Ingenieros Militares, typically stopping at two fjords.  There’s a gorgeous waterfall at Quintupeu.  You’ll encounter a large colony of sea lions at Cahoelmo.

 

 

 

Turismo Rural Chiloe in the quaint fishing village of Punhill on Chiloe Island features the unique experience of dining curanto, a Chilean meal cooked over an outdoor pit of hot coals: a communal feast of shellfish, meats, potatoes, vegetables, and Chilean red or white wine. 

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHT’S REST IN PUERTO VARAS:

An easy choice: The relatively new five-star Hotel Cumbers Patagonicas has few peers in the immediate area. 

 

The luxurious and inclusive, 18-room, 8,000-acre, Cliff Preserve, enjoys a dramatic site overlooking the Pacific.  This is a Daddy Warbucks-type place.  The tab?  An astounding $2,400.00 double per night!  It takes some doing to access such escapism: a 45-minute drive over a bumpy dirt road in your Bentley. 

 

Any Motel 6 alternatives?  Nope.  Yan Kee Way Lodge is a more affordable (for whom?) $900.00 a night! 

 

Hundreds of restaurants serve curanto. 

 

The Lake District also has thermal hot springs where one can relax and dip in the pool.

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN PUERTO VARAS:

Shop downtown for local crafts and Chilean wine. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN TEMULCO:

The area lends itself to outdoor participatory recreation: bicycling, hiking, fishing, skiing, rock climbing and windsurfing.

 

  

 

The nearby Parque Nacional Conguillio offers excellent walking trails.

 

Snow-covered Osorno Volcano is at the end of Lake Llanquihue near Puerto Varas. 

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN TEMULCO:

Shop for local Mapuche Indian crafts at the Mercado Municipal and Feria Libre. 

 

Santiago’s major department stores maintain branches here. 

 

 

 

CHILEAN FJORDS:

 

  

 

In a word: spectacular.  The Pio Once Glacier, in particular, is spellbinding.

 

 

 

PARQUE NACIONAL LAUCA:

 

 

 

This northern Chilean park, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, is home to a large flock of flamingoes.   

 

 

 

SAN ALFONSO DEL MAR:

 

  

 

San Alfonso Del Mar is a planned resort area approximately 100 miles north of Santiago. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN SAN ALFONSO DEL MAR: 

The San Alfonso del Mar resort has the distinction of having the world’s largest swimming pool.

 

The resort’s 19-acre oceanfront pool is 3/5ths of a mile long and holds 66 million gallons of Pacific Ocean treated water.  A white sand beach separates the pool from the ocean.  The pool opened in 2006. 

 

 

 

SANTIAGO:

 

  

 

Santiago is the capital, business, financial, and cultural center of Chile, and the nation’s largest city with over 6 million residents.  The distant Andes provide a dramatic background.  Spanish colonial architecture comfortably co-exists with gleaming, modern skyscrapers.  Santiago represents the perfect hub from which to explore the rest of Chile.  Skiing is only 60 kilometers away, with the Pacific beaches within an hour’s drive.  Chiles’ famous Malpo Valley wine vineyards are to the immediate south of the city.

 

Both non-stop (11 hours from Los Angeles or New York City) and non-direct flights to Santiago are available from the United States.

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN SANTIAGO:

Vina del Mar Song Festival draws crowd of over 100,000.

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN SANTIAGO:

The best time to visit Santiago is during September, October and November.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN SANTIAGO:

While Santiago may not have the glitz, jet-set appeal of Rio or Buenos Aires, you will discover that it is decidedly cleaner and safer to visit.

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: You should be aware that Santiago and Chile is in an earthquake zone: an 8.8 magnitude struck in 2010.  The threat, however, should not deter your visit anymore than you might avoid such a possibility in California. 

 

Your first impression of this modern city with many high-rises, is that the locals are an attractive people and that they dress very nicely - none of the casual calf-length baggy shorts, zoot-suit attire of America.

 

Getting around Santiago is relatively easily, as the city has an excellent subway system.  Santiago’s streets are lined with monumental public buildings.

 

 

 

Moneda Palace is the seat of government and site of the 1973 military coup.  The changing of the guard takes place, just off the Plaza, at the Palacio de la Moneda, on alternate days.  The palace is closed on weekends. 

 

Sooner or later most tourists visit the Plaza de Armas.  Avoid the street food, don’t linger and definitely hold onto your wallet.  Here, of all places in the city, you are least safe from the ever present pickpockets.  The overall area has a dumpty, run-down appearance. 

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: Avoid reserving a hotel in or near the Plaza. 

 

The Plaza de Armas is the center of Santiago’s activity: street performers and vendors gather daily.  The Museo de Arte Precolombino, with its extensive textile and artifact collections, is nearby.

 

The Plaza de Armas is the city’s main square, an oasis of parks, fountains, sculptures, and palm trees.  The eighteenth century ornate Cathedral Metropolitana has an imposing presence. 

 

The main pedestrian thoroughfare is Paseo Huerfanos.  It is also the center of food and souvenir vendors, plus major sleaze: a number of cafes con piernas, “coffeehouse vice dens,” where the young waitresses are scantily attired in negligees and the quality of the coffee is secondary.

 

Please note that most museums are closed on Mondays. 

 

  

 

For phenomenal views of the city, head out to the Bellavista area and ascend the hill-hugging Cerro San Cristobal Park, also known as Parque Metropolitano, via a rickety funicular (cable cars) - the park is popular for its botanical garden (half-way up the hill), zoo, picnic areas, public swimming pools, jogging, biking, hiking, and obviously the incredible views.  Unfortunately, more days than not, heavy smog obliterates the magnificent views.  A large white statue of the Virgen de la Immaculada Conception graces the very top of the park. 

 

Other great views can be garnered from atop Santa Luca Hill.  A bonus is the beautiful historical statues, the Palmera de Carnaria being the most impressive. 

 

The Museum of Memory and Human Rights is housed in an impressive, huge contemporary glass and copper building that honors the lives lost and tortured victims of the brutal dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. 

 

Art fanciers should check out Estacion Mapocho, Matucana 100, underneath the Palacio de la Moneda, GAM, and the Museo National de Bellas Artes. 

 

Parque Quinta Normal is home to the Museo de la Memoria.  Kids in tow?  Check out the Museo de Historia National - they’ll enjoy it. 

 

Most tourists end up visiting one of famed and Nobel Prize-winning, highly idolized Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda’s eclectic homes - admission tickets are difficult to secure even by locals.  La Chascona is the preferred of the homes to visit for pre-Columbian art.  A visit is practically obligatory.  A guided tour might be your best bet of gaining entry. 

 

  

 

Museo de San Francisco is an excellent example of sixteenth century architecture.  It is a treasure-trove of religious artifacts.  The museum is closed Mondays. 

 

Museo de Solidaridad Salvador Allende houses major collection of modern art.  It is closed Mondays. 

 

The Museo de la Chiledidad houses artworks of the Chilean master painters. 

 

Casa Colorada Santiago Museum is the former colonial home of a past governor, later Chilean President; it houses Chilean historical artifacts.  The museum is closed Mondays. 

 

The famous Cathedral Metropolitana de Santiago is worth a definite look-see; it is breathtaking. 

 

Once you have exhausted the sights of the city, you’ll discover a wealth of places to visit nearby, making Santiago an ideal and convenient hub for area exploration.  The summer beachside resort of Vina del Mar is a mere 1.5-hour drive.  The ski resorts of Portillo and Valle Nevado: a 1.5-hour drive.  Even Valparaiso is close by. 

 

The famous Concha y Toro winery is just outside Santiago, a short taxi ride.  Tours and wine tastings are provided. 

 

 

 

A few miles inland is the famous Andes ski area of Farellones.

 

The Colchagua Valley Chilean wine area is 110 miles south of Santiago.  It is THE top Chilean wine zone.  The prize Carmenere grapes are blended into Cabernets and merlots.  Other varietals include syrah and world-class malbecs. 

 

You can try calming your rattled nerves and patience after navigating the hair-raising 226-mile long Trans-Andrean Highway between Santiago, Chile and Mendoza, Argentina wine country.  It totally re-defines hazardous driving conditions - one dangerous curve after another: 29 switchback curves, a two-mile long tunnel, and heavy semi truck and bus traffic.

 

Oh yes, the rewards?  You will get a great view of 20,000-plus-foot high peak of Mount Aconcagua (tallest in the Western Hemisphere) from the Argentine side of the tunnel. 

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHT’S REST IN THE COLCHAGUA VALLEY:

The wine area is increasingly becoming a tourist destination with several wineries opening tasting rooms and small upscale lodging possibilities:

 

Vina Cas Silva, the oldest winery, has a posh nine-room farmhouse-turned hotel. 

Los Lingues is a restored mid-seventeenth century hacienda. 

 

  

 

Award-winning Lapostolle offers four rustic-chic casitas and an infinity pool. 

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHT’S REST IN SANTIAGO:

Built in 2009, the 196-room W Santiago is a favorite of both businesspeople and tourists.  For more information, please call 56-2-770-0000. 

 

Smaller, but in the same price range are the following upscale boutique hotels: 

The 15-room The Aubrey in the Bella Vista area.  For more information, please call 299-317-56-2-940-28. 

 

The 31-room Hotel Boutique Le Reve, which can be reached by calling 023-56-2-757-6000. 

 

TASTY DINING IN SANTIAGO:

Avenida Nueva Costanera in upscale Vitacura is the center of Santiago’s top restaurants. 

 

Head to the legendary bistro Liguria for classic Chilean cuisine: mustard-encrusted pork chops.

 

Astrid and Gaston is another gourmet outpost worth pursuing.

 

 

 

The Lastarria district is the place for sidewalk cafes serving late afternoon tea.

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN SANTIAGO:

Centrol Artsanal los Dominicos is a must.  With over 150 artisan and antique shops, it is easily the largest craft center in the nation and one of Latin America’s most significant. 

 

Check out the colonial facades of the barrio of Concha y Toro, the buildings are decorated in colorful graffiti murals.

 

Smart, dressy clothing is reasonably priced - a good buy.

 

Also shop for lapis lazuli (blue stone) decorative items and jewelry. 

 

The city is blessed with several very nice department stores.  Paris and Falabella are both excellent. 

 

Art galleries have proliferated the local scene in the past few years.  The Vitacura area, in particular, sports several nice studio/galleries.  This area also has several nice restaurants. 

 

NIGHT ON THE TOWN IN SANTIAGO:

Before you ask your hotel concierge or cabbie where the nearest and best nightclubs are, you had best realize that locally, “nightclubs” refers to brothels!

 

  

 

The Barrio Bellavista area is the place for nightlife - not necessarily “nightclubs”.  The action begins late, after midnight, and continues until just before dawn. 

 

 

 

VALPARAISO:

 

  

 

Chile’s major ocean port and second largest city is considered one of South America’s most fascinating and beautiful cities - perhaps the most unusual city in Latin America.  The city was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003 recognizing its historical importance, natural beauty, original architecture, and layout. 

 

The city is built on steep, hilly terrain (42 hills) necessitating the use of a unique funicular railway system, winding streets and stairway footpaths.  The city center, with its cobblestone streets, is clustered near harbor waterfront.  The old section of the city is particularly intriguing with its well-preserved colonial structures and several worthwhile museums.  The compactness lends itself to walking explorations.  Valparaiso is a 2.5-hour drive from the capital of Santiago.  Valparaiso has a population of 250,000. 

 

MAJOR FESTIVALS AND EVENTS IN VALPARAISO: 

New Year’s Eve: If you are lucky enough to be in Valparaiso, you’ll be treated to a spectacular fireworks display in the harbor area.  The crowds are huge so plan ahead for a viewing spot. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN VALPARAISO:

Valparaiso is a hilly city with abundant Old World architecture.  Higher terrains are accessible by funicular. 

 

Ascensor El Peral, the 107-year-old funicular serving Cerro Alegre, is old and rickety, but still functional.  Ride a funicular train up a hill and back - the views are spectacular.  The ascensores (funiculars or small hillside trolleys on tracks) are a major Valparaiso attraction and serve a practical function as well, providing access to many colorful pastel hillside homes, otherwise inaccessible. 

 

Vendors hawk vintage postcards outside the Palacio Barburizza (1916), a red and white checkered art nouveau mansion, turned fine art museum.  No, it’s not a Neopolitan restaurant! 

 

 

 

Plaza Sotomayor is the city center. 

 

Consejo Nacional du Cultura y Las Artes is a government-owned contemporary art museum featuring local artists. 

 

The scruffy-appearing waterfront is a beehive of activity.  Muelle Prat (Prat Wharf) provides a great vantage point to view the cargo ship activity.  There is also a handicraft market on site.

 

Even if you don’t care to tour churches, stop in to view the La Matiz del Salvador Church (built in 1559 and rebuilt in 1837), located in the waterfront area.  The church has custody of a wooden sculpture of Christ, “Cristo de la Agonia,” which dates back to the late 1600’s.

 

Visit the Muse de Historica Natural de Valparaiso, a natural history museum located inside the opulent Palacio Lyon. It displays an exceptional collection of reptiles and fossils and is closed Mondays. 

 

The city is known for its excellent naval museums.  Two of the best are: Museo Naval y Maritomo, which is a naval and maritime museum chronicling the Chilean navy from 1818 – 1880.  The museum is closed Mondays. 

 

  

 

The Museo del Mar Lord Thomas Cochrane is an important naval museum honoring its namesake for his contributions as commander of the Chilean navy.  The museum is closed Mondays.

 

Take a side trip to the beach resort area of Vina del Mar (see separate alphabetical listing). 

 

TASTY DINING IN VALPARAISO:

The difficult to find Los Deportistas (“Sport Ones”) is a luncheon-only restaurant in a private home offering Chilean stewed chicken, grilled steak, rolled pork served family-style with fried potatoes, fresh avocado, tomatoes, lettuce and onion salad.  The menu is hand-printed.  They have never advertised.  The restaurant is located at Colo-Colo #1217, Barron O’Higgins. 

 

For unusual décor place, visit the Mastodonte, a safari-stone-age themed restaurant, near the Plaza Anibal Pinto.  It is closed Sundays.  The restaurant is located at Calle Esmeralda 1139 and can be reached by calling +56 32 225 1205. 

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN VALPARAISO:

Colorful hand-woven ponchos may sell in Chile, but back in the states, wearing one won’t win you any best-dressed awards.

 

Valparaiso teems with small boutiques selling lapis lazuli jewelry and quality crafted jewelry of jade, amethyst, and onyx.

 

 

 

VINA DEL MAR:

 

  

 

Vina Del Mar is the undisputed, most luxurious resort area in Chile.  The posh, tropical setting, complete with beautiful white-sand beaches, luxury resorts, upscale shopping, sophisticated Monte Carlo style casino gambling, and gourmet dining lures the world’s jet setters.  The resort can be crowded during summertime months.  It is located north of Valparaiso. 

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN VINA DEL MAR:

January and February is peak season.  Be forewarned that you will be competing with the privileged upper class migration from Santiago and Valparaiso for lodging and dining.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN VINA DEL MAR:

 

   

 

Take a leisurely horse-drawn carriage ride around Vina del Mar’s colonial mansions and palm lined grand boulevards.

 

Aside from the beach activities, there’s not much else to see or do.