From Glaciers to Deserts: The Most Picturesque Spots in Chile

Immerse yourself in nature in some of Chile’s chicest accommodations and discover why this country is South America’s hottest destination.

Chile’s long and narrow geography on South America’s west coast graces it with a variety of landscapes and experiences. To get a full understanding of just how exotic this mountainous, coastal country can be, start at the bottom and work your way up, using the Explora lodges as a base. These outdoorsy yet posh, Chilean-owned properties work in tandem for guests traveling throughout the country and make the hotel as much a part of the trip as any of your outdoor destinations.

Hiking through the Moon Valley in the Atacama

Head South for the Winter (Well, Summer)

Get your camera app open to capture stunning views upon arrival on the shores of Lake Pehoé and the Explora Patagonia resort. Located in the Torres del Paine UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, you’ll be greeted with the distinctive natural juxtaposition of towering, jagged mountain spires slicing through crystal blue sky with their reflections beaming back at you from the stunning lake.

The best antidote to fatigue after a long flight is a boat ride along the lake to capture shots of glaciers from below and spot wildlife both on shore and in the water. The more adventurous opt for horseback riding along the hillside (a resident horse expert provides guidance at the adjacent ranch), although there’s nothing wrong with holding court in the spa or by the fireplace with cocktail in hand.

An oasis in the wilderness, the modern interiors of this 49-room, contemporary lodge feature polished hardwood, country-chic furnishings, and lounge areas that wouldn’t be out of place in the Rockies. Take time for sundowners in the lounge with maps unfurled to plan the next day’s activities and bring a book to bask in this rare opportunity for distraction-less relaxation (no TV or Wi-Fi). Hearty cuisine fuels guests for one of 50 guided hikes along the park’s lakes and pathways.

Easter Island from above

Prepare for Something Different

Once you’ve finished a brief stint living as a gaucho, fly north and then west via Santiago toward Easter Island for one of the world’s most prized indigenous island wonders.

Isolated in the midst of the Pacific Ocean, Easter Island is home to one of the region’s most celebrated luxury lodges, Explora Rapa Nui, in the main town of Hanga Roa, only a short drive from the airport. Amid a hilly green landscape, this ecofriendly resort impresses with its attention to detail, including zero landfill waste, with everything recycled or composted.

Base yourself in one of 30 rooms and suites, each with stone floors, enormous panoramic windows, and designer fabrics. Guides provide support for the best hikes, beach walks, or visits to volcanic craters, which takes some of the sting out of planning for an unfamiliar location.

Iconic and a must-see are the monolithic Moai human figures, created by Polynesian seafaring visitors nearly a millennium ago, with lengthened heads spread across the island. Each represents an important ancestor and is believed to be positioned near a source of fresh groundwater. Some of the statues are lined up in symmetry while others cover the hillside in seemingly erratic positions. Easter Island is a bucket-list check for the world’s most traveled adventurers, most of whom make the Explora eco-lodge their luxe home when on the island.

The pool at the Explora Atacama

Chill in the Desert

The Atacama Desert—home to grassy pampas and rolling sand dunes—can be cold at night. That’s why Explora Atacama’s luxurious rooms and crackling fireplaces are so highly favored.

With more than three-dozen organized activities, from horseback riding to treks around area geysers and salt flats, to keep guests busy, adventure is the focus. Outdoor whirlpools and a lengthy spa menu provide great alternatives to the property’s own natural hot springs, a particular favorite for a long, deep breath of relaxation.

Horseback riding through the Atacama

Don’t miss the property’s observatory, where nighttime stargazing is a treat given such clear skies in this secluded spot; it also features occasional evening cultural performances.

Each resort is all-inclusive (meals, airport transfers, group excursions, and open bar). New for 2020 is the option to book private excursions that center around your own personal interests. Part of the treat of an Explora visit is that package rates are discounted for booking two or more lodges in one itinerary. Past guests get extra discounts, too, which can come in handy as Explora Uyuni opens in 2020 amid the Bolivian salt flats in Peru’s Sacred Valley.

Getting there:

LATAM flights operate nonstop several times a week between LAX and Santiago, where flights to Explora lodge destinations are available for connections. One-stop flights operate from many West Coast cities via Dallas/Fort Worth; on United via Houston; on Copa via Panama City; or on Aeromexico via Mexico City.

LATAM also flies from Santiago to Easter Island; from Santiago to Punta Arenas (the easiest airport to reach Explora Patagonia); and from Santiago to Calama (close to Explora Atacama).