If you’re looking to experience an adrenaline rush in the great outdoors, you’ve come to the right place. Chile features some of the best skiing in the southern hemisphere and the finest resorts lie just 40km from Santiago, in Valle Nevado and Portillo, while the Termas de Chillán ski centre in the middle of the country allows you to combine the longest run in South America with steaming thermal pools for après-ski relaxation.
Eventually due to span the 4320km length of the country, the hugely ambitious Sendero de Chile (Chile Trail; senderodechile.cl) currently consists of numerous sections running through spectacularly varied scenery and skirting some splendid volcanoes. Volcanoes are in fact a defining feature of Chile’s geography. In the Far North, experienced trekkers can tackle behemoths such as Volcán Parinacota and Volcán Ojos del Salado – the tallest active volcano in the world – while the Lake District’s Volcán Villarica and Volcán Osorno make spectacular day climbs for novices. The most challenging vertical ascents are the giant granite towers at the heart of Torres del Paine National Park. If the mountains aren’t high enough, climb aboard a hot-air balloon or paraglide above Iquique’s giant sand dune – a favourite with sandboarders.
Water junkies will undoubtedly be tempted by Chile’s veritable playground of rivers and seas. While Río Trancura and Río Petrohue cater to beginners, Río Futaleufú remains Chile’s most challenging river for whitewater rafting and kayaking, while the northern sector of Parque Pumalín, the Gulf of Ancud, the southern fjords and the turbulent Magellan Strait are all prime sea-kayaking territory.