SANTUARIO EL CAÑI
Glimpse a stunning panorama from the lesser-known El Mirador viewpoint. This 1,500 acre private nature reserve is under legal preservation to protect it against logging while promoting eco-tourism.
With comfortable camping facilities and a flourishing wildlife ecosystem here, it should be a top priority especially for the more seasoned hikers. For a greater understanding of the expansive area, grab an English or German-speaking guide for an additional USD100.
The strenuous uphill route of about 4 hours takes you through a lush forest of majestic Araucaria trees (more affectionately known as monkey puzzle trees) which are native to southern Chile. Catch a glimpse of the piñones (or slender-billed parakeets), endemic to Chile, as they pass noisily overhead.
As you trek through the greenery, keep an eye out for hidden little waterfalls good for a cool splash mid-trek – you’ll need those for the challenging climb. The view at the top – an all-encompassing landscaped vista of the region’s lakes and the four Chilean volcanoes spitting steam – will certainly prove worth it!
MAPU LAHUAL PARK
Ethno-tourism and ecotourism meld together in a unique community hike at the Mapu Lahual Park. This trekking route is a well-hidden gem of Chile, with its vast sparkling lakes, clifftops offering panoramic ocean views and dense Alerce forests teeming with wildlife.
Designed to protect and preserve Chile’s Huilliche culture, homestays with the friendly indigenous Mapuche people offers you an immersive stay like no other where you live, eat and speak like the natives.
The digital detox that the park offers (no Wifi or mobile connection) is refreshing as you engage in the culture, cuisine and customs of the people. Freshly baked ‘pan amasado’ bread, empanadas as well as the blue-shelled eggs unique to the Mapuche chicken species are certainly must-trys!
Take your pick of the various activities offered, whether it be river boat trips, traditional fishing or horseback riding along pristine beaches. The simplicity of the rural lifestyle makes you reevaluate your own urban comfort, promising a life-changing experience you’ll never forget.
QUEULAT NATIONAL PARK
Nestled in the more isolated Aysén region of southern Chile, Queulat National Park should be a must-hike destination with a range of trails for amateur or experienced hikers. Untouched virgin forests spread their canvas of lush canopy overhead, as you trek through a wealth of botanical diversity.
The Enchanted Forest, should you choose to explore it, is home to sprawling and twisted moss-blanketed trunks that seem straight out of the Tarzan movie. The terminus of this forest reveals a breathtaking clifftop glacier surrounding the glistening surface of the Los Gnomos Lagoon.
And don’t forget the park’s most notable feature, the Ventisquero Colgante hanging glacier wedged between two mountains. If you can’t get enough of the glacier from afar, kayak across the peaceful Queulat Fjord to its moraine for an unforgettable close-up.
On first glance, Valparaíso City, a bonafide artsy port city, looks like it popped out of a fairytale; its vibrant colours and stunning ocean views are a mesmerising sight more than worthy of a shot for the Gram. It conceals myriad quirky nooks and crannies with Chilean street art that will wow avid photographers.
Amid cascading hills and buildings awash with San Francisco-esque colour, seek out Valpo’s (the affectionate nickname for the town as used by locals) vast collection of culturally meaningful murals and paintings that earned it its place on the wall as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Be sure to catch a glimpse of a beautiful mural tribute to Van Gogh, depicting him in a field of sunflowers under a brilliantly-hued Starry Night sky.
Mid-trek, spoil yourself at one of the many restaurants, shops, galleries, and bars that line either side of the city’s cobblestoned streets, as local home-grown musicians serenade visitors in the square. When the trek tires you out, check out Valpo’s most distinctive feature – its funiculars (especially Concepción, the oldest and most popular one), colourful carriage-like elevators moving along rails that connect the Upper and Lower towns.
Glacier Grey is the largest ice mass in the world aside from the North and South Poles. Its glistening diamond-blue hue comes from the trapped air under fallen snow. In fact, the colour is so brilliantly accented it can be seen from space!
Grab a kayak (and a Chilean kayaking tour!) and enjoy a leisurely paddle on the surrounding Grey Lake as you explore the walls of the glacier and drink in its majestic form from below.
Thrill-seekers will relish the experience of ice-hiking with the glacier sparkling beneath your feet. These guided tours start and end at the Glacier Grey Base Camp, where a short boat ride will take you to the west edge of the glacier. Wade through little blue streams and peer down the icy depths of huge crevasses. Against the beautiful backdrop of glorious snow-capped mountains, your adventure across the ice is one of a kind.