With its stretch of white sand fringed with Tahitian coconut palms, a backdrop of grassy hills and ocean waters that rarely dip below 64 degrees F (18 degrees C) even in the winter months, few places come as close to paradise as Anakena Beach. One of only three beaches on Easter Island, Anakena also plays an important part in the history of the island. It was here that King Ariki Hotu Matu’a first landed on Easter Island and later, the beach became a spiritual center for the Miru tribe–the remnants of which can be seen in the seven beautifully restored moai of Ahu Nau Nau and the single moai of Ahu Ature Huki that overlook the beach.
Aside from its striking setting and dramatically situated moai, the main draw to Anakena Beach is, of course, the ocean and the warm, clear waters make the ideal spot for swimming, surfing and snorkeling.
Cajón del Maipo, a narrow canyon where the Maipo River flows, begins just 16 miles (25 kilometers) southwest of Santiago, but its picturesque scenery, fresh air and charming mountain towns feels worlds away. Santiago residents often escape to Cajón del Maipo on the weekends for hiking, rafting, horseback riding, climbing, cycling and skiing. Rafting season lasts from November through March, while winter sports take over from June to September.
At the heart of Cajón del Maipo lies San José de Maipo, the biggest city in the canyon. Founded during a 1792 silver rush, the town maintains many of its colonial adobe structures as well as an eighteenth century church in the Plaza de Armas in the center of town. Hot springs scattered throughout the canyon offer opportunity for relaxation, while roadside stalls sell fresh-baked bread, Chilean empanadas, honey and other food items to stave off hunger pangs during a day of exploration.
Lago Todos los Santos, or All Saints Lake, is located within Vicente Perez Rosales National Park in the lakes region of southern Chile. Sometimes it is referred to as Lago Esmeralda, which means Emerald Lake, due to its emerald green color. It is one of the biggest attractions in the national park. The lake was formed by glacial and volcanic activities. It is covers an area of about 69 square miles, and it has a maximum depth of about 1,105 feet. The lake flows into the Petrohué River and the Petrohué Waterfalls.
Visitors come to Lake Todos los Santos for boating, kayaking, rafting, swimming, and fishing. You can also enjoy hiking near the lake and watching for native animals in the area. From the lake, you can also see Osorno Volcano, Puntiagudo Volcano, Tronador Volcano. The lake has two ports, Peulla and Petrohue, which are part of the Lakes Cross, connecting Puerto Varas to Argentina.
Seeing as it has the word “desert” in its name, the Atacama is a place you’d expect to be extremely and exceptionally dry. In this vast, arid moonscape, however, set halfway between sea and sky, there are isolated patches where a drop of rain has never—ever—been recorded, taking the world “desert” to another level. In fact, looking at the geology of what’s officially considered the driest desert in the world, researchers believe that the Atacama has gone 400 years without rain.
Just because it’s always sunny, however, doesn’t mean that this desert is hot. In fact, seeing as much of the Atacama Desert is well above 10,000 feet, temperatures can often dip well below freezing on clear and crisp nights. So—what’s the draw for visiting this desert with its famously harsh terrain? Because it’s the hands-down, best place in the world to look up and see the stars.
Visitors to Santiago can take a trip back in time just by walking through the doors of the famous Iglesia San Francisco de Borja. This iconic church ranks among the city’s oldest—and most beautiful—religious structures, and dates back to the original Spanish settlements. Marvel at the bold and imposing red exterior, then enter to find soft yellows, blues and whites decorating the interior. Learn from your guide about the legend of the statue of Virgen del Socorro and savor the silence of the church, where you can spend some time in quiet meditation or prayer before returning to the hustle of Santiago city streets.
Built in 1925, Chile’s National Library is home to an extensive collection of rare books and valuable manuscripts that date back to the early 1800s. Its luxe interior spans two floors, which boast marble staircases and ornate sculptures of some of the country’s most famed artists. The impressive French neoclassical building is also home to the nation’s National Archives.
Travelers who visit the vast open rooms lined with historic texts and open study tables say the iconic building in the center of Santiago offers a rare opportunity to travel back in time. And the silent stacks prove a stark contrast to the electricity of the city streets that lie right outside its doors.
Located just 20 miles from the town of San Pedro de Atacama, this unusual desert sinkhole attracts many visitors. Filled with water, Cejar Lagoon is popular for the opportunity it provides to take a dip in the middle of the desert. The water can have salt concentrations up to 30 percent, which makes floating not only easy, but also pretty much impossible to avoid. For this reason, the lake is often compared to the Dead Sea and is sometimes called the “floating lake.” The top few inches of water are often warm from the sun, while there are cold currents down below, making for a mixed swimming experience.
Even if you decide not to swim in this “floating lake,” enjoy the view and how the glassy surface reflects the scenery back to you, including the Domeyko mountain range. Flamingos occasionally fly overhead and the lake is ringed white with residual salt, while the blue of the lake contrasts with the yellow tussock grass that grows all around.
Matetic Vineyard is located in the San Antonio Valley, a Chilean wine region about 120 kilometers west of the capital Santiago. With its abundant sunshine, cool breezes from the Pacific Ocean and irrigation by fresh water from the Andes, the region offers the perfect climate for growing wine. Additionally, high temperature fluctuations between day and night force the roots of the vines to penetrate deeply into the soil to provide themselves with nutrients, a fact that gives the grapes grown in the valley a strong and distinctive flavor. Matetic’s wines are known for their elegance as well as the intensity of the pure fruit and several well-known vintages are produced here, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir.
The winery was founded by the Matetic family in 1999 and due to the high quality standards and the specialization in biodynamic farming, Matetic Vineyard managed to soon become one of the leading wineries in Chile.
An eerie cavern burrowing into the sea cliffs, Ana Kai Tangata is almost entirely hidden from view, camouflaged by the rocky coastline and lapping waves. Step inside the cave and you’ll soon realize why the spot is so renowned—the looming arches of black-rock are etched with an elaborate series of bird drawings, painted with a blend of natural earth and animal fats.
Thought to have been used by the island’s earliest settlers, the cave’s history remains a subject of speculation among archaeologists, but the name, which translates to the ambiguous "man eat cave," and the paintings, lend themselves to a number of theories. Most notable is the subject matter of the paintings—the manutaras, or black terns, depicted were also the focal point of Orongo’s annual Birdman ceremony, which took place during the autumn equinox and pitted Rapa Nui hopus (chiefs) against each other in a competition to retrieve a sacred manutara egg.
Estancia el Cuadro is maybe most well known for being the convention center for wine tourism in the Casablanca region and hosting a wide variety of cultural as well as wine-related activities. Apart from the sizable restaurant and meeting rooms, which are often used to accommodate weddings and big corporate events, there is also a rodeo field, a chapel, a wine garden and Casablanca’s first wine museum. The latter offers a glimpse into the wine making process with original wine-making machinery and displays showing the different stages of distillation. Surrounding the property is a 4.7-acre park that includes numerous walking trails, perfectly pruned trees and a fish pond with a water fountain.
There are several tours visitors can sign up for, ranging from the usual wine tastings teaching flavors, textures and aromas to tours about history, traditions and enology.
Located a one hour drive from both Santiago and San Antonio, San Antonio Valley is one of the youngest wine growing regions in Chile. It was at the turn of the century when high quality wines started getting produced here with increasing success: elegant Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays and the otherwise rare Pinot Noirs. The proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the Humboldt Current are responsible for cool mornings, warm days and a significant temperature drop during the night. Spring frosts happen with regularity as well, all of which leads to a longer ripening period of the grapes. The result are especially aromatic grapes that are well balanced in sugars and acids.
Despite its rising popularity, San Antonio Valley is still very small compared to the other sprawling centers of the Chilean wine production and hosts only a small number of producers. Instead of mass producing, these wineries have each found their specializations in the beautiful hilly terrain.
This historic church is one of the oldest remaining Domenican churches in the city of Santiago. Built in 1747, Santo Domingo Church is the fourth site erected here, since major earthquakes destroyed earlier buildings meant to house the congregation. Its impressive gray bell towers and classic façade were designed by Juan de los Santos Vasconcellos and it has become a staple of the Santiago city skyline. The church was declared a national monument in 1951. Travelers can arrive for Mass, or wander the halls and observe the altars of this breathtaking religious structure with an ornate interior. It’s the perfect to participate in quiet contemplation, prayer or silent reflection before returning to the bustling streets to tour the city.