The beaches of Bahía Inglesa are probably the most photographed in Chile, adorning wall calendars up and down the country. More than their white, powdery sands – which, after all, you can find the length of Chile’s coast – it’s the exquisite clarity of the turquoise sea and the curious rock formations that rise out of it which set these beaches apart.

Several beaches are strung along the bay to the north of Caldera, separated by rocky outcrops: the long Playa Machas is the southernmost beach, followed by Playa La Piscina, then by Playa El Chuncho and finally Playa Blanca. Surprisingly, this resort area has not been swamped by the kind of ugly, large-scale construction that mars Viña del Mar and La Serena, and Bahía Inglesa remains a fairly compact collection of cabañas and a few hotels. While the place gets hideously crowded in the height of summer, at most other times it’s peaceful and relaxing.

South of Bahía Inglesa, beyond the little fishing village of Puerto Viejo that marks the end of the paved road, the coast is studded with a string of superb beaches lapped with crystal-clear water and backed by immense sand dunes. The scenery is particularly striking around Bahía Salada, a deserted bay indented with tiny coves some 130km south of Bahía Inglesa. You might be able to find a tour operator that arranges excursions to these beaches, but if you really want to appreciate the solitude and wilderness of this stretch of coast, you’re better off renting a jeep and doing it yourself.

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