Discovering the Madcap Streets of Valparaíso: The ramshackle, colorful, and sinuous streets of Valparaíso offer a walking tour unlike any other. Antique Victorians and tin-walled buildings cling to steep hillsides, roads and walkways wind haphazardly around the slopes like a rabbit's warren, and rickety funiculars lift visitors to the tops of hills. Beyond the fun of exploring this city, a handful of the region's best restaurants and boutique hotels can be found here, too. Poetic, chaotic, and enigmatic, Valparaíso embodies the soul of its most famous denizen, Pablo Neruda, like no other.
Visiting the Valley of the Moon: The barren beauty of the Atacama desert presents a surreal odyssey that plays out the sci-fi fantasies of every youth. As the sun rises and falls upon this rarified, ethereal landscape of timeless volcanoes, serrated mountains, and striated mesas, some of nature's most foreboding glories are reinvented again and again as the palette shifts from beige and golden brown to improbable pinks, blues, and greens, and silhouettes recast the imagination to thoughts of lost civilizations..
From Ocean to the World's Highest Lake: Only 200km (124 miles) separate the Pacific Ocean from Lake Chungará, one of the world's highest bodies of water. Head up the lush Lluta Valley, dramatically hemmed in by desert walls featuring giant geoglyphs centuries old. Time crunches and space can be dizzying as you ascend high altitude terrain quickly. Take it slow, immersing yourself in the wondrous sights, from colonial churches to perfect snowcapped volcanoes and the world's highest trees along with teeming wildlife..
Stargazing in the Southern Hemisphere's Clearest Skies: Northern Chile's dry skies are some of the clearest in the world, which is why so many international research teams have flocked to this region to erect multimillion-dollar observatories. There are plenty of stargazing opportunities for the amateur, too. The area around La Serena has several observatories geared to casual visitors. A couple of hotels, including Elqui Domos in the Elqui Valley, have their own telescopes; or you can book a night tour with a degreed guide who can point out Southern Hemisphere constellations and other celestial wonders. The stunning Elqui Valley also offers a handful of wonderful accommodations choices geared to travelers looking to immerse themselves in outdoor pursuits and achieve holistic equanimity.
Sailing the Quiet Fjords of Southern Chile: Quietly sailing through the lush beauty of Chile's southern fjords is an accessible experience that all can afford. Budget travelers get a kick out of Navimag's 3-day sail between Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales, mid-range travelers enjoy Skorpios's programmed journeys to hot springs and the Chiloé coast, and the luxury market loves the freedom of a chartered yacht. These pristine, remote fjords rival the drama and beauty of Norway's fjords, and often the camaraderie that grows between passengers, in the end, is what makes for such a fulfilling trip.
Traveling to the End of the World: It's a tough, crunchy drive along 1,000km (620 miles) of gravel road, but that is precisely why Chile's "Southern Highway" has kept the crowds at bay. This natural wonderland, saturated in green and hemmed in by jagged, snowcapped peaks, offers a journey for those seeking to travel through some of Chile's most remote and stunning territory. It can be done in a variety of directions and segments, but you'll need a rental car unless you have a lot of time. There are plenty of great stops along the way, including rainforest walks, the idyllic mountain valley of Futaleufú, the wet primeval forests of Pumalín and Parque Queulat, Puyuhuapi and its thermal spas, and the untouched wilds around Lake General Carrera. Top it off with Mt. Fitz Roy and Torres del Paine near the southern tip of the continent, crossing through Argentina.
Glimpsing the Cuernos and Torres del Paine: It's the iconic image of Patagonia, one of the most stunning horizons on the planet. Many make the arduous journey to the end of the world without ever actually seeing the majestic horns and towers that make up the Paine Massif. Those who are fortunate enough to be awarded with even a quick glance through the stormy clouds will never, ever forget the sight.
Exploring Easter Island: The poster child of Chile, Easter Island or "Rapa Nui," is famous for its ethereal moai sculptures that defy hyperbole, regardless of how many tourist brochure images of them you've seen. Traveling to the world's most remote island -- it's located farthest away from land than any other island -- will make for an unforgettable odyssey. The entire island is a veritable living museum; it boasts two gorgeous beaches, phenomenal scuba diving in indigo blue water, wild horses, and a rich Polynesian culture that has survived against all odds.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.