If it’s the South American republic you seek, Nick Trend can help
1. Santiago city stay
With grand 19th-century buildings, elegant parks and a strong cultural scene, Chile’s capital Santiago has some of South America’s best museums, restaurants and boutique hotels. Highlights include the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino for exhibits dating back more than 7,000 years and the Mercado Central with its busy fish market. Wander through Plaza de Armas in the city centre and take a funicular to Cerro San Cristóbal for views over the city and snowcapped mountains beyond.
Flights from London to Santiago from £597 return. British Airways (). Rooms from $105 (£93) per night at Lastarria Boutique Hotel (lastarriahotel.com).
2. Rafting in the Andes
Fed by glacial snow melt, the Futaleufú river in northern Patagonia offers some of the world’s most exciting whitewater descents. Andean Trails takes thrill-seeking groups to the Futaleufú River Camp, a base for mountain biking, fishing, yoga and horse riding plus white water rafting in “cataracts” which are designed to cope with the river’s strong currents and turbulent rapids. No previous experience is necessary but participants must be able to swim and be confident in water.
Raft the Futaleufú River, Chile from £3,167 for eight nights, including transfers and most meals. Excludes flights. Andean Trails ().
3. Total eclipse in Conguillio
The earth’s next total solar eclipse will take place in Chile on Dec 14 2020. As part of a longer tailor-made tour, South American specialist Pura Aventura has arranged four nights in the Conguillio National Park, deep in the Andes mountains of the country’s remote Araucanía region to coincide with the event. Hiking, biking and kayaking in the park are among the outdoor activities that can be built into this flexible itinerary.
Chile Eclipse Explorer from £4,985 for 11 nights including transfers. Excludes flights. Departs Dec 7 2020. Pura Aventura ().
4. Torres Trail riding
The spring and summer months, from December to March, are the best time for settled weather in the Torres del Paine National Park – and this is when riding specialist In The Saddle offers challenging trail rides to groups of experienced riders through the remote glacial landscapes of the region. This base-to-base itinerary includes four-to-eight hours of riding per day on Chilean Criollo horses, staying in simple hotels and ranches chosen for their spectacular locations.
Chile – Estancias Ride from £4,902 for nine nights including transfers and all meals. Excludes flights. Available December to March. In the Saddle ().
5. Easter Island
Isla de Pascua (Easter Island) in the South Pacific is best known for its Moai, hundreds of huge human figures carved from granite, some dating from the 13th century. Covering just over 63 sq mi (163 sq km) and located 2,290 miles (3,685km) from Chile’s mainland (a five-hour flight from Santiago), this is the most remote inhabited island on earth. Its laid-back west coast capital Hanga Roa is the main base for tourists, who usually stay for three or four nights as part of a longer itinerary.
Chile – Lakes, Desert and Easter Island from £3,940 for 14 nights B&B, including flights and transfers. Rainbow Tours ().
6. Long thin Chile
Chile measures more than 2,600 miles (4,184km) from end to end, so any highlights tour takes careful planning. A small-group itinerary with Exodus Travels covers a great deal of ground in less than two weeks. Travelling from the capital, Santiago, the trip combines the northern salt flats and lagoons of Atacama with Chile’s southernmost town of Puntas Arenas. In a guided group of up to 16 people, the price includes four internal flights.
Discover Chile from £4,399 for 12 nights B&B, including flights and transfers. Available October to March. Exodus ().
7. Trekking in the Torres
The W Trek (named after its shape on a map), in Torres del Paine National Park, stretches 50 miles (80km) from Refugio Grey to Campamento Torres and includes the challenging Valle del Francés trail. Select Latin America can provide local English-speaking guides and mountain refuge accommodation for this classic five-day hike in southern Patagonia which also takes in the shores of Lake Pehoé, prehistoric caves and spectacular views of the three vast granite outcrops of Cuernos del Paine.
W Trek from £1,453 for four nights including all meals. Excludes flights and transfers. Select Latin America ().
8. Wine-tasting in the valleys
Sixteenth-century Spanish conquistadors introduced wine production to Chile but the number of wineries has escalated in the past two decades. Best known for its cabernet sauvignons and merlots, many of the country’s top vineyards lie within two hours’ drive of Santiago. Tailor-made specialist Geodyssey has a tour of top wineries in the Maipo and Colchagua valleys combined with a stay in the city of Valparaiso, a Unesco heritage site on the Pacific coast and formerly home to 20th-century Nobel literature prize winner Pablo Neruda.
Wine Route of Chile from £2,350 for five nights half-board including transfers. Excludes flights. Geodyssey ().
9. Pumas in Patagonia
The endangered Patagonian puma, with its tawny coat and unusually long tail, is notoriously elusive. There are only around 50 of these big cats left in southern Chile but an itinerary offered by wildlife specialist Naturetrek includes three days of tracking in the company of an expert guide. As well as time in the remote mountains, the tour includes a boat cruise from Punta Arenas to Magdalena Island to view its vast colony of Magellanic penguins.
Chile’s Pumas & Penguins from £5,895 for 10 nights including flights, transfers and all meals. Departs Feb 4 and March 14 2020. Naturetrek ().
10. Remote road trip
For independent travellers, Journey Latin America offers a tailor-made self-drive tour of Chile’s more remote regions. The suggested itinerary includes Chiloé Island with its stilted fishermen’s houses, the food markets of Castro and the larch rainforest of Alerce Andino National Park. It also involves driving the scenic Carretera Austral highway, stopping at the marble caves of Puerto Río Tranquilo, to Puerto Guadal on the shores of Lake General Carrera.
Self-drive Chile: Off the Beaten Track costs from £3,723 for 13 nights including some meals. Flights and transfers cost extra. Journey Latin America ().