Latin America is one of the trendiest tourist destinations among Americans currently.
A cross-continental region extending as North as Mexico and as South as Argentina, it is famous for its warm culture, native folklore, Luso-Hispanic heritage, and delectable cuisine.
While countries like the aforementioned Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia make headlines as tropical getaways, however, other LatAm countries are often ignored, even though they have just as much to offer on the nature front, and they may even be safer to visit.
That is the case with this lesser-known Global South country, which may not straddle the Caribbean nor have a glamorous beach as famous as Copacabana, but still makes for an incredible fall getaway…
Or should we say spring?
The Most Geographically Unique Country In The Global South
Perhaps the most unique South American country when geography is concerned, Chile’s territorial boundaries run for an elongated 4,000-plus miles along the South Pacific Ocean, giving it a strip-like shape.
It fully blocks Argentina‘s access to the Pacific, and it’s bordered to the North and Northeast by both Peru and Bolivia, respectively.
Other than Chile’s unusual shape, you may be wondering why exactly anyone would feel the impetus to fly there when tickets are not as cheap as when traveling to Central America or Colombia, and the country’s exposure to the Pacific and proximity to the South Pole make it much colder.
Well, if your love for South America is not restricted only to tropical beach resorts, and a rugged nature, majestic snow-capped Andean peaks, and rolling green hills dotted with vineyards also pique your interest, then you should give Chile a chance:
Chilean Nature Is A Force To Be Reckoned With
Chilean nature is truly a force to be reckoned with, as the country boasts one of the most diverse topographies anywhere in the world.
From the salt flats and arid, moon-like landscapes of the Atacama Desert to the impressive glaciers and ice fields of Patagonia and every valley, volcanic territory, and marine reserves in between, the country has a plethora of natural wonders awaiting discovery.
While fall is already descending upon the Northern Hemisphere, the Global South is about to bid farewell to winter and enter springtime, which means temperatures will start rising across Chile, flowers will be in full bloom, and you likely won’t need multiple layers of clothing being out in the open.
Of course, that depends on where you’re going.
Go On A Relaxing Vacay On The Chilean Pacific
If it’s the thought of kicking it back for a week in the upscale seaside resort of Viña del Mar that makes your heart skip a beat, you will find the weather surprisingly pleasant for sightseeing, and you may even attempt a dip in the ocean, though it certainly won’t be as warm as summer later in the year.
Luckily, Viña del Mar has a lot more to offer than just beaches.
It is a popular destination among Chileans themselves due to its lush gardens, high-rise buildings, casino resorts, and 19th-century colonial architecture. It even has a castle – Wulff – arguably the most picturesque in all of Latin America.
Further down the Chilean coast, Valparaíso is just as charming, full of colorful houses perched on clifftops overlooking the azure Pacific, accessible via long, steep funiculars, and home to a world-class Pablo Neruda museum housed in La Sebastiana, one of his former residences.
The national poet of Chile, he was an influential figure of the 20th century with strong links to Valparaíso.
The Beautiful La Serena
If you’re looking for a purely beach-based destination, La Serena is probably where you should spend most of your time.
The capital of the Coquimbo region, it boasts long, sandy beaches lapped by bright-blue waters and an up-and-coming resort scene with affordable overnight rates.
Staying at the Hotel Club La Serena on the oceanfront, Americans can expect to pay as little as $98 for a single bed with breakfast included, while rooms at the more upscale Laguna del Mar, with a private pool and beach access, start from roughly $148 this fall (or spring in Chile).
Once again, spring may not be the best time for swimming or sunbathing in Chile as days are still colder, with daytime averages of 69.8°F and as low as 44.6°F in the evenings, but there’s nothing stopping you from admiring the sights or having incredible gastronomy experiences.
Whether you’re a meat eater or you’re vegetarian/vegan/on a restricted diet, you will find relatively affordable restaurants specializing in Chile’s famous corn casseroles, that can be either stuffed with meat or veggies, cazuelas, a homemade stew with corn, rice, and potatoes, and the classic asado.
Explore The Fascinating Atacama Desert
San Pedro de Atacama is a favorite among adventurers flying to Chile, as it serves as the gateway to the desert, and it’s a small, traditionally Andean high-altitude town with whitewashed, thatched-roof houses.
The city of Pucón is also a popular stop on the way to the fascinating Chilean Lake Region. Sitting on the shores of Lake Villarrica, where white-water rafting and kayaking can be practiced, it offers views of the snow-dusted Villarrica Volcano.
Nature enthusiasts can choose from numerous hiking trails starting in Pucón, leading to forested valleys, natural hot springs, and sandy lake beaches. The most famous terms, the Geometricas Thermal Baths, is a hot spring with as many as 60 sources of water, hugged by an emerald forest.
In Puerto Varas, in the Southern Lake District, tourists will find a bucolic town with a distinct German architecture, which serves as a reminder of Chile’s multicultural demographic, surrounded by snowy mountains, including the Osorno and Calbuco Volcanoes, still in activity.
See Glaciers In Southern Patagonia
More dramatic nature can be found near Puerto Natales, a coastal port in Southern Patagonia, close to the South Pole.
It is a popular starting point for travelers headed for Torres del Paine, a national park packed with towering blue icebergs, glaciers, and granite formations.
From Puerto Natales, tours of the Patagonian fjords are also available, with several local tour companies offering day excursions of these remote wonders of nature for as cheap as $157, weather-dependent, such as Denomades.
Chile Is Safe For Visitors
Then, of course, there is Santiago del Chile, the country’s cosmopolitan capital and one of the safest in the Americas.
Chile is currently considered a Level 2 destination by U.S. authorities, which means Americans are not discouraged from visiting nor expressly told not to go.
When walking the skyscraper-lined boulevards of Santiago or exploring the city’s historic center, they must simply be aware of their surroundings, as pickpocketing remains a risk, and avoid flashing expensive valuables unnecessarily.
Santiago’s Sky Costanera is the tallest building in South America, rising 980 feet above ground, and for only $12, you can ascend to the very top and enjoy a breathtaking view of the sprawling metropolitan zone below and the Andes mountain range encircling it in the distance.
Both San Cristóbal and Santa Lucia Hills are other popular viewpoints for admiring Santiago’s memorable skyline.
From Santiago, popular day trips include visits to Valle Nevado, part of the Andean range and a natural park housing a ski station, and the historic Colchaga Valley, famous for its vineyards and wine-tasting experiences.
Is Chile Affordable?
When it comes to consumer prices, it’s a well-known fact Chile is not the most affordable Latin American destination.
It is, after all, the most developed country in the Global South, ahead of Brazil and Argentina even, and the standards of living can be considerably higher.
On average, travelers have spent $113 per day on vacation to Chile, according to BudgetYourTrip, owing mostly to the higher cost of accommodation and tourist experiences.
A hotel room for a couple is an average $129, but on the bright side, food can be remarkably cheap if you know where to go, with travelers spending an average of $25 on meals per day.
This fall, Americans can fly nonstop to Santiago from Miami for as cheap as $464 one-way.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com