The following itineraries span the entire length of this incredibly diverse country, taking you from the icy fjords and snow-tipped mountains of the south to the fertile wine-growing valleys in the centre and parched desert and highland lagoons of the north. Given the vast distances involved, you may not be able to cover every highlight, but even picking a few from the itineraries below will give you a thrilling window onto Chile’s geographical and cultural wonders.

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The grand tour

Allow at least three weeks if you wish to cover Chile from top to bottom; flying between some of the destinations will allow you to cover vast distances quickly.

1 Atacama desert

Visit erupting geysers, crinkly salt plains and emerald lakes in the morning, and deep, mystical valleys by sunset in the driest desert on earth.

2 Elqui Valley/stargazing near Vicuna

Take advantage of some of the clearest skies in Chile and look at the universe through some of the world’s most powerful telescopes.

3 Santiago

Chile’s rapidly evolving capital city boasts a vibrant eating out and nightlife scene, several fascinating museums, numerous cultural pursuits and a selection of excellent places to stay.

4 Valparaíso

One of South America’s most enchanting cities, Valparaíso has a tangle of colourful houses, cobbled streets and bohemian hang-outs spread across a series of undulating hills overlooking the Pacific.

5 Isla Negra

Pablo Neruda’s house has been turned into a beguiling museum with an evocative collection of the Nobel Prize-winning poet’s kitsch and often bizarre trinkets and knick-knacks.

6 Wineries

Visit the numerous traditional bodegas around San Fernando and Santa Cruz, and sample some of Chile’s finest vintages.

7 Parque Nacional Torres del Paine

Hike the trails of Chile’s most popular – and most spectacular – national park or climb the granite towers that give the park its name.

Island hopping

Since you’re very likely to linger on one of Chile’s enchanted isles, and given some of the distances involved, allow at least three weeks for this trip.

1 Easter Island

Gazing down into the giant crater of the extinct Rano Kau volcano and visiting the magical moai at Ahu Tongariki and Rano Raraku are once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

2 Isla Robinson Crusoe

Although badly damaged by the 2010 tsunami, Isla Robinson Crusoe still has the end-of-the-world castaway feel that inspired Daniel Defoe’s famous book.

3 Chiloé

Sample one of Chile’s most memorable dishes, admire the palafitos (traditional houses on stilts) or hike through temperate rainforest on Chile’s mist and legend shrouded island.

4 Patagonian islands

Lose yourself in this veritable maze of fjords and tiny islets by taking to the water in a sea kayak, or take a boat trip in search of the elusive blue whale.

5 Tierra del Fuego

Explore the deserted roads running through steppe and dotted with guanacos and rheas, or fish in the pristine lakes and rivers of Chile’s remotest region.

6 Isla Navarino

Chile’s southernmost inhabited territory (barring Antarctica), where the warmth of the locals contrasts with the harshness of the landscape.

7 Cape Horn

Fly over some of the world’s most treacherous waters or brave a sailing trip to Chile’s southernmost group of islands – the biggest nautical graveyard in the Americas.

The great outdoors

With the exception of the treks, all items on this itinerary are do-able as day excursions, so a couple of weeks should be sufficient.

1 Paragliding/surfing in Iquique

IIquique’s perfect climate makes it one of the best places in the world to soar the skies or dance through waves.

2 Skiing at Portillo

Take to the slopes at Chile’s top ski resort, famous for its powder snow and with plenty of challenges for expert skiers.

3 Parque Nacional La Campana

Follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin by hiking up to the 1880m summit of Cerro La Campana, where you’ll be rewarded by some of the best views in the country.

4 Kayaking in Parque Pumalin

Explore the maze of tiny islands in the isolated fjords of Chile’s largest private nature reserve as part of a challenging multi-day expedition.

5 A boat trip around the San Rafael glacier

Take a boat trip to the ice-filled lagoon that is Chile’s fastest shrinking glacier and get close to the ice in a Zodiac speedboat.

6 Trekking the Dientes de Navarino

Take up the challenge of one of South America’s toughest hikes at the very end of the world.

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