An Eternal Mystery
THE LAND WHERE HEADS RULE
A Family Vacation in Chile
YOUR GUIDE TO CHILE
Some 2,700 miles long, Chile barely manages to stay 100 miles wide,
so the only direction you could effectively travel would be north-south.
Your Chile Family Vacation:
A Surreal Diversity
This almost one-dimensional structure of the nation is actually quite convenient from a functional standpoint, since even if you traveled the entire length of this country – and that distance is considerably more than that between California and Florida – you don’t have to worry once about stepping into another time zone. But Chile is so much more than convenience, although, for traveling with family and kids, that convenience is there even in the most unearthly of landscapes.
"Chile is a country that shows extreme diversity of landscapes. From volcanoes to vineyards, from deserts to beaches, from glaciers to forests, it has everything up its sleeve."
It’s about the driest deserts, the remotest islands, and stunning mountain ranges at the tip of where world ends, and wasteland begins.
"If you go starwatching, you’ll see something that you’ve probably never seen before: the star-studded heavens of the southern hemisphere."
Hit the road and you’ll see the Earth’s cracked wrinkles; hike a bit and you’ll see snow-capped volcanoes. And if you choose go starwatching with your family and kids, you’ll see something that you’ve probably never seen before: the star-studded heavens of the southern hemisphere.
"What’s considered to be the remotest populated place on our planet has a culture and history that can help you engage in enormously rich visual storytelling."
You could even take a nonstop flight to nowhere: the geographically remote Easter Islands. What’s considered to be the remotest populated place on our planet has a culture and history that can help you engage in enormously rich visual storytelling.
"From volcanoes to vineyards, from deserts to beaches, from glaciers to forests, it has everything up its sleeve."
Chile is a country that shows extreme diversity of landscapes. From volcanoes to vineyards, from deserts to beaches, from glaciers to forests, it has everything up its sleeve. It is a paradise for outdoor and nature lovers, and for those in the family who have fantasized about photography all their lives, the country is a dream come true.
"Chile sees far fewer tourists than many other South American countries."
The country is also a great choice for families traveling with children, and there are many reasons for this. First, while being situated at world’s end makes it difficult to get here at a moment’s notice on a short trip or school vacation, it has its advantages too. Due to its relative geographic isolation, it sees far fewer tourists than many other South American countries, a clear plus when planning your family vacation to Patagonia or Atacama needs to be a carefree one.
"The wide-open fields beckons the child inside of you to wander off after the herds of camelids."
Then there’s the distinct charm of sighting here the many species of llamas: some, like the cute and cuddly alpacas who roam the mountainsides of Torres del Paine, are certified magnets for young kids and adults alike. Our family relished in it. The wide-open fields and valleys of the region, in all likelihood, will be there for just your own family’s viewing pleasure, as it beckons the child inside of you to wander off after the herds of camelids.
"If you’re persistent enough, you’re likely to come across wild rheas."
Here’s an expert tip: if you’re persistent enough, you’re likely to come across wild rheas. These are the South American flightless versions of the ostriches of Africa and the emus of Australia, and share a common ancestor with both, dating back to the times before continental drift. And I can tell you, the kids of the GeoBeetles family were quite ecstatic upon seeing these.
Torres del Paine:
Heaven’s Own Gateway
I'll never get to see how heaven looks like, surely not on a family vacation, but the closest approximation of its gates could well be the breathtaking Torres del Paine ranges. Putting it in another way, if you have the sudden urge to feel utterly inconsequential to Mother Nature around you, this might be the place for you to visit.
"You’ll see blue glaciers right next to the towering gravity-defying horns of Torres del Paine."
Here, you’ll see blue glaciers right next to the towering gravity-defying horns of Torres del Paine. If you can get here before sunrise, you’ll see the massifs of the corrugated mountain range glow pink and red.
The ice fields of Patagonia, as the region is broadly known, jut out like tendrils from the peninsula. The icebergs, colored in all shades of blue and gray, melt into wistful lakes. The cliffs do their part in channeling the waters of melting glaciers into crystal clear streams. And to those family photographers who’d like to capture all this in a single frame, proceed only if you have the extreme ultrawide lens in your camera gear, for this is the kind of beauty that doesn’t like to be constrained.
"No matter where you go, the Patagonian landscape will drain the last traces of self-importance that you can feel as a human."
But there is one reason to proceed with caution as you plan for your Chile family vacation, and I say that in a good way. No matter where you go, the Patagonian landscape will drain the last traces of self-importance that you can feel as a human; it did for every one of our family members. Walking on these glaciers, you feel no more meaningful than an ant. So, if you’d like to get a little more above the ground, saddle up like a South American gaucho and go on horseback for either a day trip or even a multiday excursion. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll be able to spot the rare wild puma.
Getting around this area is best done by a rental car, which gives you the freedom for your family and mobility for your kids to enjoy the vista.
To The Moon And Back
The Atacama is dry. In fact, it’s the driest of all places on our planet. Yet, it’s not completely barren. The topography of the region bears striking resemblance to the lunar landscape, and it’s literally mentioned in the places you’ll visit, like Valle de la Luna, or, Valley of the Moon.
But this world of rock and sand is captivating as ever.
Our Our family was in the process of driving down to San Pedro de Atacama, the launching pad of our forays into the orange-brown-golden of this alluring world. As I drove towards the surreal landscape the scenery grew more and more captivating and unreal.
It was difficult for me to imagine a place such as this existed anywhere on our planet.
"The molten geography of the grooved expanses slowly solidified in front of my eyes."
I've never felt more mortal, more vulnerable over such a long period than on this drive, the molten geography of the grooved expanses slowly solidifying in front of my eyes.
We live in the Grand Canyon state so we’ve made dozens of obligatory visits to the place on various family vacations; but I’ve never imagined, let alone see, the stark beauty of nature that this place provided during our Chile family vacation.
I'll As we took frequent stops and got off the vehicle to capture the sweltering imagery of the land around us, time and again I got cloaked by the golden dust eddying around me, a stark reminder of the baked realm of unrelenting sun that rained down its mighty ultraviolet on me.
Much of this unadorned landscape is flat, yet the Andes sits at a comfortable average height of almost 8,000 feet. Inhospitably dry, yet with pockets of sustained settlement of an industrious species within it.
"To see and feel any of this, you’ll have to plan your own Chile family vacation."
Shall I dare say that the Atacama is the crown jewel of Chile? If I do, that statement will appear to be extraordinarily bold for a country that has such outrageous elements of nature – glaciers, mountain ranges, and lush greeneries, which everyone in our family had thoroughly enjoyed. But remoteness is an essential part of the charm of Atacama, its huge salt reservoirs look menacingly like frozen lakes, the salt-sprinkled crusty mountains akin to snow-capped peaks. The power of this desert is such that it even contaminates the land beyond its borders, with Argentina, Peru, and Bolivia all picking up parts of this wondrous bleakness within their own territories.
But to see and feel any of this, you’ll have to plan your own Chile family vacation.
Hunting For Heads
Which brings me to the next grand odyssey you should add to the list of adventures on your Chile vacation. That place is Easter Island. If the fact that you have such an architectural and artistic culture that had weathered for centuries is mysterious to you, then the very act of the Polynesians ever reaching these islands in the first place is nothing short of miraculous. With almost 2,200 miles from mainland South America smack in the middle of Pacific Ocean, these are among the remotest inhabited places on our planet and even now getting there takes a 5-hour nonstop flight.
Many mysteries – both real and imagined – surround Rapa Nui and the 'heads' (moai) that they constructed. These are scattered throughout Isla de Pascua or Rapa Nui, as the island is known in Spanish or the local language. The largest concentration of moai remains littered on the slopes of a volcano – Rano Raraku – on one section of the island. This is one area you should definitely make a point to visit with your family and kids.
"How these statues could be erected by an island culture and then strategically positioned isn’t clear even today."
The largest moai here weighs a staggering 80 tons and reach a height of 33 feet. How these statues could be erected by an extinct island culture around 1200 CE and then strategically positioned around the island isn’t clear even today. This is even stranger considering that not a single tree was evident when the Europeans arrived on the island.
"The combined internet bandwidth of the entire island was slower than what I get in just my own home. Nonetheless, all of us managed to stay alive!"
No international car rental agencies exist here and the combined Internet bandwidth of the entire island clocks below that of a U.S. household. To view the true enigma in the parade of godlike statues – both savage and serene – however, we had to make do with an old sedan with a horribly mismatched paint job from a local agency. Our family stayed on the island for three nights. During that time, the combined internet bandwidth of the entire island was slower than what I get in just my own home. Nonetheless, all of us managed to stay alive!
If you’re planning on spending your family vacation in Chile, consider taking a couple of extra days to make that quick trip to Easter Island. It is going to be absolutely worth it!
"Given you’re only able to head towards one direction, losing your way isn’t going to be your problem."
By the way, if you’re planning to add a good dose of adrenaline in your Chilean family adventure, then rent a car to explore the 2,700 aforementioned miles from one end of Chile to another. At least, given you’re only able to head towards one direction, and one direction only, losing your way isn’t going to be your problem. Roads are in excellent condition as well. Traveling with children, the only limiting factor might manifest itself in impatient repetitions of “Are we there yet?”