If visiting Chile with kids has not crossed your mind as an appealing family vacation possibility, read on … we just got back from a tremendous trip with Latin Excursions, a top-notch tour operator specializing in travel to Central and South America. As I’ve been running into people who follow my Facebook feed, their first comment is that my photos are incredible. They subsequently ask if Chile is really THAT beautiful and amazing. My answer? Yes, indeed.
Although Chile doesn’t have a landmark icon like the Eiffel Tower or the Matterhorn to draw attention to it, the country is full of astonishing natural wonders, from the driest non-polar desert in the world, to smoking volcanoes glowing red with lava at night, to some of the most striking and remote wilderness areas on earth in Patagonia. Extending 2,653 mi/4,270 km (Wikipedia) from north to south, it’s impossible to feel like you’ve made a dent in a single vacation, but we got a taste for its wild beauty and can’t wait to go back.
Here are a few reasons why an adventure to Chile with kids should make the bucket list:
Family travel is booming in Chile … I just didn’t realize how popular this market is for families, as until now, we haven’t covered it on Ciao Bambino. Many people have heard about Patagonia, but not about all the other things there are to see and do around Chile with kids of all ages. It’s far for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, but you can still craft a wonderful 10- to 14-day vacation given the moderate time change and accessibility of the destinations of interest. It’s more or less the same travel time as going to Europe from the West Coast with a connection, i.e. long but doable and worth it.
Once you arrive in Santiago, Chile offers wildly different landscapes to experience within a few hours’ drive or flight. You don’t need to travel far south to Patagonia to have enough incredible things to see and do. With the Pacific Ocean on one side of this narrow country and the Andes on the other, ocean and mountain lovers can get their dose of bliss. In a one-week trip we experienced the coast, mountains, vineyards, lakes and rivers. It reminds me of California in this way — you can drive a short distance and be in a totally different place from a climate and visual standpoint.
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Chile is an active family paradise with both soft and more strenuous adventure opportunities. Although we were intrigued by Valparaiso and Santiago, the country’s gems, in my opinion, are its natural wonders, and experiencing them in full requirements an interest in outdoor pursuits like trekking, biking, skiing, whitewater rafting, surfing, boating, fishing and alike. If you enjoy such activities as a family, run — don’t walk — to Chile!
Chile didn’t strike me as a blend of anything. Although its roots are with Spanish and indigenous tribes like the Mapuche, it has a unique culture that’s its own. We bought handicrafts from Chilean artisans, ate amazing meals from Chilean chefs, and boy, did we like Chilean wine.
We were exceedingly well cared for by Latin Excursions, but we also met really friendly Chileans who went out of their way to welcome us to their country and share tidbits and information to make us feel more comfortable. We were literally picked up on the side of a road in the Andes where our car broke down — two Chilean tourists rescued us and could not have been nicer. We found this friendly attitude to be ubiquitous at hotels, airports and shops and not limited to a handful of encounters.
Our trip was exceptionally busy because I wanted to see enough to be able to make recommendations to Ciao Bambino clients, but families who visit Chile on vacation can craft a relaxing itinerary that enables them to settle meaningfully into the different destinations. Many of the top hotels are set up as all-inclusive activity lodges, where you show up and all the meals and activities are centralized at and by the hotel for ease of use.
We were there in the fall and couldn’t take advantage of summer pleasures like swimming and eating dinner outside, but that exists in spades from December to March. That said, we loved visiting in April because there were no crowds, and I understand that spring is wonderful in that regard as well. Meanwhile, winter brings skiing opportunities, including a few resorts that are close to Santiago, so families can pair an urban trip with a ski trip. In short, Chile is an excellent year-round family vacation venue.
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