Trip Coach: June 26, 2007
Wayne Bernhardson, author of the guidebook 'Moon Handbooks Chile (Including Easter Island),' answered your questions on Chile.
New York, N.Y.: Hi! I'm going to Chile in November for a wedding. I'll stay in South America for five weeks. Can you give me a top ten list of places I must see?
Wayne Bernhardson: Sorry I'm on board a little late, but I had a computer glitch.
South America is a big continent--Chile is about the size of Texas and Argentina the size of India, so it's not easy to recommend widespread sights for practical reasons. However, in Chile I would say Torres del Paine National Park, the city of Valparaíso, and the Atacama desert would be the top sights for a first-time visitor.
Norfolk, Va.: I am planning a round-the-world trip and would like to include Patagonia as a destination. The way I have it planned right now, I'll be there in September. Is that too early to arrive and still have the place comfortable and navigable? Also, the majority of my destinations are going to be in more hot, humid, and tropical places so I won't have the luxury of bringing the technical fleeces and other such gear with me. Any advice or suggestions will be appreciated. Thanks
Wayne Bernhardson: It depends where you're going in Patagonia--September, for instance, is ideal for seeing wildlife at Argentina's Peninsula Valdes. Generally, the weather is drier on the Argentine side than the Chilean side, but it can still be blustery anywhere in Patagonia. In the more remote areas, services can be limited in September--the season really starts in October and runs until April, with the peak in January and February.
Bremerton, Wash.: I am flying into Santiago, Chile in early January 2008. I will be visiting the Lake District with a group of about 45 seniors later that month. What are the good spots to visit? Afterwards I will be staying to travel around Chile by myself on the way to Peru. What are the sites that should be seen while visiting Chile?
Wayne Bernhardson: Much depends on how much time you have, but I would say that the town of Puerto Varas, on Lago Llanquihue, makes an ideal base for visiting several national parks and the island of Chiloé. Lago Villarrica and the resort town of Pucón are also popularly. Remember that January is peak season, with more expensive prices and hotels often solidly booked.
If you're traveling overland to Peru, try to visit the city of Valparaiso, the wine country of central Chile, and the village of San Pedro de Atacama.
Castle Valley, Utah: My wife and I are retired with a flexible schedule but not flexible finances. We want to visit Chile for a month or so and find a central location from which we can see different parts of the country. Where should we locate? Which parts of the country should we visit? What time of year should we visit?
Wayne Bernhardson: Given Chile's unique geography, with a 2500-mile coastline, any "central" location will be far from many sights. I prefer the shoulder seasons of November/December and March/April for sights like Patagonia's Torres del Paine, the wine country of central Chile, and the southern lakes. The Atacama desert is good at any time of year, though at high altitudes it gets cold in winter (July/August).
Jacksonville, Ark.: My husband (60) and I (57) will be finishing a week-long business trip to Santiago, Chile, on Sep. 22, 2007. We have a tour starting Sep. 29 that goes into northern Chile and then to Easter Island. Any suggestions on what to do in the week in between? I would love to see glaciers and penguins but I am fearful to get too far from Santiago lest we miss the start of the tour.
Wayne Bernhardson: You can fly to Punta Arenas, Chile's southernmost city, in about three hours from Santiago, so logistics shouldn't be a problem. The glaciers you can see, by boat or overland, but it's only the start of the penguin season--you'll just see the earliest arrivals.
Bremerton, Wash.: What is there worth seeing on a visit to the area around Puerto Monttt, Chile?
Wayne Bernhardson: The town of Puerto Varas has real charm and is, in my opinion, a better place to stay than Puerto Montt. You'll be close to the island of Chiloé and several national parks--try Alerce Andino, which has fine hiking trails.
Fairfax, Va.: I am considering a trip to Chile in December and I was wondering the best way to get from Santiago to the Patagonia area. Is it expensive to travel to Patagonia? If I wanted to camp while I was there, what would be my best options?