At 2,500m, the Atacama Desert is both the driest and highest desert on earth. In this harsh, often eerie, yet starkly beautiful desert landscape there is a lot of sunshine, and although the temperature drops below zero at night, generally the year-round climate is pleasant and the transparency of light, unique. The mixture of volcanoes, salt flats and high altitude wetlands is unparalleled. With so much diversity in this small part of Chile, the excursions on offer are endless. We’ve whittled down our top five must-do excursions…
The Chilean Lake District is a fairy-tale land of snow-capped volcanoes, mountain pastures, emerald forests, lush-green rolling hills, turquoise lagoons and crystal-clear lakes. All these varied landscapes make it the most spectacular adventure playground and the perfect holiday destination for the outdoor enthusiast. With such a wide variety of things to see and do, we have narrowed down the top five things that are not to be missed in the Chilean Lake District.
Chilean Patagonia is the perfect destination for nature and outdoor enthusiasts who want exploration and adventure. It’s all things majestically alluring and one of our favourite places to dream of. See below the Latin America teams’ top five reasons to travel to this pocket of South America.
High in the Chilean Andes, Portillo is the oldest ski resort in South America. With a uniquely convivial atmosphere, a spectacular setting and superb powder skiing and boarding, Portillo is something of an institution just two hours from Santiago.
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Portillo is a unique ski destination with just one hotel, the Hotel Portillo. Situated on the edge of Laguna del Inca and surrounded by the towering, rugged Andes, the bright yellow hotel has cosy rooms with spectacular views of the lake or valley and an extensive range of facilities including an impressive outdoor pool and hot tub, a cinema, bar and on site and slope side restaurants. There are 123 room, including doubles, family apartments and suites, and they all have a view of the mountains or the lake. The lake view is especially spectacular. Rooms do not have a TV but telephone, safe, hairdryer, mini-bar, Wi-Fi Internet access throughout the hotel as well as a modern Internet Room. Portillo operates on a Saturday to Saturday basis with limited numbers of day skiers. The resort caters for all levels of skiing and snowboarding abilities from beginners to world champions.
Hotel Portillo has an incredible range of facilities including a fitness room, yoga room, full court gymnasium, sauna, beauty salon, bar, game room with climbing wall, living room, internet cafe, health clinic, disco and even a cinema. Outside there is a fantastic pool and hot tub with loungers, overlooking Laguna del Inca. There hotel also offers ski equipment rental and a ski/general store. Dining options include a main hotel restaurant, a slope side restaurant and a snack bar by the pistes.
The ski season at Portillo runs from June to October. The resort receives nearly 300 days of sunshine and an average of 7 metres of snowfall each season. The snow conditions are generally excellent and skiers and snowboarders of all abilities are catered for, including those with special needs. Expert skiers have access to vast and challenging areas, steep terrain and exhilarating experiences. Portillo also allows beginners and intermediates to excel at their own pace on groomed runs and open bowls. Portillo offers excellent skiing, snowboarding with 45 kilometres of pistes accessed by 14 lifts. Skiers can take part in the weekly Sol de Portillo race run by the resort and every Friday there is a torchlight parade, best seen from the hotel's sun deck. Adventurous skiers will find heli-skiing possibilities in this area exhilarating and trips can be easily organised from the hotel, to seek out fresh powder in the surrounding mountains. For non-skiers or those wanting a break from the pistes can there is a massage service, daily yoga classes, aquatic classes at the pool, ping pong, a climbing wall and the chance to play volleyball, basketball and badminton.
When to go
The ski season in Chile begins in mid-June and runs to October. However the best skiing conditions in Chile are generally mid July to early September, but the busy Chile holidays are during July.
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