It’s a long way down from Santiago to the far reaches of Chilean Patagonia, but the rewards—haunting fjords, shimmering glaciers, pristine mountainscapes—are as endless as the fabled pampas.
Places of note: Santiago’s increasingly sophisticated hotel scene includes the chic Aubrey in artsy Bellavista, just down the street from the former weekend house (now a museum) of Chilean poet laureate Pablo Neruda. Those who prefer mainstream luxury can opt for the Ritz-Carlton, Santiago in the swish Los Condes area. Torres del Paine National Park offers half a dozen upscale wilderness lodges, none better than Tierra Patagonia. In addition to gourmet Patagonian cuisine, the hotel boasts a spa with an indoor swimming pool and a full slate of guided day trips. Across the steppe to the east of the park, Estancia Cerro Guido offers a taste of authentic rural life, with cozy ranch-house accommodation and seasonal activities including shepherding and horseshoeing.
How to get there: From Southeast Asia and Hong Kong, the shortest route to Santiago is via Sydney with Qantas or via Auckland with Cathay Pacific and code-share partner LAN. There are daily flights from the Chilean capital to Puerto Natales or Punta Arenas in the south; for those wanting to experience some of Chile’s jigsaw-puzzle coastline, Navimag Ferries offers one-night sailing between Puerto Montt and Puerto Chacabuco.
When to go: Santiago, with its mild Mediterranean climate, can be pleasant to visit throughout the year. Not so Chilean Patagonia: unless you’re a fan of extreme weather, the southern region should be avoided in winter (June–August), when temperatures are often below freezing and rain or snow is a daily occurrence. Summertime (December–February) is definitely the best time to visit Chile’s south.