|Subject: Re: Chile as a vacation destination|
John Rule claims to be working on a travelogue of his recent trip which included Chile, but I will put my two cents in.
I, with three friends, visited Santiago, Puerto Montt, Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine in late October/early November. It was a wonderful trip and I plan to return to Chile in the future. This trip was booked as a tour through General Tours, but it was a tour of four. The tour was a guaranteed departure. We had all hotels and transportation to and from airports, and there were local guides who met us and brought us back, but we were mostly on our own.
Santiago is just cosmopolitan enough to be a big city and yet it is extremely easy to navigate. I did not use the subway, but only because one of my friends is not a subway person. It is reasonably priced and seemed very easy to use. It also has enough lines now to be useful in getting around, particularly downtown. Otherwise, taxis are plentiful and not too expensive. We visited a vineyard in the Maipo valley, which is not a long drive from Santiago. Every Chilean we met asked if we had seen or were going to see Valparaiso, which is the seat of Congress and is on the Pacific Coast with, we heard, beautiful beaches. We did not, but it will be on our list because the people obviously think it is an important place to visit.
Puerto Montt as a place to stay does not have much to offer. It is the place to fly to to visit the southern lake district, which is well worth visiting. There is another town closer to the entrance to the parks that was more charming and where I would choose to stay when returning. The Lake District is a destination in and of itself. (John, help me with the name!)
Puerto Natales is the closest town to Torres del Paine, the national park that is always depicted in photographs of Patagonia. The town has some good restaurants, but not much else except tour companies who will arrange everything from day tours to the park to treks. Torres del Paine is magnificent. Even though we are not trekkers, we enjoyed our day tour, taking hour to two hour hikes. You really cannot visit the glaciers that way, however, because you have to take a longer hike to get there, and I do not believe they are accessible by car. There are ferries that take campers up there. There are also some hotels in the park, and I have read that some have lots of amenities while others have just the basics.
If you have any interest in hiking, it would make more sense to stay in the park.
When we return, we will probably go north from Santiago to visit the desert. Northern Chile has the largest telescope in the world, and there are some very significant archeological digs there, too. We might also do some touring of vineyards. There are three or four different valleys with excellent vineyards.
If you have any specific questions, let me know and I will try to answer.
Lisa in Chicago