Starry eyes in the Atacama
We’re flying so close to the mountains that it feels as if we’re skimming the peaks. From my window seat high above Chile’s Atacama Desert, I can easily make out the surreal rock formations and salt flats below. It’s a photographer’s dream. We reach the frontier-like town of San Pedro de Atacama just in time to watch sunset over the moon-like valleys and enigmatic sand dunes. Not only is it the world’s highest and driest desert, the Atacama is also said to have the clearest night skies on Earth. As I gaze upwards at the seemingly infinite stars and countless constellations, it’s hard not to feel humbled. Don’t miss the chance to see the El Tatio geysers erupt at dawn. Watching as colossal natural steam columns rise from bubbling geothermal pools is well worth the 5am wake up call.
I wasn’t sure if the Atacama could be beaten, but on arriving in Torres del Paine National Park and looking out over the windswept steppes and soaring peaks I realised I was very much mistaken. Right at Chile’s southern tip, this vast expanse is Patagonia’s crown jewel. From my hotel lobby I can see the park’s famed trio of towering granite pillars beyond the glacial waters of Lake Sarmiento. I’m eager to get out and explore. There are excursions for everyone. A hardcore eight-hour hike will take you to see bright blue icebergs which have drifted away from the impressive Grey Glacier. Gentle walks, mountain biking, kayaking and horseriding are also on the menu. You could spend weeks here.
As I stand at the top of San Cristobal Hill in Santiago, the snow-capped mountains of the Andes provide a stunning backdrop to this cosmopolitan capital’s barrios, museums and street markets. The city’s heart is the historic Plaza de Armas, where I spend an afternoon exploring its impressive presidential palace and Metropolitan Cathedral. For a taste of contemporary life, the bohemian Lastarria district’s hip restaurants and galleries are the place to see and be seen. I sip a final pisco sour while admiring the twinkling cityscape from one of Santiago’s rooftop bars. It’s the last night of my trip, but I’m already plotting my return.
BA fly direct to Santiago four times a week. At nearly 15 hours it’s their lengthiest flight. Ideal for: Latin American landscapes.
Cost: 14 nights from £5,925 per person, including 8 nights fully inclusive, all flights and transfers.
Chile Stands Alone Staggering Breadth of Landscapes & Experiences
“Chile is an adventure in its own right - perfect for a two to three-week standalone holiday.”
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