The unique geography of Chile showcases the full range of the Andes mountains as it stretches over 4000 km north to south. From one of the driest places on Earth in the northern Atacama Desert, all the way down to the remote glaciers and windswept plains of the southernmost tip of the Americas, the five distinct travel zones offer a huge variety in landscape and culture.
To the north are the high Andes and Atacama Desert. At over 4000m above sea level this lofty elevation produces some of the clearest night skies in the southern hemisphere, whilst at land level there is a backdrop of colourful Altiplanic lagoons, steaming geysers, vast salt flats and surreal lunar like rock formations. To the north on the highland plateaus above the coastal towns of Arica and Iquique, the ancient route of the geoglyphs offers an archaeological adventure to find the oldest mummies in the world dating back to 5000 BC.
The fertile central zone set between the mountains to the east and the ocean to the west contrasts the sprawling cosmopolitan city of Santiago with rural vineyards and valleys. There is excellent accommodation in the city as well as out on the wineries themselves making the Chilean capital more than just an efficient transport hub. The colourful and quirky port town of Valparaiso meanwhile is the inspiration behind much of the work of Chile's most famous literary figure, Pablo Neruda.
The most isolated and unusual of Chile's regions is undoubtedly Easter Island. The remote location over 5 hours flight from Santiago maintains the traditions of the Rapa Nui culture and the Moai statues remain the iconic image of the island. As well as the extraordinary visitor sites, the island has some of Chile's clearest waters for diving, pink tinged sandy beaches for relaxing and a variety of active excursions for an extended stay.
Back on the mainland, the Patagonia region accounts for almost the whole southern half of the country. The lush and green northern lake district is made up of eight different national parks, stretching from the forests and volcanoes north of Temuco, down to the lakes and fjords of Puerto Montt and the island of Chiloe. A great variety of flora and fauna, picture perfect conical volcanoes and bubbling rivers has established this as Chile's outdoor and adventure sports centre.
The peaks of Torres del Paine that are synonymous with Patagonia are the traditional highlight of the final and southernmost zone of Chile and inside the park hiking trails of all lengths can keep walkers busy for days. For a slightly more off beat Patagonian experience, the Aisen region to the north has some of Chile's most undiscovered and unspoilt wilderness. The Austral road running from Chaiten all the way to the end point in Villa O'Higgins offers an adventurous self-drive route, or there are even expedition cruises operating multi-night navigations up and down the coastline.