Chile Tops the Travel Charts

By Paige, Nicaragua, May 2011

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Though 2011 is still young, it’s already been an excellent year for Chile’s rapidly expanding travel industry. This is awards season in tourism, and Chile has scored top spots on two of the world’s most influential travel lists.

The capital city of Santiago was ranked number one by The New York Times Travel section in their annual “Top 41 places to Go” list. Despite last year’s devastating 8.8 magnitude earthquake, the rapidly recovering city still offers easy access to unparalleled cultural and natural attractions.

Santiago “has in recent years added modern museums, smartly designed hotels and sophisticated restaurants,” writes Chile expert Paola Singer, in her description of the sophisticated southern city. “[It] has become decidedly more vibrant.” Try to drop by during one of the city’s regular festivals, or fly in for the first Lollapalooza to ever take place outside the USA.

The world’s largest travel publisher, Lonely Planet, is also hot for Chile. Their respected list of Top Ten Regions 2011 names stunning Patagonia as one of the world’s most desirable destinations. The gateway to the Antarctica has spectacular appeal: Pristine lakes, sculpted bays, and vast granite-toothed mountain ranges that teem with nesting penguins and calving glaciers, “a spectacular region full of natural wonders, which attracts adventurous travelers and people in search of solitude.”

The region, while well known, has only recently opened up to travelers of average means. In the late 1980s, Navimag Ferry began transporting tourists to Patagonia, while the Carretera Austral opened the southernmost ends of the earth to vehicle access only in 2003. Ever since, the Chilean Patagonia’s serene, severe scenery has inspired hundreds of thousands of tourists, most of them headed for the region’s crown jewel, Torres del Paine National Park.

Of course, there’s much more to see and do in this diverse sliver of South America.  From the ethereal landscape of the Atacama Desert to the relaxed beachfront resort town of Viña del Mar, there is no end to Chile’s unlisted appeal. And, of course, there’s one Chilean destination that consistently tops all sorts of lists: mysterious, statue-fringed isle of Rapa Nui, or Easter Island. Visit to see the one of the Top Ten Most Remote Places in the World and Places of Mystery, as ranked by the Travel Chanel.

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