5 Bragworthy Experiences That Are Entirely Unique To Chile
Whet your appetite for adventure.
Not many countries can lay claim to having as diverse a landscape as you’ll find in Chile. From the driest non-polar place on earth to one of the largest ice fields in the world, Chile is vast and varied in both its beauty and its experiences. If you love the outdoors and are in search of something to whet your adventurous appetite, then you’ll definitely want to consider Chile as an upcoming destination. Here are five brag-worthy adventure activities that are entirely unique to this long, thin South American country.
#1 Sandboarding in the Atacama Desert
With a landscape that has been sculpted by thousands of years of volcanic activity, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking you were on Mars when you visit the Atacama Desert. Also known as the driest non-polar on earth, it’s where astronomy boffins have built the largest and most amazing telescopes in the world to peer up at our cosmic neighbourhood.
Being in one of the driest places on earth means that there are miles of sand dunes available to carve out a few turns on refurbished snowboards. Far removed from the luxuries of boarding on the white fluffy stuff, you need to hike up the dunes yourself and despite the sand being soft, it’s quite a task to prevent the nose of the board from ploughing into the sand and turning you into a non-stop human cartwheel. That said, it’s still one of the most memorable things you can do in Chile.
At the end of the day, head to the Valley of the Moon for sunset for the most incredible sunset, as your guide concocts a few chilled pisco sours for the group.
#2 Trekking in Torres del Paine
Located in the southern tip of Patagonia, the Torres del Paine national park is a certified mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. Famous for its towering granite peaks, this entire landscape has been carved out by the bumping and grinding of glacial ice over thousands of years.
The most famous of hikes in this area is the W-Trek which covers a distance of 55 km that can be walked in four or five days. It’s not the most difficult of treks as the terrain is mostly flat with the exception of a few segments. The trails are clearly marked and cabins or tents can be also be pre-arranged so that you don’t have to lug around 20 kilograms of gear and food.
There’s never a dull moment during the trek, with the greatest challenge coming in the form of weather conditions that can throw rain, snow and gale force winds at you during various sections of the hike. But the beauty of this place will blow your mind over and over again at each and every turn.
If you really want to test your mettle, then The Circuit could be for you. It’s an additional four days of trekking around the backside of the peak that’s not marked as clearly. This one is for experienced hikers only.
#3 Sailing on a cargo ship through southern Patagonia
Southern Chile is one of the most isolated places in the world, where remote towns are dotted along the fjords that line the western coastline, accessible only by ship. The Navimag is a cargo ship that sails throughout the Chilean fjords between Puerto Natales and Puerto Montt, dropping off supplies along the way on its four day journey. A berth can be hired to experience the trip along with a limited number of passengers and crew.
It’s not your standard luxury cruise – passengers share the boat with lorries, truck drivers and a few hundred head of livestock, but the opportunity to see plenty of glaciers, remote towns, dolphins and the odd whale makes this trip more than worthwhile.
#4 Hiking an active volcano (and then sliding down it)
Not many of us can say that we’ve hiked up an active volcano. Villarrica is one of the most active volcanoes in Chile. Situated 32 kilometres from the popular lakes district town of Pucon, the volcano sometimes has a visible lava lake in the crater.
A popular ski field in the winter, hikers can opt to catch a chair lift to bypass the most difficult section or choose to test themselves with a 1000 metre plus ascent in high altitude. Upon arriving at the peak, you can take in the expansive views over Lake Villarrica and Pucon while catching your breath. The best part of the day however, is the journey down. It may seem crazy but the most efficient and fun way of getting down is by sliding down on your backside which takes only a few minutes to complete.
Remember – the weather is erratic and active volcanos do erupt so check local news reports and be prepared to spend several days in Pucon waiting for ideal conditions.
#5 Easter Island
An enigma wrapped in a mystery, Easter Island is one of the most isolated areas in the world. It is famous for its giant heads carved out of volcanic rock called Maoi. It’s unknown as to why over 800 of them are scattered around the tiny island and very little is understood about the society that once inhabited the area – or why they disappeared.
The best way to experience Easter Island and its mysterious glory is the eco friendly way: either on bikes or horseback over a few days. Many wouldn’t know it but Easter Island is also a hot spot for snorkelling, diving and surfing. Eager photographers should head to the Ahu Tongariki at dawn where 15 imposing Moai are lined up facing directly westwards as the sun rises directly over them.
If you don’t mind heights then head to Rano Kau, the 324 metre tall extinct volcano where you can hike to the rim and peer into the crater lake.
(Lead image: Jimmy Dau)