Jan 10, 2018

Chile Wins Top Prize at the World Travel Awards

Chile wins important tourist award.
Photo: ahoranoticias.cl - Parque Nacional Torres del Paine
     For the second year in a row, Chile is the winner of the "World Travel Awards", in the category Best Adventure Tourism Destination. The achievement is not minor since in this 2017 competition, the country had to compete with icons of World tourism such as Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, Japan, Ecuador and Sri Lanka. The ceremony was held in Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam. Other important awards granted to South American countries were Peru with Machu Picchu as the "Best Tourist Attraction in the World" and Bolivia, as "Best Cultural Destination in the World".

     The magnificent natural landscapes offered by the Chilean geography and the diversity of activities that can be performed there, were decisive for this new accomplishment. All the countries have their own charms and natural wonders, but the fact is that Chile stands out since the visitor can soak up landscapes and experiences as diverse as the vastness and archaeological richness of the Atacama Desert in the extreme North to the immensity of Patagonia, in the southernmost point of the Americas, a mixture of pampas, glaciers, eternal snow and wild nature, where the options of carrying out an endless number of adventures are numerous. On the other hand, the city of Punta Arenas, known as "The Capital of Patagonia" is one of the main gateways to the Antarctic, located a little over 2 hours from the White Continent. Currently, great emerging destinations in Patagonia are traveling along the Carretera Austral, navigating through the Southern Channels, visiting beautiful National Parks such as Torres del Paine, Laguna San Rafael, Parque Nacional Queulat, Parque Pumalin and several others, the island of Tierra del Fuego, shared with Argentina, 
the dreaded Cape Horn, union of 2 Oceans and meeting point of daring adventurers who try to cross it.


Adventure Tourism in Southern Chile
Adventure Tourism in Region De Los Lagos - Photo: cnnchile.com

    But it is not only Atacama and Patagonia, throughout its crazy geography, Chile offers multiple and varied settings for the practice of Adventure Tourism. In the South- Central part of the country, the Cordillera de Los Andes is a great attraction for snow lovers and related sports, with World Class Winter Centers, many of them a few kilometers from the capital Santiago, as well as many others in Southern Chile. During the summer season, many of these centers turn into cozy Resorts to enjoy the surrounding nature, make mountaineering, trekking, horseback riding, mountain biking, etc. With regard to water sports, Surfing and Diving are becoming increasingly popular especially in Northern and Central Chile, where some of the most important beaches for the practice of these recreational activities are located. 

     The remote Easter Island, in the middle of the South Pacific, jealously guards the secrets of the ancestral Rapa Nui Culture, whose Moai and Ahu (Ceremonial Altars), are mute witnesses of an extinct civilization, accompanied by a Subtropical climate and Nature that enchant the visitor. The Region De Los Lagos (Chile's Lakes Region) is another inexhaustible source for those who like adrenaline, surrounded by a spectacular environment, volcanoes and snowy mountains, lakes of iridescent waters, rivers, waterfalls and remote fjords. The numerous rivers of the South of Chile are a true paradise for Sport Fishing lovers but also some of them offer a unique setting for the practice of Kayaking and especially Rafting, with rapids that attract adventurers from all over the World. These reasons and many others make Chile one of the most emerging tourist destinations, receiving the just ended 2017 a total of 6,449,883 foreign visitors, according to official data delivered by the Undersecretary of Tourism.

Dec 27, 2017

Chile's Lakes Region, a charming place to tour

Los Lagos Region, Chile.
Petrohue River - Photo: cajalosandes.cl
     As you probably already know, Chile is administratively divided into 16 Regions. The Region De Los Lagos or Decima Region (Tenth Region) as it is also known, is located in the Center-South of the country, bordered on the North by the Region De Los Rios, on the South by the Region De Aysen, on the East by the Argentine Republic and the Pacific Ocean on the West. Its capital is the city of Puerto Montt and the provinces that make up the region are 4, from N to S: Osorno, Llanquihue, Chiloe and Palena. According to the 2015 census, the regional population was 841123 inhabitants. The economy is based mainly on agriculture, forestry, livestock, fishing, salmon farming and dairy industry, services and tourism, supported on a wide range of natural scenery throughout its extension, typical food, folk music and traditions, especially in the province of Chiloe.  The German colonization, mainly between 1850 and 1910, has left an important legacy in all areas of the regional life. 

How to get there: The most usual ways to get to the "Region De Los Lagos" are by air to El Tepual Airport, located 16 Km. NW of Puerto Montt, from the Chilean capital Santiago, from Punta Arenas in the South, or through the numerous Bus Lines that arrive to the Terminal. As mentioned at the beginning, Puerto Montt is the capital and base of operations for almost all the programs and circuits that tour the region. Here are the main places of tourist attraction of Chile's Tenth Los Lagos Region:

Isla de Chiloe

Iglesia de San Francisco, city of Castro, Chile.
Photo: iglesiasdechiloe.cl
     The "Isla Grande de Chiloe" (Greater Island of Chiloe) and all the adjacent islands are one of the emblematic places to sightsee in Chile, they are like a separate chapter within the Region De Los Lagos. What makes the place so special are its own culture and traditions, its festive music, according to the personality of its people, the cuisine, with unique characteristics and the gentle, beautiful landscapes. Among the most important places can be mentioned Chiloe National Park, located in the Western part of the island, with its 431 km.2 it currently represents one of the most visited protected areas in Chile. In the commune of Quellon, South end of the main island, lies Tantauco Park, a private reserve open to the general public. Tantauco is considered one of the 25 World's richest territories in Biodiversity, therefore a top priority for the conservation of Nature. Parque Tantauco is one of the most important places for trekking in Chile, the trails total almost 150 km, with routes of low and high difficulty in the southernmost and wildest part of the Greater Island of Chiloe.

     Important tourist places are also the towns of Ancud, gateway to Chiloe, founded by the Spaniards in 1768; Castro, the current provincial capital, with a very typical architecture in addition to the Iglesia de San Francisco (San Francisco Church) declared a World Heritage Site; Dalcahue, small town located 25 km North of Castro; Chonchi, known as "La Ciudad de los Tres Pisos (The City of the Three Floors), because it is built on three natural levels. On the other hand, the old Churches of Chiloe, the 16 that have been declared World Heritage by UNESCO and the rest, all belonging to the "Escuela Chilota de Arquitectura en Madera" (Chiloe's School of Religious Architecture in Wood), have unique characteristics that have earned recognition all over the world.

"Angelmo" Fishermen's Market and Tourist Center

     The small bay of Angelmo lies 3 km from Puerto Montt downtown. Currently, Angelmo is the most important tourist attraction in the city since here are concentrated the Maritime Terminal that connects with the province of Chiloe and the Regions of Aysen and Magallanes, there is also the Craft Fair, a Fishing Terminal to sell the products brought by the locals and a large Seafood Market where these products are sold in small restaurants.

Vicente Perez Rosales National Park

     Created in August 1926, this protected area is the oldest in the country. Within its more than 253,000 hectares of surface, there are great tourist attractions, framed by the Andes Mountains, an evergreen vegetation and turquoise water lakes, places worthy of a postcard. Particularly worth mentioning are the Osorno Volcano, true icon of the Region De Los Lagos, considered "almost perfect" because of its shape and colors; the wonderful Lago Todos los Santos (Todos los Santos Lake), one  of the most photogenic places in Chile; Los Saltos del Petrohue, set of small cascades of the Petrohue River which fall among rocks of volcanic origin, another of the favorite views of the photographers; Laguna Verde, gateway to Vicente Perez Rosales National Park, so called because of the color given to the water by two micro-algae that live in suspension; Monte Tronador, inactive volcano of 3491 mts. of altitude, in the border between Chile and Argentina.

Museo Colonial Aleman (German Colonial Museum)

     The Museo Colonial Aleman, inaugurated in 1984, is located in the town of Frutillar, mainly dedicated to preserve the legacy of the German immigration in the area of Llanquihue Lake. It is made up of a group of five buildings covered with wooden tiles, in the style of Southern Chile. At the entrance is located La Llaveria, where currently are carried out administrative activities of the museum, then you can visit La Casa del Molino (The Mill's House) with a large sample of objects, documents and explanatory panels of the different historical stages shown in the exhibition, outside the house there is El Molino de Agua (The Water Mill), one of the first machines used by the settlers on the shores of Lake Llanquihue, around 1870. Other facilities are La Casa del Herrero (The Blacksmith's House), with machines, carriages and tools of the time; El Campanario (The Bell Tower), a circular barn where the sheaves of wheat were gathered and finally on the hill you get to La Casa Patronal (Main House) built in 1889, where you can see how the houses of the German settlers were thanks to the economic development they got. Near the Casa Patronal there is a Family Cemetery, as was customary at the time among some immigrant groups.

Llanquihue Lake and Surroundings 

Llanquihue Lake, Chile.
Puerto Varas and Llanquihue Lake
Photo: biobiochile.cl
     Lago Llanquihue, 22 km away from Puerto Montt, is the second largest lake in Chile, its name comes from the "Mapudungun", autochthonous language meaning "sunken place". It is a tourist destination recognized worldwide, on its banks are towns and cities of great scenic beauty, having as backdrop the volcanoes Osorno, Puntiagudo, Calbuco and Tronador. Highlight the city of Puerto Varas, with its Sagrado Corazon de Jesus Church, beautiful and imposing Temple which can be seen from any point of Puerto Varas; the Waterfront of the town of Frutillar Bajo, a must see, here is also the Teatro del Lago (Theatre of the Lake), artistic center amidst a beautiful setting where every year a festival of Art Music called "Semanas Musicales de Frutillar" takes place; Ensenada, main tourist center on the eastern shore of Lago Llanquihue, a place of a beauty difficult to find in other parts of the World, in addition to its good infrastructure to serve tourists. Lakes Llanquihue, Todos los Santos and surrounding places are suitable for various adventure tourism activities such as sailing, windsurfing, rafting, kayaking, water skiing, recreational fishing, mountaineering, skiing, etc.

Parque Nacional Alerce Andino 

     Following the Carretera Austral, 46 Km. SE of Puerto Mont lies this protected area whose name translated into English would be "Andean Larch National Park", because of the 20,000 hectares of this tree which once covered hundreds of thousands of hectares in this part of Southern Chile. Today there are only 42,000 hectares, protected by the Chilean State. It should be noted that the Larch Tree is one of the oldest on the planet, can live from 3000 to 4000 years, grows only 1 centimeter every 15 years, despite this it can reach 50 meters high and 3 to 4 meters in diameter. In 1982 was created this Natural Reserve, precisely to protect these true relics of Nature, although the Park also includes other native species such as the Coigue de Magallanes, Coigue de Chiloe, Lenga, Tenio, Mañio and Canelo. Alerce Andino is open all year round although the most suitable time to go is Spring-Summer season, there are trails for trekking, the whole area is very rainy so you should take the appropriate precautions.

Carretera Austral (Chile's Southern Way)

View of the Carretera Austral, South of Chile.
 A view of the Carretera Austral - Photo: vialidad.cl
     Undoubtedly, the Carretera Austral, also known as Ruta 7, is one of the most panoramic roads in the World. The geography of this part of Chile is very difficult but many of the landscapes are worthy of a postcard. It is a road in constant expansion, there are currently almost 1300 km between Puerto Montt and Villa O'Higgins, with paved parts (the least), other gravel and certain sections that must be made in ferries. The next paragraph also includes places of the XIth Aysen Region. 

     Among the outstanding sites can be mentioned Hornopiren, the North Gate of the Carretera Austral; Parque Pumalin, one of the largest and most important Private Nature Reserves of Chile and South America, of great scenic beauty; La Junta, North access to the Aysen Region; Parque Nacional Queulat, one of the most visited by tourists who travel along Route 7; Laguna San Rafael National Park, the largest in the Aysen Region, with incredible landscapes of millenary ice from the Northern Ice Fields; La Catedral de Marmol (The Marble Cathedral), mineral formation of calcium carbonate in the middle of the blue waters of General Carrera Lake, a series of wonderful caverns through which tourists can navigate in small boats.

Town and Comunne of Futaleufu

     The basin of Futaleufu River is a very important tourist area in the Los Lagos region, recognized worldwide by fly fishing lovers, also thanks to its fast Class V rapids for the practice of rafting, horseback riding and mountain biking. Despite being a remote mountain area, almost lost on the map and very close to the border with Argentina, the place has good infrastructure to receive visitors, with a varied culinary offer and accommodation. Another place nearby, emblematic and true paradise for lovers of recreational fishing is Lake Espolon, also full of charming places. From Futaleufu you can reach Argentine territory through the Trevelin International Pass.

Dec 10, 2017

Pali Aike National Park, Chile

Parque Nacional Pali Aike, Chile.
Photo: radiopolar.com
       Parque Nacional Pali Aike is located in the Commune of San Gregorio, 200 Km. NE of Punta Arenas, following the CH 255 Route that leads to Monte Aymond border crossing. Created in 1970, the Park is run by CONAF, Chile's National Forest Corporation. So far little known and promoted, Pali Aike is a good option when visiting southern Patagonia since its tourist attractions are outstanding. The Park comprises an area of Volcanic Fields  that during the Pleistocene and early Holocene had great activity, the bizarre landscape is characterized by sparse vegetation, volcanic cones and valleys surrounded by ancient lava formations that dominate the place. For this reason, the native Tehuelches, or Aonikenk as they called themselves, called the area "Desolate Place of the Evil Spirits", because of the fear they felt for the strange surroundings. 

Attractions of Pali Aike National Park

     Apart from being normally visited by scientists, it is also a very suitable place for those interested in archeology, volcanology, and for the ones who like trekking and outdoor life in general. Fauna: the Guanaco, as throughout Patagonia, is the largest group of mammals within the Park and although far from being in danger of extinction, there are regulations that protect their survival.  Other species of the Park are the Pumas, Armadillos, Gray Foxes, Chingues (Patagonian Skunks) and Bats. Among the birds are the Rheas, Queltehues (Southern Lapwing), Flamingos, Bandurrias (Buff-Necked Ibis), Swans, "Patos Jergones" (Yellow-Billed Pintail) and occasionally small reptiles such as the Magellanic Lizard (Liolaemus Magellanicus).

     There is a network of trails of medium difficulty generally in very good conditions among which can be mentioned the Sendero Crater Morada del Diablo and the Sendero Etnocultural which leads to the Pali Aike Cave, an archaeological site discovered at the beginning of the 1930s and declared a Historic Monument in 1969. In this place were found vestiges of human occupation dating from approximately 8600 years ago. Other trekking circuits in Pali Aike are the Sendero Laguna Ana, of 900 mts., special place for Birdwatching of this part of Patagonia such as the the Flamingos and "Chorlitos" (Plovers) and some species of mammals  and finally the Sendero Pozos del Diablo, of 2000 mts. Apart from the aforementioned Pali Aike Cave, another of the great attractions of the Park is the Caverna de Fell (Fell's Cave),  discovered by the American archaeologist Junius Bird, where you can see cave paintings dating back to more than 11,000 years, in what was possibly the oldest human settlement of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.

     On the way to the Park, 124 km North of Punta Arenas, you can visit the today practically abandoned Estancia San Gregorio, the first sheep ranch founded in the Region of Magallanes, in 1876, until the 1950s San Gregorio lived years of great prosperity. Stranded on the beach, you can see the rusty remains of ancient ships, one of them is the steamboat "Amadeo", run aground in 1932, belonging to the once powerful Menendez-Behety Society, of great importance in the development of the Chilean- Argentinian Patagonia. A few meters away, is the tea Clipper "Ambassador", built in London and launched in 1869. Today reduced to a skeletal frame, this sailboat, along with its similar, the "Cutty Sark", exhibited as Museum in Greenwich, England, represent one of the last Clippers of the "Tea Race". 

Access to the Park, facilities

     The park is reached from Punta Arenas, through the international route 255, only the last kilometers are gravel road. The opening hours for tours and visitors in general is from 8.30 to 19.00 hrs. every day during the high season. There are places to picnic enabled with benches and tables that can be used as a refuge, although you can not cook since it is forbidden to make a fire. There are several tours to Parque Nacional Pali Aike available from the Tourism Agencies located in Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales, some of them: