Which is the best trip you’ve ever taken? For any true globetrotter this question poses the same dilemma as having to choose their favourite child or decide which limb of their body they would miss the least. I’ve been asked this many times and always found it impossible to give a straight answer. But if I were to judge by the number of superlatives that I can attribute to a single trip, Chile probably comes close to the top of the list:
Most breathtaking landscapes – I bet we’ve all seen them, those pictures of Chilean azure lakes with snow capped peaks in the background and just enough bulky clouds in the sky to add some drama. And I bet we’ve all thought the same: »This must have been photoshopped.« When I was standing on top of a desert ridge in Atacama waiting for the sun to set I realised that no picture, filter or photo editing can ever do justice to the natural spectacle we were witnessing. And that’s a frequently recurring feeling in Chile. From the southernmost tip of Patagonia all the way up north the country always trumps with a new scene that will knock your sweaty hiking socks off.
Best hiking – We’re not known to be very keen hikers. But the very first glimpse of the Torres del Paine peaks basking in the afternoon sun made me feel as if I could do the whole 10-day trek around them without stopping. Instead we only climbed up to the Torres base and hiked to the Grey glacier and back. In terms of any serious trekking this would be considered as barely dipping our toes in the water. But both hikes were some of the most rewarding experiences in my life. Even today after all this time I can get itchy feet just by looking at those photos.
Most unexpected rainbow – The Atacama desert is supposed to be the driest desert in the world. Imagine our surprise then, as we ran into a heavy afternoon shower as soon as we landed at the tiny airport in Calama. The rainbow that followed was equally stunning.
Strongest winds – Once you’ve experienced Patagonian wind you realise why all the trees grow diagonally and not straight up. Being exposed to the elements gets a totally new meaning in this harsh landscape.
Highest altitude – Chile is the perfect place to experience the thin mountain air without having to climb a peak for a couple of days (see the point about our hiking enthusiasm above). The Altiplanic lagoons Miscante and Miniques at the altitude of 4,200 m are a sight to behold and can be reached by car. And if the short walk to the lagoons won’t leave you short of breath, the first sight of volcanoes reflecting in the striking blue water is sure to take your breath away completely.
Best wine – It’s not just nature and outdoors, Chile offers some nice epicurean delights too. Santa Cruz valley a couple of hours drive from Santiago is where you will find the huge and worldwide known Concha y Torro wine cellar. You also shouldn’t miss several other smaller producers of high quality earthy reds that might well change your wine palate for good. A day or two of wine tasting will round off your trip perfectly and make all those unforgettable experiences sink in even more.
Our best trip so far? Maybe.