Chile is home to a staggering array of formidable landscapes, each beautiful in its own way and offering a broad spectrum of otherworldly attractions and adrenaline-infused activities that will live long in the memory.
Whatever your passions or desires, Chile has it all: glistening salt flats; gorgeous wine country framed by an Andean backdrop; wild whitewater rapids; sea kayaking; country lanes perfect for biking; trekking and skiing in the stunning Andean peaks; surreal cityscapes in poetic Valparaíso; and more. Of course, there are also plenty of relaxing destinations for travelers who just want to kick back with a good book on a chaise lounge or spend their afternoons taking long walks along the beach. Fly-fishermen seeking to spend their days reeling in trout might plan their entire journey to Chile around this sport. Multisport resorts with their own guides have been popping up around Chile, providing guests with a home base and a roster of activities as varied as hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. These resorts can be found in outdoors meccas such as Patagonia and San Pedro de Atacama, and are usually quite pricey. Your other option is to book a hotel and arrange day activities with local operators, or have a tour company put the whole thing together for you.
Whatever the amount of time you plan to spend in Chile, remember that this is one heck of a long country, and you'll lose half a day traveling from one destination to another, and in the case of Patagonia you'll lose a full day traveling from Santiago. Flying is simply the most logical, although expensive, way to get around the country; with three domestic airlines, there are plenty of daily flights to all major cities. Many travelers spend little or no time in Santiago, while others use it as a base for exploring the lush vineyards, coastal resorts, and national parks of the Central Region. I recommend you spend at least 1 night in Santiago to visit the handful of historical attractions, which can be easily seen in 1 or 2 days, and develop an understanding of the psychology of a country with a compelling history.
Driving is the ideal way to experience the wine country or the coast, since it allows you the freedom and flexibility that the region's sensorial pleasures implore. The Lake District also provides plenty of photo-worthy sightseeing drives. DIY travelers who are not planning to take long hikes can also rent a vehicle in Punta Arenas and explore southern Patagonia on their own. You'll never need a vehicle in Santiago.
These itineraries are blueprints for memorable vacations that can be adhered to explicitly, modified according to your desires and likes, or even expanded if you're lucky enough to have an extended vacation.
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.