We live in Minnesota. So, needless to say, a lot of our travel planning revolves around getting out of the cold during the winter. We’ve been fortunate enough to have visited Africa, Australia and other destinations that make it a perfect winter getaway. This year, South America was high on our list. In fact, our interest in the Moai culture and Easter Island drove our decision to visit this unique place.
We worked with Kris Nosworthy at Pique Travel to develop a really eclectic itinerary (he had helped us last year with our Africa trip and did a great job getting to know us as travelers). We wanted to spend our time in Chile before and/or after our visit to Easter Island, but I’m not sure we realized how immense the country is! We ended up choosing to do more of the central and northern part of the country, knowing we would just have to go back to visit the Patagonia region.
Our time there started by flying into Santiago and then onto the Calama area in the Atacama Desert. This area is like nothing we’ve ever seen with its lunar landscapes that were other worldly but fascinating. We were at a higher elevation (8,000+ feet) and were able to see geysers and beautiful valleys.
Then, we’d venture down to the lower areas to see the flamingos, salt flats and the sand dunes. The varying landscape made it so interesting and we had some great hikes during our time there.
After our time in the Atacama, we flew back to Santiago to spend a little time enjoying the city. We had a great full-day guided tour where we were able to soak up some of the Chilean culture, a few open air local markets and of course, the food! The paella in Barrio Italiano (Little Italy) was one of the most memorable meals I think we’ve ever had. The Pisco (locally made brandy) wasn’t bad either!
We then headed out to Easter Island. Technically part of Chile, and nearly 2,300 miles off the coast (4-1/2 hour flight), this unique island feels very remote – probably because it is! Our excitement level was really high once we landed. It was a warm and beautiful tropical island and part of our intrigue was because few people visit there (which is a big part of its charm).
We stayed at the Hanga Roa Eco Village and Spa and it was superb. The guides who took us out were knowledgeable and friendly. We loved the people in general. They reminded us of the locals in Hawaii (must be that Polynesian influence).
Of course, a highlight was seeing the Moai statues. We were impressed with the sheer size (some reached 25 feet tall) and were in awe of how people could have created and moved them back in the day before our modern equipment. We even visited the quarry, which was full of carved Moai heads and dates back to 1250. The Rapa Nui culture of Easter Island was so interesting and we loved our time there! It drove our decision to take this trip in the first place and it did not disappoint!
After our time on Easter Island, we flew back to the mainland to spend a few days in Chile’s countryside – wine country, that is. We stayed at La Casona Matetic, our favorite hotel on this trip. It’s a 10-room boutique hotel set within the Casablanca Valley. We enjoyed wine tastings, amazing food (at Equilibrio), horseback riding and just relishing our surroundings.
Our time in Chile came to an end as we drove out to Valparasio on the Pacific coast and flew home from there.
Each of the four distinctively different parts of our trip were memorable in their own way. We feel like we could have spent more time in each area, yet because we limited our time, it allowed us to take in more variety. There is so much more to see and do in this beautiful region of the world and we can’t wait to return!
Want to learn more about traveling to Chile, Easter Island or other parts of South America? Email Linda at LindaB@PiqueTravel.com.