Bordered to the west by the Pacific Ocean and to the east by the Andes mountains, Chile is as long as it can possibly be – a thin strip of land with more than 3,700 miles of coastline stretching south all the way to the end of the Americas. From one extreme to the other, here are the top five things to do in Chile selected by our specialist consultants.
The purity of the Andean peaks
Let's start with the far north, near the Peruvian border, where it's high; very high. On the way down to the sea, ancient tribes left huge petroglyphs on the mountain slopes. At such high altitudes nature, on the other hand, gets smaller, with no trees, no shrubs, just strange lichens and brightly-coloured mosses – shocking yellow, fluorescent green, the white of snow and the blue of the sky.
The Atacama Desert
It may well be love at first sight when you arrive in the quiet, white village of San Pedro de Atacama, gateway to the Atacama Desert. If the surrounding area wasn't so beautiful, you'd likely never leave. Marvel at the Valley of the Moon, an other-worldly landscape with colours that explode when the sun shines ; steaming fumaroles (gaseous vents) as far as the eye can see, and gurgles that come from the belly of the Earth and spring up towards the sky, more than 15,500ft above sea level ; the peaks of volcanoes covered with snow, perfectly outlined; then return to the village, have a drink and shut your eyes to process everything you've seen while enjoying the last rays of the warm desert sun on your face.
The elevators of Valparaiso
This higgledy-piggledy city is colourful and fun, with cheek-by-jowl houses connected by alleyways you're guaranteed to get lost in. The city's urban elevators whisk visitors up the hills, and then back down to the port where big sea lions bask in the sunshine, sprawled out on the docks.
The peaks of the Torres del Paine
The south has more extreme landscapes. In the heart of Patagonia, explore the Torres del Paine National Park. Depending on your interests and inclinations, choose from: bucolic, athletic or extreme landscapes. And no matter what you choose, the nature will always be sublime. Between the steel grey mountains, bright green vegetation, multicoloured flowers, fresh streams and snowy peaks, you won't know where to focus your camera, so leave it at the bottom of your bag and instead let yourself be overwhelmed by this 360-degree beauty.
The Moai of Easter Island
Rapa Nui (Easter Island) is one of the most isolated places in the world - but it might as well be another universe... It's very small, barely 14 miles across at its widest point, and completely lost in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 2,300 miles from the Chilean mainland and 2,500 miles from French Polynesia to the west. Admire the great stone effigies, the Moai, with their empty eyes staring out to sea or to the sky. Why were they built? How were they moved? There are many theories, but one thing is for sure - they need to be seen to be believed.