Guide to Chile
A Land of Ice & Fire...
Torres del Paine
Chile has to be one of the most unusual countries in the world. Stretching all the way from the arid deserts and volcanoes of Atacama in the north, right down to the icy landscapes of Patagonia in the far south, this long thin country is truly a land of contrasts.
And it's not just the landscapes that vary tremendously. In Chile you'll find everything from chic European-style cities like the capital, Santiago de Chile and trendy Viña del Mar to vibrant indigenous traditions on the island of Chiloe, and even the enigmatic Easter Island, way out in the Pacific Ocean.
You can also enjoy sampling some of South America's best wine in the Central Valley area, or get out there and do some trekking in the stunning Torres del Paine National Park. Whatever your tastes - there's something here in Chile for you.
Take a look at all our Chile Holidays
Choose a Theme
Our pick of the top places to visit on your holiday in Chile.
Our guide to Chile's amazing wildlife and stunning scenery.
Explore a country rich in culture and tradition
Just between us... Our top tips for getting off the beaten track.
Some of our Holidays in Chile
Culture & History in Chile
Chile's rugged terrain means it has always been sparsely settled, and its history is often one of struggle against the sheer difficulty of the country's natural environment. That said, waves of settlers have tested themselves here from the indigenous Mapuche, to the Incas, the Spanish and more recent arrivals such as Germans and even a sizeable British contingent...
Tantalising traces of Chile's indigenous history remain, such as the stilt-built houses of Chiloe and the prehistoric forts and irrigation systems of the Atacama Desert, while the Spanish have left fine colonial buildings in cities like Santiago as well as planting Chile's first vineyards. But for the most intriguing historical site of all, you'll need to fly west across the Pacific to the Chilean territory of Easter Island, where the huge stone statues known as Moai stand as mute witnesses to one of humanity's enduring mysteries.
Among other European countries, the British and Irish had a defining role in Chile's early history, and you'll find many streets, towns and buildings with surprisingly familiar names, such as Admiral Guillermo Brown and the luminary Bernardo O'Higgins. The British were often particularly involved with trade and maritime activity, as you can see from sights such as the British Arch in the historic port of Valparaiso.
More recently still, a different struggle characterised much of the late 20th century as conservative and progressive strands within Chile wrestled for control. As often happens these struggles have been accompanied by a rich cultural outpouring, from the poetry of Pablo Neruda to the neo-expressionist art and sculpture of the Promocion 80 group.
The Natural World in Chile
Chile's natural environment is one of the most stupendously varied in the world, from the arid altitude of the Atacama Desert to the icy splendour of the Patagonian fjords.
In the north-east of Chile, the Atacama Desert is one of South America's undisputed natural wonders. This fractured lanscape of geysers, volcanoes and salt lakes often feels like another world - no wonder NASA decided to test their Mars rovers here! Highlights include the surreal Moon Valley and the impressive Tatio Geysers, as well as the weird and wonderful mineral lakes surrounded by flamingos.
Right at the other end of the country, the magnificent snow-capped peaks of the Torres del Paine National Park are arguably the highlight of Chilean Patagonia but a litle further north the lakes and mountains of the Chilean Lake District are a slightly gentler but no less impressive sight.
As well as the amazing scenery on offer, Patagonia also gives you the chance to see some fantastic wildlife such as the giant Andean condors and the flightless emu-like Rhea to the small deer known as Pudu Pudu and even the reclusive Puma...
Even within reach of Santiago, you can enjoy some great hiking and adventure sports in areas like the Rio Clarillo and El Arrayan National Parks, or head a little further afield to enjoy the beauty of Chilean wine country.
Medical Advice for Chile
Of all South America countries, Chile is possibly the easiest to visit in terms of which vaccinations and immunisations you will need. Essentially so long as your regular boosters are up-to-date then it's quite possible you won't need to book in for any new jabs for a holiday to Chile at all. Our detailed guide will spell it all out for you.
Guide to Tipping and Currency in Chile
Chile's economy is one of the most successful and stable in South America, and the Chilean Peso is widely available from bureaux de change here in the UK. Have a look at our guide to using money in Chile for lots more information on tipping, cash machines and everything else you'll need to make sure you're fully equipped for dealing with Chilean money matters.
Language Guide to Chile
Any tours or transfers you book with us for your holiday to Chile will be with English-speaking staff and English is reasonably widespread, especially in tourist areas, but a little Spanish goes a long way. Chilean Spanish is fairly standard in South American terms, which means there are only minor differences in vocabulary and pronunciation from European Spanish - see our language guide for some tips.
Climate and Weather in Chile
Unsurprisingly for such a 'long' country, Chile's climate varies tremendously from north to south, with other variations reflecting the wildly different altitudes from east to west. Have a look at our Chile weather guide for details.
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Self Drive Holidays in Chile
Did you know that Chile is one of the only South American countries which we think is suitable for self-drive holidays? In much of South America the signage is poor, road conditions very variable and your fellow road users somewhat... erratic. However in parts of Chile these conditions don't really apply and we think self-drive holidays are a fantastic option. Just ask us for more on some of the possibilities for self-drive holidays in Chile.
See a Sample Chile Self Drive Holiday