"he who does not know the chilean forests, does not know the planet."
Chile is a country of extremes. Home to the driest place on earth, glaciers the size of small countries, towering mountain ranges and cosmopolitan cities. Gauchos sip maté alongside trendy urbanites, double-decker buses share never-ending asphalt roads with men on horseback and fire erupts from ice as ancient volcanoes refuse to go quietly into the night.
Its very geography can make traversing this huge country a challenge in itself but, take the time, take buses, take planes or even take a boat, and you will discover places and panoramas that will take your breath away.
SO YOU'RE THINKING OF GOING TO CHILE?
Getting around Chile can be difficult: do you go north to south, zig-zag across the border with Argentina, and what if you're arriving from Bolivia? The choices are endless and depend entirely upon the rest of your South American itinerary, the time you have to explore the country and how you plan on getting around.
However, there's still a few places that should definitely be on the list!
Arriving to Chile after your Salt Flats adventure? Your first stop will be San Pedro de Atacama, a tourist bubble in the middle of the driest place on earth. Hire a bicycle or join a tour and wait to be amazed whether its by the desert landscapes during the day or the star-gazing at night.
North-west of San Pedro you can discover beautiful beach towns, like Arica, although in winter these can be a little chilly.
Around nine hours north of Santiago, La Serena is a great place to break up an otherwise long bus journey. Entertain yourself for a few days with its many wildlife spotting opportunities, beautiful beaches and attractive colonial buildings. It's also just a short hop skip and a jump to the gorgeous Valle del Elqui, the home of Chilean Pisco, and some of the best star-gazing in the world.
Chile's capital, Santiago, may not be as beautiful as Buenos Aires or cosmopolitan as Lima but it has more than enough to keep you entertained for a couple of days. And when you're done there, take the bus two hours west and spend a while in our favourite town - Valparaiso. Home to art, culture and the best empanadas we've ever tried, you'll find it very difficult to leave!
Wanting to tick off the world-famous Torres del Paines National Park? You've got a long journey ahead of you, so why not break it up with a few days in Pucon, the home of adventure tourism. If you're taking the 33 hour bus to Punta Arenas from Puerto Montt, you'll thank us!
For those with a little more cash, a three-day cruise through the Patagonian Fjords is a great alternative to flying, and you may even see a whale or two before docking at Puerto Natales, the gateway to those iconic towers.
We've written a lot about Chile, why don't you check out some of our favourite posts:
We're constantly adding new posts about Chile, so If you're looking for something in particular, why not check here.