Chile on Top!
If Brazil owned South American travel last year, Chile takes over for 2017. Slowly, methodically, the continent’s most overlooked wonderland has become arguably its most desirable adventure tourism destination – precisely the gong it picked up at last year’s World Travel Awards.
And why? Because it’s a whopping 2,650 miles long, yet never more than 150 miles wide – and is packed with ecosystems, biodiversity, topographies. It has 36 national parks, some of the most extreme environments on Earth, from deserts to fjords to subpolar islands, and the roads and footpaths and necessary infrastructure to make these accessible.
The major novelty for 2017 is a new British Airways flight from Heathrow, non-stop, four times a week. It takes 14 hours and 40 minutes to get there, but it still speeds up and smoothes the journey to Santiago.
The capital is awash with new boutique hotels – Luciano K and Magnolia are the latest – and fine dining, including four restaurants in the influential San Pellegrino Top 50 ranking for 2016. Fourth-placed Boragó was well above any in Buenos Aires.
Chile’s wine tourism scene is the most developed south of Napa, with the Maule Valley opening up to visitors with a smart new five-room boutique hotel at Casa Bouchon.
Urban pleasures sorted, it’s time to head for extremes: the Atacama Desert in the north, where there are new hot-air balloon flights over the salt lakes; and Patagonia, where escapists can set off on a slow drive along Aysén’s lonely Southern Highway and stay at Parque Patagonia, Chile’s newest, and least overcrowded, protected area.
Manuel Barros is a Traveler/Renter and a great contributor of publications on experiences and destinations.