Visiting Chile

Parent Q&A

  • Hi, I'm sending my active, 60ish parents to Santiago for 10 days in December and would like to give them some guidance on day trips they should take. Does anyone have any recommendations for the wine country there or the Atacama desert? Any specific guides I should put them in touch with? Thank you for your advice!

    Santiago is a lovely city; reminds me a lot of San Francisco in many ways, only with more smog and bigger mountains. There are some good wineries right on the city's outskirts (Vina Aquitania is one that comes to mind). The Atacama Desert is amazing, but you should know that it is not at all a day trip; it's several hundred miles away so they would probably have to fly there if they only have 10 days in the country. If they are active, though, they would probably love it. There is some great hiking and biking in the area, among other things. As an alternative, there's also Patagonia, of course - Torres del Paine National Park is incredible. Finally, while I haven't been myself, I've heard Valparaiso is a nice day trip from Santiago. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


A year in Chile

June 2007

Any suggestions for our family while we are in Chile for one year with a five year old? We are probably going to live in Puerto Varas, in the Lakes District but we plan to travel quite a lot. Any tips welcome; can't-miss places, what not to bring, favorite glaciers, etc. Gracias

We went to Chile (Santiago south to Puerto Natales) for our honeymoon and may be going back there for a year in the fall. Torres del Paine was definitely the highlight. You probably can't manage the backpacking trip with a young child, but there is a lodge in the park you can stay at that isn't too expensive. If money is not a concern, there is a fancier place right at the glacier farther into the park. We took buses from Puerto Natales. The only downside was trying to get around inside the park without a car. We managed by walking a lot and paying one of the hotel employees to take us a couple places.

If I had read the guide book more carefully earlier, we would have gone to see the penguin colonies out of Puerto Natales before flying back to Santiago. The lake district has some beautiful waterfalls, sand beaches and hot springs. My husband tells me that the boat trip to Bariloche, Argentina by boat is beautiful & well worth the money. We also enjoyed Puerto Montt - great seafood and we took a side trip to a volcano/falls in a reserve.

Spent a year in Chile in 2003, mostly Santiago but saw a lot of the country on mini vacations during the year.

I think having a car there is important for really seeing the out of the way places. Owning a car and getting insurance that will cover you into Argentina is tricky but doable and worth it. Knowing a local who can guide you through all the bureaucracy helps a lot. Be warned that selling the car at the end of your trip may be difficult and you may have to take a large loss but it still will be much cheaper than renting if you are there for over a few months.

Some of the highlights:
- Innumerable hot springs (try to visit them all)
- Nahuelbuta National Park
- Tolhuaca National Park Villarica and pucon Huerquehue National Park
- Puerto Octay and vocan osorno
- Chiloe pichilemu, constitucion, valpariso, vina del mar, valdivia and other coastal towns
- Torres del Paine and Glacier Grey Isla Magdalena penguin colony

- Rafting on the Futalefu river and driving the austral highway

In argentina:
- carreterra panamerica from santiago to Mendoza Volcan Lanin NP and Lake Huechulafquen
- San Martin de los andes and the lakes drive route to Bariloche Nahuel Huapi Bariloche and Ventisquero

- Negro Glacier on cerro tronador El Bolson and surrounding mountains (hiking/horseback)

Places I wanted to go but ran out of time:
- Tierra del fuego and Ushuaia (far)
- Easter island (expensive and far)
- Atacama desert (looked similar to death valley)
If you don't already have them, get the moon handbooks for both Chile and Argentina.

Travel To Santiago, Chile w/toddler

Feb 2004

My husband and I are considering traveling to Santiago, Chile in May for 10 days with our 2 year old daughter. We're very worried about the long plane ride AND if such travel is okay with a 2 year old. All the books comment on 2 yr olds requiring a strong daily routine so would extensive travel to a foreign country be too difficult for a 2 year old? We would take a porta/bed for familiarity but of course there would be different food, excursions, time change, no familiar sites etc. And are there suggestions on surviving a 15 hour flight w/a toddler? Robin

We fly to Santiago, Chile, about every other year, to visit family. We have made the trip (at one time or another) with a five month old, a 13 month old, a two year old, a four year old, and a seven year old. Long flight? You cannot IMAGINE how long it is going to seem. But, for our two year old, what really helped was a small backpack with many small surprises, each wrapped in tissue paper. These included sticker books, playdough, polly pockets, small cars, little books, gummy bears, a tiny doll, and so on. Bring snacks and juice boxes. We also made use of books-on-tape and kid music with a walkman. The food is different, but they also have french fries and bread, cheese, and fruit, so your child will not starve even if she/he won't eat the food. If you bring the individual servings of Annie's pasta, you only need water and a microwave (the other kind of Annie's uses milk, and since the milk there tastes quite different, our kids wouldn't eat it). If you have any questions, you can e-mail me, if you want. Mary

Traveling to Chile for 3 weeks - resources?

November 2002

Hello! My family will be travelling to Chile in late November for 3 weeks while my husband works there on business. Are there any resources in Berkeley on Chile? Any way to meet Chileans? Be tutored in the language? Any web sites? Thanks for anything you can tell me! Kelly

Let's see...I'm assuming you'll be based in Santiago - you'll be surprised at how many Chilleans speak English, but Spanish is really easy to pick up (start now).

I'd highly recommend ''The South American Handbook'' for all kinds of great travel information.

Don't miss the Lake district, Puerto Montt area (including Ancud and the island) and if you can make it down there, Torres del Paine. There is really so much to see - you can't go wrong. It is also an easy day trip to head over (from Santiago) to Argentina.

I lived in S. America (based in Bolivia, Argentina and Chile) for 3 years - feel free to contact me offlist - there are so many places to go you really can't go wrong. Kathy

I went to Chile in the early nineties on a whim-a friend told me Santiago was one of the most beautiful places he'd ever been. And I wholeheartedly agreed! Another big bonus is the Chileans love Americans - particularly those from California (mostly because of our common problem with earthquakes, I think~ In any case, they refer to themselves as ''the Yankees of the South''.

I am very interested in meeting locals when I travel, and I met a number of them on the bus from Santiago to a nearby beach city one day. I can't remember the name of the place I visited--more important that I got on this bus, and started a conversation with the man sitting next to me. Next thing I knew, I looked up and most of the bus was listening in! They wanted to know where I was from, what my name was, what I thought of their country... It was one of my most positive experiences on the trip. Their buses are clean and very comfortable-safe for kids. The beach itself was lovely and a very fun place for families-also relatively easy to meet locals there.

One note of caution, though you have probably already read about this-hold tight to your purse, and beware of thieves who will even slit the leather, unbeknownst to you, typically while in busy public areas. I know two women who were robbed while in Chile.

In any case, they don't see that many folks down there from the U.S., and there isn't alot of English spoken, so you may want to brush up with at least some basic Spanish, which will also increase your pleasure in dealing with the locals.

Have a very fun trip! Janice