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Take a journey to the ends of the earth

The long, narrow country snaking its way down the boot of South America is staggeringly diverse. Explore lava-spewing volcanoes, sun-drenched beaches, the world’s driest desert, great glaciers and fjords, ancient forests, fertile valleys and more. There are great swathes of wilderness left untouched waiting to be discovered alongside cool coastal cities like Valparaiso and Vina del Mar that are awash with art and culture. 'Those who hurry waste their time,' goes a Patagonian saying, and you’ll be tempted to linger over rounds of mate tea or a few pisco sours and feel ‘la buena onda’ or good vibes.

Start your adventure in the capital Santiago; the leafy, worldly city is home to 40% of the country’s population. Stroll around the Centro district to take in museums, grand architecture and pedestrian malls before hitting up the beer halls and nightlife around Barrios Brasil, Lastarria and Bellavista. From here you can easily explore the country’s fertile wine regions including the Casablanca Valley, home to the biodynamic wines of the Emiliana Vineyards.

Learn to surf amid the calm, barrelling waves of Pichilemu, while more seasoned surfers will head to nearby Infiernillo or Punta de Lobos where the waves are up to 50 feet high. For a challenging, icy hike take on the active volcano of Volcan Villarrica or trek across the lunar landscape of Valle de la Luna at the heart of the Atacama Desert which is all giant dunes, craggy mountains and unique rock formations. Go stargazing at the Mamalluca Observatory high in the Coquimbo Mountains far away from any light pollution, or take to the skies yourself and go paragliding at the popular beachfront city of Iquique. Discover the remote Robinson Crusoe Island or the untouched beauty of Lauca National Park in the Andes. Amid its snow-capped volcanoes and cobalt blue lakes, you’ll find an astonishing variety of wildlife including alpacas, flamingos and some 130 bird species. These are just a handful of the many reasons to book your flights to Chile.

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Make the most of your Chile holiday

Torres del Paine National Park is one of the country’s biggest draws, thanks to its crystal lakes, jagged peaks and icy glaciers. Trek through the dense forest of the Valley Frances, kayak on the pristine blue waters of the Rio Serrano and take an ice hike along the Grey Glacier.

What are the best things to do in Chile?

  1. Set in the General Carrera Lake lies one of Chile’s most astounding natural wonders. The Marble Caves swirl in shades of blues, greens, blacks and yellows, and were carved from sheer marble by natural erosion over millions of years. Contrasting against the pure turquoise waters of the lake it’s an impressive sight to behold. Join a boat tour or hire a kayak to get up close to this natural marvel.
  2. Visit Isla Magdalena to meet its beloved residents – the 120,000 strong colony of Magellanic penguins. The birds flock to this tiny island for their breeding season between September and March. A designated walkway loops you around their natural habitat getting you close enough to snap some pictures without disturbing them.
  3. Explore the Southern Hemisphere’s largest geyser field. Located more than 14,000 feet above sea level close to several stratovolcanoes, El Tatio is home to some 60 geysers and 300 hot springs. Most spout three or four feet in the air though some can reach 30 feet. Some springs have optimal temperatures, so you can take a relaxing soak after a day spent trekking through the volcanic fields.
  4. The San Rafael Glacier is one of the largest ice caps in Northern Patagonia. Unusually, it’s surrounded by lush green rainforest, which makes for a striking contrast with the blue and white ice. Scientists predict that the glacier will disappear in just a few years’ time, so go now while you still have the chance.
  5. See the 70 Churches of Chiloe. Many of these buildings, located on the Chiloe Archipelago, were built from timber by Spanish Jesuits in the 18th and 19th centuries, making them distinct from traditional European churches. Make sure to visit the largest, the Church of Quinchao, along with the bright yellow Church of San Francisco and the 3-peaked Church of Tenaun.

Where are the best places to visit in Chile?

Known by the Polynesian inhabitants as Rapa Nui, Easter Island offers more than just the intriguing and impressive Moai stone statues – it’s bursting with green countryside, sandy shores and plenty of outdoor activities. Firstly, make the most of the UNESCO World Heritage Site by visiting as many of the Moai as you can. Bikes are a great way to get around the island but pack good walking shoes too as many sights are close together. If there were ever a place for Instagram, Ahu Tongariki is it. Set up the tripod (or selfie stick) and get in the frame with the neat but imposing line of 15 statues and their serene backdrop of bright blue sea. Look out for the carved stone turtle petroglyphs too. For some downtime, swing by Anakena beach to take in the beautiful white sand and see the seven statues of Ahu Nau Nau with their top knots. If the weather turns cloudy, head into the Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum in Hanga Roa to learn more about the history of the island and its inhabitants. Afterwards, take the pleasant 30-minute stroll through the town to grab the best traditional arts and crafts at the Mercado Artesanal. After all that sightseeing, you’ll have worked up an appetite. Try Te Moana, a Polynesian restaurant with sea views and typical furnishings – it serves the best ceviche on the island.

A short drive from Santiago, the Maipo Valley is home to the country’s oldest and largest wineries, such as Vina Concho y Toro in Pirque. You can get there by public transport – ideal if you plan to sample the produce. However, hiring a car (with a designated driver) is a good way to reach the somewhat spread-out smaller wineries in the Colchagua and Millahue valleys. Fans of Sauvignon Blanc shouldn’t miss the Casablanca region.

Lake District From snow-dusted volcanoes to dense green forests, crystalline lakes to fertile farmland, Chile’s Lake District serves up a feast of thrills and breathtaking sights. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled into a lakeside town in Germany in picturesque Puerto Varas. You’d be partially right too, as the town was built by German settlers. In summer, enjoy water sports in the glacial lakes or head to the peaks to ski. Bed down for the night at Cabana del Lago hotel and book an hour in the hot tub overlooking beautiful Lake Llanquihue. Sample the German-Chilean fusion menu at Cafe Dane’s, including giant meat empanadas and apple strudel.

Castro, on Chiloe Island, is another great spot in the region. You can’t miss its glorious brightly painted houses standing on stilts on the waterfront or Chiloe National Park with its coastal dunes, lush forests and colony of sea lions. Situated at the foot of a volcano, next to a lake and close to two national parks, Villarrica might just be the most perfect spot in the Lake District. Activity junkies will be in their element here, with everything from skiing and hiking to water sports. If you’re more in the mood for rest and relaxation with just a hint of mystery and magic, take a trip to the Termas Geometricas. These Japanese-inspired natural hot springs offer a tranquil maze of red wooden walkways rising from the steam surrounded by lush green forest.

The driest place on earth (apart from the poles), the Atacama Desert is wedged between the expansive Pacific Ocean and the majestic Andes. Base yourself in San Pedro to have access to most sights while allowing yourself a little luxury. Nearby you’ll find salt flats and mountains, Moon Valley with its lunar landscape, and the Tatio Geysers. Don’t miss the infamous Death Valley and be sure to try your hand at sand surfing before waiting for night to fall and the sky to light up – with 300 nights of clear skies a year, the Atacama is one of the best stargazing destinations in the world.

The Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia has it all: giant glaciers, lagoons, waterfalls, forests, and soaring peaks including the three famous granite towers that give their name to the park. In this UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve indigenous species abound such as the llama-like guanaco and the Chilean huemul, an endangered deer. There are several popular routes that will take you through a range of diverse landscapes. When it starts to get chilly or rainy, pop by Restaurante Hosteria Rio Serrano for the best pisco cocktail and stunning views.

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Laguna del Diamante, at the foot of the Maipo volcano, on the border of Argentina and Chile in the high mountains of the Andes, at 3,300 meters above sea level. Mendoza, Argentina.

Make like the localsand take a five-day tripto exciting Cajón de Maipo.