Debbie Feldman rappels during a canyoneering adventure. // © 2016 Debbie Feldman
Feature image (above): Visitors can go wine tasting after a horseback ride. // © 2016 iStock/wanderlust
Chile’s combination of unique geography, upscale accommodations and services and a wide range of adventure options makes it one of the world’s best destinations for experiential travel. From Patagonia and Easter Island to the Atacama Desert and beyond, tourists have their choice of activities that are worthy of some heavy-duty bragging rights. Here, a few Chile tourism insiders share their top picks.
Riding and Wine Tasting
Constanza Moya, commercial director for Matetic Vineyards, says being able to horseback ride through the Chilean countryside and end with a wine tour and tasting at Matetic has become her favorite adventure.
Located in Rosario Valley, about a one-hour drive west of Santiago, Matetic features a top-notch vineyard and La Casona Hotel, a boutique country inn.
“Matetic is a great place to experience several outdoor excursions,” Moya said. “You can combine these adventures with a wine tour, a taste of the local gastronomy in Equilibrio Restaurant or a stay at La Casona.”
Families Welcome: Moya has done this ride with her own kids; however, parents should be aware that kids must be accompanied by an adult and should be at least 8 years old or have previous equestrian experience.
Paris Capetanopulos, owner of tour operator Chile Hike, feels there’s no better place for mountaineering than Chile’s central region. Here, visitors can find peaks that tower more than 19,000 feet, extensive glaciers, natural thermal baths, fossils, volcanoes and more.
“We do expeditions in this area because we think it’s an important tourist spot and deserves to be recognized as one of the best places for climbing in the world,” said Capetanopulos. “Although it’s a dream for mountain climbers, the area is not on a lot of tourist itineraries. It’s still in a wild state. It’s common to see flocks of guanacos, big condors, flying through the skies here.”
He points out that Chile’s geography makes it ideal for a variety of adventures.
“Chile is more than Patagonia and Easter Island,” Capetanopulos said. “Our country has a wild geography that is still evolving due to volcanoes that continuously change the environment.”
When to Go: Capetanopulos says that the mountains of Chile’s central zone can be visited year-round, since summits range from 3,000 to 19,000 feet. However, mountains above 16,000 feet should only be traversed from November to March and always with a guide.
Debbie Feldman, CEO of Chile Tourism Board, says one of her favorite activities is canyoneering — descending rivers and streams using any combination of walking, climbing, rappelling, ziplining, jumping and sliding. With this sport, visitors can enjoy beautiful surroundings mixed with adrenaline.
Feldman says canyoneering also provides the opportunity to explore untouched places. One of her favorite locales is Fuy River, located between Lake Pirihueico and Lake Panguipulli in Chile’s Lakes District. According to Feldman, the scenery here is wonderful and the river has a strong enough current that people can swim or just be carried along. She says Chile is ideal for canyoneering, as there are so many rivers and waterfalls in the country.
“Canyoneering started in Chile more than 15 years ago,” Feldman said. “There are many great spots for it, such as Pucon, Futaleufu and the area around Puerto Varas. There is something for everyone.”
Safety First: Feldman strongly suggests using quality guides who know the terrain. She says agents should work with a company that begins the activity with a safety briefing and uses proper equipment, including life jackets.