Hugging to the Andes mountain range like a lost child in a supermarket, Chile’s coastline runs for seventy eight thousand kilometres and is the fifth longest coastline in the world. Affectionately known as ‘The long thin one’ among backpackers, Chile holds an eclectic range of attractions and sights that will suit any traveller backpacking in Chile and Latin America. With the Andes looming in the background, Chile’s capital, Santiago has a population of almost five million and is constantly busy with high-rise buildings and skyscrapers.
Chile’s weather changes dramatically depending on which region you are looking to visit. Summer runs from December through to March and you’re best to visit the southern regions for the best Chilean experience during these times. The northern region of Chile boasts the famous Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world. As you would expect, Atacama rarely receives rain and holds little inhabitants because of the harsh and unforgiving conditions. However other parts of northern Chile has much to offer backpackers.
Loved by skiers, snowboarders and all other snow sport enthusiasts. Chile has a variety of ski resorts offering great snow experiences. Chile’s main resort Valle Nevado is only fifty kilometres from Santiago and offers heliskiing, where a helicopter takes extreme sports fanatics to the top of the mountain so they can ride down. The Chile ski season runs from June to October and all resorts recommend that you book well in advance to avoid disappointment!
Arguably Chile’s most famous attraction, Easter Island (known as Rapa Nui) is two thousand miles from the coast of Chile and explorers can fly from Santiago in just under six hours. The statues, thought to of been build as homage to ancestors are an incredible and mind blowing sight often appearing as the face of Chilean tourist brochures.
Secluded and thousands of miles from anywhere, Easter Island was undiscovered until the 18th century and was entirely untouched by civilisation. Now, Easter Island has over four thousand natives living and working on the island and the traditional culture and customs are still practiced today.
Other popular Chilean attractions include Lake Chungara, the highest lake in the world. At over fourteen thousand feet, Lake Chungara was formed eight thousand years ago when a section of the Parinacota Volcano collapsed producing an avalanche and forming the lake, which so many backpackers in Chile visit today. Part of the Lauca National Park, backpackers can visit the lake and experience the stunning scenery in the shadow of the Parinacota Volcano which is still active but hasn’t erupted in 600 years!
If you’re the type that enjoys learning and going to museums, you need to not miss San Pedro De Atacama and its Archeological Museum. Complete with mummies, ancient Incan architecture, geysers and hot springs, the museum offers a varying selection of tours in many different languages to suit all visitors. One particular highlight are the hot springs of Termas De Puritama, located in a small canyon surrounded by incredible natural beauty. Based in the northern regions of Chile, backpackers can travel to San Pedro De Atacama by bus as there are routes from all over Chile.
What’s the Budget?
When visiting Chile, expect to pay around $90 a day per person when staying in Santiago. Both Chile and Argentina are more expensive than other countries in Latin America so you’ll need to be creative when trying to save money. One tip that many travellers share is making lunch your main meal. Many cafes, restaurants and bars will offer reduced rates and deals for lunches so by having a large lunch and then snacking for dinner you’re likely to save a little more money, the only trick is trying not to spend the money you’ve saved on souvenirs or alcohol!
When visiting Chile, try and plan your whole time there in advance. This will save you a lot of money and hassle trying to book transport and accommodation when you’re there. Chile is one of the most expensive countries in Latin America so if possible; backpackers should look into taking overnight buses to save on a night’s accommodation and shop in local food stores when buying your food.