A long, narrow strip of land between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, the South American country of Chile has nearly 2,900 miles of coastline. At its northern end is the world’s driest desert, Atacama, a source of copper and gold. Heading south, the scenery becomes greener in the Central Valley, which includes the capital city of Santiago. In southern Chile, the coast becomes a maze of fjords, inlets and islands, backed by forests, lakes and snow-topped volcanoes. Clearly, Chile is a dream come true for fans of scenic cruising.
Arica, just south of the border with Peru, is Chile’s northernmost cruise port. Arica has miles of beaches, and the waves are famous among surfing enthusiasts around the world. The San Miguel Archaeological Museum has an excellent collection of pre-Columbian artifacts and mummies that date back to 5000 BC. Take a short drive through the desert to visit Codpa, a historic village in a narrow, fertile valley filled with fruit trees. Be sure to sample the pintatani wine made from locally grown grapes.
Valparaiso is a centrally-located port built on dozens of steep hillsides overlooking the Pacific. Funicular cable cars take residents and visitors up and down the hills to visit landmarks such as the Iglesia de la Matriz church and La Sebastiana, home of the late Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda. Valparaiso is also the port for Santiago, located in a mountain-ringed valley about 60 miles inland. Visit the sights around busy Avenida Alameda, the city’s main thoroughfare, including the Church of San Francisco – the oldest standing building in Santiago, having somehow survived at least three devastating earthquakes. The charming and historic neighborhoods around Avenida Alameda include Barrio Paris-Londres, Parque Forestal, and Bellavista. Visit some of the jewelry shops to look at pieces made with beautiful Chilean lapis lazuli.
Puerto Montt was settled by immigrants from Germany, which explains why you’ll find German-style beer, architecture and food in southern Chile. The abundant natural beauty of this area of lakes, rivers and fjords will tempt you to spend the day outdoors. Take a drive to Puerto Varas, the "city of roses,” situated on shimmering Llanquihue Lake with a view of the impressive Osorno Volcano. More active pursuits in or near Puerto Montt include fly fishing, horseback riding, kayaking and river rafting.
Chile’s summer begins in December, making a Chilean cruise a perfect getaway from a North American winter. For more information on itineraries, ports and things to do on shore, talk with your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.
Learn about more tempting South American cruise destinations.