TORONTO — A rare sight in Chile’s Atacama Desert is getting the attention of travellers from around the world.
Flowers will soon be blooming in the world’s driest desert as a result of recent rains. The display is expected to begin in the next two weeks and last about three weeks, according to Juan Lopez, North America Market Manager, Turismo Chile, speaking to a group of about 60 tour operators and travel agents at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) this week.
That is just one of the many natural attractions in the South American country, which boasts a pleasant climate that makes it an ideal year round destination.
In covering the highlights of Chile’s five main regions, Lopez occasionally posed a question to the audience from “How long is our wine route?” (1,500 kilometres) to “How many volcanoes do we have?” (2,900), and “How many fjords and glaciers?” (1,750).
Chile’s north and the Atacama region, Lopez explained, is one of the top three destinations in the world for stargazing (due to clear skies 360 day a year). It is home to geyser fields, a salt flat, Andean villages and San Pedro de Atacama – the archaeological capital of Chile, while in the south – Patagonia – attractions range from the Marble Caves to Torres del Paine (often named among the best trekking routes).
In between are 376 lakes and lagoons (including Budi Lake, South America’s only saltwater lake); 275 hot springs, ski resorts, abundant wildlife (including whales, dolphins and penguins), UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the city of Valparaiso, and the wooden churches on the island of Chiloe, and a chance to experience Mapuche culture and sleep in a RUKA – a traditional house.
Attendees watched traditional dances including one from Easter Island and were offered samples of four Chilean wines including a Carmenere, which comes from a grape once thought to be extinct. Lopez compared the country’s wine route – Casablanca – to Bordeaux in France and Napa Valley in California and said 50 wineries surround the capital Santiago alone.
He concluded with 10 reasons to visit Chile, based on the accolades of various media organizations, who praised everything from the surreal Marble caves, to Chiloe island, and the Chinchorro mummies, which date to nearly 2,000 years before the oldest Egyptian mummies.
Worth noting: Chile is currently completing the longest trekking trail in the world (9,700km) and next year the country will host the Adventure Travel Trade Association conference in Puerto Varas, which will attract 1,000 delegates. This Adventure Travel World Summit from runs Oct. 5-8, 2015.