Chile Travel Guide
🗝️ Key Facts
🏛️Capital: Santiago de Chile
💶Currency: Peso Chileno (CLP)
🕙Time Zone: -4 to -6 GMT
📞Phone Code: +56
🌐Language: Spanish (Chilean dialect)
✈️Best time to visit: Oct-Dec / Feb-Jun
🍴Eat: Bife a lo pobre (Beef, fries and eggs)
🍷Drink: Cola de Mono
🗺️Don't miss: The Andes views from Santiago / Puerto Varas and Osorno Volcano.
🗺 Menu of Contents:
Chile is known by its elongated shape in the South American continent, stretching 4,300 km along the Pacific Coast. In comparison it is only 350 km wide. This unique shape gives Chile a varied climate and terrain, and contributes to the incredible natural diversity that makes the country so attractive to tourists.
From the hot and dry Atacama Desert in the north all the way to the cold and windy Tierra del Fuego on the doorstep of Antarctica at the southern tip of the continent, Chile offers to the visitor scenery which includes dense jungles, towering mountain peaks from "Los Andes", glaciers, inactive volcanoes, winelands, fjords and pristine beaches.
To complement this natural beauty it also boasts cosmopolitan cities, fascinating traditional cultural enclaves, and a well developed infrastructure which sets it apart from much of South America for ease of travel. Vibrant cities like Santiago and Vina del Mar offer stately mansions and historical monuments, world-famous street art, buzzing nightlife and interesting museums. Other areas, like Isla Grande de Chiloe and San Pedro de Atacama offer older, more traditional Chilean culture.
The most adventurous (and wealthy) explorers can fly out to Easter Island, to see the famous and enigmatic statues that have puzzled archaeologists for centuries, or head into the vast nature reserves of the Chilean Patagonia to experience one of the most remote and pristine wildernesses left on earth.
A holiday in Chile promises excitement and enjoyment for all types of visitors and an unforgettable adventure.
Because Chile is one of the most varied countries on the planet with it's changing scenery from North to South which spreads at 4.300 km, travelling around the country is always going to imply some air transportation, for foreign visitors. However long rides by bus are also possible, travelling over 12 hours from city to city, often overnight.
Travelling to Chile from Europe or America is easy when flying with legacy carries which offer direct routes from cities like Madrid, Paris, Frankfurt, Rome, New York, Miami, Los Angeles or San Francisco. Flight times are long, due to the location of the country and flying to Santiago de Chile, the capital, you can expect a flight time of at least 10 hours.
The national airline is LATAM, which was former LAN Chile, before its merger with Brazilian airline, TAM. It has a strong presence in South America where it offers great connections across the whole continent, North America and even on to Europe. Other airlines which have frequent flights to the capital are Iberia, Air France, KLM or American Airlines.
With the revolution of the low cost airlines now also in South America, low cost airlines like Sky or Jetsmart are also amongst cheap options when travelling to/from Chile with domestic fares being the most competitive.
In Chile there is not much of a train network, but most locals opt to travel up/down the country by busses. The busses are suitable for long journeys, providing semi-flat or full-flat seats with complimentary food/drink on some routes and WIFI access on most services. To check timetables and fares check this official website which includes all the major bus companies in Chile, Viajaenbus.cl
Chile’s weather is extremely diverse and unpredictable although it is seasonal in much of the country. Summer runs from December to February, and winter from June to August.
It's difficult to pinpoint temperature ranges for the country as a whole, as they’re so variable. There’s the dry, arid Atacama desert in the north where temperatures reach a maximum of 35°C and can drop to -2°C. Chile’s central region has a Mediterranean feel with a cold, wet season from May to August, but it gets quite hot and humid during December to February. In comparison, it's usually always cool and damp in the south with temperatures rarely topping 15C.
If you are visiting Easter Island, it has its own humid subtropical temperatures, while much of the south, has a very high annual rainfall. Arica, Iquique, Antofagasta, La Serena and Coquimbo are the principal summer beach hubs in the north for local tourists, while Pucón in the south sees high tourism numbers from January to March. Due to its proximity to Santiago, Viña del Mar and Valparaíso beach areas see plenty of sunshine and beach bums during the summer, often lling up with neighbouring Argentinians.
As Chile is in the southern hemisphere, the ski season takes place between June and August. In terms of visiting Patagonia and south, the summer months from December to March are ideal as it is warmer for trekking and other outdoor activities. November and April are quieter times in terms of tourism but the weather is less dependable.
It isn’t advisable to visit the south from the end of autumn to the end of winter, May to September, as many trails close due to bad weather and strong winds and waterways ice over. However, places in the north, such as the Atacama, can be visited all year round.
For more information about the specific weather climates of each city in this travel guide, refer to the individual Tourism Information Guides below.
Adding the good climate of Chile, it's food is blessed with an abundance of natural produce. Its cuisine is likewise fresh and hearty, less spicy than most of Latin America, and with a mix of Spanish, French and German inuences. Outside of Santiago, where international cuisine abounds, options are limited for vegetarians. Seafood, red meat (including excellent lamb), and chicken dominate the menu. For carnivores, a leisurely asado (barbeque) or curanto (shellfish stew) is an opportunity to participate in a cherished Chilean tradition. With its long coastline, seafood is plentiful in Chile. The fish market at Angelmó, near Puerto Montt is renowned for its exotic produce; try congrio (conger eel), centolla (king crab) and, if you’re feeling adventurous, picorocos (barnacles) and erizos (sea urchin), which taste much better than they look.
Specialities found in Chile are: Empanadas, a pasty stuffed with a combination of meat, chicken or fish, with vegetables, eggs, raisins or cheese. Seafood, Including clams, sole, sea bass and oysters. Curanto, a seafood stew from the island of Chiloe. Cazuela de ave, soup with rice, vegetables, chicken and herbs. Bife a lo pobre, steak with fries, onions and eggs, cooked in a basic and traditional way. (pobre, meaning poor). Parrillada, a selection of meat cuts grilled over hot coals, often including delicacies such as intestines, udders and black pudding. Pastel de choclo, a typical, hearty Chilean casserole dish made of ground corn, usually with chicken and basil. Pebre, a simple salsa often served with bread as a starter.
As for drinks, Chile is renowned for its wines: Chilean wine is very good, especially the Carmenère, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec varieties. Other drinks include: Pisco, a powerful brandy distilled from grapes after wine pressing and used to make pisco sours, a potent lemon-based cocktail that Peru also claims as its own. Chicha, a traditional maize beer, which can also be made from grapes, apples or other fruits. Beer: Local brews include Cristal, Kross, Kunstmann, and Escudo. Cola de mono, meaning 'monkey's tail' this is a coffee and chocolate-based liqueur, similar to eggnog, that's very popular at Christmas.
Despite Chile being one of the most beautiful countries in South America, it has not been on the guides untill now (2019) as I had the opportunity to travel again to it. First time I was in Chile was 2010, in which after an unfortunate situation of having had my camera stolen in Valparaiso, there were no pictures to publish. With the second visit, everything worked out perfectly and Chile gave me the real positive side and felt so good to be back again, to rediscover and visit many new places.
My first contact with Chile, its capital, a multicultural city, now with many ethnics from the continent and even from Haiti, makes the vibe very interesting. It's a very big metropolis which city centre is easy to walk without the need to take any public transport. Specially getting to the Cerro San Cristobal is a joy to explore and ride the funicular and the cable cars and admire the views! However, it's a city with heavy contamination, with many people smoking and factories nearby the city polluting the skies to create a smog cloud that impedes a completely clear view of the Andes behind. But one should not be disappointed with the capital, as only 90 minutes away you can visit the cities of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, which give a much needed respite compared to the busy capital.
However, the true beauty of Chile resides on its coastal cities, towns by the lakes and the impressive Andes which dominates the scenery from north to south. My travels took me to Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt, where to admire the vast natural scenery and nearby colossal Osorno Volcano. But specially Pto. Varas. is the jewel of the places to see and stay. It's small enough for a peaceful getaway, yet there are many tours, other towns nearby which to see and marble at the views along the lake! It's this part of the holiday, which was the highlight of my trip. I hope to continue discovering more of the South of Chile in the years to come and publish here all the great spots to visit!
(2 times visited)