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Roberta Long-Kelleher

New York, New York Travel Agent

Stretching My Limits in Chile

I had never been to South America, so when Lan Chile airline invited me to join a travel agent familiarization trip to Chile, I jumped at the chance. I’m glad I did because many of the experiences were unlike anything I’ve experienced before or since.

I love to bicycle but had never pedaled through endless desert before---and that is what cycling through the Atacama Desert felt like. There were three of us plus a guide, and it felt like there was only desert, sand, sky and us.

The ride was very flat. It is one of the driest places on earth. The temperature was perfect t-shirt weather and with no humidity, bicycling there was surprisingly comfortable. After a few hours of riding, we ended up at a salt-water lagoon with the clearest, bluest water imaginable. The water was clean and we could have swum but decided to relax, enjoy the picnic our guide had brought for us and take in the stark beauty.  

Another day, we hiked into the Valley of the Moons. Looking at the lunar landscape of craters and stone and sand formations, we understood how the area got its name. As we reached the heights, the panoramas were truly otherworldly in their beauty. 

Our itinerary also included Patagonia, which is a completely different type of land. Here, there were snow-capped mountains and lush valleys. One of the most memorable adventures was a six-hour hike where we experienced the four seasons in one day. Among the fun things we saw were guanacos (related to llamas) frolicking and playing in a field. We also took a boat excursion out to the sea and saw blue glaciers.

Hiking in Patagonia was wonderful, but you do have to be fit. Many of the trails are steep enough to require walking sticks and in some places there was snow. It’s also important to be prepared for the changing temperature with layers of clothing that you can add or stow in your backpack as needed. Chile also has a wonderful wine country to explore, and Easter Island is on many people’s bucket list.

Our trip started and ended in Santiago. It’s a sophisticated big city with a pretty old town that has impressive art and architecture. Throughout Chile, the food and wine were spectacular, and I absolutely loved the people we came in contact with. The economy was buzzing and everyone seemed to convey the sense that life in Chile was good. 

Throughout Chile, there are terrific luxury adventure lodges. So, after a day of hiking, you can return to gourmet cuisine and spas with wonderful hot tubs and pools. Among my favorites was The Singular Patagonia, which is world-renowned. It makes a great base for exploration and, with its own museum and luxurious spa, is a destination in itself. And truly world-class dining awaits at &Beyond Vira Vira, a Relais and Chateau hotel with its own farm/hacienda and gourmet field-to-table restaurant.

Since my trip, I have arranged many trips for my clients to explore Chile. They are almost universally surprised at the quality of the hotels and activities and the awe-inspiring scenery, and everyone returns raving about their experiences.

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