Escape to the Edges While Traveling Through Chile
Sometimes, the best purpose of a vacation is to shut down the hubbub and plugged-in chatter of everyday life. It’s good, on trips like that, to spend some time with the big mysteries of nature and civilization. Oh, and to pause now and then to ponder it all over a fine glass of wine. Chile ticks all of those boxes, as you will quickly discover on our new itinerary that ranges from the Atacama Desert to Santiago to enigmatic Easter Island.
Out on the edge of everything — in a tiny village huddled on a sky-high plateau or on a volcanic Pacific speck guarded by moai—it’s just about impossible to feel anything but awe. The ancient is always close. The gargantuan efforts that long-lost people made to leave a mark are humbling. In Chile, even in the nation’s urban capital, the tallest skyscraper looks like a toy against a backdrop of the snow-crowned Andes. It’s an adventure rich with how-is-this-even-possible moments.
It’s hard to imagine the Atacama — even after you’ve been there. Here, it’s amazing business-as-usual to see flamingos tiptoeing in a lagoon up against a tumble of crimson rocks at the foot of a steaming volcano. At Pukara Quitor, you walk in the ruins of a 12th-century fortress that’s one of the first places where the indigenous people met the Spanish. And if you doubt for a moment that it’s possible to live in this near moonscape, you’ll learn otherwise when residents of a pre-Inca village invite you in for lunch.
Heading south, you get a chance to explore Valparaiso. Native son Pablo Neruda gave it one of the all-time great descriptions: “Valparaiso … you haven’t combed your hair, you’ve never had time to get dressed, life has always surprised you.” Words like Bohemian and “crazy” capture this city just about perfectly, as you discover on a guided visit. A miracle of how to squeeze great wine from a waterless land, the Casablanca Valley is home of some of Chile’s finest vineyards. You’ll spend time amid the vines on one of the most famous ones and sit down to the most scenic tasting of white varietals that are especially happy in this micro-climate. You also have two nights in Santiago with plenty of time to explore, join the locals for an evening promenade, and see some of the architectural treasures from the Colonial era.
Then, all of a sudden, time kicks into reverse as you cross a patch of the southwest Pacific Ocean to Rapa Nui, known to us as Easter Island. The first inhabitants came from the opposite direction — from Polynesia — nine centuries ago. You already know about the relics they left behind, the moai statues, but you honestly cannot begin to appreciate them until you see them in person, and you’ll have plenty of time for that on your two-night visit. You just want to let yourself soak in the solitude and the mystery of the island. There are gorgeous trails for walking, and the luxury resort where you settle in shows great hospitality that couldn’t contrast more with the glares cast by the moai. You’ll be well connected with experts who help you understand the unfathomable obsessions that created this place that’s unique in all the world.
We love the way that this view of Chile drives home just how small the world we inhabit every day really is. Out on the periphery – where an Andean breeze carves an Atacama moonscape, where stone faces five times as tall as you stand guard against who-knows-what — you get to feel what you’ve never felt, learn what you never knew, and have the time of your life in the process.
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