Did you know?
- Chile borders three different countries: Argentina to the east; Bolivia to the northeast; and Peru to the north.
- Chile became part of the Spanish Vice Royalty of Peru in the mid sixteenth century. Led by Pedro de Valdivia, Spanish soldiers moved into the region and founded Santiago (1541).
- In 1817, the Spanish were defeated by the revolutionary forces of Bernardo O'Higgins and Jose de San Martin, the liberator of Argentina.
- Between 1879 and 1884 Chile was at war with Peru and Bolivia for control of the nitrate-rich Atacama Desert. Chile's victory added Tarapaca (Peru) and Antofagasta (Bolivia) to its territory.
- Since independence there has been alternation between military and civilian rule. In 1973 Salvador Allende, the first elected Marxist president in South America was overthrown by General Augusto Pinochet who ruled until 1990.
- Forests, grazing land, volcanoes and lakes are all features of southern Chile, while mountains cover 80% of the country.
- Chile had to endure a 17-year military dictatorship between 1973-1990 that left more than 3,000 people either dead or missing.
- It is believed that Native Americans settled in Chile about 10,000 years ago.
- Chile is the world’s 38th largest country and is about twice the size of Japan.
- Chile claims about 1.25 million square kilometres of Antarctica (or roughly 9% of its total size) as Chilean territory.
- Copper is Chile’s number one export. The world’s largest open pit mine is found at Chuquicamata in northern Chile.
- Chile is the second-largest producer of salmon in the world.
- Chile provides North America with almost 15% of all its fruit sales during the months of November to April.
- Unlike most of the world, Chile is blessed with natural barriers. The fruit-growing region is protected by the Andes Mountains on the east, the Antarctic ice cap to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Atacama Desert (driest in the world) to the north.
- The highest point in Chile is Nevado Ojos del Salado (6,880 metres).
Visas & Passports
Australian passport holders travelling to Chile are currently exempt from requiring a visa at this time for stays of up to 90 days (due to Covid-19). Usually a reciprocity fee of approximately USD$116 per person is to be paid upon arrival in Santiago airport.
We require that your passport is valid for travel for at least six months from the date you are planning to return to Australia. Your passport must be valid to travel internationally and must be machine-readable. You also need to carry a valid return ticket on you.
Whether travelling on an Australian passport or the passport of another country, all travellers require visas for a number of countries, and it is your responsibility to secure what may be required before departing Australia.
You can consult with your travel agent, but it is also recommended that you check the foreign embassy website for your respective destination as it can also provide you with useful information.
The Australian Embassy in Chile:
Isidora Goyenechea 3621, 12 and 13th Floors
Ph. +56 2 2550 3500
Fax. +56 2 2550 3560
The official currency of Chile is the Chilean Peso. Notes come in denominations of CH$20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000, and 1,000 pesos. Ensure you change a small amount into small denominations.
Advise your bank of your travel plans so that they can make a note of it, otherwise they may cancel your credit card as a safety measure due to the overseas transactions. Also make a note of the 24-hour emergency contact number of the bank or building society which issued your credit card in the unlikely event that your card is lost or stolen.
Whenever possible use ATMs when the banks are open (Mon – Fri) so that if a machine ‘eats’ your card you can then deal with it straight away. It is always advisable to carry a supply of cash in addition to your credit card.
If you don’t have Chilean Peso’s with you on arrival, we advise you to exchange some money into the local currency at the airport even if the exchange rate is not the best, this way you’ll have money to get a drink, snack or give a tip during those first few hours of arrival. Your guide will be able to advise you on the best places to exchange money.
Small change is also useful for paying for toilets while on tour which is customary in many places outside of Australia.
- The price of a cappuccino in Santiago is approximately 1,950 CL$.
- The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately 6,000 CL$.
- The price dinner in a moderate restaurant is approximately 35,000 CL$.
- The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately 3,000 CL$.
Chile has developed its own distinctive cuisine, which has its roots in its Spanish history. Dishes are generally heavy on the meat, and vegetarians may have difficulties conveying the notion of a meal without meat or fish. Due to its proximity to the sea, seafood is excellent in Chile. Salmon is abundant and has a stronger flavour than Australian varieties. As you travel through the central region just south of Santiago you cannot miss the fruit being grown and sold at the side of the main highway.
Specialities include: Cazuela de Ave, a soup consisting of vegetables and chicken; Lomo a la Pobre is poor man’s steak consisting of beef steak topped with fried egg, served with mashed potato and a basic garnish; Palta is similar to guacamole and a very common accompaniment; Salsa Tomate is a sauce made from vinegar, tomato, onion and coriander, often eaten with warm freshly baked flat bread as an appetiser; Empanada is typically a Chilean convenience food and is similar to a Cornish pasty made with beef or chicken and usually containing a piece of boiled egg and an olive. Chilean barbecue or Asado is a very popular choice and is usually served in a restaurant as a mixed grill where in the north of Chile alpaca meat is offered to try.
Chile also offers many delicious varieties of wine including Sauvignan Blanc as being the most well-known white grape, while the most famous red grape variety would have to be the Carménère for its diversity to blend with other grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon. Carménère originally thrived near Bordeaux in France during the 18th century but since a phylloxera plague in 1867 all the vineyards were destroyed making it difficult to replant. It now grows predominantly outside of France in Chile specifically in the Colchagua Valley, Rapel Valley and the Maipo Province and has done for the past 150 years.
Important: When dining at buffets (i.e. breakfast) please refrain from taking food away with you to ‘save’ for later! If you feel that you’ll need snacks between meals, pack some dried fruit, nuts, muesli bars etc.
If you have specific food allergies and/or preferences, we highly recommend you take every precaution before your tour, including carrying a small card with your food allergy listed in each language of every country you are travelling to show to table staff when ordering. Whilst we take all dietary requirements seriously, due to the serious nature of potential allergic reactions, it is your responsibility to be as prepared as possible.
Chile has a temperate climate and can have four seasons in one day due to its geography. Generally, Chile is warmer in the north, getting cooler the further south you go. The far north is arid and hot all year round whereas, the south, by contrast, has a fairly steady rainfall all year where the temperature can drop the further you travel south. The warmest season is between October and April and the coldest is from May to September.
Want to get out and explore on your own?
Taxis are black with a yellow roof and an orange licence plate. Most should have meters, but, find out roughly what the fare should be before climbing in if you can. Fares for long journeys should be agreed beforehand. Minicabs may not bear the standard colours but still carry the orange licence plate. Tipping is not expected.
When catching taxis, make sure you have small change on you and choose one with a meter, if it doesn’t have one then negotiate the price before getting in. We recommend you ask your guide or hotel staff the names of reputable taxi companies.
So, you’d love to bring home a special souvenir from Chile…
Chile has a wide array of things to buy from earthy handicrafts to brand name goods. Every Chilean city has at least one shopping centre and department store. Ripleys and Falabella are the most common, the largest of the shopping malls in Santiago are in Las Condes where you can find many European and North American outlets. The local markets offer a mix of traditional handicrafts, most of which are extremely affordable. Colourful, hand-woven textiles are one of the best buys in Chile and can be found all over the country. Ponchos, rugs or wall hangings make a very authentic purchase. Weavings crafted by the native Mapuche people of southern Chile are particularly stunning. Also look for cashmere jumpers and llama or alpaca rugs.
Chile is also well-known for its precious and semi-precious stones, in particular lapis lazuli, jade, amethyst and onyx. Chilean wine is a great souvenir to bring home, with some excellent varieties that cannot be found anywhere else such as the Carménère.
Celebrations & Public Holidays
Chile has an abundance of traditional celebrations and festivities throughout the calendar year. From grape harvests to sporting events, Chile also has some of the most fascinating festivals delighting all of the senses and bringing the country to life. The Winter Festival of the Patagonian region in Punta Arenas is a 2 day event held in late June where it’s a pure celebration of colourfully-decorated floats and dancers in their traditional costumes lining the streets enjoying the beginning of winter with great food and fireworks lighting the night sky.
September 18th in Chile commemorates the beginning of Chile’s independence from the Spanish Crown with many festivities held around the country annually where they can last up to a week. Celebrations typically consists of Fondas or traditional barbecues with many an empanada and chicha consumed. Santiago being the capital of Chile hosts a large Fonda in O’Higgins Park where hundreds of people dance the cueca, the national dance.
Other national public holidays to be aware of include:
- New Year’s Day
- Good Friday
- Holy Saturday (Easter Saturday)
- Labour Day / May Day (May 1st)
- Navy Day (May 21st)
- Saint Peter and Saint Paul (June 29th)
- Our Lady of Mount Carmel (July 16th)
- Assumption of Mary (August 15th)
- National Day (September 18th)
- Army Day (September 19th)
- Columbus Day (October 12th)
- Reformation Day (October 31st)
- All Saints’ Day (November 1st)
- Inmaculate Conception Day (December 8th)
- Christmas Day
San Pedro de Atacama
Located in northern Chile, and high in the Andes Mountains, San Pedro de Atacama and its surrounds are as different from the southern fjords as you could get. San Pedro de Atacama is characterised by a dry, rocky, almost lunar landscape where there is lots of volcanic activity, including geysers and hot springs. On the other hand the diversity of the breathtaking salt flats will amaze and astound you of the sheer natural beauty of the region.
A nature reserve in southern Chile that has over 600 square kilometres of native forest dedicated to wildlife conservation in an area of pristine natural beauty. The hotel inside Huilo Huilo offers visitors a wonderful treehouse experience and from there, many hiking trails through the rainforest to some spectacular waterfalls dotted throughout the reserve.
Chile’s capital, Santiago was founded in 1541 at the foot of the Santa Lucia Hill, under the gaze of the snow-capped Andes mountains. Here you’ll find a city crammed with western influences, fast food outlets and department stores, all ready to grab the pesos of the affluent Chileno professionals. Plaza de Armas is at the heart of Santiago and is a good starting point for exploring its streets, colonial architecture, shopping malls and markets. As you’d expect from a South American capital city, it comes alive at night! There are numerous places to eat, especially around Las Condes where you can find upmarket and diverse restaurants and cafes. Going out in Santiago can involve anything from salsa dancing the night away in Latino bars to more European style nights out in large clubs playing anything from techno to house and Euro-pop.
South of Santiago, Pucon has become an exciting destination for Chileans and foreigners alike for its adventure wonderland and beautiful landscapes in the lake district of Chile. One of the things that has made this city famous is the exceptional views of Villarrica Volcano, one of the most active volcanos in Chile and at almost 3,000 metres above sea level it is the background of this charmingly picturesque town. Pucon is an outdoor lovers’ paradise with every type of outdoor activity imaginable on offer ranging from hiking trails to water sports and white-water rafting.
Small Group Tours
Travel through the mesmerising landscapes of Chile on this in depth small group tour.
Independent Tours & Extensions
Early Antarctic explorers returned from their voyages to the deep south with tales of a magnificent, ice-covered land teeming with life.
This package takes you to the world’s driest desert and explores the salt flats of the Atacama. From the giant salt lake of Salar de Atacama and the Chaxa Lagoon, to traversing the incredible lunar landscape of Valle de la Luna, or Moon Valley.
Revitalise the mind, body and soul with this luxurious, all-inclusive 4-night stay in the heart of the Atacama Desert.
The most scenic way to travel from Argentina to Chile! Enjoy Bariloche, one of the most scenic cities in the world, and then sail across Lake Nahuel Huapi and Frias Lake. Travel over the Andes mountains and cross Todos Los Santos Lake, which offers some spectacular views of Osorno Volcano.
Cross the amazing salt plains of the Atacama Desert, witness a diverse range of scenery, spot flamingos feeding on the salt lakes and take a dip in sulphur spring steam pools.
Spend a wonderful 4 days exploring the intriguing UNESCO World Heritage-listed Easter Island, famous for its ancient monumental statues called Moais. Visit extinct volcano, Rano Kau, for views over the whole island, and see fascinating caves formed by lava tubes.