Travel Bulletin - - CRUISE REPORT -

More than just a gateway to other parts of South Amer­ica, Chile de­serves a close look in its own right.

Take off head­ing east and it would be easy to over-shoot Chile on a jour­ney to South Amer­ica. Barely 175km wide on av­er­age, this nar­row rib­bon of a na­tion is home to the key air­line gateway of San­ti­ago, yet is of­ten skipped by trav­ellers head­ing fur­ther to higher-pro­file des­ti­na­tions like Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. Yet what Chile lacks in lon­gi­tude it more than makes up for in lat­i­tude, giv­ing it a strik­ing di­ver­sity in cul­tures and land­scapes. Span­ning more than 4000km, it stretches from the wild and icy is­lands of Tierra del Fuego in the south to the mys­te­ri­ous deserts border­ing Peru in the north. As its en­er­getic cap­i­tal, San­ti­ago is more than just a stopover city and of­fers colour­ful mar­kets, lively bars and restau­rants, serene parks and in­ter­est­ing mu­se­ums. In a coun­try de­fined by the An­des, it is spec­tac­u­larly lo­cated against a back­drop of snow-capped peaks, close to pop­u­lar ski fields like Valle Ne­vado. Fur­ther north, the world’s dri­est desert, Ata­cama, is home to strange lu­nar land­scapes, vast salt flats and ac­tive gey­sers. The world’s old­est-known mum­mies stem from the an­cient Chin­chorro cul­ture of this re­gion and are up to 2000 years older than the pre­served pharaohs of Egypt. In the south, the pris­tine wilder­ness of Patag­o­nia is rightly renowned as one of the great nat­u­ral treasures of the planet, rich with spec­tac­u­lar moun­tains, fjords, glaciers and forests. Ex­tra­or­di­nary land­scapes like the ser­rated peaks of the Tor­res del Paine Na­tional Park have made it an iconic ad­ven­ture des­ti­na­tion, of­ten pack­aged with ex­pe­di­tion cruises and Antarc­tic voy­ages. But per­haps the most in­trigu­ing Chilean des­ti­na­tion is be­yond the main­land rib­bon in the south-east­ern Pa­cific, where Rapa Nui, or Easter Is­land, draws tens of thou­sands of vis­i­tors each year to see its mys­te­ri­ous moai stat­ues.

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